NATIONAL CULTURE MEASURES AND BRAND ISSUES:
CAN A GLOBAL BRAND IMAGE EXIST?
Susan Forquer Gupta, Monmouth University
Doan Winkel, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
Laura Peracchio, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee
The extant research in brand and culture has shown that CVDs provide explanatory power to brand concepts across cultures. However, there has been little research conducted in this area. In addition, the existing research has a bias toward utilizing a small set of the existing CVD measures defined. There are many additional CVDs that may provide even stronger explanatory power than those most common in the literature as well as concerns over the best match between the type of CVD measures and their operational match with brand and consumer variables
Apple launches an ad campaign aimed at enticing consumers of PC‟s to buy the Mac. The brand is positioned as the underdog (against all PC‟s that run on a Microsoft Windows platform), that is “decidedly more fun and interesting to own”, as well as being more intuitive to use. Two known comedic personalities are chosen to represent a PC and a Mac and illustrate the personality differences between the two platforms. „PC‟ is a business or work oriented machine with connotations of efficiency without any “fun” component as well as seemingly negative quality of life over the need to be a productive cog in the machinery that runs a business. „Mac‟ is a play oriented machine that connects to friends and family, and allows for interpersonal interaction and relationship building. Numerous vignettes were designed to highlight positives of the Mac experience and the negatives of the PC experience. The commercials develop a following in the US and have clear differentiated personalities that place the Mac as the preferred machine. The theme of the popular, cool, underdog, Mac over the boring, rule following, majority machine PC.
However, when Apple launched the same campaign in Japan, problems arose. They had taken care to select a Japanese comedic team and to tone down the rivalry to make them more a duo of friends with differing personalities as to not offend. But the Japanese interpretation of the ad is that Mac is sloppy and full of himself, and PC is hardworking and adorable. The Japanese consumer felt the sacrifice for group conformity, hard work, and pride in the organization were positive values.
What has occurred can be explained via measures of national culture. The base cultural values of the two countries differ, and therefore, the same content of the ad evokes very different responses from the American and the Japanese consumers. The positioning of the Mac as a better alternative to the majority owned PC works well in the American culture. Americans embrace the underdog, and strive to be different. Japanese consumers embrace the majority and
find the underdog to be the definition of what to avoid being typed as and therefore would not flock to purchase a product defined as such.
National culture researchers have developed various measures of culture including; lists of values (Rokeach 1973); value hierarchies, Schwartz (1994); and value dimensions, (Hofstede 1980, 2002). Much of cross-cultural marketing, as well as management, research have utilized Cultural Value Dimensions (CVDs) identified in the literature to explain cultural differences in behaviors, beliefs and preferences as expressed in the workplace. (Hall 1976; Hofstede 1980, 1991; Schwartz 1994). We are only beginning to see the research stretch beyond workplace issues and into other applications including consumer research. This paper investigates the utilization of cultural value dimensions in understanding differences across cultures in brand concepts. A discussion of how CVD theory can inform our understanding of how brand concepts are formed and can differ across countries when the same brand communications, symbols and references are utilized.
Cultural Value Dimensions (CVDs)
CVDs, or value orientations, are conceptualized as being universal in that they have meaning across cultures, albeit with varying levels of salience in each. This allows for the comparison of cultures according to their relative positions on a particular dimension.
A literature review of brand constructs revealed a growing interest in utilizing CVDs to inform our understanding of differing reactions and brand images that have developed around the globe. The CVDs shed light upon the structure of brands in the minds of the consumers and how the cultural context dictates the resulting brandscape. Not surprisingly, the CVDs most prevalent in the brand literature are individualism /collectivism, masculinity/femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Power distance. A brief discussion of findings appears below.
Individualism oriented cultures define the individual as an autonomous being. In cultures with high individualistic values, the emphasis is placed on challenging work that allows for full use and development of individual skills, freedom to choose, and high importance placed on personal time.
Collectivistic oriented cultures define the individual according to their position in a group. Collectivism, on the other hand, places value on identification with the group, its goals and needs. What is best for the group is best for the individual. High importance is placed on conformity, group processes and relationships.
In countries with high individualism cultures (e.g. European), brand images that emphasize functional variety, novelty and experiential needs are more effective than social image strategies, (Roth 1995). On the other hand, cultures with low individualism (e.g. Asian) are more amenable to social brand image strategies that emphasize group membership and affiliation benefits than they are to sensory brand images, (Roth 1995).
In addition, positive effect of brand credibility on choice is greater for consumers who rate high on either collectivism or uncertainty avoidance. Collectivists value credible brands, they
reinforce group identity. Countries in the study include Brazil, Germany, India, Japan Spain Turkey and US ( Erdem, Swait, and Valenzuela 2006).
Cultures which fall on the logic or masculine side of the continuum will value the product of the relationship as it meets the goals or purpose that initiated the interaction. Cultures which fall on the emotion or feminine side of the continuum will value the relationship itself and consider it most important. Cultures that are emotionally based prefer to make decisions based on feeling, prefer social or relationship goals, and rewards of appreciation. Translated into a business environment, cultures that are logically based will prefer decision making based upon fact, prefer profit goals, and monetary rewards.
Masculinity of a nation seemed to have a relationship with the roles of male and females shown in magazine advertising with greater role differences occurring in the higher masculinity country and lower differences in role in the low masculinity index countries. Roles studied include Working roles, Family, Recreational and Decorative. In higher masculinity societies men were shown in substantially more working and recreational roles, and women in decorative roles. Countries in this study: Netherlands, Sweden, US (Wiles, Wiles and Tjernlund 1995)
Power distance is the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally, (Hofstede 1980). It encompasses more than just the power of an individual as ascribed by job status. It is a broad definition encompassing the equality of individuals and the degree to which s/he is defined solely by his/her position in an organization, versus, a person existing outside of that position with certain equalities/inequalities to others.
In low power distance cultures in which people are not focused on social roles and group affiliation (Germany Netherlands), functional brand images that de-emphasize the social, symbolic, sensory and experiential benefits of products are most appropriate, (Roth 1995). When the country‟s degree of power distance is high (China, France, Belgium), social and or
sensory needs should be emphasized, (Roth 1995).
Uncertainty Avoidance addresses the comfort level of the individual with ambiguous or uncertain situations. Cultures with high uncertainty avoidance feel threatened by uncertain or unknown situations. They shun ambiguity. "People in such cultures look for a structure in their organizations, institutions, and relationships which makes events clearly interpretable and predictable," (Hofstede 1980).
High Uncertainty Avoidance consumers value credible brands as they are viewed as having lower perceived risk and information costs. Countries in the study include Brazil, Germany, India, Japan Spain Turkey and US (Erdem, Swait, and Valenzuela 2006).
Power Distance and Uncertainty Avoidance influence the focus of consumer‟s product information search activities, but not their tendencies to share product –related opinions with
others. The greater the Uncertainty Avoidance and Power Distance in a country the smaller the proportion of consumers who search for product information from impersonal and objective magazines, Individualism is not related, (Dawar, Parker, and Price 1996).
Global companies face a dilemma in brand decisions across their markets. Global brands bring strong economies of scale and world wide brand recognition. It is a powerful combination. However, the realities of creating and maintaining a global brand image are daunting. What works in one culture does not in another. The danger of adapting too much to local culture is that you may in fact in up with multiple brand images across the globe under the same brand symbol. Coordinating brand communication and image across differing countries while attempting to grow the brand and compete locally is a nearly impossible mix.
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