How should you adjust your marketing across cultures?


Celebrating getting the book through Turkish customs, the absurdity of waiting and paying for your own work reminded me of cultural differences. In 1966, Cateora and Hess wrote “Marketing principles are universally applicable, and the marketer’s task is the same whether applied in Dimebox, Texas or Katmandu, Nepal.” Today we know better: even with global technologies and economic development, cultural differences abound and affect a marketer’s job.

Two recent studies show the power of culture in marketing deodorants and mobile apps. The first is in chapter 9 of “It’s not the Size of the Data – It’s How You Use It” ( Comparing Brazil with the U.K., we show that ‘brand love’ converts much more in sales in the developed market. Instead, measured awareness and brand consideration were more important in the developing market. Interestingly, advertising had a slower but ultimately stronger sales effect in the developing market. We explain these differences by culture but also by income level and regulatory protection, which is substantially lower in Brazil as it is in the UK.

Mobile apps represent a truly global product, and most developers charge a similar price across countries. However, professors Raoul Kuebler, Gokhan Yildirim and Thomas Fandrich studied thousands of apps across 60 countries to reveal that price sensitivity is high in South Africa and East Asia, but low in Latin America and Europe. These systematic differences are partly due to to economic and infrastructure factors: lower income level and higher cell phone penetration imply a higher price sensitivity. However, most of the variation is explained by cultural factors: their power distance helps explain why the Netherlands (8th most price sensitive country) differs so much from neighbor Belgium (43rd). Likewise, ‘masculine’ Japan (3rd) is way more price sensitive than ‘feminine’ Vietnam (59th) and ‘individualistic’ USA (12th) more than ‘collectivistic’ Panama (52nd).

So what have we learned? The general marketing principles and metrics may be same across the globe, but cultural differences matter to (1) how your marketing affects consumers’ hearts and minds and (2) how and when these convert into higher sales. Touring with the book this year (see the website for specifics and updates), I am looking forward to sharing experiences with you in Geneva, Chicago, Rotterdam, Oslo, Valencia, Boston, Mainz, Las Vegas, Tilburg or Istanbul,

Professor Koen Pauwels


5 thoughts on “How should you adjust your marketing across cultures?

  1. Pingback: Les sciences dorées » Mission Accomplished?

  2. How do you see in that context Hofstede’s cultural dimensions? Are they still “the” core framework to determine cross-cultural differences or are there any alternatives that you regard as more suitable for brand related research purposes?

  3. thanks Peter! I find Hofstede still works well in practice, but have also played with Schwartz, which is conceptually more intuitive, and Inglehart, which is better for capturing cultural change.As to the number of dimensions, Hofstede reminds us they do not ‘exist’ but only serve: “Culture itself is a construct, so are values. It makes no sense asking how many dimensions of culture there are. This is like asking how many types of cloud exist – it is a matter of definition, and practical significance should be the criterion.”–vsm

  4. Pingback: Do consumers feelings or thoughts move the brand needle most? | Smarter Marketing with Better Results

  5. Pingback: Marketing Metrics that Matter | Smarter Marketing gets Better Results

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