Culture is the human-made part of the human environment – the sum total of mankind’s knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, laws, customs and other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as members of society. It is the distinctive way of life of a group of people. their complete design for living – a mosaic of life.
(Source: P R Cateora, Strategic International Marketing)

Humans essentially create their own cultural and social environment. Customs, practices and traditions for survival and development are passed down from one generation to the next. In this way, the members of a particular society become conditioned to accept certain “truths” about life around them. The increasingly competitive international business environment calls upon exporters to tailor or adapt their business approach to the culture and traditions of specific foreign markets. The inability or unwillingness to do so could become a serious obstacle to success.

The task of adjusting to a new cultural environment is probably one of the biggest challenges of export marketing. Export marketing attempts are frequently unsuccessful because the marketer – either consciously or unconsciously – makes decisions or evaluations from a frame of reference that is acceptable to his/her own culture but unacceptable in a foreign environment. Therefore, business practices which are successful in one group of countries may be entirely inappropriate in another group of countries. For example, the Marlboro Company took its famous lone cowboy advertisement to Hong Kong in the early 1960’s.However, the image of the cowboy riding off in the distance by himself led the Chinese to wonder what he had done wrong.

In the context of the socio-cultural environment, there are a number of factors that you will need to consider. These are:

  • Language
  • Material culture
  • Aesthetics
  • Social organisation
  • Religious beliefs, attitudes, values, space and time