How culture impacts content marketing strategy

  • 9.11.2023
  • Written by Vladyslava Rykova
  • Category: Marketing

Introduction: cultural context in content marketing

In today’s world, where globalization has led to increasingly interconnected markets, cultural awareness of the target audience has become a key success factor for brands. Content marketing, which has long been recognized as one of the most effective online promotion strategies, is no exception. Its effectiveness can be greatly enhanced or weakened depending on how much it takes into account the cultural differences of its audience.

Consumers in different countries and cultural environments have their own specific values, beliefs, customs and expectations that shape their perception of content. Therefore, a content marketing strategy that takes these features into account can be much more effective than one that ignores them.

In this article, we’ll look at how cultural differences impact your content marketing strategy and give tips on how to take these differences into account when planning and executing your campaigns.

How culture impacts content marketing strategy

Basic components of cultural characteristics

Culture is a set of ideas, habits, values, norms and traditions that shape the behavior and worldview of a particular community. It plays a key role in shaping consumer perceptions, reactions and expectations. The main components of cultural traits include values, beliefs, symbols and signs.

Values and Beliefs

Values and beliefs are the fundamental ideas and thoughts that define what people consider important, right, or desirable in their lives. In content marketing, it is important to understand the values and beliefs of your target audience in order to create content that resonates with them.

Example: in Ukrainian culture, family values are of great importance. If your content emphasizes the importance of family, it can generate more trust and empathy among the Ukrainian audience.

Symbols and signs

Symbols and signs are objects, images, words, or actions that represent specific ideas or concepts. In content marketing, symbols and signs can be used to create an immediate connection with an audience, as well as convey complex ideas through simple means.

Example: The Trident is the national symbol of Ukraine, reflecting its sovereignty and dignity. Its use in content can evoke a feeling of patriotism and unity among the Ukrainian audience.

Adapting content to different cultural groups

Adapting content to the specifics of different cultural groups is key in a globalized world. This allows brands to connect with audiences on a deep emotional level, given their cultural context.

Example 1: A Japanese company is advertising a new smartphone. In Western countries, they focus on the user’s characteristics and opportunities to express himself thanks to this gadget. But for Japan, the emphasis is shifting to how the smartphone will help the user stay connected with family and friends, emphasizing the importance of harmony in social relationships.

Case: An international clothing brand, when advertising its new collection in Saudi Arabia, adapted its advertising campaign, instead of blatantly showing clothes on models, focusing on the quality of the fabric and the elegance of the design. This adaptation allowed the company to achieve positive perception among local audiences, taking into account their cultural and religious background.

Example 2: An American beverage brand launches a product in India. Instead of traditional Western images of parties and relaxation, the ad shows a family picnic in nature, where the main emphasis is on bringing the family together.

Case: When McDonald’s entered the Indian market, they didn’t just deliver their standard menu. Taking into account the religious and cultural characteristics of the country, where many do not eat beef, a special product was launched – the Maharajah Mac burger, based on chicken. This menu adaptation has helped the company win over Indian consumers.

Language nuances and their role in content marketing

Language is not just a means of communication, it is the key to the cultural environment and worldview of people. Linguistic nuances can influence how information is perceived, which is why they play a critical role in content marketing. The right approach to language can ensure successful communication, while mistakes can cause misunderstandings or even resentment.

Case 1: Pepsi once launched an advertising campaign with the slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation,” which when translated into Chinese came out as “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” your ancestors from the grave). This translation error led to misunderstandings and negative brand perception.

Case 2: the Swedish furniture company IKEA, when entering the market of English-speaking countries, faced a problem: some of the names of their products had an ambiguous or even vulgar meaning in English. This required a revision of the product range and adaptation of the naming to the new market.

Case 3: The Ford car brand launched a car model called Pinto in the Brazilian market in the 1970s. However, in Portuguese, “pinto” can mean “small male organ”, which led to a number of jokes and ridicule of the model. Subsequently, Ford was forced to change the model name for the Brazilian market.

These examples highlight the importance of paying attention to linguistic nuances and cultural context when creating content for different markets.

