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Global Advertising in a Cultural Context

Diplomarbeit 2008 63 Seiten

BWL - Offline-Marketing und Online-Marketing


Table of Contents

List of figures and tables

1 Objectives and structure of this thesis

2 concept of culture
2.1 Definitions of culture
2.2 elements of culture
2.3 culture and Consumer Behavior
2.3.1 Hofstede’s five dimensions
2.3.2 High-context cultures versus low-context cultures

3 Global Advertising
3.1 characteristics of advertising
3.2 advertising as a communication tool
3.2.1 advertising strategy
3.2.2 advertising execution
3.3 specifics of global advertising
3.4 standardization of global advertising
3.4.1 kinds of standardization
3.4.2 arguments for standardization
3.4.3 arguments against standardization
3.4.4 culture and global advertising strategy
3.4.5 culture and global advertising execution

4 overcoming cultural differences
4.1 “culture-free” products
4.2 cross-cultural market segments
4.3 universal appeals
4.4 culture-cluster
4.5 the “country-of-origin” effect
4.6 the “middle-of-the-Road approach”

5 conclusion


List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1: elements of culture

figure 2: high-context versus low-context cultures

Figure 3: Three types of advertising

Figure 4: First television advertisement for bulova watch

Figure 5: emotional Advertisement of Marlboro Cigararettes

Figure 6: Advertisement by Benetton

Figure 7: Advertisement by K-Fee

Figure 8: Two-stage standardization of International Advertising

Figure 9: Soft-Sell japanese advertisement for mayonnaise

Figure 10: Commercials for high power Distance and Low Power Distance Cultures

Figure 11: dutch commercial for blue band margarine

Figure 12: role differentiation in masculine and feminine cultures

Figure 13: german commercial for jever beer

Figure 14: visualizations of “oriental” for the german and american culture

Figure 15: standardized advertisement for chanel in france, germany and usa

Figure 16: image campaign for martell appearing internationally

Figure 17: advertising for designer fashion as an example for “universal appeals”

Figure 18: culture cluster

Figure 19: stereotypes in a german book for english pupils

Table 1: associations of colors in different countries

1 Objectives and Structure of this Thesis

The ongoing process of the globalization of markets in context with the innovation of technologies caused that more and more companies expand their market activities internationally (Müller, 1997). At the same time product offers at saturated markets are qualitative more and more alike and thus, exchangeable. A differentiation just through product attributes is not possible anymore. Advertising became a key function in marketing as communication through advertising provides the only opportunity for companies to differentiate from their competitors (Went, 2000).

Both, the globalization of markets and the great importance of advertising raise returning discussions whether global advertising and its planning should be standardized or not. Standardization means that an identical advertisement can appeal different cultures in the same way.

On the one hand it can not be denied that things like ethnical cuisine, tourism, and worldwide media lead to an exchange between cultures. On the other hand it is questionable if this exchange causes an automated homogenization of cultures (Müller, 1997).

In 1983 Theodore Levitt already was dealing with the necessity of standardized advertising in the course of globalization. However, Levitt asserted that a standardization of advertising is necessary but did not go into detail how this can be realized best (Went, 2000). Furthermore, he did not consider the enormous impact of culture on the perception and behavior of people and the resulting difficulties to use one single advertising campaign across cultures. In addition to that different national advertising restrictions have to be taken into account.

As it is assumed that the trend to globalization will continue and strengthen, the issue of global advertising is always relevant. In the following thesis, the focus is exact on the obstacles of standardized advertising in front of the cultural background.

Furthermore, characteristics of various approaches to overcome cultural differences and their suitability for standardized advertising will be examined (Went, 2000).

2 The Concept of Culture

2.1 Definitions of Culture

Culture is a high complex institution, that is composed of many different elements for which one universal valid definition does not exist. More than 160 definitions of culture have been created. This huge amount exposes the complexity of this concept (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991). One definition describes culture as: “[…] the collective mental programming of the people in an environment. Culture is not a characteristic of individuals; it encompasses a number of people who were conditioned by the same education and life experience” (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991, p.73). Culture is also defined as “[...] the values, attitudes, beliefs, artefacts and other meaningful symbols represented in the pattern of life adopted by people that help them interpret, evaluate and communicate as members of a society” (De Mooij, 1998, p.42). All created definitions are similar but nonetheless, each has its own elements depending on the respective field of activity.

