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The Importance of Culture in Strategic Marketing

Cross Cultural Marketing
The Importance of Culture in Strategic Marketing
on April, 24 2017

Some analysts say the future of strategic marketing is multicultural advertising. In fact, many Asian, Hispanic and African-American marketing agencies are starting to use the term "cross-cultural" agency to describe their line of business. If you want an idea of how to market across cultures effectively, just take a look at ads by Coca Cola. You can see how colorful and culturally diverse they have been in the past decade.

Not to mention, Coca Cola has created some of the most memorable ads in history. How can you forget the "America is Beautiful" Super Bowl ad or the holiday polar bears? They definitely understand a total market or cross-cultural market approach. On the other end of the spectrum, marketing across cultures can cause confusion.

Cross-cultural marketing is about segmenting towards various ethnicities and then developing marketing programs which can cross over into the general market. Although, cross-cultural ads are now running on both mainstream and ethnic media. How can you incorporate culture and generate leads simultaneously? Read on for the best practices in achieving both.

Understand cross-cultural basics

Our country is becoming much more diverse. This means the opportunities for cultural missteps in marketing are also on the rise. If you want to target different cultures with cross-cultural marketing, it’s critical to understand that certain things you say or do may not be received in the way you intend. This is why your marketing strategy must first be in tune with the culture you want to target--including the basics.

You want to take into consideration cultural norms and cautions. For example, if you’re airing an ad in a Middle Eastern country, you would probably lean towards something more conservative than what you could get away with in America.

Gestures are also something which should be noted. In the Middle East, it’s considered offensive to sit casually with a foot resting on your opposite knee. This is received as showing your foot. In the U.S., kissing a business associate is not considered appropriate. Yet, in Paris, kissing your work colleague on the cheek is fine. In the UK, a firm handshake is widely accepted, but, this is not true in all other cultures, especially in parts of Asia.

Consider any language barriers

If necessary, hire a native speaker to translate marketing pieces for the readers in different regions. You want to break down the language barrier for your readers while simultaneously resonating clear, understandable messages to your target audience. This can't be monochromatic, one-size-fits-all marketing. It really needs to be tailored to the specific culture you’re targeting. Plus, it’s difficult to translate slang and acronyms to different cultures. You want to ensure your campaigns are written and designed in a way that your target culture will understand.

Get to know the market

To do this, you can divide your markets into tiers. The American customer may have different tastes from an Indian or Hispanic customer. Just within a country's own borders, there are many different sub cultures, from small towns to large cities and mountains to desert, the various populations are not one in the same. As a result, they’ll interact very differently towards your company's offerings. This is where you can utilize marketing automation to A/B test varying landing pages and email campaigns. Which emails have a higher click-through rate from your targeted cultural market? Which landing page receives the most clicks?

To get to the point where your cultural marketing is successful, you need to have a strategy that goes beyond a blanket fashion. Flexibility must be incorporated to cater to cultural differences. A Korean celebrity might not be very well known in France and vice-versa.

And, the most important aspect is to ensure you don’t make assumptions. You must get buy-in from your local counterparts. The last thing you want is to invest in a cross-cultural campaign only to have it fizzle upon execution.

Why your marketing strategy benefits from integrating cultural insights

Face it, large cultural changes in consumer behavior are already taking place. Through cultural marketing, you can get ahead of the curve. Instead of living in a state of reaction, you can participate in the cultural changes which are shaping the future of our society. This way, you can position your products and brand for future success.

When it comes to marketing automation, you can create an automated email campaign. You can design your campaign based on cultural norms, customer behavior and engagement.

Of course, you must always keep your content accurate and up-to-date. In addition, you need to ensure your automated emails are reviewed monthly to ensure prospects and customers are not receiving outdated information.

Take note of thought processes and values

These processes and values vary throughout different cultures. This is why marketing strategies can be perceived differently. To illustrate, America is generally much more individualistic. Yet, the Japanese culture tends to make purchasing decisions based on groups like that of their families. Marketing strategies focused on individuals fare much better in individualistic countries while group advertising works best with cultures who exhibit collective group values.

So, you can use marketing automation to segment your marketing towards different cultures. According to Infosys, 78% of consumers said they’d be more likely to make a purchase again from a company that provided more targeted offers.

Plus, through segmentation, you can monitor how your customers may move across segments over time. Tracking the movement of your intended market is highly beneficial in terms of increasing revenue from existing customers. Moreover, it helps to increase conversion rates. Not to mention, segmentation can help your business identify a customer's lifetime value by utilizing both responsive and predictive marketing. You can then implement your segmentation strategy through:

  1. In-app messages. The customer is in the app when the message is sent. You might want to determine the most popular apps based on culture.
  2. Text messages. One of the top uses for cell phones is text messaging. You can set your strategic marketing campaign to reach your mobile market through their favorite contact method.
  3. Specified web messages. You can target and filter your audience and write short notifications only show to certain groups of visitors.

