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Cultural Change in International Markets

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Competitive pressures caused by globalization, deregulation, and discontinuous

technological changes seem to have forced many organizations into considering radical

change as a way of surviving and growing. A big part of this radical change has to do

with accepting and handling cultural differences among other nations. Organizations

pursue change to enhance their competitive positions and to grow.

Cultural Change

Culture changes over time, despite the fact that one of the more important

attributes of culture is that it is conservative and resistant to change. When marketing a

new innovation to a foreign country, the marketer must possess a thorough knowledge of

that country's culture in order to be successful there, as new innovations can be fail or

even cause offence if not marketed or designed in a manner appropriate to that particular


There are six rules of thumb when doing business across cultures:

1. Be prepared. Whether traveling or selling from home, you should never approach

a foreign market with first researching the area. Some of the things to learn

would include social and business etiquette, history, current affairs, the culture's

values, geography, religion, political structure, and practical matter such as

currency and hours of business.

2. Slow down. In America "Time is money." Americans always seem to be in a

rush and can seem unfriendly or arrogant. In other countries, patience is the key.

3. Establish trust. Having crisp business relationships will get the salesperson

nowhere. Product quality, pricing, and clear contracts are not as important as the

personal relationship and trust that are developed over time.

4. Understand the language. Languages differ in parts of the world one must have a

vocabulary that is sensitive to nuance and connotation. An interpreter could also

be helpful if needed.

5. Respect the culture. Manner are important. The traveling person is a guest and

must respect the hosts' rules.

6. Understand components of culture. There are two types: surface culture (fads,

styles, foods, etc.) and deep culture (attitudes, beliefs, values).

Importance of cultural understanding

One of the reasons a marketer may be unsuccessful internationally is when they

mistakenly see some cultures as being similar when they are in fact quite different. There

are a number of ways in which this can occur.

One of the ways this can occur is when countries' cultures are considered similar

on the basis they speak the same language. However, in instances where this occurs,

often a lot of words have a very different meaning in one country than another, a good

example being the difference here in Ireland with the U.S. Consider the question "Was

there any craic?" here, meaning was it fun or a good time, while the same question in the

states would be interpreted as was there any drugs as in "crack". The same

question but two very different meanings!

Another mistake is where different cultures are lumped together as one. In

western society it is commonly thought that most Asian groups such as the

Japanese, Chinese and Koreans for example have similar cultures when in

fact they are quite different. Failure to recognize the differences could have serious

consequences for a marketer. Even within a country, a marketer must be aware of the

existence of subcultures. There is no better example than the U.S. with people of all

ethnic backgrounds.


People who are familiar with only one cultural pattern may believe they have an

awareness of cultural differences elsewhere, when in reality they do not. Unless they

have had occasion to make comparisons with other cultures, they are probably not even

aware of the important features of their own. They are probably also oblivious to the fact

that many societies consider their culture superior to all other (ethnocentricity) and that

their attempts to introduce the "German way" or the "American way" may be met with


Failure to understand a culture is a huge mistake when marketing internationally,

but this is by no means the only obstacle to overcome. Culture tends to be

resistant to change, although the



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