Together with rapid technological advancement, globalization has bridged gaps between nations and continents, creating extensive levels of interconnection. Globalization remains the main force that is driving businesses that operate in the international arena. Due to capturing broad audiences, companies have to implement specific marketing strategies that would promote a product or service to customers around the world. What is challenging about multinational marketing is that cultures differ in their perceptions and norms, which means that the way in which businesses advertise themselves would have to adjust to the peculiarities of given cultures. With the context of globalization, culture has presented a dynamic force for change due to the impact of other worldviews and expressive forms. Nevertheless, while the converging needs and desires of target audiences around the globe have facilitate the opportunity for global competition, there has been pressure in improving the quality of marketing to facilitate growth.
Notwithstanding the bridging of gaps between countries, the differences in the way populations live in various regions around the world persist. Critical cultural elements, such as language, food, beliefs and practices, clothing, and others, differ from one country to another (Demirbag & Yaprak, 2015). As businesses seek opportunities to expand to other areas, the global advertisement strategies usually meet the limitations of culture, which is an important shaper of consumer behavior (Cleveland, Naghavi, & Shafia, 2018). It is essential to note that studies on the impact of culture have been extensive in recent years, with the phenomenon of culture being widely used as an explanatory variable (Peprah, Ocansey, & Mintah, 2017). The current research expects to add to the body of knowledge studying the connections between multinational marketing and culture.
Exploration of Literature
The desire of organizations to increase revenue and profit margins calls for global marketing strategies that would capture broad audiences. Marketing strategies encompass a range of activities, including environmental analysis, positioning, and competitive advantage, which are necessary to facilitate a system of value creation that would form strong relationships with stakeholders (Peprah et al., 2017). Researchers have observed that the issue of standardization, as initially proposed by Porter, affects the product, its promotion, as well as the structure related to the price of a commodity as well as its distribution channels. As found by Rao-Nicholson and Khan (2016), global standardization positively influences firms regarding their economics of scale and establishing a consistent brand image that would be appealing to potential customers.
Researchers have consistently been identifying links between culture and the strategies organizations implement in their multinational marketing efforts. Culture will ultimately influence the distribution of products, their prices, their range, and promotion due to the differences in such elements as language, ethnic values, and religious beliefs (Peprah et al., 2017). This means that companies should be aware of the sociocultural dimensions of multination marketing. Multinational corporations have shown to employ their strategy for international standardization of marketing approaches in compliance with the standardization principle in different regions (Peprah et al., 2017). This confirms the difference in the way companies would approach marketing in opposing cultures. For instance, Europe-based multinational corporations favor global marketing strategies, while North America-based and Asia-based companies prefer a local strategy.
Language, which is the key characteristic of culture, becomes a significant barrier to communication and the subsequent multinational marketing approaches. A relevant study on this topic was conducted by Çiço and Dishmema (2014), who researched the issue in the context of the Albanian market. Developing an integrated international strategy across remote geographical regions is challenging because of the different native languages, which means that companies should adjust their means of expression within marketing strategies to attract wider audiences.
Influence of Culture on Multinational Marketing
The differences between cultures are expected to influence the way in which the target audiences of multinational advertisements perceive them. Studies on the topic of culture and multinational marketing have been targeted at discussing whether the ways of life for different people create a challenge for global marketing (Peprah et al., 2017). For example, when dealing with great contrast in cultures, such as the one existing between Western and African populations, companies have to understand specific differences and the way in which they should be addressed (Peprah et al., 2017). Culture will influence free trade policies, relationships between business partners, international company management, and consumer behaviors, which will ultimately point to either a positive or negative perception of a marketing campaign.
Culture is a learned set of behaviors and activities, and not genetically inherited trait that a population of a specific country or region has (Daramola & Oyinade, 2015). As a result, globalization will change culture and transform the ways in which individuals approach it and facilitate its further development. Nevertheless, researchers have disclosed that regardless of the infiltration of foreign features, cultures will still retain their individual and exceptional characteristics that cannot be changed easily (Swanger, 2015). Because there are unique cultural characteristics, companies have to develop marketing strategies that would be acceptable for intended audiences.
Cultural dimensions that characterize the peculiarities in populations’ behaviors and perceptions have also shown to play a significant role. Dimensions such as collectivism versus individualism, the balance between masculinity and femininity, power distance, short-term versus long-term orientation, as well as uncertainty avoidance, shape the cultures of various nations and dictate the way in which they should be approached. In the formulation of global marketing strategies intended for capturing wide audiences, cultural dimensions are imperative to consider. As mentioned by Peprah et al. (2017), it is also imperative for companies to consider cultural attributes, which include education, language, religion, law and practices, social organization, and others. By understanding how such attributes shape cultures, it is possible for firms to develop relevant marketing strategies and implement them effectively. Nevertheless, the existence of cultural differences means that there is no standardized approach to multinational marketing that would work for all target audiences. Rather, there should be a combination of standardization and localization strategies that would cater to the cultural peculiarities of populations. Ultimately, language differences will limit the way in which promotional messages would be perceived by various nations, which makes multinational marketing challenging for companies.
