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  2. 2. IntroductionThe biggest area of dispute of international marketing is the question “global standardisation oradaptation?” The companies have to decide whether to globally standardize the marketing mix or toadapt the marketing mix elements to each market separately. The marketing concept holds thatconsumer needs vary to each target group or foreign market and will be more effective when they aretailored accordingly (Kotler, 2003). Even though Theodore Levitt (1983) challenged this view byclaiming that the world is becoming a common marketplace in which people, regardless of whichculture they are in desires the same kind of products and lifestyles, it is a fact that even the companieswhich have stood by the concept of standardisation such as McDonald’s and Nike, have adapted theirmarketing mix when they expanded globally.Cultural analysis has to be taken into serious consideration if the organisation is choosing to adapttheir marketing mix when moving to international markets; as culture influences all aspects ofconsumer behaviour. The difference between different cultures can be critical especially during themarketing management process because international marketing focuses its resources on global marketopportunities and threats (Keegan, W., Green, M., 2005). The management of the 7 P’s differaccordingly to the cultural aspects of the society as the term “culture”, shelters many components suchas aesthetics, religion, attitudes and values and education. In addition, the degree of difficulty ofmanagement increases and the process becomes resource intensive as companies expand further.Product Adaptation across CulturesKotler (2003) describes product as “anything that can be offered to a market to satisfy a want or need”In addition to physical goods, services, persons, places, organisations and ideas can also be identifiedas products. To achieve customer loyalty and competitive advantage, a company has to offer a productwhich would greatly benefit the customer and more importantly it has to manage its productionactivities in accordance with the culture (Onkvisit & Shaw, 2004). Especially customer’s products andservices need to be adapted to foreign markets rather than industrial goods. Consequently, the need formanaging product market evolution is evident. The companies should choose the markets they aregoing to enter, the strategy they are going to use and the products they are going to produce carefully(Albaum et al, 1994). By taking into account the local needs and demands of the foreign environmentand developing products by means of evaluating cultural specifications, customer satisfaction can beachieved in foreign markets. For instance, during the 1960’s Japanese companies adapted theirproducts to needs of local markets and gained the upper hand against the British in the Arabian Gulfarea (Tuncalp, 1990). Elements that have to be adapted in most cases to local markets and culture aredesign, brand image, packaging (Keegan & Green, 1999).Adaptation of the Physical AttributesThe compulsory adaptation of physical attributes consists of regulations such as safety standards andhygiene regulations. However, these kind of obligatory adaptations are trivial in comparison to theessential adaptations to the differences in consumer behaviour and the physical environment of themarket.Consumption patterns such as the amount of consumption, the change in consumer taste and thefrequency of consumption varies across cultures (Jean-Claude & Lee, 2005). The size of packing forinstance will change upon the amount of consumption. For example, the word yoghurt is derived fromthe Turkish word “yoğur” which means “knead” and is a cultural heritage of the nomadic Turks whichwere in need of products that would not go off easily when they were moving from Central Asia to thewest. The effect of this heritage is still visible in Turkey. The consumption of yoghurt is far greater inTurkey than any other country and this has led marketers to package the yoghurts in sizes big as 10kg’s. Similarly, milk consumption differs in different climates. While in cold climates milk is anenergy provider, in warm climates it perishes easily. The cultural memory of the people living in warm Page 2
  3. 3. climates says that milk cannot be trusted (Mooij, 2001). The lack of trust in milk products leads tochanges in frequency and amount of consumption. Therefore this necessitates the need of a differenttype of management of the marketing process. The range of elements that constitute potential demandsfor adaptation should be taken into account (Jean-Claude & Lee, 2005). In countries where there arerugged terrains for instance, four-wheeled vehicles are preferable to the two-wheeled ones.Consequently in desert climates, cars with inadequate quality of air conditioning systems are almostimpossible to market.Concerning the issue of product liability, the need for adaptation shows itself once again. Generally, incultures where there is high uncertainty avoidance, precautionary measures are not taken regarding themisuse of products. However in countries where the uncertainty avoidance is relatively