How Culture Affects The "4Ps" of Marketing Mix
Cultural differences urge firms to diversify their marketing mix strategies
Published by Lukasz Sramkowski. .Bestpractice Internationalisation Foreign markets International marketing International marketing
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Should a company choose to internationalize, it must be able to deal with the cultural identity of the countries with which it wants to establish commercial relations.
The concept of "culture" brings to mind aspects like the language, the different customs and traditions, religion, the political and legal system, and the business culture of a community. It is therefore evident that cultural identity is not a characteristic related to the individual, but a set of values, ideas and symbols shared by members of the same society. Thus, local culture becomes an important element of natural differentiation within international markets.
As cultural differences emerge strongly in business environments, understanding how to adapt the marketing mix to different markets is a necessary as well as complex task for an exporting company. Each of the four pillars of the marketing mix (product, price, place and promotion) undergoes a radical change in the cultural adaptation phase. There are several reasons why this happens, as explained below.
As mentioned in previous articles, product decisions are quite diverse and range from packaging to branding issues and product specifications. According to the international marketing researcher Bernard Dubois, companies need to consider the impact of culture especially in the area of positioning, presentation and packaging of their products.
Regarding the specific elements of culture that influence these strategies, Dubois identifies the symbolic representation of objects as a pivotal factor. He describes symbolic representation as "the expression of customs and traditions prevalent in a given cultural environment". Cultural differences can therefore lead to different symbolic interpretations of a product, especially with regard to physical appearance and packaging. If a symbolic attribute of the product is perceived in a somewhat distorted way by consumers in a foreign market, the company will need to recalibrate its offering, eventually striving to properly adapt to the context in which it operates.
In setting a pricing policy, the cultural factors influencing a firm's decision are the legal order and the rules governing the relationship between consumers and the sales intermediaries. The legal system is responsible for adopting a state-controlled pricing system or, alternatively, a pricing system based exclusively on market competition. As far as regulations are concerned, they affect consumer behavior in approaching the price/quality relationship, as well as influencing the propensity of trade intermediaries to declare "price wars" on their competitors.
Decisions about the most appropriate distribution channel must take into account several factors such as consumer needs, the type of channels available, the possible presence of intermediaries and the management of relationships within the channel. All of them are influenced by the factors shaping the cultural dimension of each market.
While country's customs and traditions play an important role in the structure of the distribution channel and the management of relations within it, the political order will have a greater effect on the length of the channel and the choice whether to invite or exclude sales intermediaries throghout the sales process.
Though the impact of culture on communication decisions turns out to be more clearly identifiable than on any other variable of the marketing mix, the extent to which the two are linked needs to be properly clarified. Cultural identity undoubtedly influences the advertising strategies, along with the content choice. The budget and structure of advertising will thus depend on the habits and consumption style of buyers, as well as on the concrete availability of media and interactive platforms in a given market.
To conclude, the cultural dimension of a market can seriously affect a firm's marketing mix. Integrating it into the business strategies is the first step towards a successful internationalization plan.