Culture influences the way people behave but nevertheless it must be considered that no matter how strong culture influences human behavior, everyone has his own needs and capacities for self-governing thoughts, feelings and actions (Usunier, 2000). “A person’s behavior is only partially predetermined by her or his mental programs: she or he has a basic ability to deviate from them and to react in ways that are new, creative, destructive, or unexpected” (Hofstede, 2005, p.3). Due to the fact, that all cultural components are first learned and transmitted within the family, continuing with the neighborhood, at school, at the workplace and so on, culture can be seen as an ongoing process and so, it is learned and not innate (Hofstede, 2005).

Moreover culture affects how the reality and, thus foreign cultures are perceived. Foreign cultures are always judged against the background of the own culture. This behavior is called ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is an “[…] attitude whereby [people] judge other societies by the standards that apply in [their] society” (n.u., (n.d.) Ethnocentrism). Everyone is ethnocentric, without exception and it happens absolutely unconscious. The basis for ethnocentrism is the experience, someone already has made and that determines what seems to be the “reality” (Barger, 2004).

In the case of advertising ethnocentrism can lead to low attention of country differences or

even to the assumption that cultural aspects, which are valid to the own culture are also valid for foreign cultures. This perception is linked with the idea that advertising campaigns, that worked in the home country will also work abroad. But different values, beliefs, and needs complicate the universal use of an international advertising campaign and are quite difficult to reveal (De Mooij, 1998). Thus, beside a cultural self-awareness it is very important to build a cross-cultural awareness as well (Went, 2000). As global companies concentrate their activities on particular countries and have to deal with the respective cultures in this thesis the term culture is limited to national cultures.

2.2 Elements of Culture

The easiest way to comprehend culture is by the sum of its elements. “Its elements are organically interrelated and work as a coherent set” (Usunier, 2000, p.5). Those describe and affect the way people think and behave and thus, how people respond to advertising. It is of high importance for international marketers to know them and to know the cultural differences. Figure 1 illustrates particular elements of culture. These elements are shared by communities and make each culture unique.

Figure 1 : Elements of Culture

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Source: Usunier 2000, p. 12

The first element is language. Language is a great tool of communication and has a leading role in international marketing. “[…] [I]t’s crucial to understand the close relationship between culture and language” (Mueller, 1996, p.90). “The language reflects all manifestations of culture, the expressions and the values. Language illustrates culture” (De Mooij, 1998, p.52). What language people speak is as well as their communication style influenced by their respective culture. Language can be distinguished in verbal and nonverbal language. Verbal language refers to the specific language spoken by a group. Nonverbal language consists of facial expressions and gestures and is seen as even more essential. “[…] [It] is largely used as an additional interpretative framework which allows people to overcome the shortcomings of verbal communication” (Usunier, 2000, p.422).

Even if a message seems to be entirely verbal, a part of this message is always of nonverbal nature. Investigations yielded, that little more than 20 per cent of a communication of two individuals within the same culture consists of verbal language. As a result, most communication is nonverbal, through a nod of the head, a smile or a wave with the hand. Even if the main part of communication is of nonverbal nature it must be considered that these methods are not more universal than verbal language. The way how people use nonverbal language is culture-bound. It is said that people who speak different languages perceive reality different, because language leads to categorizations in people’s minds. These categories determine which things are judged to be similar and which deserve to be differentiated. This process is determined by people’s Weltanschauung ( German word for worldview) that means, how they observe and describe things, how they interact as well as the way they construct their reality. Great differences in the perception are one of the main causes of misunderstandings in communication. With regard to advertising, language is used to convey messages such as to describe consumer benefits, product qualities and to convince potential buyers. The close connection between language and the perception of the reality makes clear why translations in other languages are so difficultly. Thus, for international advertisers it is essential to handle translations with great care (Mueller, 1995; Usunier, 2000).