Culture can be a choice

It’s important to keep in mind that culture can also be a choice. Culture can be how and where you spend your time and money. Take a citizen of Puerto Rico--they might be considered Americans, but they also have a very distinct culture that isn't centered around cheeseburgers and football--which is simply a generalized example. In America, salsa is now more popular than ketchup.

Yet, if you look at America's ethnic makeup--salsa can only be more popular than ketchup if millions of white households are buying salsa. In fact, white households buy over $1 billion dollars in Hispanic food products. These types of statistics are important to keep in mind with diverse marketing.

The world is colorful because of culture. It’s important to embrace the many different degrees of multiculturalism, not only for personal reflection but for good business. So, how do you plan to implement an automated and more culturally-led marketing campaign? As long as you’re sensitive to the norms of different cultures, you’ll soon find a bevy of new and loyal customers.

Author Bio

Ryan Stewart is a digital marketing consultant with over eight years of experience working to help Fortune 500 brands grow their online presence. He currently resides in Miami, where he owns boutique creative agency WEBRIS. You can find Ryan on Twitter or LinkedIn.

  • Very nice post! Thanks 😉 We wrote about culture and barierrs when being software development partner here:

  • Sandy

    Your post very nicely summed up the importance and necessities of localisation. Especially with the increasing globalisation we see in today’s market (Boudreaux), localisation is almost an inevitable step to ensure a successful global marketing strategy, and a successful localisation inevitably involved comprehensive understanding of the target market.
    While it has always been a fine line between how much do you localise, to appeal to the local market, and how much do you globalise, to maintain the brand identity (Chuang and Li), I think your post has emphasised the most important point, which is to understand the target culture. By understanding what is more important in the different cultures, we can then tailor the localisation strategy of the product or the service to the target consumers.
    You have pointed out that native speaker should be hired for overcoming language barrier. I would further suggest that in a localisation project, we require transcreation (Rike) to cross the cultural hurdle. Quite often, it is considered that localisation is just simply switching from one language to another. Translators are frequently only given segmented text to translate. However, a more effective strategy would be to allow the translator to act as the cultural mediator with the creative freedom to make a marketing strategy function in another culture. After all, as the famous Leonardo Bruni had once said that translator have to own the language that they are translating into, I would say that in a localisation project, the translator should own the culture they are localising to.
    Pym has stated that localisation can decrease cultural diversity and creates cultural closure. However, I agree with you that culture can be a choice. In some instances, maintaining the source cultural identity of a product or service will not only strengthen the brand, it might appeal to target consumers who are adventurous in experiencing other culture. In these cases, the localisation strategy needs to be direct in educating the source culture to the target consumers.

    • qiwen ma

      I strongly agree with your point of views. With the rapid development of economic globalization, most companies not only care for the domestic market, but also try to expand international market. Localization is the process of adapting a product or content to a given local place (market), and translation is a crucial part of the localization process.
      Richard E.Porter states that cultural difference is the main obstacle in translation and it should be taken into consideration when a brand or company want to enter a new market in other nations. In the translation of cross-cultural marketing,translators always come across with some concepts that they could not understand or express by their native language. In this situation, translators are required to have a profound cultural background knowledge of the target market. The process of translating should be taken as the same as writing in one’s own mother tongue basically. (Nida) A good translation is not translating word by word, but should be the correct understanding of the source text by translator. As the author said the world is colorful because of culture, if you want to expand your international market, you need to be more creative base on the localization to reach mutual understanding and communication, eliminate cultural barriers, so that you can achieve the consumer recognition and market development.

    • Yanli Ding

      I quite agree with you on the significance of cultural adaptation in localization. As LISA (Localization Industry Standards Association) defines localization as “taking a product and making it linguistically and culturally appropriate to the target locale”, localization is not just a matter of language transfer -- it is more about cultural adaptation.
      With regard to the relationship between localization and globalization, localization and globalization actually do not contradict to each other; instead, they can co-exist. As long as companies can customize products and services to the target market and at the same time maintain similarities across local products and services, the best marketing results can be achieved.

    • Caitlin Overton

      I agree that focusing on the target culture is the best way to go about localising, because then you can also gauge how receptive that target culture is to more globalised strategies – if they are open and diverse, it will be easier to strike a balance between a globalised and localised strategy than if it’s quite an insular culture still. I also strongly agree with your point about hiring native speakers to be cultural mediators in this process, as if the right person isn’t helping drive the attempt to go into a new market, it may fail and all the efforts may go to waste. While as translators, we need to know both cultures extremely well, sometimes the experience you have living in your culture is invaluable for the success of localisation.

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