THE ELEMENTS OF CULTURE ON GLOBAL BUSINESS INFORMATION
The Elements of Culture
The study of culture has led to generalizations that may apply to all cultures. These include elements such as bodily adornments, courtship rituals, etiquette, concept of family, gestures, joking, mealtime, customs, music, personal names, status differentiation, and trade customs. The sensitivity and adaptation to these elements by an international firm depends on the firm's level of involvement in the market for example, licensing versus direct in vestment and the product or services marketed. Naturally, some products and services or management practices require very little adjustment, while some have to be adapted dramatically.
Language has been described as the mirror of culture. Language itself is multidimensional by nature. This is true not only of the spoken word but also of what can be called the nonverbal language of international business. Messages are conversed by the words used, by how the words are spoken and through nonverbal means such as gestures body position and eye content.
Very often mastery of the language is required before a person is accultured to a culture other than his or her own. Language mastery must go beyond technical competency because every language has words and phrases that can be readily understood only in context. Such phrases are carriers of culture they represent special ways a culture has developed to view some aspect of human existence.
Language capability serves four distinct roles in global business8. Language is important in information gathering and evaluation. Rather than rely completely on the opinions of others the manager is able to see and hear personally what is going on. People are far more comfortable speaking their own language, and this should be treated as an advantage. The best intelligence on a market is gathered by becoming part of the market rather than observing it from the outside. Local managers of a multinational corporation should be the firm's primary source of political information to assess potential risk. Language provides access to local society. Although English is more widely spoken and is increasingly becoming the official language of many companies as noted in Global Learning speaking the local language may make a dramatic difference. Language capability is increasingly important in company communications, whether within the corporate family or with channel members. Imagine the difficulties encountered by a country manager who must communicate with employees through an interpreter. Finely language provides more than the ability to communicate. It extends beyond mechanics to the interpretation of contexts.
The manager's command of the national language (s) in a market must be greater than simple word recognition. Consider how dramatically different English terms can be when used in Australia the United Kingdom or the United States. In negotiations, U.S. delegates tabling a proposal mean that they want to delay a decision, while their British counterparts understand the expression to mean that immediate action is to be taken. If the British promise something by the end of the day, this does not mean within 24 hours but rather when they have completed the job. Additionally, they may say that negotiations bombed meaning that they were a success, which to an American could convey exactly the opposite message. Similar problems occur with other languages and markets. Swedish is spoken as a mother tongue by 8 percent of the population in Finland, where it has idioms that are not well understood by Swedes.
Difficulties with language usually arise through carelessness which is manifest in a number of translation blunders. The old saying, ''If you want to kill a message, translate it is true. A classic example involves GM and its ''Body by Fisher'' theme when translated into Flemish this become ''Corpse by Fisher. There is also the danger of sound alkies. This is the reason that IBM's series 44 computers had a different number classification in Japan than in any other market. The danger of using a translingual homonym also exists that is an innocent English word may have strong aural resemblance to a word not used in polite company in another country. Examples in French speaking areas include pet milk products and a toothpaste called Cue. A French firm trying to sell pate to a Baltimore importer experienced a problem with the brand name Tartex which sounded like shoe polish. Kellogg renamed Bran Buds in Sweden where the brand name translated roughly to '' burned farmer.''
Another consideration is the capability of language to convey different shades of meaning. As an example a one-word equivalent to ''aftertaste'' does not exist in many languages and in others is far fetched at best. To communicate the idea may require a lengthy translation of the taste that remains in your mouth after you have finished eating or drinking.''
The same may be said of the use of technical terms and product concepts and the related buzz words that communicate the concept. The United States is the dubious leader in giving a technical process or product concept a name that conveys the thought, but in and of itself initially has no meaning. Consider American terms like Big Mac, Whopper, jogging, surfing the net, hardware, Internet, software, search engine, mouse, hard drive, floppy disk, cyberspace, etc. Many languages are not capable of easily translating these terms with the result that the American word is incorporated into the foreign language as is or becomes an aberration of the English.