The context dimension refers to the extend people communicate direct or indirect. In high-context cultures most of the information is internalized in the person whereas in low-context

cultures nearly all is made explicit as a part of the message by using a large number of words.

The task of international marketers is to decide to what extend nonverbal messages should be mixed up with verbal messages. That means whether it is better to present information elements through verbal language or more nonverbal language in the form of signs and symbols in the advertising execution.

However, language is not the only indication for equal cultures can be seen clearly by the example of Switzerland. The Swiss have been sharing a common culture for several centuries although they use different languages (Usunier, 2000). Sometimes even the way around is the case. In different cultures members speak the same language. Like English, that is spoken in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Ireland. As a result, a common language can facilitate the development of a common culture but does not determine it (Dmoch, 1997).

The next element of culture is values. Values are the ideas and beliefs people hold within and are the deepest manifestations of culture. On this level national cultures differ mostly. Most human values remain unconscious but nevertheless determine the way people think and behave. “A value is a preference for one mode of behaviour over another mode of behaviour” (De Mooij, 1998, p.95). Values are organized in a system in which they are ordered according to priority with regard to other values. They influence attitudes, beliefs, choices and behavior of cultural members. ”A value system is a learned organization of principles and rules to help one choose between alternatives, resolve conflicts, and make decisions” (De Mooij, 1998, p.95). The core values are deep-rooted and very stable. They do not change or if any, then only over a long period of time and they do not look like they are converging (De Mooij, 1998). These “[r]ankings of values differ from culture to culture” (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991, p.88). So, a value such as having an exciting life may be very important for one culture and less important for another. Values are communicated by parents or elder siblings first and are over the years supplemented by teachers, classmates, sports and TV idols (Hofstede, 2005).

Religion is a further element of culture. Although religion can be perceived as a cultural universal, it must be taken into account that the belief in one god and the rituals of worship differ from culture to culture considerably. Moreover the intensity of religious feelings differs (De Mooij, 1998). What is accepted in one culture can be a scandal in another culture. One example is a Pepsi-Cola commercial featured by Madonna that had to be withdrawn in the United States.

This was caused by a music video, that came out at the same time as the commercial showing Madonna dancing in front of burning crucifixes. People in the United States felt offended and associated the video with the commercial (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991).

As religion influences the value system of people, they are both closely linked together and affect consumer’s buying habits. For example this can be the consumption of alcohol in Arabic countries, of pork in Israel as well as of meat in India. Moreover religion determines in which grade consumers copy the Western life-style by accepting or depreciating imported goods (Kreutzer, 1990).

An additional element of culture is rituals. Rituals are characterized as “collective activities considered socially essential within a culture; they are carried out for their own sake.

Examples include ways of greeting and paying respect to others as well as social and religious ceremonies” (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991, p.76). Nearly all cultures have their own rituals in the form of celebrations, festivals and more. It depends on the respective culture how birthdays and weddings are celebrated, or even if graces are said at the table (Hardig, 1995). Advertising displays the rituals around products and brands. This must fit the rituals of the respective culture.

Heroes are the fifth element of culture. Heroes are defined as “[…] persons, alive or dead, real or imaginary, who possess characteristics that are highly prized in a culture, and thus serve as models for behavior” (Hofstede, 2005, p.7). Every culture has its own heroes such as the poets Goethe and Schiller in Germany. Advertising heroes can be used to link a brand, for example to a particular sport or type of music. Because there are only few persons known worldwide, as for example Michael Jackson, Michael Schumacher or Madonna, it is advisable to change the hero in advertising to suit different cultures. One company that pursues this strategy in its worldwide concept and changed the heroes according to the culture was Coca-Cola. In different countries different heroes represented different sports according to the individual culture and its popular sports (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991).

