Making an Ass out of cultural assumptions


Sometimes even the big guys get it wrong.    Today’s blog post is a cautionary tale about lazy assumptions on cultural stereotypes.  In hindsight, it would seem so obvious as to why Victorias Secret got it all so wrong in their attempt to woo the Chinese market.

Great idea trying to break into the Chinese market. It’s how you went about it that’s lazy. I want to assume its laziness at this point because just a little research should have alerted you to the error in your marketing plan.  Victorias Secret, You can’t just slap a dragon on a practically naked woman and think that’s going to work.  Who came up with that? Who approved that?  Did somebody in your marketing department question this culturally outdated and insensitive move?  They did??? Promote them now!

When entering a new market, you should do your homework.  What are the values, morals, and ethics of that market?  What are the views, agendas, thoughts of your target audience at this time?  What influences them?  What do their cultural symbols mean to them?  How will they feel if a Western country uses their cultural symbols for marketing?  How is China changing?  Because it is changing!

Helen H. Wang got it right when she said that:
“it takes more than a superficial understanding of Chinese culture to attract Chinese consumers.”
And I can’t see how this attempt was anything but superficial.

Helen Wang goes on to talk about NIKE who have so successfully addressed the Chinese Market.  Just watch their video over at her article about addressing the Chinese market here.
Honestly, her take on the whole Victorias secret failure and Nike success is well worth the read and not something I can paraphrase and do justice to.

My point in all this is to know your audience.  If you don’t know your audience, find someone who does, and do some research.