The role of intercultural communication in integrated marketing

By Mai Elsayed on April 20, 2017


What could be worse than investing thought in a campaign, only to find out it is not the right one for the target market? This is exactly what MBC had to face with their #womenempowerment campaign. Not only did they incorrectly market their idea but they used the wrong terminology to put the message across. Words like “be free” and “be rebellious” were not exactly Saudi Arabia’s cup of tea. In a conservative society of Saudi Arabia, it was considered an insult that MBC would ask Saudi women to break free of their culture, even though this was not the intention of the campaign.

The ability to know and understand people’s behavior is key in the field of marketing. The online and offline atmospheres demand the use of consumer psychology and emotional understanding based on cultural differences. Solely knowing the theory of marketing and having the skills to use technology is not sufficient to deliver a cutting-edge message with exceptional return on investment. Every marketer should acknowledge the individual differences present across cultures, communities and languages. Even the body movements and hand gestures used across cultures do have different meanings. Every group comes with unique set of interests that evoke diverse types of emotions. In fact, these differences extent to the social media platform that each culture finds comfort in using.

Global brands, in specific, should consider that there are key cultural differences which can be reflected in the use of language and word choice as well as through the exhibition of behaviors. Simply put, what may be perceived as normal in one culture, could be seen as abnormal and unacceptable in another. The role of intercultural communication in an integrated marketing approach is a highly vital one, especially in countries which bring together more than one culture. The biggest and most realistic example is the United Arab Emirates, where more than 100 different nationalities come together to share their culture within their own community of living.


So, what are the key cultural differences to consider when designing an integrated marketing campaign?

  • Power distance

Countries in which the less powerful members accept the unequal distribution of power is a high power distance society. On the other hand, countries with a low power distance, depress the differences between the authority figures and the citizens. Designing a marketing campaign in a high power distance country, requires messaging that falls in line with the beliefs and rules set by the authority figures. Knowing that the authority figures approve of the campaign tactics, the citizens will conform. Otherwise, with a low power distance society, the audience looks for individual empowerment and motivation for growing and changing without mere approval of authority figures.


  • Individualism and collectivism

Individualistic countries promote taking care of the self and building individual power. While collectivism emphasizes the greater good over individual interest. Members of collectivist cultures find the need to conform and belong to a group. Key messages of a campaign, to be implemented in an individualistic culture should highlight the benefits of the individual by inducing emotions of finding resources within one’s self and not within the community members or the surroundings. On the other end of the spectrum, collectivism requires a campaign that highlights the importance of family, friends and colleagues. These elements should be acknowledged in the tactics of the campaign in order for it to be an effective one, evoking the right kind of emotions.


  • Femininity and masculinity

A masculine society is one where the members show high emphasis on male traits such as material possessions and assertiveness, while a female driven culture is more fostering and compassionate. In a masculine oriented country, campaign should highlight the focus on solving a problem and taking action. This means that practical, punchy answers should be given within every tactic immediately after an emotion has been evoked. However, in a feminine culture, emotions should highly be emphasized and elaborated on. In other words, in a masculine community, offer a focus on action. In a feminine one, provide a focus of emotion on many different levels.


  • Uncertainty

Countries which tend to stick to existing structures and to behaving in line with tradition have high uncertainty avoidance. On the other end of the spectrum lies societies which are low on uncertainty avoidance. This means that the citizens are more open to change and do not fear the introduction and adoption of new concepts. Therefore, when designing a campaign for countries with high uncertainty avoidance, the marketer should develop tactics that fall in line with what the citizens are already used to experiencing because otherwise, any ambiguity will be repelled and unaccepted. Contrarily, countries with low certainty avoidance would enjoy a change and the introduction of new experiences proposed through a marketing campaign.


In a nutshell, as Anthony Robins, an American businessman, author, and philanthropist, correctly stated “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others”. Every marketer should be culturally sensitive, understanding and respecting in order to be able to communicate a message effectively.



