What is Culture?
Culture as a variable in international marketing is very difficult to isolate as well as put into operation though it is given a prominent place. How culture influences the consumer behaviour is also complex to analyze on scientific basis. Many definitions are introduced to culture which is generally a vague notion. At present, some individuals depict multicultural nature by being multilinguals and dual citizens in the corporate world. Linton (1945) defines culture as ‘the configuration of learned behaviour and results of behaviour whose component elements are shared and transmitted by the members of a particular society’ .
In our normal usage when we say ‘academics’ or ‘Africans’ for example, we categorize by referring to a certain group of individuals as well as their shared certain cultures. Yet, to have a deeper knowledge we need to know how they differentiate by particular inherent set of elements in culture, such as knowledge, values, morals, manners, habits, ethics, language, customs, beliefs, behaviour, flow of thought etc. with other cultures in the world.
Culture is a unique entity and it acts as a fingerprint showing a particular identity to a group of people in the society. Though there are many cultural differences among ourselves, we are not in a position to brand certain cultures as superior or inferior to others. Obviously there can be good or bad characteristics in a certain culture. Yet, it is relative to the observer with another cultural background. For example, Kumar (2000) discusses how China and India differs from the world view . World view of China is based on Confucian Pragmatism with an emphasis on harmonious social order focusing the material world. World view of India is woven around Brahmanism which is centered around a higher value on inner spirituality.
If you take a look at culture related activities with a certain criteria you will get evidences highlighting what a particular culture is gifted and specialized when compared to other cultures. For example some cultures produce good mathematicians, musicians, scientists, warriors, cooks, athletes etc. Through political decisions, colonization and decolonization processes also have paved the way for new states across the world. Even once you are trying to do a comparison you can be misguided too. For instance, India has a certain country culture compared to any other country as depicted in Bollywood films. Even the subcontinent of India again is consisted of diverse ethnic and religious groups by being multicultural. Hence the national element is not always regarded as the main source of culture if you look from ‘operational culture’ perspective according to Goodenough (1971) .
Sometimes national territories with recognized borders are not completely homogeneous. In Great Britain there is no single British accent but comprises of English, Welsh and Scottish accents in usage as these accents are strongly evident in conversation.
The cross border cultures often facilitate the transition from one country to another. For example two cultures exist near the border of France and Spain. They are Basque country and Catalonia where they try to support the continuity of the two countries. Even some national cultures such as Kurds are split between Syria, Turkey, Iran and Iraq mainly .
If a country is homogeneous, then there are certain marked differences among the people in life style too from different parts of the same country. That is why sometimes even the unified country is made up of a ‘North’ and ‘South’.
Most international market segments are based on geopolitical divisions while considering the sociodemographic variables which are relevant. Before segmentation it is advisable to review cultural literature in depth to widen the knowledge. While doing so it is unavoidable to face difficulties in marketing the targeted segment due to the cultural impact. Cultures normally correspond to linguistic, ethnic, religious and institutional entities of a particular society. Cross cultural and inter cultural approaches are therefore essential to implement methodical marketing strategies in international trade while recognizing the diversity. This multiplicity nature of culture amply demonstrates why it is given a crucial place in international marketing.
- Linton, Ralph (1945), The Cultural Background of Personality, Appleton-Century: New York.
- Kumar, Rajesh (2000), ‘Confucian pragmatism vs. brahmanical idealism understanding the divergent roots of Indian and Chinese economic performance’, Journal of Asian Business, 16, 2, 49–69.
- Goodenough, Ward H. (1971), Culture, Language and Society, Modular Publications, 7, Addison-Wesley: Reading, MA.
- Usunier, Jean-Claude and Lee, Julie Anne (2005), Marketing Across Cultures, 4th edition, Pearson Education Limited, England
by Chathurie Nupearachchi