Everyone knows that every culture is different, but is there a reason why? How does our geographical location collectively predict our beliefs, customs, attitudes, etc.? It sounds a little odd, but wherever you are, you develop your behavior through social learning. When you socially learn, your observations become part of your actions.
An easy way to predict how a culture socially functions is to observe their standing on the Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Theory. This theory has seven dimensions that explain the differences found among different cultures. Since I have a fascination with Hong Kong, I will compare their dimensions with ours.
This photo illustrates Hong Kong and America’s driving factors of culture. As you can see, the largest difference we hold is in the Individualism category. This means that in America, we see ourselves as our own person, not as a member of a group. In the contrasting collectivist culture, they see themselves as a member of their family, society and so on.
Having a general understanding of cultural perceptions are important in the Public Relations field because it helps you tailor your message properly. In an individualistic society, your message needs to be factual, relevant to the reader and as clear as possible. But when communicating with a collectivist society, they prefer to receive a message in regards to how it influences their group. When you are cognizant of how people perceive messages, it helps you produce an impactful message.
If you want to compare and contrast the differences between countries, feel free to explore this site!
The customer is ALWAYS first. This is the first thing that any marketing/PR/advertising class will teach you.
Regardless of what industry you are in, the start of any lucrative product or service starts with knowing who your customers are. Since companies are expanding to other countries, they need to take an extra step with research. That extra step is to make sure that their products are going to be translated properly while being cognizant of foreign cultural and social norms.
For example, in Japanese, the word “four” sounds like the word death. There is a golf ball manufacturer that decided that they wanted to sell their golf balls in packs of four in Japan, which did not take off because it is considered unlucky to buy. (click here for more examples of brand culture failures)
The same goes for Cantonese, because when I was getting lunch with friends in Hong Kong, I observed that there was not a button for the fourth floor. I only noticed this because the two rows of buttons had a mix of even and odd numbers. I was a little confused and my friends said that not many buildings have a fourth floor because the word is very similar to death. They even made a term for people that are scared of the number four called tetraphobia. (source)
I understand that little details like avoiding the number four in products used in Asia is quite specific, but this is why research is timely and expensive. In a highly competitive business environment, having the right marketing/PR/advertising team with high cultural awareness is key to going global, because customers are the key to success.
My name is Abbey Lelina and welcome to my humble blog!
Here’s a couple things about me: I am Senior at the University of West Florida, studying Public Relations with a minor in Marketing and Management.
I am addicted to traveling, pitching my hammock wherever I may be and rising to the occasion whenever needed.
I have started this blog for my Public Relations Issues and Trends class. Since every good blog has a concentration on something near and dear to the creator, I decided to incorporate what I have learned in my travels to the PR topics I am learning in class.
With the rise in globalization, every international company needs to know how to communicate to each culture because each culture holds a different perspective. Global PR is the answer to bridging cultural gaps because these practitioners know how to formulate precise messages for each audience. Their extensive cultural understanding and the use Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory helps them construct and most importantly, predict how each audience will perceive their message.
You never really know how unique your own culture is, until you step out and live someone else’s. I’m excited to share my thoughts and observations with you in my next posts.
See you then!
Abbey G Lelina