How culture impacts content marketing strategy

How religious and ethnic backgrounds influence content

Religious and ethnic characteristics often form the basis of an individual’s and society’s identity. They can determine values, behavior, traditions and worldviews. In content marketing, it is important to consider these aspects in order to create content that resonates with your target audience without causing conflict or misunderstanding.

Case 1: A food company advertised a new sausage in Muslim countries without indicating that the product was pork-free. This has led to dissatisfaction among consumers adhering to galal standards. After clarification, the company apologized and changed the advertising campaign, focusing on the absence of pork in the product.

Case 2: During the Chinese New Year celebration, many brands create thematic content reflecting the traditions and symbols of this holiday. However, one of the brands released an advertisement where the dragon, a traditional symbol of the holiday, was depicted as a threatening creature. This caused a backlash as dragons are traditionally seen as positive symbols in Chinese culture.

Case 3: An American clothing brand released a collection with prints reminiscent of traditional patterns of indigenous peoples of America. This caused outrage among representatives of these peoples, who considered such a move to be cultural appropriation. As a result, the brand was forced to apologize and withdraw from sale.

These cases highlight the importance of a deep understanding of the religious and ethnic backgrounds of the audience. Failure to consider these aspects can not only deprive a brand of the opportunity to establish itself in a positive light, but also lead to loss of reputation.

How culture impacts content marketing strategy

Visual content and cultural codes

Visual content often plays a key role in the perception of a brand and its messages. Colors, images, symbols and other elements of visual communication can have different meanings in different cultures, so it is important to know and understand the codes of the target audience.

Example 1: color symbolism

In Western cultures, black is often associated with mourning, while in Asian countries, such as China, the color of mourning is white. When creating advertising materials or packaging design, it is important to take such differences into account so as not to evoke unwanted associations among consumers.

Example 2: symbols and gestures

The “okay” gesture, made with the thumb and forefinger, is a positive sign in many countries, but in some regions, such as Brazil or Turkey, it can be considered offensive. When using such symbols in visual content, it is important to know their meaning to the local culture.

Example 3: cultural archetypes

The portrayal of women in Eastern cultures may have a different context than in Western ones. For example, a perfume advertisement for the European market may portray a woman as bold and independent, whereas in the Middle East such a portrayal may be perceived as explicit or even unethical.

These examples highlight the importance of tailoring visual content to the cultural background of the target audience. Taking into account cultural codes will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure effective communication with the audience.

How culture impacts content marketing strategy

Successful and unsuccessful content adaptation strategies

Adapting content to different cultural contexts is a big challenge for brands wanting to penetrate the international market. Some companies have successfully overcome this challenge, others have failed to adapt properly. Let’s look at some examples of successful and unsuccessful content adaptation strategies.

Successful Strategies

McDonald’s. The well-known global fast food brand successfully adapts its menu and advertising campaigns to different cultural contexts. For example, in India, where the majority of the population is vegetarian, McDonald’s offers a special vegetarian menu.

Nestlé. In the 1970s, Nestlé adapted the recipe for its Nescafé coffee to suit the taste buds of the Japanese. The company also launched an advertising campaign that emphasized the fact that drinking coffee is fashionable. As a result, Nescafé became very popular in Japan.

Failed Strategies

Chevrolet Nova. When Chevrolet launched its Nova in Spanish-speaking countries, it didn’t realize that “no va” means “doesn’t run” in Spanish. This has become a serious obstacle to car sales in these regions.

Dolce&Gabbana. In 2018, the fashion brand published a commercial for the Chinese market, where a Chinese model tried to eat Italian dishes with chopsticks. The video was perceived as a mockery of Chinese culture, which led to massive boycotts of Dolce&Gabbana products in China.

These examples show that adapting content to the local cultural context requires not only translation, but also a deep understanding of the cultural, social and historical characteristics of each country.

Instead of output

Adapting content to different cultural contexts is an integral part of modern marketing, especially for brands seeking a global presence. Taking into account cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic characteristics can be a decisive factor in the success or failure of advertising campaigns. Only a comprehensive approach and deep understanding of the target audience will allow you to create content that will be effective and relevant in any market.

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Vladyslava Rykova

Expert in legal marketing. Head of marketing agency MAVR.

Business degree “Master of Business Administration” (MBA).

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