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Cultural Mapping For Relevant Global Brand Work

A planning tool with roots in social psychology can help brands increase their local relevance across international markets.

Paloma M. Vazquez
Paloma M. Vazquez on September 9, 2010. @pmvazquez

A recent piece at Contagious discussed Culture Mapping as a planning tool utilized by Amsterdam Worldwide in working with Global brands. Culture Mapping is a device that has enabled the agency to understand cultural differences in order to ultimately make international communications more effective for the brands it works with, by convincing audiences – irrespective of language or culture – that the brand’s communications is speaking specifically to them.

With roots in social psychology, Cultural Mapping references academic work and research from the late 60′s,  which informed a value-based model now adopted as a way of mapping how susceptible people from different nations are to various ‘dimensions of culture‘. These are defined as;

  • Power Distance: The level of equality vs. power veered toward; for instance, the British, German and Swedish score low in power distance, valuing greater equality.
  • Individualism: Americans, for example, demonstrate a higher level of individualism than their Chinese, Brazilian and Russian counterparts, whom value the collective good. On the other hand, people in collectivist cultures place a higher value on family, sharing with others, and conformity to the norms of their group.
  • Masculinity/Femininity: Some characteristics that describe high masculinity include a more materialistic, yet cautious mindset, or valuing performance and speed. High femininity emotive family benefits the vehicle provides.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance: Comfort with risk, vs. avoidance of uncertainty. The Japanese are noted for high levels of uncertainty avoidance.

Culture Mapping can be applied across multiple brand communications decisions: from media mix and placement, to digital media specifically (how different cultures experience and interface with it), and from brand and communications strategy, to store, print and site design executions across countries.

With global economies emerging and changing, and consumers across nations changing how they respectively communicate and consume media, it is imperative for global brands to consider evolving cultural differences in their long-term business strategy, marketing and communications strategy. After all, one way to better compete in the global landscape is by being more relevant than your competitors – particularly when local and regional brands may already possess that knowledge.

Amsterdam Worldwide

Contagious Magazine: “Advertising at the Crossroads of Culture”

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