The role of language extends beyond that of a communication medium. Linguistic diversity often is an indicator of other types of diversity. In Quebec, the French language has always been a major consideration of most Francophone governments because it is one of the clear manifestations of the identity of the province vis-a-vis the English speaking provinces. The Charter of the French Language states that the rights of the Francophone collectivity are (i) the right of every person to have the civil administration semipublic agencies and business firm communicate with him or her in French (ii) the right of workers to carry on their activities in French and (iii) the right of consumers to be informed and served in French. The Bay a major Quebec retailer, spends $8 million annually on its translation operations. It has even changes its name to La Baie in appropriate areas.
If brand name or an advertising theme is to be extended care has to be taken to make sure of a comfortable fit. Kellogg's ice Krispies snap, crackle, and pop in most markets the Japanese, who have trouble pronouncing these words watch the caricatures patchy, pitchy, putchy'' in their commercials. Dealing with the language problem invariably requires local assistance. A good local advertising agency and a good local market research firm can prevent many problems. When translation is required as when communicating with suppliers or customers, care should be taken in selecting the translator. One of the simplest methods of control is back translation the translating of a foreign language version back to the original language by a different person than one who made the first translation.
Managers also must analyze and become familiar with the hidden language of foreign cultures. Five key topics time, space, material possessions, friendship patterns, and business agreements offer a starting point from which managers can begin to acquire the understanding necessary to do business in foreign countries. In many parts of the world time is flexible and not seen as a limited commodity people come late to appointments or may not come at all. In Hong Kong it is futile to set exact meeting times, because getting from one place to another may take minutes or hours depending on the traffic situation. Showing indignation or impatience at such behavior would astonish an Arab, Latin American, or Asian. Understanding national and cultural differences in the concept of time is critical for the global business manager.
In some countries the feeling is that one should know one's business partners on a personal level before transactions can occur. Therefore rushing straight to business will not be rewarded because deals are made on the basis of not only the best product or price but also the entity or person deemed most trustworthy. Contracts may be bound on handshakes not lengthy and complex agreements a fact that some especially Western businesspeople uneasy.
Individuals vary in the amount of space they want separating them from others. Arabs and Latin Americans like to stand close to people they are talking with. If an American who may not be comfortable at such close range, backs away from an Arab this might incorrectly be taken as a negative reaction. Also Westerners are often taken aback by the more physical nature of affection between Slavs for example being kissed squarely on the lips by a business partner regardless of sex. Body language must be included in the nonverbal language of global business. For example an American manager may after successful completion of negotiations, impulsively give a finger-and-thumb OK sign. In Southern France the manager will have indicated that the sale is worthless and in Japan. that a little bribe has been asked for the gesture is grossly insulting to Brazilians. An interesting exercise is to compare and contrast the conversation styles of different nationalities. Northern Europeans are quite reserved in using their hands and maintain a good amount of personal space, whereas Southern Europeans involve their bodies to a far greater degree in making a point.
In most cultures people find in religion a reason for being and legitimacy in the belief that they are of a larger context. To define religion requires the inclusion of the supernatural and the existence of a higher power. Religion defines the ideals for life, which in turn are reflected in the values and attitudes of societies and individuals. Such values and attitudes shape the behavior and practices of institutions and members of cultures.
Religion has an impact on international marketing that is seen in a culture's values and attitudes toward entrepreneurship, consumption, and social organization. The impact will vary depending on the strength of the dominant religious tents. While religion's impact may be quite indirect in Protestant Northern Europe, its impact in countries where Islam fundamentalism is on the rise may be profound.
Religion provides the basis for Tran cultural similarities under shared beliefs and behavior. The impact of these similarities will be assessed in terms of the dominant religions of the world. Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. While some countries may officially have secularism, such as Marxism-Leninism as a state belief traditional religious beliefs still remain as a powerful force in shaping behavior.
