Showing posts with label cross-cultural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cross-cultural. Show all posts

Saturday, November 16, 2013

International Marketing - A Cultural Metaphor for Greece (Part 2)


When it comes to Agon, we refer to the manner the comedy-like activities are performed in the daily life of the Greeks. Agon refers to the formal convention according to which the struggle between the characters should be scripted in order to supply the basis of the action. Agon is a formal debate which takes place between the chief characters in a Greek play, protagonist and antagonist, usually with the chorus acting as judge.

We can easily spot the motives suggested by Agon in all aspects of Greek society. Politics, political actions and debates, social arenas, collectivistic activities, TV programs, etcetera are often organized like Agon.

A modern Greek debate that reminds us of Agon

Greece is a country of spectacle, music and discussion and public critic. Greeks revel when communicating in an expressive manner, while the level of noise tends to be high in public spaces. People tend to congregate rather than be isolated from one another. Bystanders do not mind becoming part of the action like the audience of the ancient theater either. Thus, the externalities of Agon on everyday Greek life and activities are more than obvious.


The Chorus, though it no longer told the story, was very important, for it set the atmosphere of the play. The Chorus also served another purpose. Even today, in extreme occasions, when the intensity of a situation (perceived as a lifestyle, political, cultural change etc threat) becomes almost too great for any Greek to bear, relief is often found in some very comic episode which is introduced to slacken the tension. The Chorus executed this by a song of purest poetry.

Chorus, Lysistrata

In addition, the mission of the Chorus was to preconceive the audience that the comedy is acceptable and pleasant, in other terms that it was “safe”. Greeks are not at all comfortable in ambiguous situations: the unforeseen is always there ready to “lay an ambush”. In Greece, as in all high uncertainty avoidance societies, bureaucracy, laws and rules are very important to make the world a safer place to live in, even though they do not always work.

Greeks need to have good and relaxing moments in their everyday life, chatting with colleagues, enjoying a long meal or dancing with guests and friends. Due to their high score in this dimension Greeks are very passionate and demonstrative people: emotions are easily shown in their body language, small group behavior, greeting behavior, even in their traditions. The Chorus respected these exteriority characteristics and reproduced them during its actions, as a micrography of the Greek society.

Last but not least, in Thesmophoriazusae there are two Choruses. The doubling of the Chorus is a phenomenon that is repeated both in The Frogs and in Lysistrata, where the two choruses (Old Men and Old Women), appear on stage together after entering separately. The interconnection of the two choruses with the direction of the collective unconscious (as suggested by both Plato and Carl Jung) for both ancient and modern Greeks is more than obvious. The Greek people still pay attention to the elders, since they subconsciously form an archetype for wisdom and respect. Masculinity and femininity social Greek models are also exposed here; If we try to visualize the double Chorus process, it shows that Greek women have the dynamics to be equal to men in terms of social activities, even though, since ancient times, they often tended to stay in the house and define their social status by satisfying their family needs. A controversy that still exists in modern society.

Does the Greek woman still heterodefine her social role?


In short, a cultural metaphor represents a way to obtain new and deep insights into a group's or nation's culture. Cultural metaphors also provide a method for discussing cross-cultural issues, differences, and similarities in a collegial rather than a stereotypical and perhaps hostile fashion. In developing such insights, it is critical that the cross-cultural research be taken into consideration, and it is for this reason that both the dimensional perspective and the communication perspective should supplement cultural metaphors.  Cultural metaphors represent only a starting point for understanding a culture; they are easy to use, but do require much thought to avoid inaccurate stereotyping; and they can be supplemented by other methods.  Most importantly, cultural metaphors allow managers with limited time to gain some understanding of a group or nation's culture that they can apply quickly to the myriad problems that they face daily in international activities.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

International Marketing - A Cultural Metaphor for Greece

Within the field of international marketing, cross-cultural consumer behavior, organization and management studies, Prof. Martin J. Gannon uses cultural metaphors to describe, compare, and analyze national cultures worldwide. In order to explore in-depth the unique cultural characteristics of a nation, Gannon adopts an emic approach, focusing on the qualitative examination of cultural symbols, practices, and institutions within their local context.

