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International Marketing Management Assignment

International Marketing Management Assignment


(a) Why are cultural factors considered by many writers on international marketing, such as Usunier (1996), to be the ‘central core’ of marketing policy? Explain giving specific reasons and illustrate the points made with examples. (50% of marks for this assignment)

            In discussing why cultural factors should be the central core of marketing policy, it would be right to confer about the definition of culture from a marketing perspective and also the context of layers of culture as well as the acculturation processes, both of which consumer behaviors, attitudes, expectations and requirements. The works of Hofstede and Schwartz are relevant in international marketing research as they serve as an understanding of culture that is multi-faceted. Both of these cultural frameworks conceptualized the need to integrate cultural factors in international marketing schemes since there exists degrees of commonalities and differences to some extent. 

Marketing meaning of culture

An ambiguous term that it is, culture often refers to shared beliefs and values of a group, people with shared beliefs and practices or shared attitudes. Culture therefore defines a human community, its people and their social organizations. As such, individuals are considered as products of their culture wherein they are conditioned by their socio-cultural environment to act in certain manners (Wilhelms, Shaki and His, 2009) . Since every individual is interacts with culture, it is from culture that people create systems of meaning. Marketing reflects such wider systems of meaning as it reflects the way people think, what moves them, how they relate to each other, how they live, eat, relax and enjoy themselves. Thereby, marketing initiatives should reflect the expression of culture (de Mooij, 2009, p. 49).

            Nevertheless, de Mooij (2009, p. 49) pointed out that culture should not be viewed mainly as an environmental factor, that is, something outside the consumer to which a consumer only is exposed. Instead, cultural values are not outside but inside the minds of people, making it part of their identities.  Steenkamp (2001) also notes that the failure to take cultural differences between countries into account is one of primary reasons why several businesses fail. In international marketing, understanding the role of culture could mean the many ways in which marketing theories and paradigms are a reflection of the culture in which they were developed (Iyengar and Lepper, 1999, p. 364; as cited on Steenkamp, 2001, p. 30).

Layers of culture

            Meta cultures and micro cultures are two significant factors to consider when dealing with marketing, as according to Steenkamp (2001). International marketers should bear in mind that there are culturally distinct regions that are also distinct from each other. Within these meta cultures, there is an emphasis on modernity, technology, freedom and individual choice (Iyengar and Lepper, 1999, p. 364). As people belonging to these meta cultures associate similar meanings with certain places, people and things, they evidently share sets of symbols such as brands and consumption activates, experiences like traveling and attitudes like that of cosmopolitan outlook. From these, the global consumer culture positioning is increasingly becoming significant for marketers since they represent global consumer segments as well.

            When it comes to micro culture, this could mean that national, regional or meta cultures are becoming less homogenous. Micro cultures preserve important patterns of the broader culture but also develops own unique pattern of dispositions and behavior. Where culture mattered, for example, a corporate culture of modern organizations is often a byproduct of national culture (Iyengar and Lepper, 1999, p. 364). As they are specifically conjured up micro requirements to marketing, they are called niche. When niche markets are created, however, this could be also termed as sub-cultures (Steenkamp, 2001; Gluesing, 2007; Leung et al., 2005; Nakata, 2003).  

How culture implicates marketing

            Various marketing issues including humor in ads, response style tendencies, consumer responses to market signals of quality, consumer tipping decisions, new product development, brand market share and consumer innovativeness are all shaped by the differing behaviors these layers of culture cultivates (Parker and Tavassoli, 2000). Of particular importance are those issues that are directly related to media hence advertising. Mass media programming, for instance, could be either appreciated as culturally relevant or irrelevant depending on which culture it was shown. Knowingly, whether an individual belongs or associates himself/herself to meta culture or micro culture, how individuals react to advertising would be very different (Parker and Tavassoli, 2000).  

