Cross Cultural Marketing

When starting a business a cultural analysis needs to be done if the business targets a range of audience from several locations”

Globalization is an inevitable process in the 21st Century, and so is the cross – culturalization. The world is becoming more and more homogeneous, and distinctions between national markets are not only fading but for some products its disappearing. This means that marketing is now becoming a world common discipline. However, on the other hand, the differences among nations, regions, language, regulatory environment, past heritage, ethnic groups, etc in terms of cultural factors still exist in the market place and having obvious impact on the marketing practices of the business organizations. From a marketing point of view it is very important for marketers to realize that the markets in the 21st century are cross-cultural markets and to be aware of and sensitive to the cultural differences is a major premise for the success in the 21st Century marketplace. The following aspects should be vital to be considered by a business:

  • cultural impacts on marketing (international versus domestic)
  • cross-cultural dimensions of marketing research
  • cross-cultural aspects of marketing mix (products, price, promotion, and distribution)
  • cross-cultural marketing education and professional training
  • cross-cultural practice in electronic marketing

Cross-cultural marketing can be seen as the strategic process of marketing among consumers whose culture differs from that of the marketer’s own culture at least in one of the fundamental cultural aspects, such as language, religion, social norms and values, education, and the living style.

From the anthropological perspective all market behaviours are culture-bound. Therefore, in order to match the marketing mix with consumer preferences, purchasing behavior, and product-use patterns in a potential market, marketers must have a thorough understanding of the cultural environment of that market.

Some Real World Examples for Cross-cultural Marketing

To what extent culture of a particular market place has influenced the marketing practices of business corporate can be understood by analyzing each element of the marketing mix (4 Ps’ i.e. product, price, promotion and place).


  • Pizza Hut and Domino’s in India

1992: Paneer on a pizza!

1997: Paneer on a pizza?

2002: Paneer on a pizza.

Same statement, same concept but the noticeable thing is the change in the attitude. It started from “absolute disbelief” to “why not” to “calm acceptance”. It shows how foreign based multinational companies have changed their product according to the taste of the indigenous of a country.

In this case one element of the marketing mix, product has been changed to cope up with the existing culturally bound taste of Indians. Pizza Hut and Domino’s now serve Tandoori, Paneer and Chettinad toppings which are absolutely new menu for these MNCs but culturally accepted traditional foodstuffs for Indians.

  • Maggi in India

Noodles were alright for dinner once in a while and it is accepted in other countries as well but it was unsuccessful in India. Since Indians consider idly, dosa, chappathi, etc as their dinner menu. Then Maggi wanted another marketing strategy to sell its product and it marketed Maggi as a snack not as a dinner and succeeded in the market. This also reveals how culturally bounded practices impact the marketing strategies. They also went along with curry flavour, tomato flavour, etc in India.

  • Swarovski in India

Swarovski is a Czech Republic based crystal venture incorporated in 1895. Swarovski India (Pvt) Ltd faced a difficulty in marketing crystals in India primarily. In the European and Western countries crystal is considered as a valuable gift item and initially they marketed their crystal as in the same manner in India but they struggled to capture the market due to the existing cultural aspects. Indians had a sentiment about gold and silver as ideal gifts for a bride or a bridegroom and they are culturally taught that gold and silver are the ideal gift for every occasion.

Swarovski there after realized the need for Indianization and came up with an alternative product. They introduced crystal studded sarees firstly and now they are offering a collection of sarees, blouses, odhnis, and salwar kameezes studded with crystals.

  • MTV and V Channel in India

Youth of India expects music which is some what related to their culture and prefer the styles like bhangra which is a traditional Indian music style. Realizing these desires, western channels like MTV and V channel has included Indian pop, a kind of fusion music of India into their charts.


  • KFC and McDonalds in Sri Lanka

MNCs like KFC and McDonals are giving their primary concern to the price they charge from Sri Lankans since people in Sri Lanka are more conscious about the prices of product than the quality. Even the displays they use to show their products, specifically display the price of each product. This proves that these MNCs are amending their marketing strategies regarding price to suit Sri Lankan market.


Marketing cross culturally consist advertisements as it foremost part, which directly appeal the target market. Promotions in the sense it mainly includes advertisements and the cultural issues relating to those advertisements should be precisely dealt in order to capture the market through a healthy relationship with the target market.

For this purpose most of the MNCs utilize the technique called “Advertising Localization”. It is not a mere change of designation stemming from computer science vocabulary but a radical change of perspective concerning the real nature and modes of linguistic and cultural transfer from one language into an other.

  • Coke Advertisements in India

Coca cola uses different celebrities in each region of India to communicate more effectively with the target market by considering their cultural variabilities. They use Aamir Khan in North India, Vijay in Tamil Nadu, Jyothika in Andhra Pradesh and Aishwarya Rai in rest of India endorsing the same Coca-Cola. This shows the perspective of marketers that the people will feel more comfortable when they see a person from their own cultural background in advertisements and feel positive toward their products. In Sri Lankan context Santhosh and Bathiya endorse Coke and the concept of the advertisement is carefully designed to reflect the local culture in each frame.

  • Toyota Advertisements

Toyota used a pregnant, naked woman in their advertisements and this was accepted by some countries and where as some countries protested against it and Toyota later withdrew the advertisement. This shows how the cultural believes of people influence the marketing practices of business organizations.


  • Dilmah Distribution in The Global Market

Dilmah uses several methods of distribution in several countries. It operates in 93 global markets and it has its own distribution mode through its regional channels in certain countries and where as in other several countries it uses a native prominent goods distributor for their tea. In countries like Australia, USA, and European countries it uses its own distribution channels where the customers believe in manufacturer own brand and distribution. In certain countries like Jordan, UAE, etc. it uses a native goods distributor to distribute their tea since these customers buy the products which comes from their own distributors.

Cultural Influences

Since culture is a wide spread phenomenon which cannot be separately identified from the group of people who share a set of accepted behaviors, customs, and values, it is obvious that the impact of such shared culture would result in all sorts of decision makings of the human beings. Such impacts can be mainly seen in the following perspectives.

  • In the General Point of View: For example; language, body language, punctuation, negotiation styles, gestures, etc. can be given.
  • In the Human Relationship Point of View: For example; employee relationship, customer relationship, supplier relationship, stakeholder relationship, etc. can be pointed out.
  • In the Marketing Point of View: The impact that culture would have on the 4Ps.


Aspects to Consider When Starting a New Business Which is Believed to Have Cultural Impacts

Even though cross cultural clashes create barriers they also provide challenges for the international businesses where those challenges encourage the business to develop further. All it is required to have a comprehensive knowledge about the impacts of the culture on the international business and prepared with all sorts of precautionary actions to be successive. The followings can be provided as recommendations to be successful in the global business;

  • Doing a thorough market research
  • Doing internal research to identify the cultural impacts among the employees
  • Adaptation to the differences
  • Developing commonly accepted standards which to be followed by all the stakeholders of the business
  • Customization to a greater extent


5 thoughts on “Cross Cultural Marketing

  1. Very good observations…Change is the only constant.

    MNC’s must understand the cross cultural challenges before backing on Standardization or Adaptation. They, got to be very sensitive towards the culture of their target markets.

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