Culture and Why it Matters to Your Business

In 2003, an Xbox game received an extremely vocal and negative reaction due to religious content deemed offensive. Kakuto Chojin: Back Alley Brutal, developed by Dream Publishing and published by Microsoft Game Studios in 2002, contained verses from the Qur’an being chanted in the background. Since the majority of Muslims believe the Qur’an should be handled with the utmost respect as it is the literal word of God, there was considerable outrage among many groups for the perceived lack of deference afforded to the Qur’an in the Xbox game. As a result, the game was recalled and the companies involved alienated many potential customers and experienced a loss of sales.

If Dream Publishing and Microsoft Game Studios had taken the time to conduct the necessary research and if they had understood the importance of culture when selling a product or service in foreign markets, this situation could have been avoided. They would have realized the importance of Islam to many people throughout the Middle East and they would have been able to tailor the game when selling to that particular market.

What is Culture?

Culture is comprised of many different elements that have been passed down for generations, including knowledge, belief systems, experiences, values, attitudes, religion, art, ideas, laws, morals, customs and ways of perceiving the world. Some aspects of culture are visible, such as the way people dress or the food that they eat, while other elements of culture are invisible, such as the importance of religion, beliefs surrounding the role of family in a society, or the way people think and feel about certain issues. While the visible aspects of culture are often easy to spot, it usually takes much more time and effort to understand and appreciate the importance of the invisible. However, it is usually the invisible elements of culture that have the most impact on the way people view the world, and as a result, how they view your marketing strategies and whether or not they accept or reject your product or service.

How Much Does Culture Really Affect my Business?

Author of “Blunders in International Business,” David A. Ricks said it best: “The failure to understand cultural differences can bear serious consequences.”

Understanding the importance of culture and respecting the role it plays in the lives of potential customers in foreign markets is vital and could mean the difference between the success or failure of your overseas ventures. Forget or trivialize this important ingredient, and your marketing campaign or website runs the risk of failing to attract potential buyers at best, or at worst, alienating or offending millions of people and experiencing a huge loss of sales.

“Culture and Why it Matters to Your Business,” the new White Paper published by wintranslation, explains why understanding the importance of culture is vital to the financial success of your company and shows how culture should impact the decisions you make, your interactions with customers, your advertising strategies, and your website localization. After reading this White Paper, you will understand how culture affects your bottom line in three important ways through its impact on your company’s:

  • Business relationships with overseas clients, customers, employees, and partners.
  • Website localization and web content.
  • Public relations, marketing, and advertising strategies.

If you want to sell to foreign markets, you have to speak your customers’ language. Localize your website. Do not only translate your website: pay attention to cultural differences and customs.

Companies that do not understand and appreciate cultural differences often implement marketing strategies that are doomed for failure from the beginning. Marketing strategies in one country do not always translate into success in another country. It is therefore important to be culturally sensitive and aware when producing, naming, selling, and advertising products.

Consequences of Failing to Consider Culture in Localization Projects

Businesses will do well to remember that consumers in different locations and cultures are influenced by their economies, values, attitudes, and preferences, and will therefore differ in “what they buy, why they buy, how they buy, when they buy, and where they buy.”

The importance of the possible outcomes of your marketing strategy, product release, or website necessitates constant vigilance and consideration of the culture of your target market. If you fail to do so, you may experience any combination of the following consequences:

  • Consumers lose faith and confidence in your product and company.
  • Customer backlash and highly visible, negative public reactions.
  • Negative public relations and the erosion of the brand you have worked hard to build.
  • Loss of revenue, sales opportunities, and customers.
  • Possible punishment in the form of retaliatory legislation or lawsuits.

A final example of a marketing campaign’s major lack of awareness and sensitivity towards the culture of their target audience occurred in Thailand. In this country, where most of the population is Buddhist, the distribution of a film poster that depicted a man sitting on the head of a statue of Buddha was not kindly received. Many Buddhists demanded the poster be changed and implored people to refrain from seeing the film. In addition to extremely negative reactions in Thailand, the poster also caused anger and public protests among monks in Malaysia, Burma, and Sri Lanka. Understanding, appreciating, and respecting the culture of your target market is therefore extremely important when attempting to take your product or service into international markets.

Next Steps

If you are serious about entering and succeeding in foreign markets, then you must consider culture in every aspect of your product development, website design, and marketing campaign. For web content translation, you are advised to hire a professional, highly-experienced, and well-qualified translator that is native to the language and culture of your target market and will be able to take into account cultural considerations involving expressions, slang, concepts, idioms, and other unique phrases. For your website development, it is a good idea to hire a web designer familiar with the concepts of localization and the cultural needs of your target market.

If you would like to learn more about the importance of culture to your localization projects, please go to to download a free copy of wintransaltion’s new White Paper “Culture and Why it Matters to Your Business.”

Felicia Bratu

Felicia Bratu is the operations manager of wintranslation, in charge of quality delivery and client satisfaction. As a veteran who has worked in many roles at the company since 2003, Felicia oversees almost every aspect of the company operations from recruitment to project management to localization engineering. She recently received certification as a Localization Project Manager as well as Post-Editing Certification for Machine Translation. Felicia holds a BSc. in Industrial Robotics from the University of Craiova, Romania.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. there are plenty of brand bounce because lack of culture knowledge and requirement of the product. it has been proved that if you would like to sell your product in a particular country you have to redesign the product according to that country requirement, considering all aspects including religion, taste, requirement etc.

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