Culture is one of the most influential factors and as Kotler states " is the most fundamental determinant of a person's wants and behaviour" (2000). Many global companies use a global approach to conducting and managing their businesses. However as Lynch (1997) points out "national culture governs so much of the way that society operates and so it needs to be taken into account in deriving corporate strategy, which would include how a business conducts itself" and impact on international marketing campaigns.
Culture is a problematic issue for many marketers as it is often difficult to understand. It is quite easy to make mistakes without even realising. For example, within the Muslim tradition, the dog is considered a "dirty" animal, so portraying it as "man's best friend" in an advertisement is counter-productive. Packaging, seen as a reflection of the quality of the "real" product, is considerably more important in Asia than in the U.S., where there is a tendency to focus on the contents. Many cultures observe significantly greater levels of formality than that typical in the U.S. Of importance then is to look at culture from the point of view of the material culture, education, and religion. Another way to look at cultural contents involves the areas of beliefs, attitudes, goals and values. Some examples could include:
Beliefs. While Americans may attribute success to hard work or skill, it may be attributed to luck or connections in other cultures
Attitudes. Beliefs, feelings, and behavioural intentions may differ. While some cultures may appreciate getting a bargain in a sale, this may conjure up images of not being able to afford the full price in other cultures
Goals and Values: While "progress" (having new and improved products, for example) is considered a good thing in the U.S., in Japan and other more traditional countries there might be concerns that traditional values and practices are being forgotten.
Changing social and economic conditions have contributed to a fundamental change in the workforce in most Western countries, and the UK is no exception. In addition increased education and opportunity have had a profound impact on what women aspire to in their lives. Overall women's participation in the job market in OECD countries has been increasing since the Second World War and even more so in the last twenty years. This involves them setting aside their femininity and their personal life in order to fit in. In addition, men often feel that working long hours puts them in a good position. In order to compete women must do the same thing, in spite of often having many other responsibilities outside work, most usually domestic responsibilities.
To this end this has an impact on the marketing department as the changing roles mean that traditional approaches are no longer viable. As Czinkota points out "a traditional medium like daytime television is no longer an effective medium for reaching working women" (2000). New methods to reach them include direct mail. Also the purchasing power and the types of product are different for women now and marketing needs to take these into account. A large retailer will have to look at the products it offers, the way they are marketed to women, the hours of opening to serve working women who still do most of the household shopping. They will also have to pay attention to the image they have of women as this has changed too. Packaging, marketing and types of products are all affected.
"Managers who readily accept that the cuisine, the literature, the music and the art of other countries run parallel to one another, must also learn to accept that the art of management differs in other countries" (Laurent, cited in Schneider & Barsoux, 2003)
When entering a new market, such as a new country, a company must be aware of potential differences in the new market. "Society shapes our beliefs, values and norms." (Kotler, 2000). Therefore "people living in a particular society hold many core beliefs and values that tend to persist" (Kotler, 2000). "Core beliefs and values are passed on from parents to children and are reinforced by major social institutions - school, churches, business and government" (Kotler, 2000) This means that it is not possible for a small business to assume that the formula to which worked in its home market might work just as effectively in another.
In order to undertake an international marketing campaign, a manager should be informed about people's habits, entertainment, beliefs and values. A national culture is very important for the international marketer, as it will help him/her to target the market correctly, thus avoiding expensive mistakes. A national culture is defined as "a set of beliefs, perspectives, motivations, values and norms shared by the majority of the inhabitants of a particular country. It is reflected by the laws of the country and in its institutions and social standards"(Bennett, 1997)
The process of appraising the international market is an important element of international marketing. It is important for a company to look at many factors such as the political, economic and cultural environment. When a company is in an international marketing situation, there can be complications with the marketing campaign. Language and culture are the principal areas of difficulty, although with the dominance of English as a global language this is becoming less of an issue. However other cultural issues also have an impact as we have discussed. One company that has successfully encompassed culture as the basis for its marketing is HSBC, where international advertising and marketing focuses on culture and its differences as the key to its success and aims to demonstrate the company's understanding of these issues.