Christianity has the largest following among world religions, with more than. 1.8 billion peoplee9. While there are many significant groups within Christianity the major ones are Catholicism and Protestantism. A prominent difference between the two of them is the attitude toward making money. While Catholicism has questioned it the protestant ethic has emphasized the importance of work and the accumulation of wealth for the glory of God. At the same time frugality is stressed and the residual accumulation of wealth from hard work formed the basis for investment. It has been proposed that this is the basis for the development of capitalism in the Western world, and the rise of predominantly Protestant countries into the world economic leadership in the 20th century10.
Major holidays are often tied to religion. The holidays will be observed differently from one culture to another to the next to the extent that the same holiday may have different connotations. Christian cultures observe Christmas and exchange gifts on St. Nicholas Day, December 6. Tandy Corporation in its first year in the Netherlands targeted its major The international marketing manager must see to it that local holidays are taken into account in the scheduling of events ranging from fact finding missions to marketing programs.
Islam which reaches from the west coast of Africa to the Philippines and across a wide band that includes Tanzania, Central Asia, Western China, India, and Malaysia, has more than a billion followers11. Islam is also a significant minority religion in many parts of the world, including Europe. Islam has a pervasive role in the life of its followers, referred to as Muslims, through the Sharia (law of Islam). This is most obvious in the five stated daily periods of prayer, fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, and the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam's holy city. While Islam is supportive of entrepreneurship, it nevertheless strongly discourages acts that may be interpreted as exploitation. Islam is also absent of discrimination except to those outside the religion. Some have argued that Islam's basic fatalism (that is nothing happens without the will of Allah) and traditionalism have deterred economic development in countries observing the religion.
The role of women in business is tied to religion, especially in the Middle East where they are not able to function as they would in the West. The effects of this are numerous for example a firm may be limited in its use of female managers or personnel in these areas and women's role as consumers and influencers in the consumption process may be different. Except for food purchases men make the final purchase decisions12. Access to women in Islamic countries may only be possible through the use of female sales personnel direct marketing and women's specialty shops13.
Religion impacts the marketing of products and service delivery. When beef or poultry is exported to an Islamic country the animal must be killed in the halal method and certified appropriately. Recognition of religious restrictions on products can reveal opportunities as evidenced by successful launches of several nonalcoholic beverages in the Middle East. Other restrictions may call for innovative solutions. A challenge of the Swedish firm that had the primary responsibility for building a traffic system to Mecca was that non-Muslims are not allowed access to the city. The solution was to use closed-circuit television to supervise the work. Hinduism has 750 million followers, mainly in India, Nepal, Malaysia, Guyana, Suriname and Sri Lanka. It focuses on a way of life predicated on which caste or class into which one is born. While the caste system has produced social stability its impact on business can be quite negative. For example if one cannot rise above one's caste individual effort is hampered. Problems in workforce integration and coordination may become quite serve. Furthermore the drive for business success may not be forthcoming because of the fact that followers place value mostly on spiritual rather than materialistic achievement.
Among other things, Hindus believe that human life is cyclic after death the soul leaves the body and is reborn in the body of another person, animal, vegetable, or mineral. This condition or endless activity and rebirth is called samsara. The precise quality of the new birth is determined by the accumulated merit and demerit that result from all actions or Karma, that the soul has committed in its past lives. All Hindus believe that demerits of life can be counteracted by rituals and by achieving release from the entire process of samsara through the renunciation of all worldly desires.
The family is an important element in Hindu society with extended families being the norm. The extended family structure will have an impact on the purchasing power and consumption of Hindu families. Market researchers in particular must take this into account in assessing market potential and consumption patterns.
Buddhism is a major world religion, founded in northeastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as Buddha, or Enlightened One. It is estimated that there are 150 to 300 million Buddhists worldwide primarily concentrated in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Japan, and neighboring countries. Although it is an offspring of Hinduism, it rejects a number of aspects of the Hindu philosophy including the caste system. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is the release from the continuous cycle of suffering. One achieves this goal by attaining nirvana an enlightened state in which the pain and suffering from hatred greed and ignorance have been eliminated. The emphasis in Buddhism is on spiritual achievement rather than worldly goods.
