Marketing can simply be defined as business activities aimed at ensuring smooth flow of goods and services from one destination to another (Kotler & Armstrong, 2001, p. 4). In order for any business to carry out marketing functions successfully they have to adopt the following marketing concepts:
- consumer orientation,
- integrated marketing,
- consumer satisfaction.
To achieve this businesses have to plan, organize, and control their marketing operations (Pulendran, Speed & Widing, 2003, p. 476). Generally, marketing concepts are realized through product, communication, distribution, and pricing strategies. A combination of the above four elements is what in commonly known as marketing mix (Kotler & Armstrong, 2001, p. 5).
For global marketing everything remains the same except that business activities take place across borders. In global marketing, physical movement of goods and services is not always necessary. In other words, global marketing takes place any time marketing decisions are made between two or more countries (Keegan, 2002, p. 23).
According to Van Mesdag, 2000, p. 75) global marketing is almost synonymous with the term multinational. Multinational refers to business entities that own business operations in more than one country. Therefore, he defines global marketing as business entities that operate across different borders, whose marketing strategies varies from country to country (Van Mesdag, 2000, p. 75).
Global marketing is a specific form of cross-border marketing which, in its unadulterated form, does not exist. Basically global marketing has a wide scope (geographically) and strives to homogenize marketing strategy in different countries (Van Mesdag, 2000, p. 75). Most of the marketing strategies at the present are still based for the most part on culture-sensitive adaptations in different markets across borders.
The geographical, cultural, linguistic, and regulatory differences among countries are so immense that using harmonized marketing mix is almost impossible. Still, global marketing always strive to harmonize all aspects of marketing mix as much as possible (Nina & Simintiras, 2000, p. 3).
Culture sensitivity in Global Marketing
There are numerous definitions of culture; however, the term culture is normally used to depict a decisive process. According to Gullien & Garcia –Canal (2009, p. 24), culture refers to shared values, attitudes, and behaviours that are passed on over time in a steady, but vibrant process. Nobody is born with culture; rather it is acquired through interaction with the surrounding.
The most significant aspect of culture is the fact that it is an ingenious process that is hard to comprehend its effect on values, attitudes and behaviours. Cultural shocks, at times, may cause psychological disorientation because they may lead to misunderstanding and negative feeling (Gullien & Garcia –Canal, 2009, p. 25).
Since international marketing entails contact and movement of goods, services and ideas across borders, appreciation of cultural diversity is very essential ((Hofstede, 1991, p. 4). Most studies on global marketing focuses on how local cultures affect companies’ practices in the host countries.
Domestic cultures may be considered to be values, attitudes, norms, and perception orientations characteristic of members of a given society. Introduction of systems and practices that are inconsistent with the local culture can result in failure of the system, not to mention conflicts between the company and its clients and possibly, the stakeholders at large (Usunier & Lee, 2005, p.61).
According to De Mooij (2005, p. 8), multinational companies have always found it hard to establish, develop, and maintain successful long-term relationship with far-off clients. He stresses that the success of any business in the global market depends on its ability to overcome cultural barriers and maintain long-term relationship with the clients.
Therefore, cultural sensitivity plays a very big role in building long term relationship with the clients. Most studies have been conducted to establish the relationship between cultural sensitivity and ethnocentrism. These studies have been based on relationship quality between exporters and their foreign importers (Jap, Manolis & Weitz, 1999, P. 303).
According to Smith (1998, p. 76), relationship quality entails general evaluation of strengths and level of relationships that meets the expectation or needs of the parties involved based on historical successes/failures. Strong collaborative relationship between transnational companies and clients helps in minimising effects of stiff competition in the current global environment (Pulendran, Speed & Widing, 2003, p. 379).
The collaborative relationships strongly depend on relationship quality, characterized by high level of commitment, approval, trust, and nominal exploitation. Commitment, satisfaction, trust and minimal exploitation are the principle dimension of relationship quality. The above key dimensions have been supported strongly by numerous relationship marketing literatures (Smith, 1998, p. 77).
