Learning The Culture


For any business that is globalised, without a doubt, knows they need to acculturate (Algie 2014) to the countries they are trading in. But every now and again, marketers seemingly forget this or just assume ‘it worked here therefore it shall work there’ – But this is not always the case especially if you don’t check language translations. Below is an example of a situation where marketers didn’t correctly acculturate their marketing communication to the countries they are communicating to:

General Motors Corporation

In the 1960’s, General Motors Corporation starting selling their Nova vehicle in the U.S market. It was successful and so in the 1970’s entered the Latin America market. The sales though weren’t as successful. After a while, General Motors Corporation realised why. Nova, in Spanish, can be written as 2 separate words No Va  which translates in Spanish as “it doesn’t go”. General Motors Corporation instantly changed the name of the vehicle to something that acculturates correctly and sales since improved to be as successful as all other markets they were in (Zullo 2004 & Snopes 2011).

No va.  No va.

The above example is a case of a promotional problem where the intended marketing message wasn’t consistent with the language of the targeted culture due to the product name translating poorly due to the culture’s meanings of those words (Algie 2014).

There are two other types of mistakes you can make in cross-cultural marketing (Algie 2014):

  •  Product problems
  •  Pricing and distribution problems

Product problems simply is the neglection to modify the product’s physical characteristics, appearance and colour etc. to suit local customs and tastes (Algie 2014). Pricing and distribution problems though occur when local economic conditions aren’t addressed to see if things like smaller packaging (lower price per unit), shopping frequency and store size etc. are different in this culture compared to the culture the product/service was originally traded in (Algie 2014).

Whilst the General Motors Corporation example is good to explain the effects of not acculturating to the country you are selling to, this example, which still today is used in marketing textbooks, has since been disproven as an urban myth and never really happened (Snopes 2011). Nevertheless, it shows why you need to learn the culture.

Thank you all for reading my ‘J.G On Consumer Behaviour’ blog. This is the last post after roughly 10 weeks of blogging. Hope you all enjoyed it and learned more about why you shop – the behaviour of consumers.


Algie, J 2014, ‘The Influence Of Culture On CB’ PowerPoint slides, MARK217, University of Wollongong, viewed 29 May 2014.

Zullo, A, 2004, World’s Dumbest Crooks: And Other True Tales Of Bloopers, Botches & Blunders, Scholastic Inc., New York.

2011, Don’t Go Here, Snopes, viewed 3rd June 2014, <http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp>.

2011, Nova, image, Snopes, viewed 3rd June 2014, <http://www.snopes.com/business/misxlate/nova.asp>.

Algie, J 2014, ‘The Influence Of Cross-Cultural CB’ PowerPoint slides, MARK217, University of Wollongong, viewed 29 May 2014.


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