Influence of Cultural Differences in Marketing International ‘Brand Identities’

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Culture refers to (Singhapakdi, Rawwas, Martha, Ahmed, 2006) the way of life of a particular people and different countries all over the world have different cultures and therefore when marketing an international identity, the marketing manager has to be aware of cultural differences that exist between different people. According to Susan & Samuel (1995) culture can also be said to be the predetermined rules, standards, and regulations that society subscribes to and therefore have to be followed. These are the values that are embedded or instilled in an individual by growing up in a particular society. According to (Singhapakdi, Rawwas, Martha, Ahmed, 2006) we learn to behave in a certain way, to believe in certain things, and share common attitudes in regard to the predetermined rules that the society has. It is also paramount to note that most of these cultural values are deeply embedded in traditional beliefs. Without much further ado, we cannot deny the fact that when advertising a particular international brand; organizations cannot turn a blind eye to cultural values in various societies for they have to be aware that they are advertising to the whole world and not to only one particular community. Singhapakdi, Rawwas, Martha, Ahmed, 2006, argued that, various cultures all over the world have their dos and don’t s when it comes to culture. It becomes hard when an organization producing international brands has to advertise its brands which are to be received all over the world.

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Culture affects the way certain people tend to think and is the platform through which a particular group of people develop their attitudes. The religion that people conform to is also affected by the culture that a certain people are disposed to and also dictates the language that a particular people speak to the extent that culture also influence our level of education. For instance, in some communities education is highly upheld while in others, education is not important. Therefore, as suggested by Marieke, (2010) and without the shadow of a doubt, culture is a force to reckon with when marketing international brand identities.

Organizations have to conduct research to come up with advertisement strategies that can be receipted positively all over the world. Robert (1998) argues that it is polite for organizations to create advertising campaigns that do not upset particular people in relation to their cultures. Czinkota & Ronjainem (1995) argues that many a time’s marketing managers find themselves in the dilemma of having to incorporate cultural values when coming up with advertising campaigns and this goes a long way to making the advertising campaigns conform to the societal generally accepted norms. Czinkota & Ilkka, (2007) emphasizes that one thing that remains for sure for organizations is that when advertising international brands, they have to take into consideration the various cultural diversities into a single domain of cross cultural communication. According to Czinkota & Ilkka, (2007), in these times where the world has become a global village, corporations have to be on the look out for cultural differences when marketing their products.

According to Mattelart, (1991) international brands refer to those brands that are widely known and those that transcend local boundaries to international borders. They are the brands that have the recognition of people all over the world and therefore people always have preset perceptions and expectations of these international brands. Examples of some of the commonly known international brands are Coca Cola, Shell and Nike among other brands.

While one may argue that marketing concepts and the principles of marketing do not change regardless of geographical location, influences of culture produce dramatic variations to the advertising strategies. Jain (1998) proposes that the management has to develop strategies that allow international brands to curve a niche in certain markets irrespective of the cultures that are there in those geographical contexts. Jain (1998) argues that with the definition of international brands as the ones that transcend local boundaries to international boundaries and culture as the generally accepted norms and standards that society has predetermined to be followed, then how then does culture affect marketing of international brand identities? Frederic (2002) questions as to whether marketers research the domain of cultural influence when advertising international identities in the view of business ethics or do marketers acknowledge the influence of culture on marketing international brands? It is a question of not upsetting societal values or is it a question of obeying societal values?

The coca cola company is among the most renowned company in the world for it international brands in beverages. It is the largest company which markets over three thousands beverages to over 200 countries all over the world (Clifford 2007). The portfolio of countries that the Coca Cola Company markets its products keeps on increasing with speculations that the company will grow in terms of its markets share to reach every country in the world. It is indeed an international company that has put a lot of consideration when marketing its international identities (Neil 1990). How do societies’ cumulative practices affect marketing of international brands the likes of Coca Cola owing to the fact that these practices that have to be taken into consideration when international brands are to be marketed have been in existence and have been passed from generation to generation since time in memorial?

In order to bring out the way cultural differences influence the marketing of international brands, the paper will focus on one of the coca cola advertising campaigns and research on how the campaign was receipted in various cultural backgrounds. Zero Coke has zero sugar in the contents and is designed for those people who prefer to take products that are sugar free. According to Clifford (2007) the brand was introduced in 2006 and immediately became a favorite brand for many people for it advocated that the brand had no calories. This product was introduced in the market and there were variation in regard to how the product was perceived in various states.

