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The Role of Culture in International Marketing Coursework


Culture of a given market represents the way different people in such a market behave and carry out their daily endeavours. In a black box perspective, culture is a representation of a population’s way of life. Markedly, cultures vary from state to state and community to community.

The Whites, Blacks, Arabs, Hispanics, and other divisive groups exhibit different cultures. Values, norms, traditions, customs, and beliefs represent some of the elements exhibiting cultural differences. Businesses require utmost care in developing adequate understanding of the impacts of culture on consumer behaviours.

Developing an intricate understanding of the different types of cultures that exist across the globe enables business franchises to create ample marketing systems that improve the rate of sales. In understanding the cultural setup in a market, businesses require analysis of key elements that inform cultural practices within a given market.

Developing products and services becomes irrelevant without proper marketing strategies. Therefore, implementing these strategies in the global market require putting into consideration consumer differences in terms of values, beliefs, thought processes, and traditions (Cateora and Graham 2007, p. 35).

Equally, different cultures appreciate different languages, religions, and symbols. Understanding all these facets within the confines of a marketing strategy enables business entities to win the hearts of many consumers, thereby improving the chances of higher profit margins.

This paper seeks to explore the different elements in culture that inform marketing strategy in local and international business franchise. Similarly, the paper seeks to understand the role of consumer culture in marketing and effects of culture on advertisement.

Dimensions of Culture

As Czinkota and Ronkainen (2007, p. 128) demote, many scholars argue that individuals develop cultures from interaction with different characters within a society. Characters, behaviours, traits, and customs within which an individual duels create a systematic and predicable way of life congruent to the interactive elements.

From the development and conformity into a given culture, different individuals begin to develop tastes and preferences for different products and services (Byrd and Megginson 2013, p. 44). Most cultural groups stick to their behaviours and customs since developing a contrary way of life creates animosity within the society.

For this reason, several cultures remain reluctant in embracing foreign ways of life, hence creating serious hurdles for international business franchises seeking penetration in a new market. According to Hofsede (2001, p. 73), for business franchise to develop an adequate understanding of the cultural structures for successful market penetration, understanding the different cultural dimensions within such markets becomes compulsory.

Individualism versus collectivism

Individualism draws inspiration from the school of thought that believes that individuals hold absolute rights over their lives. Due to this, each person in a given society holds lives his/her life based on personal choices that he/she considers best (Allik and Anu 2004, p. 46).

Such choices and preferences translate into the market trends exhibited among the different groups of products and services. Individualism in the investment perspective represents the capitalist nature such as the US economy. Collectivism, on the other hand, relies on the concepts of communal and/or societal ownership of life.

In a society practicing collectivism, individuals’ lifestyles draw directions and instructions from a set of pre-set societal and communal customs as Jeannet and Hennessey (2004, p. 82) observe in their work on marketing strategies.

Communist economies such as the former USSR represent some of the countries whose economic policies appreciated collectivism. For international marketing to penetrate into a new setting, understanding the different personal and communal structures and tendencies remains paramount (Reynolds and Siminitiras 2000, p. 840).

Power distance

Kotler (2000, p. 187) describes power distance as the quantity of authority spread out in business management through cultural practices and customs of a society. Power distance describes the culture of power sharing between the business management units and the subordinates.

Such power distributions define the type of relationship that exists throughout the business entity’s organisational structures and culture. In business settings with lower power distance, there exists more interaction between management units and subordinate employees. Such entities engaged in highly devolved systems of duty allocation (De Mooij 2009, p. 42).

Business entities with high power distance on the hand, boasts of minimal interaction between management personnel and the subordinate staff. They exhibit highly centralised system of responsibility allocation. In lower power distance set up, lower cadre employees get opportunities to dictate the kind of product and service offered as well as decisions implemented in the running of the entity.

The high power set is relatively dictatorial with management holding the absolute power over the business management decisions. In the US, for example, most companies practice low power distance cultures while in Saudi Arabia and China, the business management systems are relatively dictatorial (Onkvisit and Shaw 2009, p. 97).

In order to explore a new marketing strategy, business development officers need to understand the different power distance structures existing within the market in question. Understanding these culture forms a prerequisite for successful evaluation and implementation of a business marketing strategy.

