Cultural Barriers in Marketing Activities

The most significant challenges many enterprises encounter when attempting to enter the Japanese market are generally related to cultural clashes and barriers. People can experience many difficulties when they find themselves immersed in cultures that are very different to those they grew up in or are unfamiliar with. Culture shock can be particularly prevalent when westerners visit Japan because the Japanese culture is extremely different to that of western nations.

Having participated in multiple projects on cross-functional and multicultural teams, I have developed a keen awareness of how cultural differences can affect team dynamics. While at European companies, I was responsible for managing projects between the headquarters in Europe and the Tokyo office. The headquarters often tried to execute the same marketing campaigns in Asia as those they had implemented successfully in Europe. However, these marketing campaigns tended to be ineffective in Asia because they were designed for European demographics. Although I tried my best to act as a point of liaison between the two sides, I often struggled to explain each party’s rationale to the other, and was torn between conflicting demands.

Even when we sell the same products in both European and Asian countries, the chief marketing messages associated with the products often need to be fundamentally different. When working at an education company, I managed marketing activities for the language abroad program. I was particularly struck by how students’ motivations differed according to where they were raised. Specifically, while European students study abroad to explore new cultures or learn about cultural differences between countries, Asian students tend to study overseas to acquire English language skills. While European students already have sufficient English language skills and don’t necessarily feel the need to study English, Asian students don’t have such a high level of English language skills and need to improve their language capabilities. Thus, although the company sold the same products to both European and Asian customers, its selling points were completely different depending on the country in which it was promoting its offerings.

Cultural differences can be marked even among Asian countries. When working at a gaming company based in Tokyo, I was a member of a marketing division that dealt with marketing strategies for different countries. What interested me the most was that, while Japanese people are quite familiar with video games because they are typically introduced to them during their childhood, Chinese people lack this level of familiarity. Thus, we had to tailor the marketing message to the Japanese and Chinese communities by taking the respective cultural backgrounds into consideration. These cultural experiences are significant. In addition, even when dealing with countries in which there are some similarities between cultures, we still have to consider the unique elements of the native experts in each market.

Depending on the country, people from different areas of the world exhibit different values and follow different customs and traditions. Thus, when entering into a foreign market, it is imperative that organizations develop an understanding of the cultural background of the target market.

At Digital Havas, we offer digital marketing services that focus specifically on the Japanese market. All of our staff members are experienced native Japanese speakers. As such, we can provide suitable marketing campaigns for various industries and products. We will help you enter the Japanese market and provide solid and practical advice at each phase of the process.

Please feel free to get in touch with us to learn about the latest trends in digital marketing for the Japanese market!