The last element of culture to be explained is symbols. Symbols are the most apparent element of culture and are defined as “words, gestures, pictures or objects which

carry a particular meaning only recognized by those who share the culture” (De Mooij/ Keegan, 1991, p.76). Symbols and their meanings provide orientations for the members.

Elements of symbols are for instance colors, gestures and numbers. As a result, they vary considerably from culture to culture. It frequently occurs that in different cultures the same color has an utterly different meaning. Table 1 illustrates how different the associations of colors in each country are.

Table 1 : Associations of Colors in different Countries

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Habegger, S. (2003)

Whereas, for example in Brazil the color white stands for cleanliness and freshness, in Pakistan it is the color of mourning (De Mooij, 1998). Furthermore black does not stand for mourning in all countries. In Brazil it is cardinal red, and in Mexico yellow (Kreutzer, 1990). Except Denmark in all presented countries red is the only color that is associated with anger.

Gestures have different meanings as well. There are two gestures that are often perceived as universal, but they have completely different meanings: The OK signal and thumbs up.

The U.S. OK sign means “zero” in France and Hungary and “money” in Japan. The thumbs-up gesture is used by pilots all over the world but in some countries it is not accepted.

The degree to which symbols are used in advertising varies from culture to culture and is related to high- and low-context (De Mooij, 1998).

2.3 Culture and Consumer Behavior

The consumer behavior is deeply influenced by the respective culture and differs in essential cases. Many scientists like Fons Trompenaars, Charles Hampden-Turner, Edward T.Hall and Hofstede have researched commonalities and differences between cultures and developed, based on the results, concepts of different dimensions. Probably, the best known concepts are the 5-D model by Hofstede and the context dimension by Hall. These concepts are used by many international companies to recognize similarities and dissimilarities between cultures (Hauke, 2006). To comprehend consumer’s culture-bound behavior, in this thesis these both concepts are essential and will be explained in the following.

2.3.1 Hofstede’s Five Dimensions

This model “is based on 30 years of quantitative research. The original data were from an extensive IBM database for which –between 1967 and 1973- 116,000 questionnaires were used in 72 countries and 20 languages.” (De Mooij, 1998, p.72). Hofstedes’ model consist of five dimensions: Power Distance, Individualism versus Collectivism, Masculinity versus Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Long-Term Orientation.

International marketers must know the characteristics of a culture and the behavior of its members to develop a proper advertising campaign that agree to their expectations and needs.

Power Distance

In every society inequality occurs. But how people are dealing with the fact that some people get more status and respect than others differs from culture to culture and relates to the first dimension of Hofstedes model. The power distance dimension refers to “[...] the extend to which less powerful members of a society accept and expect that power is distributed unequally” (De Mooij, 1998, p.74). The power distance influences the way people deal with authority. In large power distance cultures like China, everyone has his rightful place in a social hierarchy and an unequal distribution of power is accepted.

In cultures scoring lower on the power distance index, for instance Denmark, equality in rights and opportunity in the workplace are high estimated. But the power distance dimension does not only refer to the workplace, but also to the family. In small power distance cultures, children at a young age are parented to be self-determining and to avoid becoming dependent on others, except of immediate family members only. In contrary to that, children in large power distance cultures are longer protected by the parents and their independence is expected at a larger age (De Mooij, 1998).

Masculinity vs. Femininity

Hofstede defines the opposite between masculinity and femininity as follows: “The dominant

values in a masculine society are achievement and success, the dominant values in a feminine society are caring for others and quality of life” (De Mooij, 1998, p.80). Performance, status and achievement are highly estimated in masculine cultures and being the “winner” has a major importance. Everyone can reach success, as long as he tries hard enough. In feminine cultures quality of life, people orientation and sympathy for the underdog are more estimated. Advertisements in American, English, and German cultures, identified as high on masculinity, consist of values like winning, success and status. This would be unthinkable in feminine cultures like Dutch, French, and Spain, where modesty is a core value. Furthermore values like decisiveness, liveliness, and ambition are observed as mainly masculine while caring, gentleness, and humility are identified as mainly feminine. Values of feminine cultures cause more gendereous equality. While men and women can have the same jobs in feminine societies, jobs are clear distinguished in male and female work in masculine cultures. Men who deal with female jobs as washing up are seen as milksop in masculine cultures (De Mooij, 1998). These strict distinctions cause, that in masculine cultures men are less involved in daily buying decisions while in feminine cultures the marriage partner is quite integrated in that process.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