low,precautionary measures are taken because there is a high risk that the manufacturer will be heldresponsible for the product. For example in Jordan, a hairdryer won’t come with a warning such as“Do not use while sleeping” because it is supposed that Jordanian people are not fools. Smalladaptations such as removing or adding a warning from the product can sometimes mean unforeseencosts. Nestlé for instance, did not consider the level of literacy in the 3rd world countries whenmarketing their products. As a result, addition of impure water and the failure to boil the water madethe problem dangerous for babies (Jean-Claude & Lee, 2005).Adaptation of the Service AttributesService demands differ extensively from culture to culture. Hence, adaptation is at utmost importancewhen exporting services to different countries. Environmental factors such as the degree of literacyand technical expertise, locations and climate are some of the reasons why service demands vary.Strength of relationships and the degree of appreciation of different types of services differ betweencultures. Birgelen et al (2002) found that cultural dimensions within a country affect the servicequality-customer satisfaction relationship. In Europe, it is appreciated when the service encounter isover the phone or computer. Birgelen’s research also indicates that individualist countries and lessuncertainty avoidant countries do no tend to be bothered by the lack of personal contact and holds aweaker service quality-customer satisfaction relationship. Similarly, Winsted (1999) listed someservice encounter dimensions to explain satisfaction for restaurants and medical institutions. Whilecontrol, courtesy, formality and promptness were used to explain satisfaction for restaurants;authenticity, caring, friendliness and personalization were used to explain satisfaction for medicalinstitutions. She further surveyed Japanese and American students to find out the degree of importanceof personalisation. The results were consistent with Hofstede’s (1991) cultural value dimensions.Personalisation was more important to the American students which are considered to be moreindividualist and less important for the Japanese students which come from a more collectivist culture.Another important aspect of service is the waiting times. However, the waiting times do not apply forimportant customers which live in cultures where power distance is high. For example, in countrieslike UK where the power distance is low, almost all customers are treated equally and wait evenly toget the service. Consequently, in cultures where time is very important, it can be seen thatorganisations push their resources to speed up the delivery of service process.Collectivist countries like Arab countries for example, give constructive viva voce (word-of-mouth)after a decent service encounter. Likewise when they are served poorly they will give a negative vivavoce. This highlights the importance of service within collectivist cultures and indicates thatorganisations which are exporting service to these countries must analyse the culture before any exportdecision is made to avoid negative viva voce. However, there are many situations where the quality ofthe service cannot be identified. Kamamoto (1984) exemplifies this view by explaining that in the casewhere stewards serve food on a plane, Japanese customers believe that they should be woken up intime so that they do not miss the meal; however, for western customers this treatment is considered Page 3
  4. 4. impolite. Kamamoto’s example strengthens the view that no service export should take place beforecultural analysis.Adaptation of Symbolic AttributesHofstede (1991) defines symbols as words, gestures, pictures or objects that carry a particular meaningwhich is only recognized by those who share the same culture. According to Levy (1959), “People buyproducts not only for what they can do, but also for what they mean”. Creative sub-systems withinorganisations develop cultural products but do not get involved with the distribution, manufacturing oradvertisement management of these products (Hirschman, 1986). The creation of a new product can beconsidered as an important foundation. However, Robertson (1971) notes that making minor changesto an existing product can be considered as a continuous innovation and gives the example of modelchanges made in Mercedes Benz. While the prestige and the quality of the car remain unchanged, thechanges made to the car considering the cultural specifications of an area, trigger the buying behaviourof consumers in that particular culture.Moreover, the matter of how symbols can be perceived differently across cultures can be evaluatedfurther through analysing how people from different cultures interpret the concept of colour. Forinstance, using the colour red for packaging in China might be a good idea, whereas the same cannotbe said about Turkey. In China “red” is associated with good fortune; however in Turkey it isassociated with death. As there is uncountable amount of symbols in cultures, the perception of theobjects will vary between cultures as well. If the organisation cannot manage to evaluate the symbolicvalue