Social Media “Influencers” with no influence

By Stanislava Burianek on April 12, 2017


I have attended the Media Network breakfast event today that was intended as a panel discussion around Online Brand Reputation topic. It inevitably transitioned into an influencer marketing debate and how it influences brands’ reputation. It turned out that a lot of communication professionals are asking the same questions: Are these influencers really influential? What audience are they appealing to? Should we pay them? Will they follow agreed brand guidelines? Are we building “influencer relations” or are we advertisers who pay them for ads on their respective social media pages?

I am not promising to answer all these questions, but there are probably a few great takeaways you can all benefit from our discussion:

The impact

How influential is the influencer if he/she influences audiences your brand doesn’t want to influence? Let’s take for an example a Dubai based Instagram star that may have only 20% of his followers from this country and 80% scattered everywhere else. Let’s try to do the math. If the guy (or girl) has 30K followers, only 6K are from Dubai and if that influencer has a very good engagement rate, that would be 5% in the best case scenario. And that means if his Dubai followers are interacting with his content, your brand will have a chance to get 300 likes from relevant audiences. Out of 300 they might as well expect 20 people to genuinely care about your brand and have some real interest in buying your products or services. A KOL with 30K followers will ask you to pay something around AED 1,500 per Instagram post which makes it AED 75 per relevant lead. Is it worth it? I don’t think so. What is the solution? Careful selection of who you collaborate with as their numbers don’t mean anything. And this leads us to another aspect of the influencer relations.



How to Increase Employee Engagement On Social Media

By Linda Edirisuriya on April 11, 2017

Employee Engagement_Social Media

Image Source: FriendMedia

Employee participation in social media is an influential way of building customer trust and attracting sales leads to your company. According to a SlideShare presentation “War of Words: Myth-Busting Social, SEO & Content Marketing”, 82% of customers say they trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team are active on the social web.

Commonly, many of your company employees regularly use social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter to upload photos of company events, employees’ birthdays, trade fairs or conferences to their social media accounts.

To influence brand awareness to potential customers and retain current customers, your employees are a useful resource in helping you build your social media presence. When your employees reinforce what your marketing department says in its marketing projects such as websites and brochures, that is a persuasive way to affect the public’s opinion of your company.



What’s in your ‘social shopping’ basket?

By Stacy Fernandes on April 4, 2017


Social shopping is the “hanging out with friends at the mall” of today’s digital generation, except that it’s not just teens taking advantage of all the social features available. Customers of all ages have more choices than ever, as well as more opportunities to engage with brands they love.
Often described as the Amazon of the Middle East, Dubai-based is now officially part of the Seattle-based ecommerce giant. With online commerce estimated by industry experts at about 3 per cent of the overall retail spend in the region, against 15 per cent in more mature markets, there is a huge potential for growth. Amazon’s acquisition of is a wake-up call to the region’s physical retailers.

“Social shopping” itself is more of a catch-all term that can be anything from sharing outfit ideas on Pinterest to tweeting links to coupon codes. With smartphone shopping and m-commerce (mobile commerce) on the rise the need to connect with shoppers beyond just having a responsive website design is greater than ever.



Trend Seeding

By Tarek Hakim on March 29, 2017


We’ve all been hearing about the term “Cloud Seeding” recently. It is what was responsible for the heavy rainfall that we have been experiencing this winter in UAE. But what is it exactly? We’ve all assumed that it is just a plane going up in the sky and firing some chemicals to the cloud and hope for the best. But it isn’t.

Cloud seeding is actually a long process that starts with weather forecast where analysts will be studying cloud formation and wind speed along with many other factors. Once the initial conditions are met where there’s a potential “rain ready” cloud approaching, the weather forecasting team alerts all other involved teams to be ready and the analysis stage continues while the rest prepare the needed “flares” and planes, this usually happens 72 hours prior to the plane’s departure. After roughly 65-70 hours weather forecasters have to make the decision to either attempt at seeding these clouds or letting it go.



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