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Jan 6, 2010

Culture and Marketing

According to Princeton’s online dictionary(2009), culture entails the attitudes and behaviour that are characteristic of a particular social group or organization. Businesses must take in mind whenever dealing with other cultures that the unofficial laws abiding to cultures vary from one place to the other. Many cultures around the world are different not only by physical features and different languages but also in values and beliefs. These values and beliefs greatly influence what is considered acceptable and what is not.

These barriers are worth considering whenever deciding to do international marketing because if not, huge losses can be acquired. There are certain products that go against certain cultures because of their religion or by clashing against their principles. Language also plays a huge role in international marketing because it can determine what message gets across from the product's description or name. A simple aspect like the colour a product is displayed on can also add or subtract from its potential marketability and power it will have in the market share. The name or design a product has is significantly important whenever using symbols or words that other countries are unaccustomed to or have a different meaning for them. Since various factors symbolize different things in different cultures, slight variation must be done to products to achieve maximum marketability. Therefore, cultural sensitivity should always be taken into consideration in order for targeted foreign markets to be conquered.

Imagine a business such as Running W Brand Meats from Belize had a huge surplus of cattle and wanted to export beef to another country which had a large population that would be able to consume the vast amount of surplus beef. Firstly, not any country could be chosen because of just their large population. A large population doesn’t mean that everyone will be inclined to buy a highly popular product of another country. For example, if a naive representative of Running W Brand Meats just went by simple numbers and decided that they could make huge profits in India because of it immense population; the results would be catastrophic. As in most countries, religion and social factors must be considered and studied before investing into foreign markets. In India, Hindus account for approximately 80 per cent of the total population and meanwhile only around 30 per cent of them are strict vegetarians, beef slaughter is prohibited in all but two states. Therefore, if Running W Brand Meats just went by numbers and invested in India, they would have first either not been able to enter trade because of barriers brought by the Indian government or only been able to sell to the limited states that allow beef sold. They would have acquired huge losses since shipping and planning for the supposedly big sale would have been very costly. The simple rationale which I have explained is a reason why international marketers must first conduct vast researches before considering entering any foreign markets. When McDonalds, a world-renowned leader in penetrating international markets decided to go to India and start up franchises, they first studied the culture and other social aspects. They realised that in order for them to be successful, their burgers had to be sold without any beef content. Setting its foundation as another success story as an international franchise, India is the only place where McDonalds offers purely vegetarian burgers to meet its customers demands.

In conclusion, culture affects the buying behaviour of consumers and if a business doesn’t familiarize itself with the culture of a specific market, losses will be inevitable. It is not always factors such as India’s no tolerance of beef that should be taken into consideration but there are many others such as language or visual factors. An example of language implications is what was conceived of Pepsi’s slogan, “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” which translated into Chinese as, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave”. The Chinese, in particularly hold high regard for anything concerning their ancestors and it is a big part of their culture. The Chinese were shocked and outraged by this slogan and this greatly affected Pepsi’s selling power. Pepsi has learned their lesson and is now taking all those things into consideration whenever they want to enter other foreign markets. Another instance of language implication is when Parker Pens made the mistake of thinking that “embarazar” in Spanish meant “to embarrass.” They ran costly commercials stating that their pens wouldn’t leak in shirt pockets and “embarrass” anyone. In reality, in Spanish it told people that their pens wouldn’t leak and “impregnate” anyone. Now, an example of how a visual picture sent the wrong message is when Gerber tried selling its baby food products in Africa. Since in Africa many people can’t read English, companies put pictures on the product of the contents it has. Gerber’s picture of a beautiful baby gave off the impression that its content was a baby. Since Gerber hadn’t done its research, their product unintentionally sent the wrong impression and people didn’t buy any. International marketing can bring huge profits and create great success stories, but if the foreign markets aren’t properly researched, the reward can be massive failure.

Definition of Culture
Retrieved October 15, 2009, from Princeton’s WorldNet website:

Reese, S. (1998). Cultural Effects of Marketing
Retrieved October 15, 2009, from Karlonia website: on-marketing/

San, A. Food Processing Industry in India
Retrieved October 19, 2009, from India One-Stop website:

Valemont, S. Variation on Product Design For Different Cultures in the International Market
Retrieved October 15, 2009, from Ezine Articles website: Cultures-in-the-InternationalMarket&id=2788953


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