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Planning international market entry strategy? Watch out for 3 cultural barriers.

Intercultural marketing – uniqe phenomena of marketing and culture coming together. Seems unobvious, yet its inevitable when businesses are entering new markets around the world.

Marketing activities in the global field take into account the differences in cultural beliefs, norms and perceptions of the world of consumers with different cultural background. For intercultural marketing to be effective, cross-cultural differences must be identified, understood and respected.

Business must communicate on various “waves” and adapt to different markets in the world (Wilkinson & Cheng, 1999).

In developing an international marketing strategy, research on human behavior at the national level is taken into account. The nations are analyzed in terms of gross national income, level of education, media accessibility, use of social media, infrastructure, retail sales and product categorization. Applying knowledge about professed values derived from mentality and embedding in culture at the national level is helpful in understanding consumer behavior and their purchasing decisions. This can not be determined on the basis of the analysis of demographic data on the amount of earnings or place of residence. The tendency to choose a given product is to a large extent culturally conditioned, therefore intercultural knowledge is needed to construct the appropriate message or packaging.

In the creation of the marketing strategy, 4P plays a big role – product, price, promotion and place (channels), (Kotler et al., 2013). Marketing activity on foreign markets is characterized by a certain degree of standardization, although as you can see from company practices, cultural differences still in force require adaptation of activities. The clothing company LPP, which owns 6 clothing brands (Reserved, Mohito, Tallinder, Cropp, House, Sinsay), has a network of 1,700 stores in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and since 2016 also in the Middle East, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar , Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In the case of stores in Europe in such aspects as the collection, brand and promotional message – full standardization is possible. In other aspects, such as brand promotion, store location, store design, franchise system and customer service procedures – standardization is only partial. Cultural conditions enforce adaptation. In European countries, the prices of clothing products are partially adapted to the countries in which they are sold. In  case of countries more distant geographically and culturally, such as the UAE, the degree of adaptation and consideration of cultural conditions is definitely greater. By 2020, LPP intends to open approximately 70 stores of its brands in the Middle East.

The following fragment of LPP’s press release from Jan. 20, 2016 illustrates the application of knowledge about cultural conditions in the introduction of products to foreign markets. –“ Currently, in RESERVED stores located in the Middle East, we offer the same collections as in all other countries. In the case of this region, however, the choice of specific models is of great importance. For climatic reasons, we limit the winter offer, moreover, during the most important Muslim holiday, Ramadan, we are increasing the range of elegant models with more modest designs. Bearing in mind the scale of our development in this region, we are considering in the future creating collections dedicated exclusively to our clients in the Arab countries” - Hubert Komorowski, vice president of the management board of LPP responsible  for development in the Middle East.

How to implement cultural knowledge in creating a marketing strategy? Below you will find three aspects that need to be considered before we lose money and reputation in culturally unadapted marketing activities:

1. Language

Product names in foreign languages can turn into profanity. This was the case with Procter & Gamble, which introduced the Vics Vapo Rub ointment and changed its name to Wick. In German, V reads like “f”, and fick is a vulgar language that defines a sexual act. Moreover the ” s” was removed from the product name otherwise it sounds a bit like wichsen (to masturbate ).

2. Values

When creating a message to a specific target group, one should know the values  this group is driven by. In Arab countries, values are first of all family, honor and good name. Applied Science University, a leading technical university in the Kingdom of Bahrain, which offers a study program in coöperation with London South Bank University, in  its advertising materials addressed to potential students, lists benefits of studying at their university : “Save on high costs of living and fees for studying in England, live close to your family and friends in Bahrain while earning a British diploma. ”

Collectivistic culture values are also cultivated in Hawaii. A lot of attention goes to “ohana” or family, our immediate surroundings. Family belongs to ohana, but also animals and friends with whom we create close relationships. Molekulele Airlines is the first American airline with a base on Big Island, Hawaii, founded by native Hawaii, Rebecca “Kawehi” Inaba. In their marketing materials, the airline uses the following message: “Molekulele Airlines is a family-owned company, family-managed, which wants to look after you and all your ohana as well. Therefore, we always warmly welcome on board our aircraft to your dog and / or cat.( #petsflyfree is the official hashtag used in communication and PR by Molekulele to communicate their policy of animals flying without a charge.)What’s more, your children under the age of 12 will receive a 25% discount when traveling with you. “Www.molekulele.com

3. Habits

Kellogg, when introducing breakfast cereal to the Indian market in 1991, lost millions of dollars because the company ignored local eating habits. Indians are used to eating a warm meal in the morning, so they started pouring warm milk over the flakes and making a little appetizing mush with the meal. Even the introduction of a line of petals in local flavor variants: coconut, mango and rose did not save Kellog. In the case of native flavors, Indians preferred the products of local producers and were still not convinced to consume cereal for breakfast. Breakfast cereals are present on the Indian market, however, they enjoy the interest of a very narrow group of clients, such as foreigners living in India holding high positions, and de-esterified residents who lived in the US or Europe and modified their eating habits.

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