How cultural norms affect persuasion tactics?
People around the world speak different languages. This means that the word “yes” for instance, would be spelled and uttered differently depending on geographical origin. In Spain, it means “si”, “iya nih” in Malaysia, and “uoi” in France. These are just a few of translations a single word can produce.
However, the differences in terms may not have a direct impact on the message being sent. Most of the time the message retains its own identity regardless of the words being used. The more subtle question is how you tailor words to captivate people’s attention.
Thus, the most important thing to consider is not how words would differently mean to different geographical locations, it is about how people would respond to it.
Cultural differences play an important role in how the message would sound like. This is a big challenge for business organizations who have world-wide product distributions.
Uniform persuasion techniques embedded in media advertisements may simply not work for the general audience. This means that, in order to effectively make some impact on consumer behavior, the ads must be designed in such a way that people in different cultural origins can relate to them.
But how cultural orientation affects persuasion tactics?
People in different cultures have a distinct way of responding and considering things. For instance, in collectivist cultures (mostly Asian countries), people are more likely to respond to messages that pertain to the benefits of the whole group.
On the other hand, people in individualist culture (mostly European countries and the USA) put more importance on messages that spark personal interests.
In collectivist cultures, people have a close attachment to one another. Everyone is part of a bigger family unit.
As a result, everyone may not make a decision that does not fit the group’s priority. Because they are so attached to one another, these people tend to consider what others may say about everyone’s act.
People in individualistic cultures, on the other hand, may have more personalized kind of life. They think and act individually. As a result, they do not pay attention to what others may say to their actions. Social attachment is a less likely found in individualistic cultures.
Because people in different cultures differ in social orientations, any persuasion attempt must be different. Thus, persuasion tactics must be designed in such a way that the message become appealing to the selected target.
A study conducted by Sang Pil Han and Sharon Shavitt found something interesting on how people in different cultural norms respond to media ads.
The researchers determined how cultural orientation influences consumers’ cognitive response and buying behavior. And more importantly, the research sought to explore the possible mediating effect of cultural norms on persuasion tactics embedded in ads.
The primary assumption was that the advertisements which directly targeted to a certain group are more effective in collectivist cultures. In the same manner, the researchers predicted that ads that are directed to individual level are more appealing to people in an individualistic culture.
The result suggests that cultural orientation is really shaping consumers’ decision. The ads that were directly targeted to groups are more appealing to people in collectivist cultures. While ads that are designed to target on an individual level are more appealing to people in individualistic cultures.
The application of this findings is huge to industries or individuals who are running a business. This means that in order for an advertisement to be effective, one should consider the cultural origin of the target customers.
Let’s put the principle in action. Suppose that you are an entrepreneur who is running an online business. Of course, you want to tell the whole world that your products exist. You want to run an online ad on one of the social media platforms. But you have one big problem though – your budget is limited. Knowing your limited resource, you want to maximize every penny that you invest. But how?
To maximize your ad campaign, the first thing you need to do is determine who your targets are. This includes understanding the demographics (e.g. age, sex, social status) of your possible customers. And most importantly, determine their geographic location.
The second thing is to determine your customers’ cultural orientation. Are you targeting people who are in collectivist culture? Or, are you targeting those who are in individualist culture?
These questions are vital in designing your ad campaigns. After these questions become clear to you, it’s time to make a catchy tagline for your ads. But remember, your tagline must be patterned on the defined target cultural orientation.
In the study discussed above, the researchers found that Americans (individualist culture) responded positively to taglines such as:
- “The art of being unique”
- “You, only better”
- “With this new look, I’m ready for my new role”
Notice that these taglines generally pertain to individual characteristics.
On the other hand, South Korean (collectivist culture) had a positive response to tagline such as:
- “A more exhilarating way to provide for your family”
- “The dream of prosperity for all of us”
- “Our family agrees with the selection of home-furnishings”
This second group of taglines pertains to the larger group rather than on an individual level.
Because cultural norms may have a mediating effect on persuasion tactics, businesses especially online merchants should consider their targets’ geographic locations. Ad taglines should be tailored accordingly to maximize their persuasive power.
I’m a licensed psychometrician, author, and blogger. I’m currently working as a University instructor teaching psychology. I love writing and doing psychological research.