Communications, whether face to face, screen to screen or advertiser to consumer, work best when people feel they are interacting with someone who understands them; someone who acts like 'one of us'. Irrespective of size, age or location, many agencies too often forget this and continue to churn out bland campaigns that claim to be 'global', when in fact they are just rehashed translations.
At Amsterdam Worldwide, all our communications aim to convince audiences, irrespective of language, region or culture, that they have been produced specifically for them. This helps us achieve local impact
with true global reach
. One of the tools, we use to ensure local relevance, is Culture Mapping
. It's a tool which enables us to understand cultural differences to make international communications and brands more effective.
Culture Mapping's roots lie in social psychology. While working for IBM in the late 1960s, Dutch academic, Geert Hofstede
, conducted a study of employees across 60 of the company's offices to determine attitudes towards work practices and social values. The resulting data helped create a value-based model now adopted as a way of mapping how susceptible people from different nations are to various 'dimensions of culture
These 'dimensions' are defined as: Power Distance
and Uncertainty Avoidance
. Applied to modern communications, they can tell us a great deal about how different nationalities function psychologically. For example, Americans
exhibit a higher level of individualism or 'me' orientated opinions than their Chinese
counterparts. Likewise, Japanese
people are noted for high levels of uncertainty avoidance and are more 'masculine', reflecting a more materialistic yet cautious mindset. The British
score low in power distance - meaning nationals from these countries value equality.
Awareness is a prelude to application and so Culture Mapping
becomes most useful to marketers when two of these dimensions are cross-referenced, as it can help identify buying motives, status needs, communication styles and the level of information needed to make the most effective impact across a broad range of different cultures.
Let's consider two key 'dimensions': Masculinity-Femininity
, against European automotive campaigns - such as our recent pan-European work for the Opel Meriva
. Culture Mapping shows that the more 'Masculine' cultures of western and southern Europe such as Germany, Austria, Italy and Greece place a high value on performance and speed. In terms of Individualism-Collectivism, Culture Mapping reveals a clear difference between more individualistic northern European cultures compared to the collectivist southern and eastern countries. People in collectivist
cultures place a higher value on family, sharing with others, conformity to the norms of their group, and a preference for more visually driven communications.
For more 'Masculine'
countries we provided more design focused imagery and detail on engine specifications, top speed and safety credentials. The articulation of the campaign - 'Embrace Life' - centred on the safety zone created by car's portal doors. In more 'Feminine'
, family driven cultures, we focused less on the car itself, but rather on the emotive family benefits the vehicle provides. This meant the intended take-out of 'Embrace Life', was as much about family and togetherness as it was safety. Specifications placed greater emphasis on storage capacity, quality and the overall utility it provides families.
In targeting collectivist, multi-generational cultures such as Italy, we featured groups of people, young and old, in order to trigger positive associations with the kind of relationships that potential buyers value. We also focused on key, emotive visuals that convey harmony, sharing and togetherness.
Culture Mapping also informs decisions about the use of media channels and placement. For example, to tap into the mindset of collectivist cultures our media strategy/recommendation, weighted outdoor elements in and around airports and other travel hubs.
Brands looking to make their marketing truly international are already acutely aware of the vast onslaught of digital platforms revolutionising the way people experience and interface with them. However, the fact remains that in the battle for attracting people, relevance; appropriateness and resonance still play a huge role in all parts of the World.
Whether used to inform a car company's brand strategy, the design of its showrooms, or the development of an international communications campaign, Culture Mapping has a range of practical applications that are geared towards enhancing a brand's effectiveness and audience engagement. As new economies emerge and become more upwardly mobile, established consumer brands are realising the opportunity these markets present. That's why it's so important for marketers to understand how they operate, and learn to communicate in a way these people both recognise and appreciate.Brian Elliott is CEO and Founder Amsterdam Worldwide