Confucianism has 150 million followers throughout Asia, especially among the Chinese, and has been characterized as a code of conduct rather than a religion. However, its teachings that stress loyalty and relationships have been broadly adopted. Loyalty to central authority and placing the good of a group before that of the individual may explain the economic success of Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and the Republic of China. It also has led to cultural misunderstandings. In Western societies there has been a perception that the subordination of the individual to the common good has resulted in the sacrifice of human rights. The emphasis on relationships is very evident in developing business ties in Asia. The preparatory stage may take years before the necessary level of understanding is reached and actual business transactions can take place.
Values and Attitudes:
Values are shared beliefs or group norms that have been internalized by individuals. Attitudes are evaluations of alternatives based on these values. The Japanese culture raises an almost invisible yet often unscable wall against all gaijin. Many middle aged bureaucrats and company officials think that buying foreign products is downright unpatriotic. The resistance therefore is not so much to foreign products is downright unpatriotic. The resistance therefore is not so much to foreign products as to those who produce and market them. Similarly foreign based corporations have had difficulty in hiring university graduates or mid career personnel because of bias against foreign employers.
Even under these adverse conditions, the race can be run and won through tenacity patience, and drive. As an example Procter & Gamble has made impressive inroads with its products by adopting a long term. Japanese style view of profits. Since the mid 1970s, the company has gained 20 percent of the detergent market and made Pampers a household word among Japanese mothers. The struggle toward such rewards can require foreign companies to take big losses for five years or more.
The more rooted that values and attitudes are in central beliefs (such as religion), the more cautiously the global business manager has to movie. Attitudes toward change are basically positive in industrialized countries whereas in more tradition bound societies, change is viewed with great suspicion especially when it comes from a foreign entity. These situations call for through research most likely a localized approach and a major commitment at the top level for a considerable time.
Cultural differences in themselves can be a selling point suggesting luxury, prestige, or status. Sometimes U.S. companies use domestic marketing approaches when selling abroad because they believe the American look will sell the product. In Japan, Borden sells Lady Borden ice cream and Borden cheese and Borden cheese deliberately packaged and labeled in English, exactly as they are in the United States. Similarly in France, General Foods sells a chewing gum called Hollywood with an accompanying Pepsi-generation type of as campaign that pictures teenagers riding bicycles on the beach.
Occasionally, U.S. firms successfully use American themes abroad that would not succeed at home. In Japan, Levi Strauss promoted its popular jeans with a television campaign featuring James Dean and and Marilyn Monroe, ho represent the epitome of Japanese youth's fantasy of freedom from a staid traditional society. The commercials helped to establish Levi's as the prestige jeans, and status-seeking Japanese youth now willingly pay 40 percent more for them than for local brands. Their authentic Levi's however are designed and mostly made in Japan, where buyers like a tighter fit than do Americans16. Similarly many global brands, such as Nike and Reebok are able to charge premium prices for their products due to the loyal following17. At the same time in the U.S. market, many companies have been quite successful emphasizing their foreign imported image.
Manners and Customs:
Change occurring in manners and customs must be carefully monitored, specially in cases that seem to indicate a narrowing of cultural differences between people. Phenomena such as McDonald's and Coke have met with success around the world, but this does not mean that the world is becoming Westernized. Modernization and Westernization are not at all the same as can be seen in Saudi Arabia. Americans often interpret inaction and silence as negative signs. As a result, Japanese executives tend to expect that their silence can get Americans to lower prices or sweeten the deal. Even a simple agreement may take days to negotiate in the Middle East because the Arab party may want to talk about unrelated issues or do something else for a while. The abrasive style of Russian negotiators and their usual last minute change requests may cause astonishment and concern on the part of ill prepared negotiators. As another example consider the reaction of an American businessperson if a Finnish counterpart were to propose the continuing of negotiations in the sauna.
