Planned and Unplanned Cultural change

The first step in bringing about planned change in society is to determine which cultural factors conflict with an innovation, thus creating resistance to its acceptance. The next step is an effort to change those factors from obstacles to acceptance in the stimulants for change. The same deliberate approach used by the social planner to gain acceptance for hybrid grains, better sanitation methods, improved farming techniques, or protein rich diets among the peoples of under developed societies can be adopted by marketers to achieve marketing goals.

Marketers have two options when introducing an innovation to a culture: They can wait, or they can cause change. The former requires hopeful waiting for eventual cultural changes that prove their innovations of value to the culture; the latter involves introducing an idea or product and deliberately setting about to overcome resistance and to cause change that accelerates the rate of acceptance. The folks at Fidelity Investments in Japan for example, pitched a tent in front of Tokyo’s Shinjuku train station and showered commuters with investment brochures and demonstrations of its Japanese language WebXpress online stock services to cause faster changes in Japanese investor behavior. However, as mentioned earlier, the changes have not happened fast enough for most foreign firms targeting this business.

Obviously not all marketing efforts require change in order to be accepted. In fact, much successful and highly competitive marketing accomplished by a strategy of cultural congruence. Essentially this involves marketing products similar to ones already on the market in a manner as congruent as possible with existing cultural norms, thereby minimizing resistance. However, when marketing programs depend in cultural change to be successful a company may decide to lave acceptance to a strategy of unplanned change – that is introduce a product and hope for the best. Or a company may employ a strategy of planned change that is, deliberately set out to change those aspects of the culture offering resistance to predetermined marketing goals.

As an example of unplanned cultural change, consider how the Japanese diet has changed since the introduction of milk and bread soon after World War II. Most Japanese who were predominantly fish eaters, have increased their intake animal fat and protein to the point that fat and protein now exceed vegetables intake. As many McDonald’s hamburgers are likely to be eaten in Japan as the traditional rice ball wrapped in edible seaweed, and American hamburgers are replacing many traditional Japanese foods. Burger King purchased Japan’s homegrown Morinaga Love restaurant chain, home of the salmon burger – a patty of salmon meat, a slice of cheese and a layer of dried seaweed, spread with mayonnaise and stuck between two cakes of sticky Japanese rice pressed into the shape of a bun – an eggplant burger, and other treats. The chain was converted and sells Whoppers instead of the salmon rice burgers.

The Westernized diet has caused many Japanese to become over weight. To counter this, the Japanese are buying low calorie, low fat foods to help shed excess weight and are flocking to health clubs. All this began when US occupation forces introduced bread, milk and steak to Japanese culture. The effect on the Japanese was unintentional but nevertheless change occurred. Had the intent been to introduce a new diet – that is, a strategy of planned change – specific steps could have been taken to identify resistance to dietary change and then to overcome these resistances, thus accelerating he process of change.

Marketing strategy is judged culturally in terms of acceptance resistance or rejection. How marketing efforts interact with a culture determines the degree of success or failure, but even failures lave their imprint on a culture. All too often marketers are not aware of the scope of the impact on a host culture. If a strategy of planned change is implemented, the marketer has responsibility to determine the consequences of such action.