For the existing cross-cultural research into a country or a nation, the most influential one is the three-dimensional approach developed by Kluckholn, Strodtbeck, Hall and Hofstede. Their dimensions of culture, such as power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism-collectivism, masculinity, time orientation constitute a base upon which a majority of more recent studies have been built. Their works have been invaluable in the area of cross-cultural studies. However, their works are somewhat incomplete. Gannon noticed that the dimensional approach had weaknesses like :
  •  We should not look at a dimension separately, since culture is a complex whole, and psychological phenomena are multiply determined.
  • Can be atheoretical (i.e., always need theory regarding why dimensions exist).
  • Research in cross-cultural psychology tends to examine one dimension
  • Are extremely broad, and miss important elements.
  • Can obfuscate within culture diversity and dynamics of culture.

Gannon was based on all four aforementioned dimensional approaches but also on the following elements, which he suggests that should be carefully examined so that a the protocol for a cultural metaphor is applied. Usually, three to seven of these features of the metaphor, that include elements like below, are needed:

The Greek Comedy

Is the Greek Comedy a good cultural metaphor for Greece? Can it meet Gannon's criteria? Let's discover!

Humor & Komodia

The word komodia means literally in Greek "party (-komos-) song (-odi-)" and, if this is any indication of its origin, then comedy stems from revels (komoi) where partiers (komastai) sang songs (odai) in which they teased, mocked and made fools of spectators or public figures. Aristophanes used to target and mock Kleon, a famous Athenian demagogue, through its plays. Satira, the modern word of comedy, still dominant nowadays, is externalized in small-group discussions, organized team activities, modern Greek theatres and mass media communication channels, by teasing politicians, celebrities and in general influencing the public, social and political behavior in Greece.

Apart from teasing politicians and celebrities, in most Aristophanes comedies, Gods and goddesses were personified abstractions who seldom appeared in his plays. That means, comedies usually boosted the eternal need of the Greek people till today; Greeks like to feel free. They do not like to be dictated by superior forces and dislike the effects of any power mechanisms on their everyday life.

Prologue & Parodos

Introduction sets the mood and gives some idea as to what the audience can expect to occur. In Prologue - Parodos, the topic of discussion is set between the two debaters and it is implied to the audience that the debate will be refereed. This part of the comedy is representative of the ideas and the innovations that democracy and freedom of speech has established, as a public and politics activity. This concept is in fact the foundation of western civilization.

Furthermore, the Parodos process has a direct association with modern Greek entertainment. Parodos provided entertainment, accomplished with music, dance and extravagant spectacle, which is still what modern Greeks seek for, as regards their leisure pursuits and interests. In addition, the high noise levels produced during Parodos can be characterized as a prelude of the aural space of modern Greeks, who usually tolerate high noises as part of their routine.

Leisure interests and aural space in Greece.
Last but not least, Parodos reflects how Greek relationships, both professional and private, are early structured. Greeks tend to convey their feelings and thoughts, at least partially at the beginning of a relationship, usually the other party has some understanding of what will unfold, but it is only an imperfect preview, like Parodos suggested, because the unexpected frequently occurs.

                                                         ...To be continued...

Monday, July 01, 2013

Cross-Cultural Consumer Behavior

What are the key cultural constructs or dimension?

The constructs of individualism and collectivism represent the 
most broadly used dimensions of cultural variability for cross-cultural comparison. In individualistic (IND) cultures, people tend to prefer independent relationships to others and to subordinate the goals of their ingroups to their own personal goals. In collectivistic (COL) cultures, in contrast, individuals tend to prefer interdependent relationships to others and to subordinate their personal goals to those of their ingroups. The key distinction involves the extent to which one defines the self in relation to others. The focus is on whether the self is defined as autonomous and unique or seen as inextricably and fundamentally embedded within a larger social network. This distinction has also been referred to as egocentric versus sociocentric selves (Shweder & Bourne,1982), or independence vs interdependence.

In sum, the distinctions between IND and COL societies, and independent and interdependent self-construals, are crucial to the cross-cultural understanding of consumer behavior. Indeed, whereas the 1980s were labeled the decade of individualism/collectivism in cross-cultural psychology, similar distinctions represent the dominant structural approach in cross-cultural consumer research in 1990s and 2000s. The studies to be reviewed in this chapter offer a wealth of evidence that these cultural classifications have fundamental implications for consumption-related outcomes.

Expanding the Set of Cultural Dimensions

The nature and meaning of IND and COL (or of independent and interdependent self-construals) appear to vary across cultural, institutional, gender, and ethnic lines. Although the breadth of the INDCOL constructs lends integrative strengths, further refinement of these categories holds the potential to enhance prediction of consumer behavior.

