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Culture is the total of a society's beliefs, art forms, morals, laws, and customs. It dictates the manner in which we consume, the priority of our wants and needs, and how those wants and needs should be satisfied. Because cultures can vary greatly from nation to nation, international marketers must adjust their marketing controllable variables to each particular culture. Specifically, they must consider differences in language, color connotations, and mores. Let’s consider each of them.
Language. There are thousands of languages and dialects in the world. Marketers, especially in promotional messages, must understand and properly use the language of the host country. To do otherwise invites true marketing blunders. For example, in Spanish the Chevrolet brand name "Nova" means "It does not go." In Cantonese the name "Philip Morris" sounds like the phrase meaning "No luck." In Japan, General Motors' phrase "Body by Fisher" translates to "Corpse by Fisher."
Language becomes a particular concern in countries that speak numerous languages. In India, for example, there are 203 dialects. Even in countries that use the same language as the international marketer, communication problems can exist. Even though Great Britain and the United States both speak the same language, cultural differences exist. English homemakers hope furniture wax "will not trade off" and shoppers buy "tins" (rather than "cans") of grocery products. Such minor differences can make promotional messages sound foolish rather than persuasive.
Colors. Color is a large, though often subliminal part of a marketing effort. Colors in advertisements, on packages, and the product itself may communicate different impressions to different cultures. For example, blue is considered a warm color in Holland and a cold color in Sweden. White is for funerals and red is popular in China and Korea. Red, however, is not popular in Africa. Purple is associated with death in Brazil and in many Spanish-speaking countries. Yellow flowers are a sign of infidelity in France, but one of death in Mexico.
Mores. Mores are the customs and values of a culture.A nation’s values reflect the religious or moral beliefs of its people. Understanding and working with these aspects of a society are also factors in successful international marketing. For example:
- A door-to-door salesman would find selling in Italy impossible, because it is improper for a man to call on a woman if she home alone.
- McDonald’s and other hamburger restaurants would not have a chance in India, where the cow is considered sacred.
- The British don’t believe marketing is quite respectable, a factor contributing to their loss of markets in which they had the technological lead.
German exporters such as BMW probably are the most sophisticated in understanding the values of the customers of the nation’s to which they sell products. Germany (not Japan) has passed the United States as the world’s largest exporter through a strategy that stresses high-quality products sold to specific market segments by a strong network of dealers.
Every nation has some unique behavior patterns. These may largely influence marketing strategies. The English and Japanese drive on the left side of the road. Thus, cars marketed in England and Japan must have the steering wheel on the right side. Other examples of cultural mores include the fact that the average Frenchman uses almost twice as many beauty aids as his female counterpart. Pepsodent toothpaste was unsuccessful in Southeast Asia because it promised white teeth in a culture in which black or yellow teeth are symbols of prestige. Maxwell House advertised itself as the "Great American Coffee" in West Germany, where the general populace has little respect for American coffee.
1.What other examples of cultural differences can you provide?
2.What are the mores in your country?
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