In many cultures certain basic customs must be observed by the foreign businessperson. One of them concerns use of the right and left hands. In so called right hand societies the left hand is the ''toilet hand, and using it to eat for example is considered impolite. While many managers have caught on to cultural differences in the past decade or so continued attention to details when approaching companies or when negotiating with their officials is necessary.
Managers must be concerned with differences in the ways products are used. For example General Foods' Tang is positioned as a breakfast drink in the United States in France, where orange juice usually is not consumed at breakfast, Tang is positioned as a refreshment. The questions that the global manager must ask are : What are we selling? and What are the use benefits we should be providing?''
Usage differences have to be translated into product form and promotional decisions. Maxwell House coffee is a worldwide brand name. It is used to sell coffee in both ground and instant form in the United States. In the United Kingdom, Maxwell House is available only in instant form. In France and Germany it is sold in freeze dried form only while in the Scandinavian countries, Maxwell House is positioned as the top of the lime entry. As a matter of fact, Maxwell House is called simply Maxwell in France and Japan, because, House is confusing to consumers in those countries. In one South American market a shampoo maker was concerned about poor sales of the entire product class. Research uncovered the fact that many women wash their hair with bars of soap and use shampoo only as a brief rinse or topper.
Many Western companies have stumbled in Japan because they did learn enough about the distinctive habits of Japanese consumers. Purveyors of soap should know that the Japanese drink it mainly for breakfast. Johnson & Johnson had relatively little success in selling baby powder until research was conducted on the use conditions of the product. In their small homes mother fear that powder will fly around and get into their spotlessly clean kitchens. The company now sells baby powder in flat boxes with powder puffs so that mothers can apply it sparingly. Adults will not use it at all. They wash and rinse themselves before soaking in hot baths, powder would make them feel dirty again. Another classic case involves General Mills, Betty Crocker cake mix. The company designed a mix to be prepared in electric rice cookers. After the product's costly flop the company found that the Japanese take pride in the purity of their rice, which they thought would be contaminated by cake flavours. General Mills mistake was comparable to asking an English housewife to make coffee in her teapot.
Package sizes and labels must be adapted in many countries to suit the needs of the particular culture. In Mexico Campbell's sells soup in cans large enough to serve four or five because families are generally large. In Britain where consumers are more accustomed to ready to serve soups, Campbell's prints one can makes two on its condensed soup labels to ensure that shoppers understand how to use it. Managers must be careful of myths and legends. One candy company had almost decided to launch a new peanut packed chocolate bar in Japan, aimed at giving teenagers quick energy when cramming for examinations. The company then found out about the Japanese old wives tale that eating chocolate with peanuts can cause a nosebleed.
Material culture refers to the results of technology and is directly related to how a society organizes its economic activity. The basic economic infrastructure consists of transpiration, energy, and communications systems. Social infrastructure refers to housing, health, and educational systems prevailing in the country of interest. Financial and marketing infrastructures like banks and marketing research firms can aid the global firm's operation in a given market. In some parts of the world, the global firm may have to be a partner in developing the various infrastructures before it can operate whereas in other it may greatly benefit from their high level of sophistication.
The level of material culture can aid in developing products for individual markets. For companies selling industrial goods, such as General Electric, this can provide a convenient starting point. In developing countries demand may be highest for basic may be more in demand. Technologic advances have probably been the major cause of cultural change in many countries. The increase in leisure time so characteristic in Western cultures has been a direct result of technologic development. With technologic advancement comes also cultural convergence. Black and white television sets extensively penetrated U.S. households more than 10 years before similar levels occurred in Europe and Japan. With color television the lag was reduced to 5 years. With videocassette recorders the difference was only 3 years, but this time the Europeans and the Japanese led the way while the United States was concentrating on cable systems. With the compact disk penetration rates were equal in only 1 year. Today with MTV available by satellite across Europe no lag exists18.
Material culture mainly the degree to which it exists and how it is valued will have an impact on business decisions. Many exporters do not understand the degree to which Americans are package conscious for example cans must be shiny and beautiful. In foreign markets, packaging problems may arise due to the lack of certain materials, different specifications when the material is available and immense differences in quality and consistency of printing ink, especially in South America and the Third World.
