Global Marketing

Cross Cultural Consumer Behavior

Why analyze consumer behavior?

Consumer behavior analysis can help marketers to develop products and campaigns that appeal to an individual or group of consumers. By understanding the thought process behind consumers’ problem recognition and decision-making, marketers can tailor their products or services to resolve the unmet needs or desires of consumers, leading to strong brand loyalty and increased market share.

Going Global

While we can see the necessity for studying consumer behavior, in the modern marketplace it is essential to extend this practice further and conduct cross-cultural consumer behavior analysis. Due to the vast differences that exist between cultures around the globe, what appeals to one market and drives them to make a purchase may not be relevant in another region. 

The following elements are some of the most important to take into consideration when developing an understanding of cross-cultural consumer behavior:

  • Language: Though spoken language is a given, unspoken language and physical cues play a significant role in a culture’s social interactions. For example, certain gestures and hand signals have been known to hold polite or friendly meanings in one culture, but are considered disrespectful or rude in other cultures. A classic fable of misunderstood language acting as a barrier across cultures was Chevorlet’s supposed launch of the Chevy Nova in predominantly Spanish-speaking countries. Because the name ‘Nova’ appeared to be the Spanish words ‘no’ and ‘va’, translating to ‘no go’, consumers were unenthusiastic about purchasing a car whose name represented underwhelming performance of the vehicle. Therefore, when expanding your business internationally, you should develop an understanding of both spoken and unspoken languages in order to prevent potential failed product launches or advertising campaigns.
  • Values: Values and norms tend to vary drastically from culture to culture, and even within subcultures, making them an essential area of analysis when understanding cross-cultural consumer behavior. Values are also high predictors of what brands and messaging a consumer will identify with when seeking to fulfill his or her unmet needs. To directly compare the complexities of cultural norms in numerous countries, one can utilize Hofstede’s ‘Compare Countries’ tool, which will generate a side-by-side comparison of up to three countries, charting their relative levels of individualism, power distance, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation, and indulgence. 
  • Aesthetics: Though one may assume the design aesthetic of a brand, product, or advertisement could be maintained throughout global expansion, different cultures may have very different aesthetic preferences – even down to the most minute details such as color. For instance, in the United States and Europe, black is considered to be the color of mourning and death, whereas in Japan and many eastern Asian countries, white is the color that holds this symbolic meaning. Therefore, international marketers should maintain careful awareness of the nuances in design aesthetics when entering new cross-cultural markets.