and meaning of things critically, the marketing process will most probably end up withdisappointment. Williams and Longworth’s (1989) case study of Coral Sea tuna fishery can be givenas a good example to explain the importance of adapting symbolic attributes for marketers. In thiscase, the efforts of the Australian government to develop exports to Japan resulted in disappointmentbecause of the ignorance of the fact that the colour of the fish that the government was trying to exportwas not coherent with the Japanese culture.Furthermore, Levy (1959) delved into the nature of the human behaviour and made clear that peopleact in ways which they are consistent with the character they want to become. He stressed out the factsthat consumers spend not only money but energy when they are shopping. The usefulness of the objectmarketed sometimes does not mean anything if the consumers pass by it without realising it is there.Even though the customer needs something else, he may go for something which he does not reallyneed at all. This means that consumers prefer to put in their behavioural energies in an object whichhas a symbolic character. In this sense it can be said that the marketer not only markets the product butthe symbolic character of it. If the marketer understands that he is not only selling the good but thesymbolic meaning as well; both the marketer and the consumer will be satisfied. Therefore, marketingmanagers must also think about the symbolic significance of the goods; not only the casual needs ofconsumers.ConclusionMarketing research may be hard to conduct when unknown territories are analysed. Also, it may becontended that standardization is a key source of competitive advantage and that the consumer demandis becoming homogenous due to the increasingly globalizing world. These views may be true to someextent. However, globalization does not mean that the cultural heritages of our world are going tochange. This is because culture is not only the way people do things; it is what brings about humansubconsciousness. Therefore, when an organisation is entering a culturally different market with aspecific kind of product, the product must be adapted to the existing cultural environment. Shoham(1996), has studied the relationship between standardization and performance and said: “Standardizingproduct quality does not have significant effect on either static or growth measures of profitperformance.” Not most marketers have granted the importance of cultural dimensions whenmarketing across cultures, even though many examples of failures have occurred throughout history Page 4
  5. 5. due to this reason. Adaptation of the product may be costly for the organisation at first glance;however, the values that organisations learn during this process benefits the organisations in the longterm and amortises the cost of the adaptation process. Page 5
  6. 6. References and BibliographyAlbaum,G., Strandskov,J., Duerr,E., Dowd, L. (1994). International Marketing and ExportManagement. 2nd. ed. Cambridge: Addions-Wesley Publishers Ltd.Birgelen van, Marcel, Ko de Ruyter, Ad de Jong, Martin Wetzels (2002), “Customer evaluations ofafter-sales service contact modes; an empirical analysis of national cultural consequences”,International Journal of Research in Marketing, vol. 19, no.1, pp. 43-64Hirschman, E. (1986), "The Creation of Product Symbolism", in Advances in Consumer ResearchVolume 13, eds. Richard J. Lutz, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 327-331.Hofstede, G. (1991). Cultures and organizations. London: McGraw-HillJean-Claude, U., Lee, J. (2005). Marketing Across Cultures. 4th. ed. London: Pearson Education Ltd.Keegan, W. and Green, M. (1999). Global Marketing – 2nd edition. United States: Pearson Education,Inc.Keegan, W. and Green, M. (2005). Global Marketing. 4th. ed. United States: Pearson Education, Inc.Levitt, T. (1983) “The Globalization of Markets,” Harvard Business Review (May-June): 92-102Levy, S., J.,(1959), "Symbols for Sale," Harvard Business Review, 37 (July-August), 117-124.Mooij, M. (2001). University of Navarre [online]. Available from: [Last Accessed: 2 April 2011].Onkvisit & Shaw, S. & Shaw, J.J. (2004). International marketing – Analysis and strategy, 4th ed.Philip Kotler (2003). Marketing Management. 11th. ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc.Tuncalp, S., (1990), “Export marketing strategy to Saudi Arabia: the case of British exporters”,Quarterly Review of Marketing, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 13-18Robertson, T., S. (1971), Innovative Behavior and Communication, New York: Hold, Rinehart &Winston, Inc.Shoham, A. (1996), “Marketing-mix standardization: determinants of export performance”, Journal ofGlobal Marketing, vol.10, no. 2, pp. 53-73.Winsted Frazer, Kathryn (1999), “Evaluating service encounters: a cross-cultural and cross-industryexploration”, Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, vol. 7, no. 2, pp. 106-23.Williams, Stephen C., John W. Longworth (1989), “Factors influencing tuna prices in Japan andimplications for the development of the coral sea tuna fishery”, European Journal of Marketing, vol.23, no. 4, pp. 5-24 Page 6