Masculinity versus femininity

Different societies hold different opinions on gender balances and equality. In the Asian societies, for example, male domination in various development sectors continues even as the Western World appreciates affirmative actions and integrates women empowerment in job distributions and management positions.

International marketing, therefore, requires an in depth understanding of the role of different gender in a given society before venturing into market penetration plans. Similarly, in the advertisement segment of marketing, understanding the conservative opinions of a given market structure on gender issues entices the target audience, thus improving the rate of sales. Notably, an increase in sales volume holds the likelihood of high profit margins (Mullins and Christy 2011, p. 69).

Uncertainty avoidance

In many cultures, people avoid engaging in activities with little assurance on the probable benefits of such engagements. Directing energy to low risk activities with great prospects on benefits remains the basic driver of investors.

Equally, in the consumer world, several individual enjoy the use and association with product and services that presents the value for prices (DeWulf, Gaby, and Dawn 2001, p. 38). This culture remains rampant in the Western World and the capitalist nations.

In Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, and Japan on the hand, uncertainty avoidance becomes irrelevant in the investment arena. This implies that such economic offer markets with high degree of tolerance to risks and low emphasis on the rates on return on investments.

For this reason, several multinational agencies from the Western World find it easy to access, invest, and penetrate markets in Asia under minimal risks while the Asian investors find it difficult to enjoy business in the Western World. Understanding the level of uncertainty avoidance in the market helps business franchises understand the culture of market and economic systems thus improving the rate of adaptability resulting into high speed of market penetration (Brad 2006, p. 32).

Period of orientation

In some cultures, individuals focus on long-term goals at the expense of short-term objectives. Such individuals find it easy to sacrifice short-term achievements in order to pursue longer objectives in the market. In such as setting the culture becomes highly dependent on the values of persistence and perseverance.

In the short-term cultures, individuals stress the need for present goals at the expense of the future objectives. High rates of obsessions with short terms goal confine business investment success (Malhotra 2008, p. 218). For example, in case a multinational entity seeks to explore a market composed of consumers with short-term orientation, difficulties arise if the probable impacts of the business franchises are exhibited in the end.

Likewise, in long-term orientation market structures, business franchises with short-term goals on the impacts on consumers face difficulties in market penetrations (Keegan and Green 2013, p. 53).

Elements of culture

In order for business entities to develop strategic marketing structures, there exists a need for adequate understanding of the elements that underscore the cultural and societal setting. With globalisation and advancement in technologies, emerging trends in business marketing strategies employ the use of advanced communication systems to reach a large number of people simultaneously (Onkvisit and Shaw 2009, p. 74; Hofsede 2001, p. 69).

In case business entities fail to recognise and appreciate the cultures of the target audience, the likelihood of the market strategy receiving a backlash from the market remains high. Understanding the different elements that inform human and consumer culture helps rectify this situation thus providing a base for successful market penetration.


Language plays a vital role in communication. As a component of culture, language defines the interactive relationship between service and product providers and the consumers. Due to this, marketing managers need to understand every language and communication culture within the target market before initiating a market penetration strategy.

Both verbal and non-verbal component of communication encompass the close relationship between consumer cultures and market structures. Adequate understanding of the different language facets enables marketing managers to improve interaction levels with consumers thus developing a sense of mutual benefit between the two parties.

If a marketing manager seeks to explore market within an English speaking country, it is upon the manager to develop an advert in English language lest he/she creates a communication barrier. Communication barrier impedes consumers’ understanding of the product thus reducing chances of buying (Solberg 2006, p. 7).


As an element of culture, religion informs consumers’ lifestyles, beliefs, values, attitudes, and ways of life. Since different market structures appreciate different religious doctrines, evidence shows that these differences appear in the consumer likes and preferences.

For international marketers in the business world, understanding a country’s religious beliefs helps develop and in depth understanding of the consumer taste and preferences thus creating an ample avenue for market penetrations (Aiyeku and Nwankwo 2002, p. 29). Some religions forbid the sales and distributions of certain goods and services. This means that in case an entrepreneur launches such as product in areas, which religion prohibits its distribution and sale, there exists high chances of product failure.