Usunier & Lee (2005, p. 13) states that cultural sensitivity entails responsiveness, cultural understanding, minimization of cultural bias. Nina & Simintiras, 2000, P. 3) defines cultural sensitivity as a company’s learning and adaptation to foreign business environment/ practices.
A few studies have explored the relationship between relationship quality and cultural sensitivity (Harich & LaBahn, 1997; Usunier & Lee, 2005, p. 13.
Cultural sensitivity not only refers to cultural adaptation but also great concern for the consumer’s wellbeing. These tend to enhance trust among companies and their clients and as a result companies are able to overcome business challenges in foreign environment (De Mooij, 2005, p. 10).
A study conducted by Kraft and Kae (1992, p.60) on the perception of Korean importers to Japanese and US industrial goods, found out that the rating of these goods were based on cultural sensitivity. The study concluded that cultural sensitivity in that particular case could be improved through increasing awareness of the Korean culture, trade regulations and negotiation patterns.
These initiatives would enhance the relationship between US/Japanese exporters and Korean importers. According to Pulendran, Speed and Widing (2003, p. 380) defines cultural sensitivity as the company’s capability to customize its approach to culture. They stress that cultural sensitivity starts with company’s knowledge of cultural difference between it and its foreign associates.
Multifaceted Dimensions of Cultural Sensitivity
Some studies on effect of cultural sensitivity on the nature of global relationships have regarded cultural sensitivity as a single-dimensional construct (LaBahn & Katrin, 1997, p. 30; Skarmeas, Constantine & Bodo, 2002, p. 760). However, most studies view cultural sensitivity in a multi-dimensional perspective (Hartmut & Stottinger, 2001, p. 598; Shankarmahesh, Ford & La Tour, 2004, p. 424).
Based on wider literature coverage, key dimensions to cultural sensitivity are open-mindedness, adaptation tendencies, local business experience, global business experience, on going experience, and negotiation style (LaBahn & Katrin, 1997, p. 31; Skarmeas, Constantine & Bodo, 2002, p. 762; Hartmut & Stottinger, 2001, p. 598; Shankarmahesh, Ford & La Tour, 2004, p. 425).
Open-mindedness refers to the receptiveness of the marketing agents/ sales representatives to foreign information and new developments including cultural differences. This the only dimension identified by LaBahn & Katrin (1997, p. 30). Open-mindedness is tied to individuals acting on behalf of the company in the foreign markets.
It entails the ability to appreciate cultural differences, empathizing with local norms, and working styles. Therefore, ethnocentric attitude is undesirable for individuals working or operating in a foreign environment.
Many studies show that people from different cultural backgrounds tend to misinterpret each other because of their cultural differences. Therefore, an open-minded individual is best suited in such scenario (LaBahn & Katrin, 1997, p. 31).
The ability to adapt business style is significant in ensuring global marketing success (Cravens & Piercy, 2006, p. 33). Business adaptability depends with the ability and predisposition of its representatives in the foreign country. Adaptation of style of business is normally motivated by objective of minimizing cultural differences and increasing acceptance in the foreign market.
Business adaptation results in achievement of company’s targets with bare minimum challenges and mix-ups that may arise as a result of cultural differences.
Sales representatives must adapt their marketing approach to a wide range of marketing situations and in accordance to the consumers’ responses (Kotler & Armstrong, 1991, p. 121). Additional qualities required for individual adaptations include business etiquette and adherence to business procedures (Cravens & Piercy, 2006, p. 33).
Keegan (2002, p. 145) argues that adaptive marketing is synonimous with problem solving aproach. Problem solving approach denotes negotiation style that focuses on exchange of information and collaboration with foreign partners.
Negottiation is our case refers to the process of overseeing global relationships and resolving differences that may arise. Just like business style, netotiation style should also be adapted in accordance with the prevailing conditions (Kotler & Armstrong, 1991, p. 75). Global negotiations are among the most challanging tasks for transnational companies.
This is because they involve extremely culturally sensitive circumstances. They are not only based on the legal and business requirements of the host nations, but also on the quality of relationship between the exporter and the importer (Keegan, 2002, p. 146).
