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Marketing successfully across different cultures, Part II

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Cultures are variably receptive to marketing messages

Marketing research, described in Part I of this blog article, underscores the following–

  • First, making simple cultural/demographic assumptions often results in companies underestimating the broader appeal of their products outside of conventional ethnic/other group boundaries.
  • Second, cultural preferences are learned/chosen over time and not inevitably determined by the ethnic identity of a person’s family of origin.  Therefore, preferences for food, music, sports, food and fashion can be highly individual and not necessarily anchored in one’s cultural roots.
  • Third, the most likely place to find consumers with multicultural tastes are large metropolitan areas where diverse ethnic groups have a strong, broad impact on product and entertainment expenditures.

Numerous factors play into intercultural marketing

Effective intercultural marketing demands in-depth analysis across a number of key variables. While there are commonalities, for example, within Western European and East Asian regions, there also are dramatic variations.

Different cultures are variably receptive to marketing messages that are direct or indirect; explicit or implicit; rational or emotional. Some groups respond better to messages that are persuasive; others resonate more to supporting information (e.g., the Germans and Americans), while some (e.g., the French and Italians) respond better to ‘dream-oriented’ fantasy pitches. Cultures that are more fatalistic are more likely to be influenced by persuasive and/or dream-like marketing.

  • The Japanese prefer indirect, soft-sell messages and are turned off by hard sell. They respond to advertisements that stress tradition, the family and respect for the elderly. Like the Chinese, and unlike Americans, they are more receptive to status symbology, aka “brand snob appeal”. That said, price still trumps brand for the average East Asian consumer.
  • International marketers are advised to infuse their marketing messages with symbolic allusions in France and Sweden. Preference for product information corresponds with higher education levels and, consequently, is more ingrained in developed (First World) European and East Asian consumers.  Consequently, information-oriented print media–including Internet written content–have greater impact/value in developed nation cultures.
  • Finally, there is significant variation between different national cultures on the amount of price and warranty information provided (Korean marketing emphasizes it the most; Japanese marketing, by contrast, seldom refers to price information).

What the Chinese Consumer Wants


China’s economy will soon be the largest in the world. The increasingly middle class Chinese consumer responds best to soft sell marketing that emphasize collective rather than individualistic values.

IKEA and other large corporations have successfully used strategies that companies wanting to break into this vast market should consider adopting.

They include–

  • Focus on ‘product fit, price, location (there are many regional sub-markets in China), and promotional strategies that synch with the local culture;
  • Tailoring their marketing to the culture of each regional market, though that is only one among a number of key factors they consider;
  • Capitalizing on Chinese consumers’ reliance, first on TV, and, second, on word-of-mouth, for product selection. The Internet is a rapidly rising influence. The average Chinese consumer spends more time researching product choices before making a purchase than is the case for the average Westerner;
  • The increasing appreciation among Chinese consumers for products with aesthetic appeal and a corresponding growing demand among the Chinese upper middle and upper classes for high quality, luxury goods; and
  • Playing to the Chinese definition of shopping as entertainment, an enjoyable way to spend their leisure time.


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