Different Aspect of Chinese Culture and Their Impact on Marketing
Chinese culture is one of the richest and oldest cultures. What makes Chinese culture unique and catchy is the fact that the Chinese all over the world observe their culture with huge amount of enthusiasm and commitment. Four Major aspects of the Chinese Culture that we have analyzed in this paper are: * Collectivism * Degree of uncertainty avoidance * Masculinity, and * Power Distance Collectivism: China as a society is more toward collectivism then individualism.
Historically china has long been a family-run country, major portion of the society belongs to agriculture and live in rural areas of a country. Farm and family are the two basic institutions in china which are collectivist in nature. From childhood they trained and learned to work together and believe in “we” not in “I”. So from childhood they are integrated into strong cohesive in-groups. In China it is really hard to disagree with someone opinion in public.
A direct argument is always avoided. Harmony and oyalty in any institution (in the form of company, family and even in country) is always important. You do not say in public “free Tibet”. They are highly context society. Instead of saying “No”, expressions or phrases are used for disagreement. We have seen many examples of their collectivist thinking in business e. g. in case of Lenovo where Chinese and Americans started to work together as business partner. Chinese believe on team’s performance as the criteria for company’s success where as American believes on individual performance.
So for any company coming to lead china this aspect is matter of concern for them. They believe that relationship between employee & employer and in between businesses partners are deeply rooted in trust. Family has huge influence in consumer decision making procedure. Family is led be by father/husband who has absolute power and be in charge of family. They are more sincere towards their families than toward non-family organization. In contrary Japanese who are also collectivist in nature have no difficulty in changing their loyalty from their family to institution?
The collective culture is deeply rooted in society and a tight political control sometime put multinational companies in great trouble. As we saw in Avon China, company is highly successful in their direct marketing of their cosmetic product throughout the world and even they are successful in china also but government ban their direct sales operation in china due to which they have to change their all sale force strategy. Today some of the manager/leader in china believes that collectivism will soon end in China.
Now they believe that people is started to move toward individualism because of globalization. And other huge reason for this is their one child policy especially in their cities. This restriction left society with many young citizens who have been raised to believe that they hold a special place in the world. So they think that this sort of upbringing lower the collectivism in the society. Similarly this one child policy put young one in extra pressure as they have to take care of their family (spouse and child), parents and some time grandparent also.
In summary china still is highly collectivist society where they want to put harmony in in-group and work for the interest of their group and not necessarily for themselves. Employee is more committed towards his/her family than to their organization. People belong to in-group in exchange of their loyalty. Uncertainty Avoidance: Level of a culture or society deals on a reality that the future is uncertain: should people try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways.
Some studies on the culture of china argue that china has strong uncertainty avoidance but majority of the studies argue that the Chinese culture has a very weaker uncertainty avoidance which avoids too many rules and formalities. Chinese culture is more towards stimulating innovations and emphasizing new ideas. It is flexible and more acting than reacting on changes occurring inside and outside of business. While cultures with very high uncertainty avoidance demonstrate their emotions in such a way that everything which is different becomes dangerous for them.
They often resist in changes and worry about their future. In china obedience to laws and rules may be flexible to suit the actual situation and simplicity is a fact of life. The Chinese people feel comfortable with ambiguity, even Chinese language is full of ambiguous meanings that can be difficult to follow or learn for other people. Chinese are good in adaptability and entrepreneurship. The majority of Chinese businesses which constitutes to around 70% -80% of their total businesses use to be small and medium size and most of which are family owned.
Martinsons (1997) and Lametal(2005) studies on East Asians shows that for Chinese people unclear information give them more comfort level than any other nation. The example of which their studies demonstrate that informal communication path between Chinese who rely more on personal experience rather than the clear or detailed information. They are more of introvert people who keep more information between themselves, rather than explicitly expressing it.
It is more common in China than any other country that apart from the information that is being discussed on table people who interact with them need to interpret the “real” meaning of conversation yourself, because Chinese people usually prefer to use references to explain something they think you should know and they suppose that other people would understand. We are biased towards the studies that uncertainty avoidance in Chinese culture is weak mainly because for Chinese people importance of information is for the power, instead of than unable to tolerate the uncertainty.
So the idea that Chinese culture is uncertainty tolerant is supported. Contrary to the traditional thinking of most of the people and authors of various studies that Chinese people are more conservative in regard to change and Chinese culture has a strong uncertainty avoidance, the facts in this section and in most of the article Chinese people’s attitude tend to be more positive toward change and towards new technology when it comes to experience change or new technology or whatsoever which is a clear indication of weaker uncertainty avoidance of Chinese culture.