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To begin with, the advertising campaign that was carried out in the United States of America labeled the drink as a zero calorie in order to attract young male consumers instead of referring to the drink as a diet coke. This was because a diet coke was mostly associated with women in America who wanted to loose weight and therefore the advertising campaign knew that if they labeled the product as a diet coke, they would not capture the market segment of young males. Culture here plays an important role in redefining the products that are mostly associated with women and the ones that are to be associated with men and therefore advertising companies have to take a holistic approach to marketing products even if the contents are the same. For instance, when coca cola marketing managers in the United States of America were advertising the diet coke, they changed the slogan to zero calories. The slogans for Zero calorie coke changed in order to respect the values of the young American men who would not want to be seen drinking a beverage that is commonly associated with women. One would ask the question as to who the role of assigning products that are associated with women and the products that are associated with men befits. Keegen & Green (2010) maintains that the answer lies in our cultural values.

On the contrary, the advertisement for zero coke in Finland was not received well and the advertising campaign had to act fast and withdraw the advert for it was said to devalue women and liken them to sex objects for men. The criterion which was used to judge that the advertisements for zero coke lessened the value of women in the society can only be attributed to cultural influences on marketing of international standards.

Rein (1992) in as much as a brand is renowned internationally, in most cases, marketing managers do find themselves coming up with advertisements that are geared towards a certain culture. This is also a way through which the influence of culture on advertising campaigns can be clearly brought out. International companies for instance the Coca Cola Company have to incur extra expenses in producing such advertisements that are only directed to certain communities and not to the whole world.

Colors are an important element in culture. In relation to the Coca Cola brand identities, the Coca Cola Company uses white and red in its trademark. To the Americans, color white is interpreted to mean wholesomeness but when the same color white is viewed from the Chinese cultural perspective, a trademark with white color is interpreted to signify death for white is used in the symbols that are representing death or bad things that can result to death.

The American culture is a culture whereby people do most of their shopping in supermarkets and may also buy drinks from automated machines. This shows that if one is to look for a coca cola product in America, the most suitable place to go is the supermarkets or get an automated machines that has coca products whereas in developing countries for instance India, the most appropriate place one would find a coca cola product is in small scale shops. This further illustrates that the American culture of buying products in supermarkets does not allow growth for business as compared to the developing countries culture where one does not have to go to the supermarkets to buy coca cola products for they can be found in the shop next door. In relation to advertising, when advertising for coca cola products in developing countries and taking into consideration their market for coca cola products, marketing managers have to design advertising strategies that target the common consumer who does not have assess to the big supermarkets.

Dress code is another aspect of culture. According to Frederic (2002) different societies differ in the way they dress according to the values instilled in the individuals through culture. For instance, the American culture allows them to dress formally or informally and therefore it does not really matter what one is wearing. Whether a person who is advertising a Coca Cola product has put on a short or is dressed formally, Americans do not place so much emphasis on the dress code.

In contrast, many developing countries do not appreciate people who have exposed their bodies and therefore Coca Cola adverts which are to be shown to developing countries consider the cultures of the people in terms of their dressing. The problem with the dress code is more accelerated when developing adverts suitable for the Arab Emirates. According to Cateora (1995) it would be an insult to place advertisements that feature women who are poorly dressed in the Arab countries. Therefore, when advertising in Muslim countries, international marketers should adhere to the Islamic marketing concepts which takes into consideration the Islamic culture.

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According to Michaelidou & Dibbs (2008) culture can also be said to influence international business marketing through the way different societies respond to products made. The modernity of a people or the way society has advanced also influences the buying behaviors of consumers. If the society is deeply ingrained in its cultures and traditions, it presents marketers with difficulties when advertising their international brands. For instance, the Japanese and U.S.A cultures are very receptive to products and therefore when products are introduced in the market in the two countries, they pick momentum very fast as compared to other cultures which have rigid cultures.

Taking another example of Saudi Arabia, the country has is roots in its traditions and cultures and therefore when marketers are to advertise their products in such a country, they have to be aware of the traditions and customs of the Saudi Arabians. Therefore in international marketers have to know the type of culture that they are advertising their international brand identities to and develop their advertising campaigns accordingly.

In reference to the Zero Coca Cola advertising campaign, when the product was introduced in the Brazilian market in 2007, it was labeled as unknown commodity though people could feel the usual taste of the coca cola beverages and the bottle was not that different from the usual coca cola bottle. Even though the similarity of the Zero Coke to the usual coke was eminent, Brazilians still referred to the product as unidentified. This clearly illustrates the Brazilian’s society as rigid to accept change. In other countries like Canada, there were counteract campaigns inform of cartoons denying that coca cola zero brand existed with the claims that there was no difference between the normal coke and the zero coke.

Herbig (1997) maintains that language barrier is also an important aspect of culture which affects international marketing and advertisements. Coca Cola Company creates different slogans for different countries in respect to the language that is found in a certain cultural context. For instance, the Chinese language is only typical to China and therefore for an advertisement to be effective, the advertisement has to be translated into the Chinese language. In addition, when the coca cola company was marketing its zero coke brands, the U. K. slogan was different from all the other slogans that were used to advertise the product. This shows that language barrier is a great influence on marketing of international brands.