The difference between individualism and collectivism can be described as “people looking after themselves and their immediate family only, versus people belonging to in-groups that look after them in exchange for loyalty” (De Mooij, 1998, p.76). In individualistic cultures people are “I”-conscious, give priority to the task, and try to actualize themselves.

In contrary to that people in collectivistic cultures are “we”-consious, give priority to relationship with people, and group decisions are more valued than individual decisions. People of collectivistic cultures try to avoid loss of face, because mistakes made by someone have not only an effect for oneself but also on the in-group the person belongs. In collectivistic cultures the in-group has a wide influence on the views, needs, and goals of someone, because it determines the identity of an individual and can not be changed (De Mooij, 1998).

In individualistic cultures it is different. The members of those cultures belong to many in-groups which are joined willingly and can be changed over time. They are not as intimate as the in-groups in collectivistic cultures and do not have such a great influence on the decision-making of the individual (De Mooij, 1998).

Hofstede found out that cultures scoring high on power distance are mostly collectivistic cultures and the other way around. Moreover this dimension affects the communication style of people according to their culture. In individualistic cultures members often use the “I” pronoun when referring to themselves and the English language is the only one, where “I” is written in capital letter. In contrary to that, people from collectivistic cultures do not use the pronoun as long as it is not specified grammatically (Hofstede, 2005).

Uncertainty Avoidance

Everyone has to deal with the fact, that the future can not be predicted, because nobody can look into the future. But the way people deal with this fact differs from culture to culture, according to the level of uncertainty avoidance. Hofstede’s fourth dimension is defined as “[...] the extent to which people feel threatened by uncertainty and ambiguity and try to avoid these situations.” (De Mooij, 1998, p.83). Uncertainty is not innate, but acquired and learned (Hofstede, 2005). Children being raised as members of a high uncertainty avoidance culture such as Germany and Japan are taught by their parents at young age that life is threatening and dangerous. Children in low uncertainty avoidance cultures, as for instance Great Britain and Sweden learn to be independent as fast as possible and to structure their lives for themselves (De Mooij, 1998). People from high uncertainty avoiding cultures prefer rules and patterns and avoid making assumptions. Besides, they believe in experts and want to be entirely informed about a product, before they decide to buy it. Furthermore they try to decrease the uncertainty with the aid of technology, law and religion.

Technology helps to avoid uncertainty caused by nature. Through laws people try to overcome uncertainties of human behavior. And religion helps people to deal with things, that are assumed to determine men’s life and can not be altered (Hofstede, 2005). To minimize medical risks members of the respective cultures try to have a very healthy diet and, thus buy mineral water rather than tab water and eat more fresh fruits. In contrary to that, uncertainty accepting cultures predominantly buy ready-made products such as ice cream, frozen foods and savory snacks (Hofstede, 2005).

In contrary to that, people from cultures with low uncertainty avoidance do not need such a structured life. There should be as less rules and formality as possible. They prefer to learn by trial and error and can handle insecurity. People from cultures with a high uncertainty communicate very expressive. They use their hands and raise their voices while talking and are showing their emotions without concerns (De Mooij, 1998).

Long-term Orientation

The fifth and last dimension of Hofstede’s model is the long-term orientation and relates to the teachings of Confucius. This dimension results from a Chinese Value Survey, made by Michael Bond and a number of Chinese social students and was originally named Confucian Dynamism. The purpose of this survey was to explain the economic success of a number of Asian countries, because no dimension could give an explanation so far. It can be defined as “[...] the extent to which a society exhibits a pragmatic future-oriented perspective rather than a conventional historic or short-term point of view.” (De Mooij, 1998, p.87).

