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  • Writer's pictureValerie Fullen

Marketing Across Cultures

Updated: Aug 14, 2019

Our world, and the cultures that exist within it, is constantly becoming more and more integrated. Food, sports, fashion and music are just a few areas where globalization is obvious. Take the FIFA World Cup for example. Teams are coming from all over the world to compete against each other. With these teams come fans, friends and families - people who all speak different languages, have different customs, and respond to experiences in different ways. Such a popular, diverse sporting event takes special care and consideration when creating a marketing strategy around it. Cue cross-cultural marketing. It is imperative to have a clear understanding of all the factors that must be considered when designing a strategy targeting a different culture.

To help deepen your understanding of cross-cultural marketing, we will be using the Portuguese culture as an example throughout this article. In order to illustrate this example, I interviewed my dear friend and Portugal native, Jose Granja.


First, we must name and recognize the culture at hand, and do the necessary research to learn customs and norms. One such detail is that Portuguese people take titles seriously. “Portugal is a small country and we take a lot of pride in our accomplishments”, says Granja. Therefore, it is important to learn titles prior to meeting someone new. Also, ask them to tell you more about their accomplishments as this could help you build rapport. Recognizing and using such small details to your advantage can mean the difference between success and failure for your brand’s cross-cultural campaign.


Portuguese is a language spoken in both Portugal and Brazil. Since our audience is Portuguese, we must make sure that we are making the proper translations, and not accidentally using Brazilian Portuguese terms. Granja laughs, “In Portugal we say menina in reference to a young girl. If you say that in Brazil, you’re referring to a prostitute.” Clearly, getting to know your way around the language is very important for your cross-cultural campaign. Remember to keep your message clear, specific, and personalized to fit your market.


Within a nation itself, there are many cultures and subcultures, all of which have different tastes. In Portugal, there is the northern city of Porto, and the southern city and capital, Lisbon. Porto is an industrial, working-class port city. Lisbon, on the other hand, is a big, international, upper-class city. “In Porto we work, in Lisbon, we spend”, says Granja. “There are two major beer manufacturers in Portugal - in Porto we drink Super Bock, in Lisbon they drink Sagres.” If Super Bock wanted to try their luck in the Lisbon market, the marketing team would need to design their campaign with this in mind. Communicating a message such as, “We might not be Sagres, but we know beer and pride ourselves in great taste!”, could help the brand overcome barriers and break into the market. Be proactive by integrating these kinds of insights into your strategy. Design your campaign around cultural norms, update it to reflect relevancy, and your brand is sure to see success.


Values and beliefs vary widely among different cultures, and decision making is very much based on those values. “We do everything together. We cook together, eat together - and when we have a decision to make, we consult our entire family. Whether it is buying a new car or asking someone to marry you. Our family’s opinions are very important to us.” Learning a culture’s decision-making style is huge when designing a campaign. Marketing strategies may be perceived differently depending on how certain cultures go through the decision-making process. Tailor your campaign to meet the individual needs of the culture you are targeting.

A well thought out cross-cultural marketing strategy can help your company break through barriers and reap great benefits. On the other hand, an unsuccessful cross-cultural strategy could potentially kill your brand’s reputation. Get to know the culture you’re targeting, acknowledge and respect differences, and check for understanding throughout your campaign.

JanMar knows culture! If you want to expand your brand to be more diverse, but don’t know how to get started, let us help!

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