Adjusting Your Marketing Across Cultures


Celebrating getting the book through Turkish customs, the absurdity of waiting and paying for your own work reminded me of cultural differences. In 1966, Cateora and Hess wrote “Marketing principles are universally applicable, and the marketer’s task is the same whether applied in Dimebox, Texas or Katmandu, Nepal.” Today we know better: even with global technologies and economic development, cultural differences abound and affect a marketer’s job.

Two recent studies show the power of culture in marketing deodorants and mobile apps. The first is in chapter 9 of “It’s not the Size of the Data – It’s How You Use It ( Comparing Brazil with the U.K., we show that ‘brand love’ converts much more in sales in the developed market. Instead, measured awareness and brand consideration were more important in the developing market. Interestingly, advertising had a slower but ultimately stronger sales effect in the developing market. We explain these differences by culture but also by income level and regulatory protection, which is substantially lower in Brazil as it is in the UK.

By Koen Pauwels

Mobile apps represent a truly global product, and most developers charge a similar price across countries. However, professors Raoul Kuebler, Gokhan Yildirim and Thomas Fandrich studied thousands of apps across 60 countries to reveal that price sensitivity is high in South Africa and East Asia, but low in Latin America and Europe. These systematic differences are partly due to to economic and infrastructure factors: lower income level and higher cell phone penetration imply a higher price sensitivity. However, most of the variation is explained by cultural factors: their power distance helps explain why the Netherlands (8th most price sensitive country) differs so much from neighbor Belgium (43rd). Likewise, ‘masculine’ Japan (3rd) is way more price sensitive than ‘feminine’ Vietnam (59th) and ‘individualistic’ USA (12th) more than ‘collectivistic’ Panama (52nd).

So what have we learned? The general marketing principles and metrics may be same across the globe, but cultural differences matter to (1) how your marketing affects consumers’ hearts and minds and (2) how and when these convert into higher sales. Touring with the book this year (see the website for specifics and updates), I am looking forward to sharing experiences with you in Geneva, Chicago, Rotterdam, Oslo, Valencia, Boston, Mainz, Las Vegas, Tilburg or Istanbul.

Koen Pauwels is Professor of Marketing at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, and the most published and awarded researcher on return on marketing investment. His website is

Koen Pauwels

Koen Pauwels is Professor at Ozyegin University, Istanbul, where he teaches and researches return on marketing investment. He won the 2001 EMAC best paper award, the 2007 O’Dell award for the most influential paper in the Journal of Marketing Research, the 2008 Emerald Management Reviews Citation of Excellence, the 2009 Davidson award for the best paper in Journal of Retailing, and the 2009 Varadarajan Award for Early Career Contributions to Marketing Strategy Research. Koen’s publications appeared in Harvard Business Review, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Retailing, Journal of Service Research, Marketing Letters, Marketing Science and Management Science. Current research projects include the predictive power of market dashboard metrics and online versus offline marketing effectiveness in mature versus emerging markets. Koen is on the advisory board of AIMark, MarketingNPV, Marketing Productivity Group, MarketShare Partners and YouCastr. He received his Ph.D. in Management from UCLA, is Associate Editor at the International Journal of Research in Marketing and serves on the editorial boards of Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research and Marketing Science.