Each culture makes a clear statement concerning good taste as expressed in the arts and in the particular symbolism of colors form and music. What is and what is not acceptable may vary dramatically even in otherwise highly similar markets. Sex for example is a big selling point in many countries. In an apparent attempt to preserve the purity of Japanese womanhood however advertisers frequently turn to blond, blue eyed foreign models to make the point. In the same vein, Commodore International a former U.S. based personal computer manufacturer chose to sell computers in Germany by showing a naked young man in ads that ran in the German version of Cosmopolitan. Needless to say approaches of this kind would not be possible in the United States because of regulations and opposition from consumer groups.
Color is often used as a mechanism for brand identification feature reinforcement and differentiation. In international markets colors have more symbolic value then in domestic markets. Black for instance is considered the color of mourning in the United States and Europe whereas white has the same symbolic meaning in Japan and most of the Far East. A British bank was interested in expanding its operations to Singapore and wanted to use blue and green as its identification colors. A consulting firm was quick to tell the client that green is associated with death in that country. Although the bank insisted on its original choice of colors, the green was changed to an acceptable shade19. Similarly music used in broadcast advertisements is often adjusted to reflect regional differences.
Education either formal or informal, plays a major role in the passing on and sharing of culture. Educational levels of a culture can be assessed using literacy rates enrollment in secondary education or enrollment in higher education available from secondary data sources. Global firms also need to know about the qualitative aspects of education namely varying emphases on particular skills and the overall level of the education provided. Japan and South Korea emphasize the sciences especially engineering to a greater degree than do Western countries.
Education levels will have an impact on various business functions. Employee training programs for a production facility will have to take the educational backgrounds of trainees into account. For example a high level of illiteracy will suggest the use of visual aids rather than printed manuals. In some cases global firms routinely send locally recruited personnel to headquarters for training.
The global manager may also have to be prepared to overcome obstacles in recruiting a suitable sales force or support personnel. The Japanese culture places a premium on loyalty, and employees consider themselves members of the corporate family. If a foreign firm decides to leave Japan its employees may find themselves stranded in mid-career unable to find their place in the Japanese business system. Therefore university graduates are reluctant to join any but the largest and most well known of foreign firms.
Social institutions affect the ways people to each other. The family unit which in Western industrialized countries consists of parents and children in a number of cultures is extended to include grandparents and other relatives. This will have an impact on consumption patterns and must be taken into account for example when conducting market research.
The concept of kinship or blood relations between individuals is defined in a very broad way in societies such as those in sub Saharan Africa. Family relations and a strong obligation to family are important factors to be considered in human resources management in those regions. Understanding tribal politics in countries such as Nigeria may help the global manager avoid unnecessary complications in executing business transactions.
The division of a particular population into classes is termed social stratification. Stratification ranges from the situation in Northern Europe where most people are members of the middle class to highly stratified societies such as India, in which the higher strata control most of the buying power and decision making positions.
An important part of the socialization process of consumers worldwide is reference groups21. These groups provide the values and attitudes that influence and shape be havior. Primary reference groups include the family and co workers and other intimate acquaintances while secondary reference groups are social organizations where less continuous interaction takes place such as professional associations and trade organizations. In addition to providing socialization reference groups also provide a baseline for compliance with group norms which may be reflected in the choice of products used.
Social organization also determines the roles of managers and subordinates and how they relate to one another. In some cultures managers and subordinates are separated explicitly and implicitly by various boundaries ranging from social class differences to separate office facilities. In others, cooperation is elicited through equality. Nissan USA has no privileged parking spaces and no private dining rooms, everyone wears the same type of white coveralls, and the president sits in the same room with a hundred other white collar workers. The fitting of an organizational culture to the larger context of a national culture has to be executed with care. Changes that are too dramatic may cause disruption of productivity or at the minimum suspicion.
