Updated: Jan 18, 2020
The world we live in makes us question issues of identity, culture, and belongingness regularly. Our race, religion, language, country of origin, values, etc. all have their part to play in how we identify ourselves. With increasing, globalisation boundaries are blurring. Re-examining cultural norms and values and the increased creolisation of our target market is vital. Got your curiosity piqued? Then just keep reading.
Globalisation and culture
What is globalisation?
Globalisation is: “developments accelerating the trend toward global market integration include[ing] worldwide investment and production strategies, standardization of manufacturing techniques, emergence of global media and the Internet, growing urbanization, rapid increase in education and literacy levels, and expansion of world travel and migration” (Steenkamp and de Jong, 2010, p. 18 in Cleveland and Bartsch, 2018, p. 5).
What about culture?
We often refer to shared values, beliefs and ideologies when we talk about culture. So, what do we mean by that? Values like,
1. Power Distance Index or PDI – evaluated on a scale from high to low, “this refers to the degree of inequality that exists – and is accepted – between people with and without power” (Mindtools, 2019). If it’s high, that means that hierarchy is important. If it’s low, that means delegation is important.
2. Individualism versus Collectivism or IDV - evaluated on a scale from high to low, “this refers to the strength of the ties that people have to others within their community” (Mindtools, 2019). If it’s high, that means that privacy and freedom are important. If it’s low, that means conformity and saving face are important.
3. Masculinity versus Femininity or MAS - evaluated on a scale from high to low, “This refers to the distribution of roles between men and women” (Mindtools, 2019). If it’s high, that means that ego, money, and achievement are important. If it’s low, that means relationship building, negotiation and collaboration are important.
4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index or UAI – evaluated on a scale from high to low, this refers to “how well people can cope with anxiety” (Mindtools, 2019). If it’s high, conservatism, structure, and rigidity are important. If it’s low, inclusivity, innovation, and change are important.
5. Long- versus Short-Term Orientation – evaluated on a scale from long to short, “this “refers to the time horizon people in a society display” (Mindtools, 2019). If it’s long, modesty, virtues, and obligations are important. If it’s short, flattery, values, and rights are important.
6. Indulgence versus Restraint or IVR – evaluated on a scale high to low, this refers to gratification or abstention of wants. If it’s high, then optimism and individual happiness are important. If it’s low, pessimism and rigidity are important.
We assess culture on three specific levels. The supranational (aka global) level, the national level, or the group (aka subculture) level. Often when we start talking about a culture we think of national culture. We focus on “shared core values, customs, and personalities that represent…a particular country” (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p.296). But as we’ve seen above globalisation encourages us to widen our definition of culture. Culture then becomes sharing something in common with others who speak the same language, who live in the same region or who share the same racial or religious affinities (Schiffman and Wisenblit, 2015, p.296). In the figure below you will see how all these distinct factors combine to become what we call the global culture with acculturation, deterritorialization, and culture flows all affecting our cultural identities.
Figure 1: The global consumer culture vortex (Cleveland and Bartsch, 2018, p. 5)
We often see this when consumers are not in their country of origin. The large-scale adoption of values, ideas, beliefs, ideologies, clothing, food, language, technology and/or art seen as a necessity rather than a choice to avoid standing out and being perceived as “foreign”. The aim? Belonginess to the whole.
Deterritorialisation is the loosening of ties to values, ideas, beliefs, ideologies, clothing, food, language, technology and/or art associated with a specific country of origin. These elements, therefore, belong to a greater audience.
Responses to Global Culture
Figure 2: Consumer Responses to Global Consumer Culture (Cleveland and Bartsch, 2018, p.11)
Assimilation (aka cultural homogenisation)
Glocalization (aka culture swapping; integration of global and local)
With the “the movement of people, cultures, ideas, goods, and commodities across geographical boundaries suggests a constant drift and re-encountering of Otherness in daily life to the point where Self/Other are effectively blurred” (de Burgh-Woodman, 2014, p.290). This inevitably leads to a creolization (aka crafting of new cultural identities) where local and global cultural identities become something else entirely rather than canceling each other out.
Separation (aka hyper-identification with the culture of origin)
Some consumers may not want to merge with global culture and may hyper-identify with their culture of origin due to “communal ancestry, associations with a specific homeland, distinctive customs and values, shared individual characteristics (e.g. language, physical traits), as well as feelings of belongingness and commitment.” (Cleveland et al., 2015, p. 543). This might be due to the fact they feel like they cannot see themselves in the values that characterise global culture and may indeed feel marginalised (aka excluded and unwelcome).
Marketing to a Global Audience
Living in a world influenced by so many intersecting cultures we may wonder if it’s better “to standardise advertising for efficiency reasons or to adapt to local habits and consumer motives to be effective” (de Mooij and Hofstede, 2010, p.85). We may then decide that it is wisest to observe global cultural trends and adapt them “into local cultures, habits, and lives” (Thompson and Troester, 2002 in de Burgh-Woodman, 2014, p.280). Our style, strategy, and appeals must be finessed locally even if our brand positioning stays the same globally. If we don’t do this, we risk alienating an audience who feel that we are cognisant or respectful of our diversity.
Figure 3: Global advertising research – understanding the cultural values of consumers (de Mooij and Hofstede, 2010, p. 86)
Is your advertising WEIRD?
Attempts at standardisation can sometimes be associated with homogenisation. Some would argue that often advertising styles, strategies and appeals are designed solely for a “’WEIRD’ (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic)” (Darling, 2017) audience and probably have been designed by a “WEIRD” cohort. This might explain why the target audience considers the advertising that some brands come up with as tone deaf or sheer tokenism. The advertising doesn’t answer the needs of the intended market or responds to it so late that the target market sees it as irrelevant or insincere. The advertising then seems like a shallow attempt to capitalise on a trend rather than filling a gap in the market.
Tokenism If, as marketers, we are “doing something only to show that (we) are following the rules or doing what is expected or seen to be fair, and not because (we) really believe it is the right thing to do” (Cambridge Dictionary, 2019) our target market will see right through us. We cannot resort to whataboutisms to avoid looking critically at what we are doing. If we answer every “criticism or difficult question by attacking someone with a similar criticism or question” (Cambridge Dictionary, 2019) we are doing ourselves and our target market a great disservice.
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The world we live in makes us question issues of identity, culture, and belongingness regularly. Our race, religion, language, country of origin, values, etc. all have their part to play in how we identify ourselves. With increasing, globalisation boundaries are blurring. Re-examining cultural norms and values and the increased creolisation of our target market is vital. Let’s not veer into tokenism or whataboutisms though and instead gain a better understanding of whom our target audience identifies as so that we can better answer their needs.
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