3.0 Introduction

Learning Objectives

After reading this section, students should be able to:

  1. Discuss the role of external environmental factors that shape the global marketing environment.
  2. List the various elements in a firm’s cultural environment.
  3. Outline the importance of culture on markets.
  4. Define culture
  5. Identify different kinds of culture.
  6. Define and apply Hofstede’s and Hall’s categories for cultural identification.
  7. Identify and discuss additional determinants of culture.

Most people hear about culture and business and immediately think about protocol—a list of dos and don’ts by country. For example, don’t show the sole of your foot in Saudi Arabia; know how to bow in Japan. While these practices are certainly useful to know, they are just the tip of the iceberg. We often underestimate how critical local culture, values, and customs can be in the business environment. We assume, usually incorrectly, that business is the same everywhere. Culture does matter, and more and more people are realizing its impact on their business interactions.

Culture, in the broadest sense, refers to how and why we think and function. It encompasses all sorts of things—how we eat, play, dress, work, think, interact, and communicate. Everything we do, in essence, has been shaped by the cultures in which we are raised. Similarly, a person in another country is also shaped by his or her cultural influences. These cultural influences impact how we think and communicate.

Culture, a society’s “programming of the mind,” has both a pervasive and changing influence on each national market environment. Global marketers must recognize the influence of culture and be prepared to either respond to it or change it. Human behaviour is a function of a person’s own unique personality and that person’s interaction with the collective forces of the particular society and culture in which he or she has lived. In particular, attitudes, values, and beliefs can vary significantly from country to country.

Also, differences pertaining to religion, aesthetics, dietary customs, and language and communication can affect local reaction to brands or products as well as the ability of company personnel to function effectively in different cultures. A number of concepts and theoretical frameworks provide insights into these and other cultural issues.

Cultures can be classified as high- or low-context; communication and negotiation styles can differ from country to country. Hofstede’s social value typology sheds light on national cultures in terms of power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, and long-versus short-term orientation. By understanding the self-reference criterion, global marketers can overcome the unconscious tendency for perceptual blockage and distortion.

Case Study: Tim Hortons

tim hortons cup of coffee
Image by Victorcampuslat, CC BY-SA 4.0

An example of a Canadian company culturally adapting to the expansion of its business into other countries is that of Tim Hortons. If you’re Canadian, you’ve been to a Tim Hortons. It’s a staple for any coffee or donut-loving Canadian, but the business now also operates in 15 different countries, which means that people from many different cultures can experience this Canadian business in their own country. With expansions to different countries, comes offering items exclusively culturally suited for the countries in which they operate. One culturally adapted Tim Hortons food item that is exclusive to their own country’s menu includes a Chicken Tikka Croissant Sandwich offered in India. This menu item is a mix of culturally adapting a food item popular in its country (Tikka) and keeping its brand identity with the inclusion of a croissant (an item offered in Canadian Tim Hortons’).

Jack Taron, March 2023

Core Principles of International Marketing – Chapter 3 by Babu John Mariadoss is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.



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Global Marketing In a Digital World Copyright © 2022 by Lina Manuel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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