is for Words

Choose the WORDS that you use in any media very carefully -- print, web, presentation, press releases to name a few.
Make sure you are using language that your target audience can relate to. Words, like jokes, that have to be explained lose their impact. And remember, a particular word can mean different things to different people.


Key WORDS: Use familiar words -- the ones the people use to create search queries. If your writing favors made-up or complex terms over simple words, users won't find your site.

Communication is more than WORDS.

The way people perceive your marketing -- images, messages, and means -- depends on their own personal perceptions. There are many differences in the perceptions of people of different cultures. Some are obvious. Many more are very subtle. The obvious differences show up in the way people behave, what they wear, what they eat, holiday customs. However, most of these are influenced by values, experience, and beliefs that have a profound influence on communication styles.

Multicultural marketing is complex -- even within similar cultural groups, there can be differences which must be taken in to account. Consider the Japanese reaction to Chinese actresses being cast in in Memoirs of a Geisha.

Why do Cultural Perceptions Vary?

Each person grows up within a unique cultural environment which is influenced by personal and family values, as well as local, state, national, and geographic factors. From this experience, each person develops a cultural mindset —a predisposition to see the world in a particular way. This mindset can be considered as software for the brain, forming the foundation of a person's way of viewing and interacting with the world. These factors are assimilated into a persons subconscious way of thinking and acting from a very early age.

There are many studies in the literature on cross-cultural studies that discuss the key variables that impact intercultural communication. The most important are:

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Context vs Content

The difference is that, High-Context communication involves implying a message through that which is not uttered. This includes the situation, behavior, and para-verbal cues as integral parts of the communicated message. High-Context cultures tend to use indirect, non-confrontational, and vague language, relying on the listener's or reader's ability to grasp the meaning from the context. Behavioral language, such as gestures, body language, silence, proximity and symbolic behavior, are as important as the spoken or written word. Communication will often be indirect and circular, jumping back and forth and leaving out detail, assuming this to be implicit. Lastly, such cultures believe that truth will manifest itself through non-linear discovery processes and without having to employ rationality.

High-Content (Low-Context) cultures tend to use a more direct, confrontational, and explicit approach to ensure that the listener receives the message exactly as it was sent. Conversation in Low-Context cultures tends to be less physically animated, with the meaning depending on content and the spoken word, and a flow that will get straight to the point. Lastly, these cultures tend to emphasize logic and rationality, believing that there is always an objective truth that can be reached through linear processes of discovery.

Scandinavians, Germans, the Swiss, and most Americans communicate predominantly through Content. In cultures, such as Latin American, the Japanese, and Chinese, messages include other communicative cues such as body language and the use of silence. How and where you say something in these cultures can more important than what you say.

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Atomic vs Molecular Cultures

Also classified as Individual vs. Collective Identity, this relates to how people view themselves with respect to other people in their family or work group.  In individualist societies, personal freedom is valued and individual decision-making is encouraged. Low-Context Cultures like that of the United States tend towards individualism. Communications highlight individual accomplishment, unique benefit and personalization. On the contrary, in collectivist societies, societal norms and social benefit are valued and communicated.

Americans of northern European descent act as individual atoms. We value personal freedom, independence ... Popular sayings such as “If you want a job done right, do it yourself,” and “ You have to blow your own horn” reveal this emphasis on autonomy. Actively pursuing one’s personal interests is considered natural and legitimate.

By contrast, Latin Americans and Asians, for example, are much more sensitive to their "group". The use of networks and connections, the exchange of information and favors, the obligation toward and reliance on the extended family all reflect the “molecular” structure of these societies. Communication in these cultures requires that one be more indirect, diplomatic, non-confrontational, and cautious in communicating with others because there is a positive or negative multiplier effect in every social or business transaction. A good interaction may gain one multiple allies (members of the other person’s group) while a negative encounter has the potential of creating numerous opponents for oneself.

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Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty avoidance concerns the extent to which the people of a country can tolerate ambiguous or uncertain situations. High-Context Cultures typically demand uncertainty avoidance — their communications is relatively risk-averse, comforting, and provides concrete direction.

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Masculine vs. Feminine Identity

Masculine cultures value assertiveness, ambition, success, and performance. To such cultures big and fast is beautiful, the machismo ideal is acceptable, and clear gender roles are the norm. In contrast, feminine cultures value, beauty, nature, nuturance, the maschimo ideal is not acceptable, and gender roles are blurred. Countries such as Japan, Austria, and Mexico are examples of masculine cultures, while most of the Nordic countries score high on femininity.

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Power Distance

Societies that are high on power distance, such as Malaysia, Mexico, and India, accept power and hierarchy in society and are low on egalitarianism. The emphases in high power distance societies are on status, referent power, authority, and legitimacy; their communications reflects this. In contrast, communications from low distance societies like Canada and the United States stress equality and fairness.

What's important to remember is that just translating your message into a local language is not sufficient for developing your Internet-based communications. The use of software on the Internet that offers automatic translation services may be prone to various cultural errors, because context and culture are largely ignored.

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A few recommendations:

All of these factors impact have a huge impact on communications --- images, words, and methods. Successful marketing has to do more than merely translate the English-language materials into A foreign language. Many times it must use an entirely different approach to the consumer.

  • Become familiar with the culture you will be working with.
  • Learn the dimensions of communication and the important values.
  • Find out how your specific type of product or service is promoted in that culture.
  • Hire or collaborate with people who understand the market you are targeting.

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If you need help doing this, contact AbuLLard. He'll be glad to help!

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