The Horizontal/Vertical Distinction: Which additional cultural categories offer value in the prediction of cross-cultural consumer behavior? Within the INDCOL framework, Triandis and his colleagues have recently introduced a further distinction between societies that are horizontal (valuing equality) and those that are vertical (emphasizing hierarchy). The horizontal/vertical distinction emerges from the observation that American or British individualism differs from, say, Norwegian or Danish individualism in much the same way that Japanese or Korean collectivism differs from the collectivism of the Israeli kibbutz. Specifically, in vertical individualist societies (U.S.,Great Britain, France), people tend to be concerned with improving their individual status and distinguishing themselves from others via competition. In contrast, in horizontal individualist societies (HI; e.g., Sweden, Norway, Australia), where people prefer to view themselves as equal to others in status, the focus is on expressing one’s uniqueness, capability, and self-reliance. In vertical collectivist societies (Japan, Korea, India), people focus on fulfilling obligations to others, and on enhancing the status of their ingroups in competition with outgroups, even when that entails sacrificing their own personal goals. In horizontal collectivist societies (like exemplified historically by the Israeli kibbutz), the focus is on sociability, benevolence, and interdependence with others in an egalitarian context.

When such distinctions are taken into account, however, it becomes apparent that the societies chosen to represent IND and COL cultural syndromes in consumer research have almost exclusively been vertically oriented. Specifically, the modal comparisons are between the United States (VI) and any of a number of Pacific Rim countries (VC). It may be argued, therefore, that much of what is known about consumer behavior in individualistic and collectivistic societies reflects vertical forms of these syndromes and may not generalize, for example, to comparisons between Sweden (HI) and Israel (HC) or other sets of horizontal cultures. As an example, conformity in product choice, as examined by Kim and Markus (1999), may be a tendency specific to VC cultures, in which deference to authority and to ingroup wishes is stressed. Much lower levels of conformity may be observed in HC cultures, which emphasize sociability but not deference. Thus, it may be inappropriate to ascribe differences in consumers’ conformity between Korea (VC) and the United States (VI) solely to the role of IND/COL or independence/interdependence, because such conformity might not be prevalent in horizontal societies. In particular, levels of product conformity in HC contexts might not exceed those in HI contexts.

Predicting new consumer psychology phenomena

Several recent studies examining the implications of this horizontal/vertical cultural distinction have provided evidence for its value as a predictor of new consumer psychology phenomena and as a basis for refining the understanding of known phenomena. For instance, G├╝rhan-Canli and Maheswaran (2000) demonstrated that the tendency to favor products from one’s own country over foreign products (a country-of-origin effect) emerged more strongly in Japan (a VC culture) than in the United States (a VI culture). This fits well with a conceptualization of collectivists as being oriented toward their ingroups. However, mediational analyses using individual consumers’ self-rated cultural values indicated that only the vertical dimension of IND and COL accounted for the country-of-origin effects in Japan. In other words, the collectivistic tendency to favor one’s own country’s products appeared to be driven by cultural values that stress hierarchy, competition, and deference to ingroup wishes, not by values that stress interdependence more generally.

In line with this, research suggests that advertising messages with themes that emphasize status, prestige, hierarchy, and distinction may be more prevalent and persuasive in vertical cultural contexts. Such advertisements also appear to be generally more persuasive for those with a vertical cultural orientation, and may be inappropriate for those with a horizontal one. Shavitt, Zhang, and Johnson (2006) asked U.S. respondents to write advertisements that they personally would find persuasive. The extent to which the ad appeals that they wrote emphasized status themes was positively correlated with respondents’ vertical cultural orientation (and negatively correlated with their horizontal cultural orientation). Moreover, content analyses of magazine advertisements in several countries suggested that status-oriented themes of hierarchy, luxury, prominence, and distinction were generally more prevalent in societies presumed to have vertical cultural profiles (Korea, Russia) than a horizontal cultural profile (Denmark).

Last but not least,the horizontal/vertical distinction provides a basis for refining our understanding of individualism/collectivism effects. Their studies showed that individualism/collectivism differences in socially desirable responding appear to be mediated at the individual level by horizontal (but not vertical) IND and COL values. These findings shed light on the motivational drivers linking culture with socially desirable response styles. The main point here is that these dimensions of cultural comparison have multiple implications for advertising and marketing processes. Attention to a broader set of cultural dimensions will not only expand the range of independent variables in our research, but will also prompt consideration of cultural consequences hitherto unexamined in cross-cultural studies (based on publication by Sharon Shavitt-University of Illinois & Angela Lee, Northwestern University).