What is the challenge of culture in marketing?
The importance of culture in terms of marketing is big. The world market is made up of smaller markets. The entire world economy is comprised of smaller economies that are distinct in themselves. These economies have their own cultures and languages. American economy is distinct from that of India. Indian market is distinct from the Chinese and the Chinese are distinct from the Japanese. These differences are there because of the different cultures and cultural styles. A few things that are acceptable in Germany may not be acceptable in the US market. The kind of fashion loved in US may not be as acceptable in Middle East. These cultural differences can affect business performance.
Several times you may have come across brands that rule the western market but when it comes to the East, there performance might not remain as great. In such a case if you have to create a global brand you must have a deep understanding of the cultural barriers that can affect business performance. IKEA had to enter US but to gain acceptance it needed to make changes to its business style, philosophy, prices and product types among other things. Why did IKEA make all these changes? It was to add cultural appeal to its brand. Unless your brand appeals to the culture, talks to it, the culture and the market would not respond.
Just not these things, culture exists on the consumers’ side too. Consumers’ purchasing decisions are aligned with their cultures. Suppose an Asian goes to the market to buy a new perfume. He will base his choice on several factors. These factors are price, product quality and packaging. A well-known international brand that is less talked of in Asian markets may not appeal to him as strongly as does a less known product that is packaged according to his cultural preferences. Culture can affect consumer’s preferences and that too deeply. It is why specific models of cars that are loved in one part of the globe may be less popular in the other.
A strategy that works in America may not work as well in Dubai and nor in Hongkong. An ad that is popular in US or Britain may not be as popular in Arabia. All the reasons lie in the cultural differences in these markets. The societies of two nations in two different parts of the world do not think, act or eat similarly. Globalization has brought changes and several things have become common but culture still affects how things are done, how people think and shop. Consumers do think before they shop. They would recognize a brand better that talks to their culture. They would find it easier to connect with these brands.
Even consumer needs differ from culture to culture. If smaller cars are in higher demand in a market then again there are cultural factors behind it. If SUVs are in higher demand in the US market, then you can feel the role of culture in it. Culture affects consumers’ lifestyles. Most of the brands are actively working on responding to cultural values. So, a brand that does not work on the cultural side of marketing misses a very important part of its marketing strategy. By responding to the cultural values, the brands prove that they know their consumers’ needs better. It is why brands must remain ready to alter their strategy as per the market and its culture.
Cadbury is a global brand that sells around the world. However, its Asian ads may be much different from its American ads. The content of these ads varies as per the cultural differences. Glamour or sex may appeal more to people in Western cultures and less in Eastern. In 2017, the rules of marketing are being rewritten. Brands have to try new combinations that fit with the local culture of the markets they are operating in. While fear appeal or informational appeal in ads might have worked in the past, a mixed appeal would work now. Still, what makes these ads most appealing in the eyes of people is culture. It must reflect in the ads. Ads that most beautifully capture the beauty of the local culture work the best. So, if you have planned to release your brand in the Asian markets, then you must focus on what works there. If you have to connect with Gandhi’s culture, you should understand what values work there. If you have to connect with Tao’s you must change your strategy. So, culture holds a distinct and important value in marketing. Cultural and religious values are important because going very far from them is not possible for consumers. It is why the importance of culture has kept growing. Increasing competition has also bolstered the importance of culture. Brands are now establishing new connections with local markets by utilizing culture as the tool of connection. They must use the cultural lens with care to see how people perceive their brand and where culture shapes or alters their perception of the brand.