Marketing has always been recognized as an economic activity involving the exchange of goods and services. Only in recent years, however, have sociocultural influences been identified as determinants of marketing behavior, revealing marketing as a cultural as well as economic phenomenon. Because our understanding of marketing is culture bound, we must acquire knowledge of diverse cultural environments in order to achieve successful international marketing. We must, so to speak, remove our culturally tinted glasses to study foreign markets.

Basic Aspects of Society and Culture
Anthropologists and sociologists define culture as Ways of Living , built up by a group of human beings, which are transmitted from one generation to another. A culture acts out its ways of living in the context of social institutions, including family, educational, religious, governmental, and business institutions. Culture includes conscious and unconscious values, ideas, attitudes, and symbols that shape human behavior and that are transmitted from one generation to the next. In addition to agreeing that culture is learned, not innate, most anthropologists share two additional views. First, all facets of culture are interrelated; Influence or change one aspect of a culture and everything else is affected. Second, because it is shared by the members of a group, culture defines the boundaries between different groups. Taste and preferences for food and drink, for example, represent learned responses that are highly variable from culture to culture and can have a major impact on consumer behavior. Preference for color is culturally influenced as well. For example, White, usually associated with purity and cleanliness in the West, can signify death in Asian countries. Of course, there is no inherent attribute to any color of the spectrum; all associations and perceptions regarding color arise from culture.

Culture and Its Characteristics
1. Culture is a prescriptive: It prescribes the kinds of behavior considered acceptable in the society. The prescriptive characteristics of culture simplify a consumer s decision making process by limiting product choices to those which are socially acceptable. 2. Culture is socially shared: Culture, out of necessity, must be based on social interaction and creation, it cannot exist by itself. It must be shared by members of a society, thus acting to reinforce culture s prescriptive nature. 3. Culture facilitates communication: One useful function provided by culture is to facilitate communication. Culture usually imposes common habits of thought and feeling among people. Thus, within a given group culture makes it easier for people to

Page | 1

culture is both unique and arbitrary. The Chinese view a large family as a blessing and assume that children will take care of parents when growth old. What is acceptable in one culture may not necessarily be so in another. total picture is to emerge. it is relatively stable and somewhat permanent. culture is constantly changing-it adapts itself to new situations and new sources of knowledge. the scope of the term culture to the anthropologist is illustrated by the elements included within the meaning of the term and they are as follows: Geography Geography is a study of the physical characteristics of a particular region of the earth. and population. For the marketer. it must be learned and acquired. Involved in this study are climate. 6. Culture is enduring: Because culture is shared and passed along from generation to generation. This explains why India and China. there has evolved a culture scheme that defines the parts of culture.communicate with one another. The ability to learn culture makes it possible to absorb new cultural trends. In this regard. the same thoroughness is necessary if the marketing consequences of cultural differences within foreign market are to be accurately assessed. 5. But culture may also impede communication across groups because of a lack of shared common cultural values. and people tend to maintaintheir own heritage in spite of a continuously changing world. Elements of Culture The anthropologist studying culture as a science must investigate every aspect of a culture is an accurate. Culture is subjective: People in different cultures often have different ideas about the same object. Socialization or enculturation occurs when a person absorbs or learns the culture in which he or she is raised. Each generation adds something of its own to the culture before passing the heritage on to the next generation. 4. Culture is dynamic: Culture is passed along from generation to generation. but one should not assume that culture is static and immune to change. To implement this goal. despite severe overcrowding. topography. if a person learns the culture of a society other than the one in which he or she was raised. The interaction of the physical Page | 2 . 8. Culture includes every part of life. the process of acculturation occurs. have a great difficulty with birth control. Culture is learned: Culture is not inherited genetically. Old habits are hard to break. In contrast. 7. Culture is cumulative: Culture is based on hundreds or even thousands of years of accumulated circumstances. Far from being the case.

