Culture defines the behavioral patterns that are distinguishing characteristics of members of a society. It gives an individual an anchoring point, an identity and codes of conduct. Culture has 164 definitions in English alone but all of them accept that culture is learned, shared and transmitted across generations. Cultural awareness in business has been recognized over centuries. When the East India Company came and initiated the spice trade in India in the 17th century, its members embraced Indian cultural values in order to integrate with society and promote business. To be effective marketers across cultures and borders, companies must recognize that cultural differences exist and then adapt their approach to marketing accordingly.
The core of a firm’s international operations is its products or services. Its success depends on the quality offered and the differentiation from its competitors. To the consumer, any product is a cluster of value satisfactions. The perception of value differs across cultures around the world. For example, in Latin America, a product produced by an American brand tends to hold greater value than something similar produced by a Latin American brand. This does not mean that the product produced by the Latin America brand is in any way inferior in quality or appearance, but that perception creates different values. Here, I explore the challenges facing product management and offer an example from Apple’s recent launch of the iPhone X.
When President Trump attended the G20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, the aspects publicly reported were mainly uncontrolled demonstrators, burning Porsche cars and police at the end of their rope. Few benefits were attributed to the meeting. That is incorrect.
What started as a simple idea over two years ago, has grown into a law that very well may be passed through the new Conservative leadership of Britain’s, Theresa May. The new Prime Minister of the UK has been insistent on passing “safeguards” that would allow children, once they turn 18 to delete any derogatory or incriminating former social media posts, photos, and even comments.
Curative international marketing restores and develops international economic health and may be the next step up for marketing. “Restore” indicates something lost that once was there. “Developing” refers to new issues to be addressed with new tools and frames of reference. “Health” in turn positions the issue as important to overall welfare. Marketers must deliver joy, pleasure, fulfillment, safety, personal growth, and advancement towards a better society.
Curative international marketing accepts responsibility for problems to which marketing has contributed. It then uses marketing’s capabilities to set things right, to heal past wounds, and to increase the well-being of the individual and society on a global level. Curative marketing’s two perspectives consist of looking back to check on what marketing has wrought and making up for past errors with future action.
Global problems require a global approach. Curative international market ing needs to draw on fields like jurisprudence, cultural anthropology, philosophy, and history. Such a perspective acknowledges that marketing is too important to be left to marketers alone, consonant with Keynes’s questioning “how and whether economics should rule the world.”
International marketers need to focus on past errors and mistakes inflicted by international marketing and sweep these out from under the carpet in the spirit of Wiedergutmachung, or restitution.
Marketing’s disregard of local idiosyncrasies has sometimes been like the introduction of a destructive virus on a culture, akin to bringing snakes to Guam which almost exterminated all the local birds and to how European outsiders brought smallpox, flu, and typhus viruses that decimated the Inca of Peru. More contemporaneous is a current lawsuit:
The Pine Ridge Indian tribe is suing five beer companies for their role in the alcohol ism and fetal alcohol syndrome that plague the tribe’s reservation. The Oglala Sioux Tribe claims that the beer companies—which include Anheuser Busch and Molson Coors一sold beer on the perimeter of the teetotalling South Dakota reservation with the knowledge that it would be smuggled in demanding $500 million for healthcare and rehabilitation. Whiteclay, a nearby town in Nebraska with four beer shops and only about a dozen residents, gets most of its customers from the reservation.
Tom White, the lawyer representing the tribe, told the Associated Press: “You cannot sell 4.9 million 12oz cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled.” The reservation, which is about the size of Connecticut, has dealt with poverty and alcoholism for decades. One in four children born suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, and the life expectancy, between 45 and 52 years, is the lowest in the U.S.
Eastern Europe, in its transition from socialism to market practices, pro vides another example. Advertisements were taken literally, leading to grave dis appointments by consumers because they did not win the “promised” car or look like model Heidi Klum. Local foods (and their producers) disappeared because newly entering chain stores already had suppliers. People were conditioned to increase their consumption of products, which led, for many, to consumption addiction.
Growth is seen by many as the envisioned key accomplishment of marketing. Executives planning only to maintain market share last only for a very short time in their job. More is expected. Citius, altius, fortius (“faster, higher, stronger”) may be a great motto for the Olympics, but it leads to unexpected repercussions for marketers and their customers.
Consumers’ interest in and preparation for marketing are not evenly distributed. Negative effects may result from marketing’s misleading of consumers or simply from unawareness or neglect. It is the obligation of international marketers to understand local conditions and to anticipate and limit possible ill effects. Not everything that can be done should be done. There must be a marketing Hippocratic Oath: “First do no harm.” Beyond that caveat, marketers need to do everything possible to make people be better off and actually feel better.
A second key concern is the future outlook: how can marketing set things right again? Four core areas are international marketing’s pillars for a shining position on the hill: truthfulness, simplicity, expanded participation, and personal responsibility.