Cultural Differences in International Marketing
Culture is defined as the influence of family, religion, social and educational system on individuals, including how people make choices and live their life. Cultural differences refer to the various beliefs, languages, behaviors, expressions, and practices that are deemed unique to the members of a specific race, ethnicity, or national origin. Marketing exists in environments that are shaped by culture. Companies that intend to market their products in a new territories must remain sensitive to the specific cultural factors in the new targets. While cultural differences across regions within the same country might seem small, marketers that ignore them risk failure. This essay discusses how cultural differences affect international business.
Language is one of the important factors that companies should consider in international marketing. Companies must understand the language of their target market before marketing their services or products in a new territory. Grave mistakes have previously taken place in the translation causing devastating effects. The most memorable embarrassing mistake of all time in regard to international marketing took place when General Motors was marketing a new brand named Nova. In South African languages, “Nova” meant “it won’t go.” Culture in itself is a complex issue and it takes significant effort, time and expertise to appreciate its influence (Allman, Kelly, and Mandeep, 20). Numerous aspects of culture tend to form an illusion of similarity, but marketers should dig deeper to ensure that they truly know the environments and people they will work with. Common language does not guarantee that the target market will interpret the language the same. For instance, in the United States, people purchase “cans” for grocery products, but the British refer to them as “tins.” In India, English is recognized as an official language but the term “matrimonial” is used to refer to a noun in informal conversations to refer to personal advertisements that are seeking marriage partners. Such mistakes will obviously not help in selling products, so companies should pay attention to translations and language to avoid business failure.
Age and demographics are another factors that cultural aspects that businesses should pay attention to in marketing. Like in domestic marketing, age highly contributes to cultural differences in marketing. For instance, in developing countries, there are low literacy levels among senior citizens above 60 years old. As such, one may decide to focus the marketing message indirectly on the demographic group more so when dealing with a digital device. It is important for companies to understand dominant groups in a country before modifying marketing messages. This is helpful in appealing and communicating to the majority group rather than the minority.
Purchasing power is another cultural difference that affects international marketing. However much pricing might seem like an economic factor, it is also a cultural differences. It goes without saying that some cultures tend to have a higher purchasing power than other cultures. For instance, individual in the United States possess a higher purchasing power than others (Katsikeas, Leonidas and Athina, 20). This directly affects how companies should price their goods and services in Africa versus the United States. Companies should also consider that while some people have high purchasing power, they prefer holding money rather than spending it. As such, one must develop a strategic marketing plan that pushes people to want to spend their money and exercise their purchasing capability.
In closing, language, age/demographics, and purchasing power are some of the cultural differences that companies should consider as they undertake international marketing. They should take time to study the culture of the new target clients and develop a strategy that suits their needs. This is because how companies convey and design their messages determines whether their product or service sells.
Allman, Helena F., Kelly Hewett, and Mandeep Kaur. “Understanding cultural differences in consumers’ reactions to foreign-market brand extensions: The role of thinking styles.” Journal of International Marketing 27.2 (2019): 1-21.
Katsikeas, Constantine, Leonidas Leonidou, and Athina Zeriti. “Revisiting international marketing strategy in a digital era: Opportunities, challenges, and research directions.” International Marketing Review (2019).