In the Islamic culture, for example, sale and consumption of pork and its related products is an abomination. For entrepreneurs in the pork industry therefore, penetration in the Islamic states like Saudi Arabia remains impossible. Engaging in such a venture leads to business failure.

This implies that any investor who seeks entry into such market must develop an adequate understanding of the religious orientation of the target market to reduce chances of business failure. As Aiyeku and Nwanko (2002, p. 66) argue on their analysis of international marketing strategies, marketing therefore requires a pre-entry study into the religious beliefs and doctrine within the target market to avoid backlash for the target consumers.

In developing an exclusive study into the role of religion in marketing, Usunier and Lee (2005) considered religion as a cultural system with predetermined symbols and meaning. In Africa, for example, they claim that traditional religions, Christianity and Islam, form the major religions in Africa.

This implies that in developing a market penetration within the African setting, understanding the confines and doctrines of these religions offers an advantage for the success of a business (Hsu 2003, p. 204). In essence, religions influence consumption behaviours and purchase patterns of individuals.

For example, in the Nigerian Christian south region, sale and distribution of alcohol remains legal while in the Muslim North, alcohol consumption remains an offence with gross charges upon conviction. On the same note, religion defines the gender roles and activities within certain communities and markets.

For example, in the Muslim North region of Nigeria, movements and women activities remained confined to houses as opposed to the Christian dominated region in which women enjoy freedom of movement and purchase (Babor 2010, p. 103). All these differences influence the rate of purchase of good and service. Therefore, an international marketing manager needs an in depth understanding of the religious disparities before implementing a market penetration plan in any market (Essoo and Dibb 2004, p. 709).

Values and attitudes

Values represent judgments that individuals make in terms of what activities, products, and services they consider vital to their lives. Despite the operating benchmark lying within the level of human basic needs such as food, shelter, and clothing, these judgments over things valuable to an individual’s vary from one culture to another.

Taking into account Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, people with high security value several things in comparison to individuals operating within the survival level. This implies that marketing managers need to understand the different values and status of consumers in the target market before introducing their products or services (Keegan and Green 2008, p. 29).

Attitudes refer to the psychological states that command people to act or behave in particular ways. Attitudes draw inspiration from individual characters in the society. Likewise, issues such as work, wealth, security, and other human needs affect individual attitudes. Western countries value individualism and personal achievements, while in most Asian and African countries, people value communal and collective stuffs (Beller and Patler 2005, p. 47).


Educational and literacy level in a country defines the level concept grasp among the populations in that particular country. Areas and regions with low literacy levels require communication strategies with relatively less complicated concepts. In the areas with high literacy levels, concepts with complex structures present less problems to the populations (McNall 2011, p. 38).

To avoid communication barriers, international marketing managers need to understand the education levels of the target markets in order to come up with the most viable forms of communication. Areas with low literacy levels appreciate visual advertisement structures with minimal written documents, while areas with high literacy level, document advertisements and other sophisticated imitation styles of advertisement present the most viable method of advertisement (Keegan and Green 2013, p. 182).

Legal and administrative structures

Different countries have different economic and business policies. Some countries boast of liberal market structures while in other nations businesses remain restricted and under the control of government officials (Friesner 2014). Understanding these differences form the starting point for investment and market penetration.

In the Western World, market liberalisation and capitalism encourages individual investment while in the Arab world, investments in the business sector remains relatively under the control of governments (Terpstra and Sarathy 2006, p. 224). Understanding local policies and regulatory frameworks governing the business sector in a country helps the marketing managers to carry out business activities smoothly without interference from the government and other stakeholders.


Culture exists in varied dimensions. Understanding the facts that underscore the culture of a given market structure enables business entities easy access and penetration. Initiating goods, products, and services in an area under which culture denounces or prohibits such goods and services is a clear market failure for a business.

Despite the fact that only a bunch of business franchises carry out adequate cultural assessment of their proposed market, culture continue to define the levels of business success. Analysing and understanding cultural setups of prospective markets enable investors to evaluate the prospects expected from the investments, thus improving the chances of business success.


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