Standardization versus Local Adaptation
In adjusting to the cultural peculiarities of target audiences worldwide to market products or services, companies will choose between adaptation and standardization, both of which represent the ways in which products could be sold overseas. Product adaptation refers to the modification or changing of product features to reach new markets (Hutchins, 2019). This is an approach that has been widely used by McDonald’s that created a menu of vegetarian products to promote the company in the Indian market. Therefore, the strategy of adaptation demands using a different marketing and selling methods in foreign markets. Standardization is an opposite approach, which implies a unified approach toward marketing products or services to all countries globally. This marketing method is more affordable compared to adaptation; although, it is not as effective at penetrating international markets as adaptation. While some consumer needs may be universal, the attitudes, motivations, and expressions within particular cultures will prevent standardization from being successful in all regions.
Differentiating between standardization and adaptation within the context of cultural influences is important because globalization has initiated important societal changes. For international companies, having a globalization strategy with a standardized component can lead to the economies of scale in marketing, production, and research and development. However, it is important for businesses to appreciate the differences that exist among international markets and adjust their practices and marketing strategies to fit the needs and demands of consumers. Since both adaptation and standardization have limitations, combining the advantages of the two strategies can be an option for some organizations (Hutchins, 2019). To cater to the influence of culture on multinational marketing, it is recommended to think from the perspective of standardization while implementing adaptation to meet the needs of local markets. Such an approach suggests taking an overall worldwide perspective, but the details of the strategy should account for the characteristics and cultural differences. Therefore, companies should value cultural or ethnic diversity and maintain this as a pragmatic necessity for organizations that want to market their products or services globally.
Nevertheless, one important issue remains as to which extent should the marketing across international target audiences be standardized across regions or localized to specific markets. The potential implications of the combination of the two strategies should also be considered. Through advertising, it is possible to market a global product as if it has local significance. A national strategy approach assumes the need to consider the locally-related issues, which are reinforced by cultural influences, in the performance of business activities in the marketplace. In many areas, the approach of a global strategy would be unsuitable because the local adaptation of marketing activities would have to consider the cultural and other characteristics of specific geographical areas.
The dimensions and the elements of culture have shown to affect the advertising strategies that are used by multinational and international companies. However, the barriers can be eliminated with the help of efficient multinational marketing strategies that consider the needs of customers while also understanding their characteristics. Therefore, different marketing approaches are necessary for catering the potential customers from different cultures. The extent to which global or local strategies should be used will depend on the needs of the target audience and the degree of cultural influence.
The research topic is highly important for organizations and their managers because companies should be aware of the fact that national marketing tools may not be effective in global business due to cultural differences. Therefore, it is essential to study the impact of culture on the advertisement methods of multinational firms to reveal key challenges as well as point out best practices that could facilitate the success of advertising campaigns. A successful marketing strategy is expected to facilitate a relationship between the long-term objectives as well as the analysis of the internal and external environment that influences the potential success of a firm.
- Çiço, O., & Dishmema, E. (2014). Language as a tool for multinational companies, insights on the issue, including Albanian market proposal for research. European Journal of Sustainable Development, 3(3), 395-402.
- Cleverland, M., Naghavi, P., & Shafia, M. A. (2017). Globalization, culture, consumer disposition, and consumption: The case of Iran. In C. L. Campbell (Ed.), The customer is not, always right Marketing orientations in a dynamic business world (pp. 340-341). Proceedings of the Academy of Marketing Sciences.
- Daramola, I., & Oyinade, B. (2015). Impact of cultural globalization on Africa: The role of western media. International Journal of Education and Research, 3(3), 31-46
- Demirbag, M., & Yaprak, A. (2015). Handbook of emerging market international corporations. Edward Elgar Publishing.
- Hutchins, G. (2019). Operational excellence handbook: An enterprise approach. Quality + Engineering.
- Peprah, W., Ocansey, E., & Mintah, E. (2017). The influence of culture on global marketing strategies: A confirmatory study. The International Journal of Business & Management, 5(1), 150-155.
- Rao-Nicholson, R., & Khan, Z. (2016). Standardization versus adaption of global marketing strategies in emerging market cross-border acquisitions. International Marketing Review, 34(1), 138-158.
- Swanger, J. (2015). Re-conceptualizing cultural globalization: Connecting the cultural global and the cultural local. Social Sciences Journal, 4, 630-645.