Most global marketing literatures focus too much on company’s experience. However, what is most important is the experience of the marketing staff in the foreign countries (Hartmut & Stottinger, 2001, p. 599). Experience is different from objective knowledge (classroom knowledge) since it is acquired through interaction with different stakeholders.
Both types of knowledge are important in global marketing. For instance, objective knowledge can be used to collect and analyze data that are vital in future decision making.
However, objective knowledge does not provide more insight on how to conduct business in foreign country. Many studies have established that objective knowledge is less significant in the process of globalizing marketing (Hartmut & Stottinger, 2001, p. 600).
Ongoing business experience refers to the time interval of a business in progress and the experience acquired in relation to particular aspects of the business in question. Global marketing representatives through interactions may acquire advanced knowledge in specific areas. Ongoing business experience may also entail experience on how similar businesses are run in the foreign land (Keegan, 2002, p. 146).
On the other hand, local experience is experienced acquired through partnership with local businesses dealing with similar products or services. Extensive knowledge of the local scenario is very important to succeed in such markets (Keegan, 2002, p. 147).
Lastly, global experience refers to wider experience of a particular multinational corporation given its massive exposure to diverse cultures and countries (Hartmut & Stottinger, 2001, p. 602). Companies with huge wealth of experience can deal with numerous numbers of challenges.
Similarly, individuals with global experience are those who have been exposed to many markets and have enough experience to tackle any form of challenge in the global market. Global experience enhances an individual’s understanding and knowledge that cuts across different cultures and business environments (Hartmut & Stottinger, 2001, p. 600).
Marketing Disney Theme Parks
Walt Disney is an example of multinational corporations that uses both ethnocentric and adaptation approach. The term ‘Disneyization’ refers to the process through which Disney tradition and culture are incorporated in the society. Disneyization involves interlocking consumption with institutional principles, advertising, theming, and staff development and training (Johnson, 1991, p. 38).
Theming is the most significant aspect of Disneyization. There are numerous themed recreational facilities, which draw on famous and accessible cultural themes. At the present, Disney themes have been adapted to the local settings. This has created a strong connection between the park facilities and attractions and the environment in which it is located (Johnson, 1991, p. 39).
Disney ‘lands’ (distinctive subdivisions in the park) have been presented through structural design, scenery, costuming, live entertainment, attractions, products and food and beverages that reflects the local/regional cultures and historical/national sites (Davis, 1996, p. 404).
Dedifferentiation of consumption denotes the broad-spectrum trend whereby the forms of consumption and institutional principles are interlocked together and increasingly become very hard to differentiate.
Dedifferentiation of consumption mostly involves linking local products and foods stuff with Disney cartoon characters. This is common in many European restaurants. Some of them have even attached themselves to the opening of the new Disney theme parks by offering free gifts to the visitors (Davis, 1996, p. 407).
The company’s Studio and Entertainment division also plays a significant role in marketing the theme parks. They have produced and distributed animated action films, music recordings, and home entertainments with local and regional contents. Use of local and regional scenes, music and culture has made the citizens of different countries to feel like being part of the larger Disney family (Clave, 2007, p. 18).
Lastly, the company normally takes huge risks by spending greatly on human resource training and development. Business executives analyze innovation as one of their top most challenges.
Innovation in this case refers to upgrading the human resources to meet the new challenges posed by the dynamic global economy. In addition, Disney also practices staff rotation where employees do not spend more than five years in one station. Therefore, Disney boosts of staff with global and local experience (Clave, 2007, p. 22).
Global marketing involve operation across borders where marketing strategies varies from country to country. Since international marketing entails contact and movement of goods, services and ideas across national borders, appreciation of cultural diversity is very essential. Cultural sensitivity plays a very big role in building long term relationship with the clients.
Therefore, most multinational corporations normally strive to balance between cultural sensitivity and ethnocentrism. Based on wider literature coverage, key dimensions to cultural sensitivity are open-mindedness, adaptation tendencies, local business experience, global business experience, on going experience, and negotiation style.
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