Understanding The Importance Of Cultural Differences In Your Marketing Communications

9th September 2021

Cultural differences are not always given the thought that they deserve when brands are trying to connect with a multicultural audience. We understand the importance of getting your campaign right to engage your targeted audience correctly. Let us explore the importance of cultural differences in your marketing communications.

What Do We Mean By Cultural Differences?

With over 7 billion people across the world there is no surprise that we encounter so many differing cultures. Whilst we are not expected to know them all, we do need to consider what cultural differences there are especially when communicating with a new culture. Here are a few examples of cultural differences across the world:

The Aum Symbol

The aum symbol is the most sacred symbol in Hinduism. It is the essence of all mantras and divine scripture, and it is the representation of the holy Hindu trinity of Gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Aum symbol is highly regarded in Hinduism but has been used inappropriately in fashion, deeply insulting Hindus across the world. There are many other symbols across South Asia and the rest of the world which require thorough consideration to ensure they are used in a way which does not offend.

Colours In The Chinese Market

Colours are seen in every culture but in China colours have very different meanings that are derived from their rich culture and history. The colours are assigned as lucky or unlucky, so if you are trying to reach a Chinese market make sure your colour choice fits with what you are trying to say. 

  • Red – good fortune, happiness, and success. It is the national colour of China and is thought to keep the devil away
  • Yellow – a royal colour reserved for the emperor
  • Green – healing and health. Green is seen to have the idea of purity and cleanliness, so it is often used for painting buildings or packaging materials
  • White – in comparison to what is seen in Europe, in China white symbolises death. It is seen as an unlucky colour to be worn at funerals 
  • Purple – the colour of love

Hand Gestures

Hand gestures are another element to consider in your marketing as there are a wide range of offensive gestures which vary from country to country. There are many factors to consider ensuring your campaigns are fitting to cultural etiquettes.

Why It Is Important To Understand Cultures When Marketing?

Marketing materials are often targeted to an international audience at one time or another. But brands need to be aware of correct communications, so they do not offend anyone or create campaigns that are not relevant to the audience they are looking to reach. 

Brands promoting across a global scale will need to run thorough checks when releasing new ad campaigns into new territories. Ensure the approval process involves a diverse team that is willing to embrace varying perspectives. As messages, symbols, rituals, and even colours can have significantly different meanings and messages across cultures.

Why Is It Key To Understand Your Target Audience When Creating A Campaign? 

How Gillette Got Their Marketing Communications Right

Gillette used the “words of God” to promote their 48 hour deodorant to the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel. A community that does not shave and with mainstream media restricted due to their beliefs they had never heard of the brand.

Gillette worked directly within the community on an interactive campaign in the 6 weeks leading up to the Sabbath. The 24-hour Sabbath prohibits Orthodox Jews from doing any work which includes putting on deodorant. But Gillette found a revelation in the unlikeliest of places – The Hebrew Bible where God warns his followers not to pray in a place of foul odour. 

Gillette ran a series of marketing campaigns in the lead-up to the Sabbath to engage the Orthodox community. Posters were placed on the Synagogues notice boards (the only media channels available in temples), they also sponsored the candle lighting services in every Orthodox newspaper and held the last commercial spot on the radio before the Sabbath began. Finally, the campaign’s final stage – driving around the streets of Israel in branded Gillette vans playing the signal siren to mark the start of the Sabbath.

The company saw a 12% increase in sales in the Orthodox community within 2 months.

Why You Can’t Afford To Get Multicultural Marketing Wrong!

There have been many instances of global brands getting their communications wrong when trying to engage a new audience. 

A famous example being one P&G ran for Pampers in the mid-1970s. The campaign saw a stork fly to deliver nappies to a mum. Which didn’t transfer to the Japanese market as the brand hadn’t paid attention to the country’s culture. 

P&G had only thought of the connotations understood by US and European consumers and had failed to realise the idea of babies being delivered by a stork does not exist in Japan.

Japanese folklore tells the story of newborns arriving courtesy of a giant peach floating down the river. Which is of course very different from the image of a baby being carried through the air. The ad was not understood by the Japanese and therefore failed in the Japanese market.

How Can You Ensure Your Marketing Communications Are Culturally Correct?

Here at GottaBe! Ethnic we understand the importance of multicultural marketing for both ethnic minorities and brands. We have a pool of over 4,500 community champions that allows us to have an insight into the different ethnic communities right across the UK. The team has also completed some further research to better understand cultural marketing communications. 

Sociologist Dr. Caleb Rosado, who specializes in diversity and multiculturalism, described seven important actions involved in the definition of multiculturalism. We believe appreciating each of Dr. Rosado’s definitions of multiculturalism enables your brand to understand multicultural campaigns. We have broken them down to help you to better understand the importance of cultural differences.

Recognition Of The Abundant Diversity Of Cultures

Recognise the cultures within a country, city, or town. There are many ethnic minority groups within one small town. Think outside of the box. One campaign will not fit all cultures.

Respect For The Differences

Respect cultural differences. They may not be the same as your own, but they are still important. Respecting them will allow you to understand the needs of the consumer. Respect all cultures and do not take one side.

Acknowledging The Validity Of Different Cultural Expressions And Contributions

Acknowledge each part of a culture as it will enlighten you and possibly expand your brand’s purpose. 

Valuing What Other Cultures Offer

Value what multicultural audiences have to offer you. Does your brand sell a product directed at a specific community, but another community transforms the original purpose and teaches you things about your brand you hadn’t thought of? 

Encouraging The Contribution Of Diverse Groups

Encourage the contribution of diverse groups to learn more from them! As a brand, we understand the importance of listening to ethnic communities when creating campaigns for our customers. Why spend valuable budget which is not representing your target audience? Give a community a chance to contribute as it may turn out to be the most valuable thing you’ve ever done!

Empowering People To Strengthen Themselves And Others To Achieve Their Maximum Potential By Being Critical Of Their Own Biases

Empower a culture. Ensure they feel represented and listened to but also reach out and educate them. Aid communities to reach their maximum potential. Ensure your brand is led by a multicultural team as it will not only benefit your campaigns but also benefit your company financially.

Celebrating Rather Than Just Tolerating The Differences To Bring About Unity Through Diversity

Celebrate diversity! Ethnic minorities have a spending power of £300 billion in the UK and want to feel represented. Celebrating different cultures could transform your brand by embracing new and exciting ideas from differing beliefs. Have fun getting to know, understand and appreciate new cultures. 

We Can Help You To Get Your Marketing Communications Right!

If your team is struggling to correctly represent a multicultural audience through marketing communications, our experts are here to help! With over 13 years experience in multicultural marketing, we can give your brand a fresh perspective. Check out our latest blog – 5 things to consider when marketing to ethnic group. Give us a call or contact us so one of our experts can help you today!

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