Communication is different in different cultural contexts. In some cultures, when one communicates, the message conveyed is interpreted as what there is to the message with no hidden meaning the example of such countries as America. In other communities which are embedded in cultural values, for one to convey a message, there is a lot of scrutiny to how one is dressed, the non verbal clues, the mode of communication whether formal or informal among others are also considered. Consequently, different cultural backgrounds interfere with the way messages are conveyed when advertising international brand identities.

Neil (1990) maintains that customer’s preferences are tied to cultural variations in different countries. For instance, Germans are well known to be good consumers of beverages like coca cola brands, in France, consumers cultural practices involves taking water and drinking wine in plenty, Italians are known to be passionate for wine and the Britons are used to taking tea which is substituted with beer in most cases. These preferences are greatly influenced by the cultural differences for they are only typical in certain areas. Therefore while marketing coca cola brands, marketing managers have to be well aware of such preferences and tailor the advertisements to fit the cultural preferences, for example, The Coca Cola Company may improve their advertising campaigns in Britain to try and solicit consumers into consuming its products for marketing involves complimenting culture and at the same time opposing the cultural practices but in a friendly way which does not upset the consumers.

The Coca Cola beverage has its origins in America in the state of Atlanta and this presents us with another issue of Americans adopting the Coca Cola beverages as their own national brand. We defined culture as the values that are instilled in us by the society and thus Americans since the invention of the Coca Cola brands have learned to adopt it as their own prestigious brand. Pendergrast (2000) maintains that Americans developed the attitude of drinking a beverage that is produced in their country and in turn their children have learned to carry on the culture from their parents. This culture influences the marketing of coca cola brand in places like Atlanta for marketing managers do not have to carry out rigorous advertisements in such areas and to some extent the greater America for the brand is generally accepted and instilled in their cultural values as their own as when compared to other countries where marketing managers have to rigorously advertise Coca Cola products.

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Marketing managers (Vardar 1992) have crafted the art of advertising into their finger tips through the influence of advertisements and they have also known that one can easily influence the consumer’s choices through advertisements. According to Onkivisit & Shaw (2004), the element of influencing what consumers buy or do not buy is referred to as consumer psychology in the marketing arena. Why do consumers feel compelled to buy certain brands and not others? Behavioral psychologists would argue that among the factors that determine our buying behaviors is the cultural influence. Culture culminates to norms that we generally hold as a society and therefore the aspect of marketing international brands should be scrutinized through the hawk eyes of an eagle by marketers and in view of cultural aspects.

Didd, Simkin, & Wilson, (2008) argues that not all that that relates to culture poses a challenge to marketing international brand identities. Culture is not static and can be learned and consequently passed from one generation to another generation. For instance, The Coca Cola Company has created a culture whereby the Christmas festive season is marked by the Coca Cola Santa Claus. It is documented that Santa Claus did not usually look like the modern coca cola Santa Claus for he used to appear in a white suit until the coca cola company crafted their own image of Santa clause wearing the Coca Cola colors and first appeared in the scene in 1931. A culture therefore developed whereby most people look forward to the coca cola holiday advertising campaigns wand most people wait for Santa Claus to appear to mark their Christmas festive season. This clearly illustrates that just like international brands transcends international boundaries, culture too can be created and learned all over the world. Thus, such practices help managers in marketing international brand identities through cultures that emanate and are adopted by people.

Organizations which ignore the diversities in cultures always find themselves experiencing what is otherwise known as cultural shock thereby introducing their international brands in various cultural contexts and their brands end up failing (Michaelidou, & Dibbs, 2008). If cultural differences are ignored, the advertisements create disorientation to various people and therefore may end up not being effective. Marketing has to be inconsistent with cultures that the people hold dear. In this era of increasing consumer awareness, a company has to be fully aware of cultural diversities before creating marketing campaigns.

Onkivisit & Shaw (2004) maintains that religious beliefs have also been known to greatly influence the way international brands are marketed. A religion influences the practices that certain people subscribing to in a particular religion engage in. For instance, when it comes to advertising international brands to countries that have deep roots in religion, it would not be wise to use advertisements which are secular. For example, in the Islamic states, advertisements that have a secular theme may not be appropriate because of their religious beliefs.

In conclusion, these are the times when the world is rapidly becoming a global village and with this comes rigorous competition between companies. Didd, Simkin, & Wilson (2008) maintain that most companies are producing similar brands with little variation and this has prompted companies to seek the greater global market. More and more companies are producing products that are marketed all over the world. I would conclude by saying that such brands can succeed in the global arena and in view of their competitors if the companies can learn to market their products in ways which are friendly to the target consumer. What better way than to hit the nail at the head by developing advertising strategies that take into account the cultural values of all the target consumers?

References

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