The problems associated with communicating to people in diverse cultures present one of the great creative challenges in advertising one advertising executive puts it bluntly. International advertising is almost uniformly dreadful mostly because people don’t understand language and culture. Communication is more difficult because cultural factors largely determine the way various phenomena are perceived. If the perceptual framework is different perception of the message itself differs.
Knowledge of cultural diversity must encompass the total advertising project. General Mills had two problems with one product. When it introduced instant cake mixes in the United States an England it had the problem of overcoming the homemaker’s guilt feelings. When General Mills introduced instant cake mixes in Japan, the problem changed. Cakes were not commonly eaten in Japan, so there was no guilt feeling but the homemakers was concerned about failing. She wanted the cake mix as complete as possible. In testing TV commercials promoting the notion that making a cake is as easy as making rice, General Mills learned it was offending the Japanese homemaker who believes the preparation of rice requires great skills.
Existing perceptions based on tradition and heritages are often hard to overcome .For example marketing researchers in Hong Kong found that cheese is associated with Yeung-Yen (foreigner) and rejected by some Chinese. The concept of cooling and heating the body is important in Chinese thinking – malted milk is considered heating whereas fresh milk is cooling, brandy is sustaining, and whiskey is harmful. Toyota introduced the Prado SUV in China only to learn that the name sounded like the Chinese word for rule by force. This reminded some Chinese of the 1937 invasion by Japan — not a nice memory at all.
Procter & Gamble’s initial advertisement for Pampers brand diapers failed because of cultural differences between the United States and Japan. A US commercial that showed an animated stork delivering Pampers diapers to homes was dubbed into Japanese with the US package replaced by the Japanese package and was put on the air. To P&G’s dismay the advertisement failed to build the market. Some belated consumer research revealed that consumers were confused about why this bird was delivering disposable diapers. According to Japanese folklore giant peaches that float on the river bring babies to deserving parents not storks.
In addition to concern with differences among nations, advertiser find subcultures within a country require attention as well. People in Hong Kong have 10 different patterns of breakfast eating. The youth of a country almost always constitute a different consuming culture from the older people and urban dwellers differ significantly from rural dwellers. Besides these differences there is problem of changing traditions, In all countries people of all ages urban or rural cling to their heritage to a certain degree but are willing to change some areas of behavior. A few years ago, trying to market coffee in Japan was unthinkable but coffee has become the fashionable drink for younger people and urban dwellers who like to think of themselves as European and sophisticated. Coffee drinking in Japan was introduced with instant coffee, and these are virtually no market for anything else.
Media are discussed at length later, so here we note only that limitations on creative strategy imposed by media may diminish the role of advertising it the promotional program and may force marketers to emphasize other elements of the promotional mix. A marketer’s creativity is certainly challenged when a television commercial is limited to 10 showings year with no two exposures closer than 10 days as is the case in Italy. Creative advertisers in some countries have even developed their own media for overcoming media limitations. In some African countries advertisers run boats up and down the rivers playing popular music and broadcasting commercials into rural areas as they travel.