People from cultures with long-term orientation like China are characterized by persistence, ordering relationships by status and observing this order. On the contrary, people with short-term orientation such as Great Britain usually have a sense of urgency, feel respect for tradition and fulfill social obligations. Moreover they are characterized by personal steadiness and stability and pursue happiness rather than peace of mind. Important values in cultures with a long-term orientation are the respect for old age and ancestor worship. People see old age starting earlier, but also think that their life will be more satisfying (De Mooij, 1998).

2.3.2 High-Context Cultures versus Low-Context Cultures

An additional concept to categorize cultures and its members has been established by Edward T. Hall. He differentiates between high-context cultures and low-context cultures.

He investigated the culture and social integration of Hopi and Navajo Indians and defines both communication styles as followed: “[...] A high context communication or message is one in which most of the information is already in the person, while very little is in the coded, explicit, transmitted part of the message. A low context communication is vested in the explicit code” (Mueller, 1995, p. 114). The context dimension refers to the level, whether people communicate direct or indirect. In high-context cultures most of the information is internalized in the person whereas in low-context cultures nearly all is made explicit as a part of the message by using a large number of words. In high-context cultures the verbal communication is seen as only one part of communication. The nonverbal is thought of as even more important and indispensable. (De Mooij/Keegan, 1991). “The distinction between high-context and low-context communication is helpful to understand the differences between cultures with respect to verbal and nonverbal communication, direct versus indirect advertising and the use of symbols versus facts and data.” (De Mooij, 1998, p.67).

Examples of high-context cultures and low-context cultures are illustrated in figure 2 on page 12. Japanese, Chinese and Arab cultures are high-context ones, whereas Scandinavian, German and Swiss German cultures are low on context. The Swiss German culture is identified as lowest on context, thus verbal communication is of high importance. On the other side of the arrow Japanese, Chinese and Arab cultures are placed as highest on context. These cultures communicate predominantly nonverbal (Usunier/Walliser, 1993).

The communication style of a culture has direct implications for international advertisers, because it has a great impact if an advertisement is understood by the target group. While the advertising message in high-context cultures predominantly consists of symbolism or verbal expressions and only few words, in low-context cultures the advertising message is communicated by argumentation and rhetoric (De Mooij, 1998).

“Where differences in the coding/decoding process are ignored by the communicators, they may persist throughout the whole interaction process” (Usunier, 2000, p.416). The language, no matter if through words or images, “[…] is the strongest link between advertisers and their potential audiences in marketing communications” (Usunier, 2000, p.453).

Figure 2 : High-Context versus Low-Context Cultures

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: Mueller, B. (1995), p.115

3 Global Advertising

3.1 Characteristics of Advertising

The increasing homogenization of product offers caused that advertising, more precisely emotional advertising is of great importance for companies to differentiate from their competitors (Went, 2000).

Advertising is a tool of the communication policy within marketing. The communication policy includes all arrangements of a company that are aimed to inform people about their goods and services and to pursue them to buy or use them, respectively (Dmoch, 1997). “Advertising is a one-way communication whose purpose is to inform potential customers about products and services and how to obtain them” (Advertising, 2007).

Advertising exists since ancient times but the execution of advertising changed considerably.

While, for example in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome people used Papyrus to create sales messages, nowadays the opportunities for advertising are manifold. If in the radio, TV, newspaper, on the walls of an airport walkway or on the sides of buses, the main thing is that people call attention. Especially the World Wide Web opened new frontiers to place advertisements in different ways (Advertising, 2007).

Figure 3 shows a small choice of different types of advertising. The first type on the left side is advertising on signs hold by people. This is one of the oldest forms of advertising. The picture in the middle shows an IPod advertisement branded on buses and the picture on the right side illustrates an outdoor advertising for beer in New York.



ISBN (eBook)
2.7 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Technische Universität Bergakademie Freiberg – Wirtschaftswissenschaften - Fakultät 6
werbung advertising kultur standardisierung globalisierung



Titel: Global Advertising in a Cultural Context