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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.

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