            To emphasize advertising, “advertisements are created against a cultural background” (Bezuidenhout, 1998). In order to deliver the message clearly, advertisement must indicate comprehension of cultural complexities and portrays the ideologies of the people within a particular culture. As such, many products need to have a specific-cultural angle. For example, one cannot therefore advertise death insurance within South African regions as this can be regarded as an insult to the capability of the South African people to financially provide for their loved ones. Take note that “relatives of a deceased person in a black community will give money to the family” as this is viewed as graceful with integrity is upheld (Bezuidenhout, 1998).

            Hosftede’ framework explains such by saying that culture is both essence and difference. Each culture therefore possesses any number of highly distinctive features that have the effect of making that culture uniquely different from all other cultures (Hofstede, 1980; Holden, 2004). For international marketers, this means that markets should be regarded as culturally essentialistic entities but ideally each market needs to be addressed in distinctive way (Holden, 2004). Usunier (1996) makes it explicit in determining the impact of cultural differences on various aspects of marketing (as cited in Holden, 2004). Thereby saying, culture and cultural differences represent resources which inputs to underpin marketing strategy (Yaprak, 2008).

            Holden (2004), on the other hand, emphasized that culture does not necessarily ingrained in marketing activities but the values, attitudes and decision-making made by the distinct consumers within in distinct cultures, as well as the diverse marketing intermediaries to be used. Holden (2004) also relate that culture is no longer fixed and solid hence the marketing relationships also changes. Culture concepts in this sense is realized in the nature of the marketing relationships created including the market environment, social value of interaction and economic outputs as well. Culture will then become a resource for international marketers as it embodies productive knowledge on how to create effective marketing relationships (Nakata, 2003).    

Culture as an indispensable feature of the market

            Holden (2004) continues that as culture as a knowledge resource in its own right which can serve inputs to marketing research and decisions and which can be also played out in market orientations, international marketing therefore represents the value and utility of culture. Culture is thus regarded as the essence of marketing knowledge. As such, in different cultural settings, marketer must understand that some attitude and behavioral constructs could be generalized across cultures while others could not but culture regardless of these constructs did matter in persuasion (Holden, 2002; Yaprak, 2008).

            While, culture as a system for meanings functions to create and maintain marketing relationships that are strategic (Holden, 2004), Nakata (2003) relates that cultures do construct, deconstruct and reconstruct as societies change their priorities, loyalties and orientations. This could also mean that people modify their generally held perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors in light of societal and global changes (Yaprak, 2008). For international marketers, this could mean that international marketing strategies should be also consistently modified depending on the requirements of a specific culture. Culture do not depend on permanence hence marketing strategies should be also complacent especially when a strategy is effective in a specific culture (Gluesing, 2007; Leung et al., 2005; Yaprak, 2008).    

            In sum, the reason behind putting cultural factors at the core of marketing policy is because it represents elements that inform a marketing strategy to be effective. One would not succeed in marketing to the people if cultural factors are not taken into consideration. Cultural characteristics are mostly evident on beliefs, values, attitudes, behaviors and dispositions that are inherent to consumers that are shaped by culture that in return inform the effectiveness of market relationships.


(b) Cateora and Ghauri (2006) state that ‘for the inexperienced marketer, the ‘similar but different’ aspect of culture creates an illusion of similarity that usually does not exist’. What do they mean by this statement? Explain and give specific examples to illustrate the points made. (50% of marks for this assignment)

            As we already learnt that culture is not outside but is in fact inside the minds of consumers, culture as it forms part of the identities of consumers is critical in international marketing schema. The link between culture and consumer is so strong and keeps getting stronger that international marketing strategies should be informed by such linkage. Although people are not the same, marketers and advertising professionals tend to think and perceive them to be the same, and which is an ongoing challenge for them. These are the inexperienced marketers who perceive and create degree of similarities among various aspects of culture to be integrated in marketing strategies despite their awareness of the fact that cultures are indeed different.

In this part, the rationales behind why some marketers tend to create an illusion of culture similarities although they are well aware that cultures are very different. In discussing these reasons, it would be plausible to pertain to cultural universals and selective perception of the international marketers.