for example. it is the technical knowhowpossessed by the people of a society. a country s history. but in less wealthy countries they are not only unattainable but also probably unwanted. and appreciate a people s image of itself and the attitudes and unconscious fears that reflected in its view of foreign cultures. To understand. the relations between managers and the managed. it is necessary to study the culture as it is now as well as to understand the culture as it was that is. As an example. and the income derived from the creation of utilities. for an international marketer to know how to satisfy the needs of the international market. their distribution. History History helps define a nation s mission. but in many countries of the world this seemingly simple concept is not part of their common culture and is. The marketing implications of the material culture of a country are many. Included in the subject of economics is the production of goods and services. Insights into the history of a country are important for understanding attitudes about the role of government and business.characteristics is one of the principal determinants of a country s customs. Electric can openers and electric juicers are acceptable in the United States. industries.S. the vastmajority of U. Economics is the manner in which people employ their capabilities and the resulting benefits. and attitudes toward foreign corporations. consumption. and how it sees itself. citizens understand the simple concepts involved in reading gauges. a major technical limitation. therefore. clothing or food. how it sees its place in the world. the sources of management authority. how it perceives its neighbors. needs. explain. a producer selling machinery in the tropics would have to realize that special protection is needed to keep a machine running properly in hot and humid climates. Marketing is concerned with satisfying the needs of people and International marketing seeks out the whole world as its marketplace. products. Therefore. He must know that various climates and topographies do exist and that they are vital in shaping the marketing plans that an international marketer must make. he must be familiar enough with geography to know what the various causal factors of the people s needs are. and methods of satisfying those needs. means of exchange. Page | 3 . Material Culture: Technology and Economics Technology includes the techniques used in the creation of material goods. For example. they would be a spectacular waste because disposable income could be spent more meaningfully on better houses.

it is easy to offend.Political Structures Social Institutions include social organization. values and the overall patterns of life. affects all aspects of the culture from economic development to consumer behavior. The four cultural dimensions can be used to classify countries into groups that will respond in a similar way in business and market contexts. clothing. religion and political structures that are concerned with the ways in which people relate to one another. teach acceptable behavior to succeeding generations. Family. the way they buy them. group behavior. The Power Distance Index (PDI). The positions of men and women in society. the family.000 people in 66 countries. their outlook on life. for example. one of the most important social institutions. The impact of religion on the value systems of a society and the effect of value systems on marketing must not be underestimated. When the marketer has little or no understanding of a religion. and govern themselves. The Individualism/Collective Index (IDV). the products they buy. and such influence can extend to the acceptance or rejection of promotional messages as well. The most useful information on how cultural values influence various types of business and market behavior comes from a seminal work by Geert Hofstede. 2. What might seem innocent and acceptable in one culture could be considered too personal or vulgar in another. It is much easier to communicate with a literate market than to one where the marketer has to depend on symbols and pictures to communicate. which focuses on self-orientation. Each of the social institutions has an effect on marketing because each influences behavior. it is more effective to aim a promotion campaign at the family unit than at individual family members. which focuses on authority orientation. Religion. The literacy rate of a country is a strong force in economic development andalso has a profound effect on marketing. family. Education. In cultures where the social organizations result in close-knit family units. Education. Studying over 90. Acceptance of certain types of food. Religion is one of the most sensitive elements of a culture. education (school). he found that the cultures of the nations studied differed along four primary dimensions and that various business and consumer behavior patterns can be closely linked to these four primary dimensions. even the newspapers they read. although unintentionally. Culture Values Underlying the cultural diversity that exists among countries are fundamental differences in cultural values. age groups and how societies define decency and civility are interpreted differently within every culture.Social Institutions: Social organizations. Hofstede s approach has been widely and successfully applied to international marketing and research by others has reaffirmed these linkages. Page | 4 . organize their activities to live in harmony with one another. and behavior are frequently affected by religion. social classes. Religion impacts people s habits. The four dimensions are: 1.

