The Influences of Cultural Conditions on International Marketing Efforts
Many prominent academics and practitioners speculate that companies who hope to remain competitive in the 21st century must stake a claim in the international marketplace. If firms do not, they will become, at best, subsidiaries of multinational enterprises. Those who are not absorbed will be eclipsed by the competitiveness of global corporations. Stagnant domestic businesses will eventually disappear. Companies, therefore, are devoting resources to the exploration of international opportunities. Accordingly, marketing, as a means for selling products, becomes an area of primary concern. The field of International Marketing faces numerous problems beyond what is typically encountered in domestic marketing. Adapting marketing strategies in environments where there are significant differences in language, religion, values, attitudes, ethics, education and/or social organizations (collectively called "culture") is the primary concern of the international marketer. Appropriately, this paper explores how diverse cultural conditions influence international marketing efforts. Following the paper's introduction is a discussion of why firms should begin to globalize, marketing's role in this transformation, and the role of cultural difficulties in international marketing. The preceding synopsis is a summary these components. Next, an examination of available literature reveals two things. First, much published research in the area of marketing in multicultural environments has attempted to appraise methods for handling situation specific challenges. Clearly, this cannot provide a cognitive understanding of international marketing, nor can it yield a framework from which businesses can assemble a dependable marketing strategy. Secondly, the prevalent theme in international marketing is "standardization." Fundamentally, companies want to save money by making an international marketing campaign as uniform as possible. Yet, different cultures respond to stimuli in dissimilar ways. In order to effectively communicate to separate cultures a good marketing plan should be "localized." Hence, the main theme of international marketing: standardize or localize. Succeeding a discussion of the arguments for and against standardization is an analysis of research techniques, such as ad content analysis, being used to determine an appropriate balance between the desired uniformity and necessary adaptation of a marketing plan. At some point, it becomes clear that no single method is adequately describing this balance. Subsequently, I speculate that an equilibrium is difficult to obtain because an effort is being made to standardize the wrong element: advertising stimuli. A uniform advertising stimulus is not a reliable means of communicating an idea to groups of people who respond to stimuli in dissimilar ways. Therefore, a new functional definition of "standardization" is proposed. In light of standardization's new meaning, it becomes clear, through further review of current research practices, that the best data collection methods are not being employed. A call for better procedures is made, and a few alternatives are suggested. If we hope to gain a genuine understanding of how to make an international marketing campaign profitable, we may have to abandon some of the traditional practices and look afresh at what is required to achieve success. This could involve going back to the beginning and creating cross-cultural, consumer oriented marketing strategies that incorporate a deductive reasoning process.
U.S. copyright laws protect this material. Commercial use or distribution of this material is not permitted without prior written permission of the copyright holder.