Other Studies such as Collis (1995) and Brownetal(1998) also compared Chinese culture with various countries culture which supposedly have a weaker uncertainty avoidance. According to their study on people and cultures of various countries “people from China hold more positive attitudes on change and new technologies than those from countries that they compare, namely, UK, US and Japan”. Masculinity:
The Chinese culture is dominated by masculine traits overall, mainly driven by Confucianism in which the focus was not to compromise and women were regarded inferior. Chinese culture was also affected by Daoism which was more feministic in nature but its impact was far less then Confucianism. Following of strict principles as laid down in Confucianism has led the Chinese people to form a masculine society.
Observing the priorities of Chinese people one can easily see that they prefer work and income over quality of life, they would leave home for better working opportunities and would sacrifice leisure for better and more income. Success is important and the means to achieving it are not actually given much importance, even if it involves steps that are not beneficial for everyone the main objective is to achieve the end result. Success is defined by who is the winner and not by the path followed towards success.
As a nation they rate economic growth as a very high priority and do not consider factors such as environmental or labor issues as crucial, we can see that most of the counterfeit products around the world and manufactured in China which is not limited to small products but even stretches to copying automobiles where exact replicas are made without any regard to patents or original design e. g. cheery qq copied form Daewoo’s matiz for which general motors filed a suit against the Chinese manufacturer.
Conflicts in China are not solved by negotiations rather hierarchy and in some cases force is used to suppress the voice of all involved and the will of people at the top is enforced. This leads to lack of ingenuity although increased efficiency because of very clear understanding of what is required from everyone leads to lowest costs which is the benchmark of Chinese production. Also long working hours are not considered a bad thing and leisure time is sacrificed for work willingly. The masculine qualities do help china to efficiently make products, but hamper the services part in general.
There is huge gap with respect to gender in China when it comes to leading, very few women can be seen at management posts and women are not considered equal in all walks of life. Also the ratio of girls to boys has been disturbed severely because of the one child policy and people seeking medical procedures to opt for boys instead of girls. Failing in Chinese culture is not a minor accident but considered a disaster and one is expected to be deeply embarrassed in case of facing some failure in life.
Even suicides are committed to save one from the shame of facing others after failure, this approach hinders the generation of new ideas and research since the rate of failure is really high in trying new things. As a whole, Chinese people are mainly concerned with the result and being good at achieving them in the most efficient way possible but are not that much concerned about how they do it. Liking what they do is not as important as being the best in it. Power Distance: Chinese culture is considered as high on Power Distance.
Being a socialistic society, it is expected of them to be relying on those on top to make decisions. If we look at the Chinese history we could find numerous examples of submission to Government Decisions, however vague or absurd they might look. Strict compliance by the Chinese people on one child policy of the government is one of the examples. From my personal experiences of working at one of the Chinese ventures in Pakistan (Zong), I have witnessed quite a few examples of their obsession towards following the hierarchy.
From not contradicting with the seniors even knowing that they are wrong to adjusting their chair height to ensure that they sit lower than their senior are some of the behavioral instances that I have observed about their culture. Now, for a business working with the Chinese whether in a Business to Business or a Business to Consumer relationship, one needs to give due respect and concern to the Power Distance they observe and practice in their daily life. Taking Business to Consumer first, buying behavior in the consumer markets is driven by the parents or elders.
Marketer in this case again will have to alter his marketing mix to ensure that his product and promotion catches the attention of the people entrusted with the decision making responsibilities. Similar techniques are required of a marketer seeking Business to Business relationship. Again recalling from my personal experiences at Zong, Chinese vendors adopted this technique of keeping the higher management involved in everything.
I had witnessed CEO’s of Chinese vendors visiting zong’s premises even for the trivial things like picking up a cheque or dropping an invoice or some letter etc. as they knew that Zong’s Management personnel will never like to talk to an executive or an officer of the vendor, because of the fact that hierarchies are embedded in their minds. Mistakes were made on the same grounds by the Pakistani Vendors who could send in their lower staff for such jobs, which used to annoy the management and resultantly Pakistani Vendors had very little or no business with Zong. Another threat that High Power Distance poses on a Marketer Pitching his product in China is the impact of Government Regulations.
There are numerous examples of Corporate Failure of International Chains in China because of the Government Bans. E. g. Direct Selling by AVON was banned in China by the government because of which they had to change their Marketing techniques for China in order to ensure that they still sell in the market. Even a mere recommendation from the Government on adopting or abstaining from a product can have a great impact on your sales. Organizations in societies who are high on power distance are highly bureaucratic in structure.
This is also true for the Chinese organizations as well. This means that the Banking, Finance, Taxation and Insurance sectors of the Economy are highly bureaucratic thereby implying that the process flow is slow and cumbersome. To sum up, Power Distance is one of the ground realities in China and as a Marketer; one could not ignore this fact while pitching his / her products. If you have taken this fact into account and have addressed it properly, you are on the right side of what could be a successful business story.