Digitalization turned the way we search for information and consume content upside down. In the world of marketing (and business in general), the digital landscape opened doors to broader horizons and new audiences, with ambitious possibilities of digital campaigns reaching people worldwide. Going global with a brand is no longer bound to the limitations of a geographical location. In this new digital world, the lines between areas, regions, countries, and even continents are arbitrary, mainly since the emergence and overwhelming success of social media.
The global nature of social media platforms should make us address cultural factors along with the psychographic and demographic characteristics of the target audience when crafting our brand’s content strategy. Consider a simple color meaning example: in most western cultures, white symbolizes purity, peace, cleanliness, elegance. But in China, Korea, and some other Asian cultures, white represents mourning, death, and bad luck. Therefore, a brand’s social presence (and imagery) would need to, at the very least, reflect these cultural peculiarities when targeting core audiences in various countries.
But let’s look at the underlying mechanisms of cultural distinctions and how we, as marketers, can adjust our social media and content strategy accordingly. In the late ’80s, the popular notion of homogenization declared that “people acquire corresponding values and norms through the consumption of similar goods.” However, a vast body of research conducted has since refuted this assumption and paved the way to the “high-low context” model (which I will explain below) popularized by the anthropologist Edward Hall. His proposed framework described the differences between the way people communicate in various societies and the importance of situational context based on a cultural bedrock.
What does it mean for the brand’s positioning and its social media strategy?
For one, the nuanced communication style between a brand and its audience can certainly influence how the brand is perceived. Secondly, suppose we ignore vital, meaningful cultural peculiarities. In that case, we run a risk of developing, for instance, the most engaging social media campaign for US audiences that will fall on deaf ears in China or other Asian countries. At the very least, incorporating some aspects of Hall’s work can help drive strategic marketing decisions when taking a brand to a global arena.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the meaning of low and high context countries and cultures. Typically, in high-context cultures, communication is more implicit and indirect, emphasizing the emotional component. For instance, the tone of the message and its underlying meaning is more important than the words themselves. Animation, engaging and entertaining videos, and impressive visuals are preferable, as our aim here is to create exciting, interesting, and stimulating content. High context cultures also place greater importance on interpersonal relationships; thus, communication via social channels should also be emotionally oriented (vs. focusing only on problem-solving, for example)
On the other hand, low context cultures expect the message to be stated explicitly and be free of possible ambiguities. The priority placed on informative content and straightforward communication in countries with low context cultures drives content creation strategy. Videos should be more narrative and informative, like including text to accompany photos that explain, educate, and help. Armed with understanding these distinct characteristics, we can also define our brand-consumer communication style, focusing on being direct, purposeful, solution-driven, and valuable.
Of course, it is not all black and white. Many countries and cultures fall on a continuum from being very low to high context. However, the suggestions described above propose a general framework for further investigation and subsequent implementation. In a global market arena, these efforts are truly worthwhile because knowing your audience and their cultural standing will help to ensure that your message will never get lost.
Chatzopoulou, M. (2020, July 05). How Cultural Differences Affect your Content Marketing Strategy. Retrieved November 02, 2020, from https://mastertcloc.unistra.fr/2018/11/26/how-cultural-differences-affect-your-content-marketing-strategy/
Communicating across cultures – THNK School of Creative Leadership. (n.d.). Retrieved November 02, 2020, from https://www.thnk.org/insights/communicating-across-cultures/
Shofner, K. (n.d.). Communicating in High Context vs. Low Context Cultures. Retrieved November 02, 2020, from https://www.unitedlanguagegroup.com/blog/communicating-high-context-vs-low-context-cultures
Social Media Marketing in the Cultural Context. (2020, September 30). Retrieved November 02, 2020, from https://www.majorel.com/future-customer/science-and-research/social-media-marketing-in-the-cultural-context/