1. Communication and Culture 1)
“Culture is a fuzzy set of attitudes, beliefs, behavioural norms and basic assumptions and values that are shared by a group of people, and that influence each member’s behaviour and his/her interpretations of the meaning of other people’s behaviour” (Spencer-Oatey, 2000). The concept of “culture” and business has been extensively researched (Hall, 1983; Hofstede, 1980; 1983; 1991; 1998), both how it affects interpersonal communication, as well as in more general terms: such as culture influences business practices, consumer choice and behaviour ( Hofstede, 1991; 1998; Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 1993, 1997 ).
Two models have been extensively used in the business world: Hofstede’s 5 Dimensions (1980; 1983, 1991) and Hall’s perception of time and high-context/low-context models (1983; 1989).
A number of other, sometimes more detailed, models are available (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987; Fiske, 1991; Schwarz, 1994). These models clarify and support Hall’s and Hofstede’s dimensions, and can mostly be related back to the Hofstede dimensions (Smith and Bond, 1998).
Hofstede (1991), differentiates between five cultural dimensions:
Individualist cultures typically emphasise the goals of the individual, individual initiative and achievement, more dominantly than collectivist societies, which are more concerned with collective goals and the group as a whole. In business, individualist societies rely more heavily on facts and figures to determine the optimum outcome, whereas collectivist societies put a greater emphasis on personal relationships and group harmony. This Hofstede dimensions is largely seen as connected with Hall’s High-context/Low-context dimension.
Masculine cultures typically favour assertive, competitive and tough attitudes, whereas feminine cultures are expected to emphasise caring and tender attitudes. Typically, masculine societies offer higher rewards and favour a challenging and competitive environment, whereas in feminine societies the emphasis is more on good relationships and co-operation.
The degree of risk aversion in a society is central to this dimension. Countries that score low in uncertainty avoidance typically favour taking risks, trying new ways and using novel approaches. Societies that score high however tend to put greater emphasis on the “tried and tested” methods, are unlikely to take on high risks and are generally considered to be averse to ambiguity.
This dimension is concerned with the respect for authority, hierarchy and status. The respect for authority and status are typically more dominant in high power distance countries than low power distance countries, where decisions from the top can (and should) usually be questioned and are typically based on reasoning and factual information. In extremely high power distance countries, the respect for authority figures, such as teachers, superior managers and parents, is generally so high, that their decisions are not questionable and have to be obeyed, regardless of whether or not these decisions make any sense to the recipient.
This dimension is typically concerned with the time frame in which the individual operates. Short-term-orientation is primarily concerned with the present and immediate future, such as favouring immediate benefits over long term gain. The emphasis in long-term-oriented cultures is more clearly on the continuity of the past to the future, such as the adaptation of traditions to modern life, and the perseverance towards slow gains.
This dimension described by Hall and Hall (1989) is mainly concerned with the perception of time: Time is either perceived as linear and a hard guideline (monochronic), and it is only possible to handle one thing at a time, which requires full attention. In polychronic cultures time is seen as soft guideline, allowing for great flexibility and tasks are handled as they occur, often resulting in several tasks being handled at the same time.
2. Advertising and Culture
With the increase in international marketing research in recent years, an increasing number of scholars have shown interest in cross-cultural advertising research. In survey, Saminee and Jeong (1994), reported on a total of 24 cross-cultural studies in advertising for the period of 1980 to 1992. In their survey, the overwhelming majority of studies (21 out of 24) studied advertising in the US compared to at least another nation, whereas the second most studied country was Japan, with only 7 studies. The UK was included in 4 studies, Germany in 2 and the Netherlands in no study.
This section focuses on the most cited studies, and reviews them in some detail. However, there are a large number of other studies in existence that study certain aspects of advertising, or repeat other studies in different settings. For obvious reasons, those studies have not been discussed in this part. The main studies included here have been selected to represent and visualise the variety of studies that are available, but certainly, the list is not exhaustive.
Few studies examined countries because they were perceived as culturally similar (e.g. Mueller and Caillat, 1996). The majority selected the countries because they were culturally dissimilar (e.g. Katz and Lee, 1992; Culter and Javalgi, 1992; Cheng and Schweitzer, 1996).
Most of the studies published have paired two or more countries and examined the differences. The majority of the studies used either two or three countries, and only a few have extended their studies beyond this number (e.g. Zandpour, Campos and Catalano, 1994; Albers-Miller, 1996; Albers-Miller and Gelb, 1996). Some of these studies used research questions and resulting hypothesis loosely based cross-cultural theories, such as Hall (e.g. Biswass, Olsen and Carlet, 1992; Cheng and Schweitzer, 1996) in combination with economic and other data, or strictly based on cross-cultural theories, such as Hofstede (Albers-Miller and Gelb, 1996). Other studies have used country specific information, such as predominantly economic information (e.g. Tansey, Hyman and Zinkhan, 1990; Culter and Javalgi, 1992; Mueller and Caillat, 1996; Tse, Belk and Zhou, 1989; Wiles, Wiles and Tjernlund, 1996). A large number of the studies looked at advertising in general, without a directed research question, however, some studies were particularly interested in a limited number of societal phenomena, such as gender roles and work ethics (e.g. Gilly, 1988; Tansey, Hyman, Zinkhan and Chowdhury, 1997).
Resulting from this, current research can be broadly classified in three categories:
Research of this type usually focuses on a certain aspect of society as portrayed in advertising. Research in this category typically tries to contrast culturally inspired norms such as gender roles between different countries. (e.g. Gilly, 1988; Tansey, Hyman, Zinkhan and Chowdhury, 1997).
Studies in this category rely on a set of historic and general society values to explain perceived differences in advertising in two or more countries (e.g. Mueller and Caillat, 1996; Wiles, Wiles and Tjernlund, 1996).
This type of research aims to provide a somewhat deeper explanation of observed differences in advertising by linking appeals and observations to cultural dimensions, and hence trying to be able to forecast value and appeal differences in various countries (e.g. Albers-Miller and Gelb, 1996).
Prof. C.J.M. Beniers
About Professor C.J.M. Beniers
Prof. C.J.M. Beniers is a well known authority in the field of modern and international communication techniques. He developed the Six-Component-Model. This model enables companies, institutions and politicians to communicate and negotiate with counterparts from all over the world successfully. His career began as international manager at Philips and later he earned his doctorate as professor in communication. He has more than 35 years experience as manager and management trainer. Thus he knows both sides – theory and praxis – very well. As scientist, Prof. Beniers conducts frequently research in the field of intercultural communication. The results of his interesting research can be found in news articles, free pod casts, audio books and his E-books such as “Bridging The Cultural Gap.” Here, modern managers learn how to prepare for business meetings with people from different cultures; they acquire the techniques and tools to handle situations in times of crises successfully, master intercultural barriers, country-specific communication patterns, looking into personal cultural values & systems. Knowing all this, men can prevent cultural misunderstandings and misinterpretations – not only in business but also in private life.
Prof. C.J.M. Beniers
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