Cultural universals

            De Moiij (2009, p. 49) stresses that international marketers pertains the people - that is, the consumers - as generally the same. Because of this, international marketers define the brands in abstract terms of personality and identity. As such, international marketers are convinced of universality of consumers wherein attributes are always formulated in abstract terms such as happiness that is associated with customer satisfaction in marketing landscape. Nevertheless, what makes people happy or how they express love varies not only by individual but even more by culture. Having said this, international marketers should understand that the more values are formulated in abstract way, the more universal they become. However, they should also understand that in marketing and advertising world, values and motives should be expressed in more concrete ways, a situation wherein most universality disappears (de Moiij, 2009, p. 49).

            Vanderstraeten (2008) explains such in details saying that there are country cluster and segment that diverge from other cluster and segment when cultural characteristics are pointed out. Segmentation based on cultural universalities are only limited on market entry and standardization. As such, because of similarities in these cultural universals, international marketers can adopt similar advertising campaigns and uniform brand names in a country segment. However, the appropriateness of the marketing mix would less effectiveness on other, cross-cultural clusters and segments. Depending on the cultural cluster, consumers will prefer, for example, product novelty and variety or product functionality.

Further, the pitfall for international marketers is thus evident on oversimplification.  Having said that, international marketers can only use cultural differences or similarities as a basis for segmentation or clustering while they are deemed to have significant impacts on marketing. Cultural universals can make international marketers wary of differentiating cultures to oversimplify the real world or not. When marketers do not succeed at this or overlooked the significance of such, cultural universals are considered as less significant to marketing which is the ultimate drawback to these international marketers. As such, cultural universals are critical and cannot be ruled out discussing the issue of the value of culture in international marketing.

Selection perception   

            Adler (1991, p. 63) describes perception as the process by which each individual selects, organizes and evaluates stimuli from the external environment to provide meaningful experiences for himself or herself. With this, selection perception means that people focus on certain features of their environment to the exclusion of others. Selective perception has strong consequences for advertising in an era wherein the growing discrepancy between communication supply and consumption has led to the phenomenon of communication overload, as according to de Mooij (2009, p. 50). Thus saying, consumers are increasingly selective in what receives their attention. Culture reinforces such selective process. Perceptual patterns such as seeing are learned and culturally determined, for instance. As such, consumers see what they want to see and do not see what they cannot see because it does not fit with their experience and also the consumers’ prior learning. In simpler terms, consumers perceive what they expect to perceive.

            To wit, people perceive things according to their cultural map (Adler, 1991). Consumers therefore become confused when things appear to be different from what they expect. This is because both marketers and consumers expect and perceive things from their own cultural frame of mind. Marketers then as well as consumers can be considered as prisoners of their own culture. Consumers are, nevertheless, and so the marketers and advertising professionals follow their own cultural inclinations and are apparent on marketing strategies that consumers believe and conform to and that marketers implemented (de Mooij, 2009, p. 50).

Since marketers cannot distort or influence the cultural selectiveness of consumers, they bound to think that as they share some characteristics with them, they can develop advertising for a specific culture. However, these culture-driven advertising could be effective for that culture where it is intended but limits the ability of the marketers and their advertisements to develop effective advertising ideas for other cultures. International marketers thus should understand that advertising in which the values do not match those of the culture of the receiver which are the consumers will be less noted or misunderstood and thus less effective (de Mooij, 2009, p. 51).

To conclude, for international marketers not to be disillusioned by cultural differences and similarities, they should understand the importance of cultural universalities. These cultural universalities tell marketers and advertising professionals how effective an advertising could be in a specific culture and ineffective when the same advertising campaign will be implemented in other cultures. Although the global consumers tend to conform to basic abstract formulation like that of feelings of happiness, consumers have inherent, different meanings to the word happiness which is often culturally determined. This is because of how happiness in relation to specific experiences is perceived by a specific consumer. As it is tied with the cultural orientation of that consumer, a consumer of a distinct culture may be happy with a specific product but another consumer of another culture will not.


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