While Western business practice has developed impersonal structures for channeling power and influence through reliance on laws and contracts, the Chinese emphasize getting on the good side of someone and storing up political capital with them. Things can get done without this capital, or guanxi, only if one invests enormous personal energy is willing to offend even trusted associates and is prepared to see it all melt away at a moment's notice. For the Chinese contracts form a useful agenda and a symbol of progress but obligations come from relationships. McDonald's found this out in Beijing where it was evicted from a central building after only 2 years despite having a 20 year contract. The incomer had a strong guanxi, whereas McDonald's had not kept its in good repair.
A variety of sources and methods are available to the manager for extending his or her knowledge of specific cultures. Most of these sauces deal with factual information that provides a necessary basis for market studies. Beyond the normal business literature and its anecdotal information, specific country studies are published by the U.S. government private companies and universities. Country Studies are available for 108 countries from the U.S. Government Printing Office, while Country Updates, produced by Overseas Briefing Associates, features 22 countries. Information Guide for Doing Business in X is the basic tile for a series of publications produced by the accounting firm of Price Waterhouse and Co. (similar series are published by the accounting firms of Ernst & Young and KMPG-Peat Marwick); so far 48 countries are included. Brief Culturegrams for 63 countries and the more extensive Building Bridges for Under standing with the People of X are published by the Language and Intercultural Research Centre of Brigham Young University25. Many facilitating agencies such as banks advertising agencies and transportation companies provide background information for their clients on the markets they serve. One of the more attractive sources is provided by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, which has a Business Profile Series that s especially good for the Middle East.
Blunders in foreign markets could have been avoided with factual information are generally inexcusable. A manager who travels to Taipei without first obtaining a visa and is therefore turned back has no one else to blame. Other oversights may lead to more costly mistakes. Brazilians are several inches shorter than average American, but this was not taken into account when Sears erected American height shelves that block Brazilian shopper's view of the rest of the store.
Global business success requires not only comprehensive fact finding and preparation but also an ability to understand and appreciate fully the nuances of different cultural traits and patterns. Gaining this readiness requires ''getting one's feet wet'' over a sufficient length of time.
Any analysis of cultural knowledge is incomplete without the basic recognition of cultural differences. Adjusting to differences requires putting one's own cultural values aside. James A Lee proposes that the natural self-reference criterion the unconscious reference to one's own cultural values is the rot of most international business problems26. However recognizing and admitting this are often quite difficult. The following analytical approach is recommended to reduce the influence of one's own cultural values.
- Define the problem or goal in terms of the domestic cultural traits, habits or norms.
- Define the problem or goal in terms of the foreign cultural traits, habits, or norms. Make no value judgments.
- Isolate the self-reference criterion influence in the problem and examine it carefully to see how it complicates the problem.
- Redefine the problem without the self-reference criterion influence and solve for the optimum-goal situation.
This approach can be applied to product introduction. If Kellogg's wants to introduce breakfast cereals into markets where breakfast is traditionally not eaten or where consumers drink very little milk, managers must consider very carefully how to instill this new habit. The traits, habits, and norms concerning the importance of breakfast are quite different in the United States, France, and Brazil, and they have o be outlined before the product can be introduced. In France, Kellogg's commercials are aimed as much at providing nutrition lessons as they are ay promoting the product. In Brazil, the company advertised on a soap opera to gain entry into the market because Brazilians often emulate the characters of these television shows.
Analytical procedures require constant monitoring of changes caused by outside events as well as the changes caused by the business entity itself. Controlling ethnocentrism the tendency to consider one's own culture superior to others can be achieved only by acknowledging it and properly adjusting to its possible effects in managerial decision-making. The international manager needs to be prepared and able to put that preparedness to effectives use.
Concerns about the Loss of Cultural Identity:
In another development the ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle early in precipitated large scale public demonstrations by a number of organizations who were concerned about some aspect of world trade and/or the WTO itself. Economic globalization and the rules of the WTO have been criticized for allegedly homogenizing cultures and values as well as for benefiting only the more developed nations thus widening the gap between the haves and have notes.
Edgar on March 30, 2016:
good notes ..thanks