Global Digital Marketing and Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions

Global digital marketing allows businesses to reach audiences all over the world. Unfortunately, many companies fail to acquire and retain international customers, because they don’t take into consideration the cultural differences of their new audiences.

It is hard to fully understand the culture of your international audience if you have never been exposed to their culture. Fortunately, there is an internationally-recognized standard for understanding cultural differences – Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory.

Let’s check out how Hofstede’s cultural dimensions can be applied to digital marketing.

Global digital marketing

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory

Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory, developed by a Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede, is a framework used for cross-cultural communication. Geert Hofstede identified 5 main dimensions that describe the key differences in national cultures. These dimensions are:

  • Individualism vs Collectivism
  • Power Distance
  • Masculinity vs Femininity
  • Uncertainty Avoidance
  • Long-Term vs Short-Term Orientation

Applying Cultural Dimensions to Digital Marketing

1. Individualism vs Collectivism

Individualism

Individualism is the extent to which people integrate into groups. In individualistic cultures, personal needs, self-expression, and self-actualization are most important. While in collectivistic cultures, the needs of the group come before personal needs.

People in collectivistic cultures belong to larger in-groups and tend to collect information from in-group members.  They are more likely to share product-related information on social media because their online social networks are composed of very like-minded people. When you are targeting collectivistic consumers, your digital marketing strategy should involve hashtags, viral marketing, and influencer marketing.

Individualistic consumers tend to rate and post reviews more often than collectivists. When you are targeting individualistic consumers, you can include customer reviews in your marketing strategy. Online reviews also can help your SEO efforts.

2. Power Distance

Power Distance

Power Distance measures the degree to which members of a society accept and expect an unequal distribution of power. Low power distance cultures value democracy and interpersonal equality, while high power distance countries place great emphasis on status and hierarchy.

Individuals in high power distance cultures are easily impressed by high-status figures and celebrities. Thus, in these cultures, the use of celebrity endorsement on social media is an effective strategy to grab consumers’ attention and gain brand loyalty. 

By contrast, for low power distance cultures, you would minimize power distance by promoting equality and diversity.

3. Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty Avoidance

Cultures with high uncertainty avoidance tend to have a low tolerance for ambiguity and are less open-minded. This means that people are suspicious of new products and brands. 

In these countries, you would include in your content more rational information, evidence, and facts about the product. By contrast, in countries with low uncertainty avoidance, you would put more focus on emotions, fun, and engaging user experiences.

Customers in high uncertainty avoidance cultures tend to search for opinions and recommendations online.  So, in countries with high uncertainty avoidance, it is a good idea to use customer reviews in your marketing.

3. Masculinity vs Femininity

Masculinity

Masculine societies place great emphasis on material success, competition, assertiveness. Feminine societies are more focused on relationships, harmony, and the quality of life.

China scores high on Masculinity. Let’s take the example of a Chinese online shopping platform – Taobao. On Taobao, shoppers can play mini-games to compete for the best deals and earn coins that are used for discounts. This kind of website gamification is appealing to those of high masculinity.

Websites with aesthetic features are more appealing to those of low masculinity. So, when you are localizing your website, you should take into account the masculinity/femininity dimension of your target culture.

5. Short-Term vs Long-Term Orientation

Long term and short term orientation

Short–term oriented cultures are focused on past and present.  Long-term-oriented cultures are more future-oriented.

The main values of long-term-oriented cultures are long-term relationships, long-term goals, and adaptability. Thus, communication at a highly personal level works great for long-term-oriented cultures.  You should invite your customers to online events, host giveaways, offer future benefits, etc. In short, you would focus on building an emotional connection and trust with your customers.

For short-term-oriented cultures, you would emphasize short-term benefits, instant gratification, and offer rapid customer service. For example, you can use references to immediate action in your email marketing.

Summary

  • Individualism/Collectivism cultural dimension influences eWOM. 
  • Power Distance impacts the use of celebrity endorsement on social media.
  • Masculinity/Femininity impacts website design preferences. 
  • Uncertainty Avoidance influences online content preferences. 
  • Short-Term /Long-Term Orientation impacts the customer relationships and the way you should incentivize your online customers. 

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions only show a central tendency in a particular culture. Make sure to do more extensive research into the country’s history, traditions, as well as laws, regulations, etc.

Yes, you need lots of work and research. But, as the famous quote goes, “A HARD BEGINNING MAKES A GOOD ENDING”!

About the Author

Zambaga is an Intern Digital Marketing Analyst at the International Institute of Digital Marketing™. She is a big Digital Marketing Enthusiast who loves to travel around the world. She is certain that exploring new cultures is the best part of traveling.

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