Ethnocentrism derives from Greek words meaning “nation” and “centre.” It refers to any instance when people’s limited experiences and perspectives cause them to regard their own cultures as the central basis for what is expected and acceptable from all others.
Because everyone’s expectations derive from their necessarily limited experiences, no one is immune to ethnocentric thinking and usually, people even fail to realize that when they make such assumptions. While refraining from ethnocentrism altogether may be impossible. People can aim to counter the tendency’s negative effects by recognizing and controlling their own biases, as well as seeking additional knowledge and perspectives when biases do surface. Ethnocentric consumers feel it is wrong to purchase foreign-made products.
They can be targeted by stressing nationalistic themes.
Cultural relativism is, understanding other cultures and their beliefs. For example what seems normal to one culture may seem offensive to another. e.g.: like eating dogs in China and keeping them as pets in America. Ethnocentrism is the belief that, your country is the best and your culture is the best while other cultures are wrong. Cultural relativism and ethnocentrism are the two flip sides of one coin where both of these rather philosophical notions are intertwined. Ethnocentrism landed as a concept amongst different nations earlier than cultural relativism which got to be devised to counter ethnocentrism. The most significant feature related to these notions and ideas is the fact that both of these come with a specific set of followers which can be specific individuals and specific nations as well.
Ethnocentrism is the extreme opposite of cultural relativism. The follower of this philosophy will happen not only to consider his or her culture the most supreme of all but that particular person will judge other cultures by comparing these to his or her specific culture. This notion falls in deep and there is a sharp contrast to cultural relativism which focuses on the better and unbiased understanding of other cultures and the related values.
The aspect of ethnocentrism was brought out by William Graham. Ethnocentrism occurs in a circle where a group or a circle of individuals live together and believe that particular group is everything to them. This is because such a group shares the same beliefs, norms and activities. Ethnocentrism is one of the main reasons why division exists among the members of different ethnicities, religious groups and races. The group members of an ethnocentric group believe that their group is superior or better in a number of ways compared to others around it. The attitude of ethnocentrism brings about both positive and negative consequences to the group and to those outside the group. One of the advantages that it brings about is that it is unlikely to experience internal conflicts. Given that, the group unanimously believes in a particular way of doing things, they abide with them and no opposition is likely to develop. The level of cohesion in such a group is very high and it is very essential for developmental purposes. Another advantage is that an ethnocentric group is immune to external influence. For example, communities that greatly value their traditions are unlikely to accept practices that are abolished by the values of the group like homosexuality. This enables them to maintain their long-valued traditions for future generations.
Since we are in a globalized world, this approach would not be practical for marketers. But we can use this approach very smoothly for international products. Then we could easily reach that market. Also, we can apply this technique for local products. For an example, Lanka Bell is promoting “Seeyata Seeyakma APE”.
That means this product is 100% Sri Lankan and as Sri Lankans, we have a responsibility to buy our products as we always value our culture and our beliefs. In case of international brands, the main issue is that we will not be able to capture the foreign market when there are so many consumers who are ethnocentric. The best examples are from Chinese and Japanese people. They value their culture and it is reflected even from their main language that they use in their country. So there is an issue when we are going to enter new international markets. The best solution to overcome this situation is that we should be flexible and adapt to those ethnical groups. We should value their culture too.
When we come to Indian culture, the fact is that their culture is also ethnocentric and they too always value their own culture. For an example, Indians respect women. When they are travelling on the bus or on a train they offer their seats to women without considering their age and caste. They also value their nation and always show that Indians are the best among the rest of the world. Mostly that can be seen in their films also. Those who want to show respect for other people and to communicate effectively in business, need to adopt a positive viewpoint, in the form of cultural pluralism which is the practice of accepting multiple cultures in their own terms. When crossing cultural boundaries, you will be even more effective if you move beyond simple acceptance and adapt your communication style to those new cultures you encounter- even integrating aspects of those cultures into your own. Few simple habits can help.
Avoid assumptions: Do not assume that others will act the same way as you do, use language and symbols the same way as you do, or even operate from the same values and beliefs. For instance, in a comparison of the 10 most important values in three cultures, people from the United States had no value in common with people from Japanese or Arab cultures.
Avoid judgement: When people act differently, don’t conclude that they are wrong or that their way is invalid or inferior.
Acknowledge distinctions: Don’t ignore the difference between another person’s culture and your own.
Unfortunately, overcoming ethnocentrism and stereotyping is not a simple task, even for people who are highly motivated to do so. Moreover, research suggests that people often have beliefs and biases that they are not even aware of- and that may even conflict with the beliefs that they think they have.
The best way to overcome this situation is that we should plan our marketing communication properly and we should let them feel that we always give priority to their culture. The world is almost globalized and strategically we can use this approach to reach the country boundaries and cultures.