Cultures that are high in IDV reflect an I mentality and tend to reward and accept individual initiative. The Masculinity/Femininity Index (MAS). They tend to have a high level of anxiety and stress and a concern with security and rule following. everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from birth onward are integrated into strong. which focuses on risk orientation. Cultures with high UAI scores are highly intolerant of ambiguity. cultures with high PDI scores are more apt to have a general distrust of others since power is seen to rest with individuals and is coercive rather than legitimate. Thus. High power scores tend to indicate a perception of differences between superior and subordinate and a belief that those who hold power are entitled to privileges. which in the extreme become inviolable rules. Individualism/Collective Index (IDV) The Individualism/Collective Index refers to the preference of behavior that promotes one s self-interest. 4. Accordingly. This does not mean that individuals fail to identify with groups when a culture scores high on IDV. The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI). on the other hand. they rigidly stick to historically tested patterns of behavior. tend to value equality and mention knowledge and respect as sources of power. Cultures scoring low in uncertainty avoidance are associated with a low level of anxiety and stress. and as a result tend to be distrustful of new ideas or behaviors. Those with very high level of UAI thus accord a high level of authority to rules as a means of avoiding risk. Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose. that is. Those with low scores. but rather that personal initiative is accepted and endorsed. with members mentioning force. A low score reflects the opposite attitude. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) The uncertainty avoidance index explains the intolerance of ambiguity and uncertainty among members of a society. power inequality between superiors and subordinates within a social system. cohesive groups. which focuses on achievement orientation.3. Power Distance Index (PDI) The power distance index measures the tolerance of social inequality. and a willingness to take risks Page | 5 . manipulation and inheritance as sources of power. Cultures with high PDI scores tend to be hierarchical. a tolerance of deviance and dissent. while those low in individualism reflect a we mentality and generally vanquish the individual to the group. which throughout people s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.

Customers everywhere respond to images. Assertiveness. as must advertisements and package designs. men are supposed to have dominant.Masculinity/Femininity (MAS) The masculinity/femininity index refers to one s desire for achievement and entrepreneurial tendencies. the acquisition of money and not caring for others. Insensitivity to aesthetic values can offend. a whole host of marketing problems can arise. assertive roles and women more service-oriented. interdependence. The uniqueness of a culture can be spotted quickly in symbols having distinct meanings. and the quality of life or people are all cultural traits in countries with high MAS scores. folklore. Aesthetics Closely interwoven with the effect of people and the universe on a culture are its aesthetics. The next step is an effort to change those factors from obstacles to acceptance in the stimulants for change. caring roles. Low-scoring cultures are associated with fluid sex roles. drama. and standards of beauty in each culture. and metaphors that help them define their personal and national identities and relationships within a context of culture and product benefits. Product styling must be aesthetically pleasing to be successful. Aesthetics are of particular interest to the marketer because of their role in interpreting the symbolic meanings of various methods of artistic expression. Some cultures allow men and women to take on many different roles. and an emphasis on service. and dance. and people. its arts. The former requires hopeful waiting for eventual cultural changes that prove their innovations of value to the culture. music. Strong symbolic meanings may be overlooked if one is not familiar with a culture s aesthetic values. and. Marketers have two options when introducing an innovation to a culture: They can wait. myths. and the extent to which the dominant values in society are masculine . color. equality between the sexes. or they can cause change. that is. in general. render marketing efforts ineffective. Planned and Unplanned Cultural Change The first step in bringing about planned change in society is to determine which cultural factors conflict with an innovation. thus creating resistance to its acceptance. In societies that make a sharpdivision. the latter involves introducing an idea or product and deliberately setting about to overcome resistance and to cause change that accelerates the rate of acceptance. Without a culturally correct interpretation of a country s aesthetic values. create a negative impression. while others make sharp divisions between what men should do and what women should do. Page | 6 .

Marketing strategy is judged culturally in terms of acceptance resistance or rejection. the marketer has responsibility to determine the consequences of such action. However. Or a company may employ a strategy of planned change that is. successful and highly competitive marketing can be accomplished by a strategy of cultural congruence. that is introduce a product and hope for the best. All too often marketers are not aware of the scope of the impact on a host culture. when marketing programs depend in cultural change to be successful a company may decide to leave acceptance to a strategy of unplanned change. but even failures lave their imprint on a culture. thereby minimizing resistance. Page | 7 . Essentially this involves marketing products similar to ones already on the market in a manner as congruent as possible with existing cultural norms. If a strategy of planned change is implemented. How marketing efforts interact with a culture determines the degree of success or failure. In fact.Obviously not all marketing efforts require change in order to be accepted. deliberately set out to change those aspects of the culture offering resistance to predetermined marketing goals.