5 Ways Cultural Values Impact Marketing Ethics

Michael Carr 15 Mar 2019
5 Ways Cultural Values Impact Marketing Ethics

Culture is the combination of values, cuisine, beliefs, achievements, traditions, and institutions that a group of people have in common. Culture is something that can be owned by people of the same race or religion, who live in the same geographic region, or any group of people who share the values, beliefs, traditions, etc. listed above.

Companies that want to market effectively always take culture into consideration. They know that in order for their efforts to succeed, they have to understand the people to whom they are marketing. Not only that, but ethics and social responsibility in marketing absolutely require respect and cultural sensitivity.

What Are Cultural Values Examples That Can Impact Marketing Internationally

Here are a few examples that illustrate the question, How does the cultural environment affect international marketing activities.

  • A chain of high-end furniture stores decides to open up a store in Dubai. Their print advertisements, internet ads, and social media posts often feature pictures of attractive young men and women lounging on the furniture drinking champagne and cocktails. This marketing isn’t going to be well-received in a Muslim country.
  • A western fast food company features a ‘cheeky’, irreverent teenager as their mascot. The character plays practical jokes and frequently sets up scenarios where adults are the subject of his pranks. The company now wants to expand into several Asian markets and must find a way to market in a culture where that character would not be seen as funny or endearing.

When businesses seek to sell their products internationally, they must be prepared with the potential marketing ethical issues that come with the territory. Here are ways in which the social and cultural impact of advertising can impact a business’ relationships with potential customers.

  • Failing to Follow Laws or Community Standards Relating to Decency or Respect

Respecting cultural values isn’t always simply a matter of good business and ethical behavior. It can also be a legal issue. China is one market that sets notoriously strict standards for advertising. Both Nike and Dolce And Gabbana have had advertisements banned because Chinese officials deemed them to be culturally offensive.

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Even when a campaign may not be in violation of a legal standard, influential community or religious leaders can still voice their disapproval. This can lead to a harmful backlash.

  • Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation is the use of another, oppressed, culture’s struggles, creations, contributions, property, and experiences without giving the members of that culture due respect, credit, or acknowledgement. It may also involve using elements that are sacred in one culture in ways that are irreverent and disrespectful.

  • Marketing Products or Services That May be Taboo

Not every product or service can or should be openly marketed in every culture. In some places, items that are thought to be indecent or harmful may be banned outright. In other cases, a much more discrete approach to marketing must be used.

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  • Not Understanding The Difference Between Culture And Ethnicity

Sometimes, marketers forget that sharing the same ethnicity is not the same as sharing the same culture. As a result, they use the same techniques, for example, to market to people who happen to be Hispanic. This ignores the fact that there are significant cultural differences between a Hispanic customer group in Spain and one in Puerto Rico. This can lead to one size fits all marketing that is tone deaf, and rarely appeals to any particular group.

In addition to this, even when people do live in the same region, there may be several different cultures to take into consideration. Smart marketing means understanding this and adjusting your approach accordingly.

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Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve gone over some ethics in different cultures examples, the bottom line is this. Companies must ensure that their marketing efforts are respectful and ethical. This can be accomplished by hiring a diverse workforce, and using localization professionals when creating multicultural marketing content.


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