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Culture Is Pervasive in All Marketing Activities

It is a widely accepted tenet of marketing that consumers are not homogenous and that their specific tastes, characteristics and desires will influence their response to marketing activities and advertising (Jeannet and Hennessey, 2004; Kotler and Keller, 2006, p. 52). At the same time, it is also accepted that consumers in different cultures tend to have different demographic profiles, lifestyles, values and economic priorities (Yucelt, 2000, p. 59). As a result, it is clear that consumers in different cultures are very likely to have different needs and responses to marketing and advertising.

This in turn implies that culture will have a pervasive impact in influencing marketing activities, and businesses will have to take account of cultural factors if they are to successfully advertise to consumers in different cultures. This piece will critically review the extent to which culture is pervasive in all marketing activities; particularly in the creation and implementation of advertising strategies, and the implications for marketing and advertising activity.

Culture is pervasive in all marketing activities Not only is this argument supported by the theory, but it has also been strongly supported by the empirical evidence.

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For example, studies of marketing in the European Union, which is generally seen as a single market, have shown that “national differences are more important than similarities when marketers are planning to approach the European consumers” (Yucelt, 2000, p. 59). These differences become even stronger in other contexts such as Asia.

In particular, the response to television, radio, newspaper and magazine advertising has all been shown to be influenced by cultural factors, and all of these factors can have an influence on the strategies used by companies to market and advertise their products.

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Given the significant impact of these differences, it is hardly surprising that studies have looked to use cultural frameworks to analyse the impact of culture on marketing, with Hofstede’s (1980, p. 1) cultural values being one of the most widely used concepts. In particular, research by Murphy and Scharl (2007, p. 97) has shown that Hofstede’s dimensions of individualism and masculinity strongly related to how innovative products and the marketing and advertising of said products is received.

This finding is specifically applied to the online setting, producing the argument that “in countries with strong cultural values of masculinity and collectivism, international business managers should consider paying homage to local domain names for web site and email addresses” in order to reach customers in that country more effectively (Murphy and Scharl, 2007, p. 97).

This implies that not only is culture an important factor in marketing activities and advertising, but that specific cultural factors can have specific impacts on a given marketing campaign or advertising strategy. These specific impacts can be even more important in the case of multinational corporations and their subsidiaries. In particular, they raise the question of how multinational corporations and their subsidiaries should best market and advertise their offerings across a range of environmental contexts.

The question that is often raised in the literature is how best for these companies to achieve their global vision, whilst also paying attention to cultural factors in the target market and remaining responsive to local environmental conditions. According to a study by Boojihawon et al (2007, p. 549) the majority of successful multinational companies tend to strike a balance between these two factors, attempting to create a sound global strategy whilst also using entrepreneurial behaviours and management practices to encourage local cultural responsibility in their subsidiaries and advertising strategies.

Despite adhering to a unified theme in order to build a distinctive global brand identity, there were significant variations in how Nintendo launched the “Nintendo Wii” in 3 westernised yet, culturally different countries (Figure 1). The innovative segmentation, targeting and positioning strategies of Nintendo Wii, and the localised campaigns focusing on the most important attributes of the product in each country/culture, helped to make Wii the success it is today. Figure 1: Comparison of TV advertising launch of Nintendo Wii in USA, Japan & UK (2006)

The importance of culture also pervades the development, management and advertising of a company or product’s brand image. Managing brand images in global markets is a major concern for businesses, who wish to avoid embarrassing incidents where their brand image turns out to be inappropriate or offensive in some cultural contexts. Wonderbra is only too aware of this (www. adsoftheworld. com). Every magazine that enters the United Arab Emirates is censored using black markers.

Before Wonderbra launched into the UAE, they issued a strategic tongue-in-cheek press release depicting a woman wearing a blacked-out Wonderbra. They deliberately added large amounts of “marker” to the ad to cheekily communicate the increase in size when a lady wears their product. However, their advertising strategy backfired when the UAE advertising authorities blacked out the rest of the “naked skin” leaving only the face visible, thus totally diminishing any intended marketing message.

Indeed, Roth’s (1995, p. 163) use of Hofstede’s (1980, p. ) dimensions indicates that both the power distance and individualism dimensions have strong impacts on the interpretation of sensory and novelty based brand image strategies. In other words, these two dimensions strongly impact on consumer responses to brand advertising strategies that are based on sensory stimuli and novelty value. This implies that managers marketing brands internationally and across different cultural contexts need to be aware of how their brands and advertising will be interpreted in these contexts, in order to maximise their marketing and advertising effectiveness.

The impact of cultural factors can even be seen in the case of word of mouth advertising strategies, and customer referral programs. In particular, in recent years the role of cultural factors and cultural differences in the use of word of mouth as an advertising tool has become of increased importance. Whilst positive word of mouth tends to have a positive effect on customer service quality perceptions in all cultural environments, Schumann et al (2010, p. 8) showed that received word of mouth “has a stronger effect on the evaluation of customers in high uncertainty avoidance than in low uncertainty avoidance cultures”.

