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Cross-Cultural Issues in Marketing Communications: An Anthropological Perspective of International Business Kathy Tian Beijing Foreign Studies University Luis Borges Saint Xavier University

Cultural factors have long been known to influence the communication and success potential of competition in conducting international business. Cultural awareness shapes how business firms behave in cross-culturally reflected international markets. It is broadly recognized that cultural factors act as invisible barriers in international marketing communications. Understanding cultural differences is one of the most significant skills for firms to develop in order to have a competitive advantage in international business. This paper probes some key elements of crosscultural issues in international marketing communication and provides a framework for creating competitive advantage for firms engaged in international business from an anthropological perspective. INTRODUCTION Communication is one of the most important functions to master in order for any business to be successful in today’s increasingly competitive markets, particularly for firms doing business internationally. A firm’s profitability is in part determined by its marketing communication strategies and skills. However, top managers in companies working internationally sometimes neglect the significance that invisible barriers cultural differences create in marketing communication. Cultural factors play an important role, functioning as invisible barriers. Even as the world is becoming globalized, many nations have increasingly voiced their claim to “a right to culture” in international businesses. It is predicted that national culture will be a critical factor affecting economic development, demographic behaviour, and general business policies around the world. Such claims at the macro level will be important for making trade policy, protecting intellectual property rights, and creating resources for national benefits. At the micro level, these claims could be invisible barriers for firms working in or wanting to enter international markets. For example, the last summit of francophone nations in the 20th century called for a “cultural exception” to GATT/WTO rules governing trade of goods.

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International Journal of China Marketing vol. 2(1) 2011

These claims will affect public policy on international trade rules in these nations and might initiate worldwide cultural protectionism for transnational trading. As the voice of cultural rights increases, firms doing business internationally will face additional challenges in other dimensions of culture. From a management perspective, it is important for companies to realize that markets today are worldwide and cross-cultural. Being aware of and sensitive to cultural differences is a major factor for success in the world marketplace. Failure to place marketing strategy in the cross-cultural context of the countries where a company is doing business will work to the detriment of brands and business relationships (Emery and Tian, 2003, 2002; Tian, 2000a). If globalization is an inevitable process, then cross-culturalization will also be inevitable. On the one hand, the world is becoming more homogeneous, and distinctions between national markets are fading and, for some products, disappearing altogether. This means that marketing communication is now a world-encompassing discipline. On the other hand, the cultural differences between nations, regions, and ethnic groups, far from being extinguished, are becoming stronger. This means that global/international marketing communication, a crosscultural process, requires managers to be well informed about cultural differences nationally, locally, and ethnically in order to win in global markets. International marketing communication is communication that crosses national boundaries for business purposes. Communication among people from the same culture is often difficult...
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