This implies that even if companies are not engaging in direct advertising campaigns in a cross-cultural context, they still need to be aware of the impact that cultural factors can have on their general marketing and any word of mouth advertising or referral marketing strategies, and match these strategies to the target culture’s uncertainty avoidance level. “One World Culture”

However, it is important to note that whilst national cultural factors and differences have a strong impact on the marketing and advertising of products in the contemporary environment, the increasing globalisation of the world economy is also having a strong impact on the cultural characteristics of people around the world. As global capitalism and communications become more advanced, so consumers around the world are becoming used to similar styles of marketing and advertising.

This is acting to dissolve some of the cultural boundaries of advertising, and in ome areas creating a homogeneous global consumer culture (Cleveland and LaRoche, 2007, p. 249). Whilst this trend is still not dominant, and many individuals continue to define themselves by their cultural environment and heritage, there is a growing degree of variance in the extent to which other individuals do identify with these norms. In particular, younger people are increasingly defining themselves as global consumers and individuals, and hence feeling a greater affinity to the global community, with a lesser degree of attachment to their local and national cultures.

This implies that not only do managers need to be aware of the different cultures that pervade the markets in which they operate, but they also need to be aware of the potential impact of this global culture on consumer responses to advertising and marketing strategies. Indeed, whilst the growth of this global consumer is a relatively new concept in marketing, it should be noted that globalisation has long been accepted as creating “global consumer segments that associate similar meanings with certain places, people, and things” (Duncan and Ramaprasad, 1995, p. 5).

To date, these segments have largely been limited to specific consumer products and brands, such as Apple, Nike and Coca Cola. However, as these segments have grown, so they have also helped drive the emergence of global consumer cultures, and the growth of shared sets of consumption related symbols. These symbols are often brands, but can also be product categories, or even consumption activity. In 2009, Guinness launched their first ever global advertising campaign for “Arthur’s Day” (Figure 2).

It was a “groundbreaking consumer promotion promoting annual ‘Arthur’s Day’ events on 24th September, being held around the world in cities including Dublin, New York, Lagos and Kuala Lumpur” (Saatchi & Saatchi EMEA, 2009). Guinness wants their global consumers to celebrate the consumption activity of drinking Guinness on the same day of the year, worldwide; thus trying to influence global culture and consumer behaviour. Figure 2: Arthur’s Day “Toast”, Jakarta, 2010

With the continuous growth of mass media, and the dominance of this media by a few large economies and cultures such as the United States (Walker, 1996, p. 42), these symbols have become ever more significant, and their impact on global culture has become ever more pronounced. This implies that marketers and advertisers need to be aware of the specific influence of culture across different product categories, and the potential cultural impacts of entering or leaving one of these categories.

The growth of these shared meanings also has implications of marketing managers, who often find themselves competing in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, where competitors can come from a range of backgrounds, economies and cultures (Aaker, 1991, p. 46). As a result, marketers may need to develop new strategies for coping with the widespread changes in culture, particularly when the global culture changes in a way that is not conducive to their existing marketing strategies.

According to Alden et al (1999, p. 75) such changes will require companies to adopt a strategy of “global consumer culture positioning”, whereby businesses not only position themselves in domestic markets and foreign markets, but also position themselves in the global market. This will obviously complicate marketing activities in the short term, with marketers forcing to tailor their advertising strategies to three distinct market segments, all of which may respond to brand messages and advertising in different ways.

However, in the long term, marketers are likely to benefit from following such a strategy, as their positioning will be better able to move with shifts in the global market, and the various local markets in which they operate. As such, it can be seen that the impact of culture on contemporary marketing and advertising will not be static, but will rather be ever changing and hence will require marketers to anticipate and react to changes in the global cultural makeup.

The potential for such changes to occur can be seen in a recent study of the use of soft sell advertising and hard sell advertising across different markets. According to most theoretical work on advertising and the prediction of global consumer culture theories, soft sell advertising should be more uniformly accepted across markets, whilst hard sell advertising should struggle in some cultural contexts such as the Far East, where confrontations are not culturally acceptable.

However, the results of Okazaki’s (2010, p. 0) study into the use of soft selling and hard selling in the United States and Japan produced quite surprising results: “The results indicate somewhat more homogeneous acceptance of soft-sell appeals but, surprisingly, also show relatively homogeneous acceptance of hard-sell appeals across markets. These findings are suggestive of both types of appeals having the potential to be used as part of a GCCP across the United States and Japan and perhaps other markets” (Okazaki, 2010, p. 20). This implies that even two culturally dissimilar nations such as the US and Japan have developed similar responses to certain types of advertising.

As such, marketers who had not kept abreast of these cultural and market developments could have found themselves left behind and unable to compete as the market moved on and left them behind. Conclusions In conclusion, it is clear that culture is pervasive in all marketing activities, and particularly in the case of advertising strategies. Not only does culture impact on how advertising and marketing is perceived in different countries and cultures, but it can also in turn be influenced by advertising and marketing strategies.

In addition to this, the globalisation of marketing, advertising and business is causing the emergence of a global culture, which requires its own unique form of marketing and advertising. These different cultures are not remaining static, but are increasingly changing and developing over time, forcing advertisers to constantly renew and re-evaluate their advertising strategies. As such, the main impact on culture on marketing activities is that it prevents them from becoming static and consistent, and forces regular reviews and updates to ensure that the activities remain culturally relevant.

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Culture Is Pervasive in All Marketing Activities. (2017, Feb 21). Retrieved from

Culture Is Pervasive in All Marketing Activities

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