Integrated marketing communication in Chinese business-to-business markets : a case study.
Human relations exist purely based on our ability to communicate, and more importantly successful relationships develop based on our ability to communicate effectively. Communication affects every facet of our lives and in today‟s world „noise‟ is often referred to when discussing messages and communication in a marketing sense. Therefore to cut through the „noise‟ and to effectively communicate with your audience it is crucial to understand who your audience is and what influences them. Therefore in this study the aim was to assist marketers and business people alike in understanding the influence of culture on the interpretation of various communication efforts that make up a company‟s integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy. This was done using a South African company as a case study, and analysing their IMC efforts in their entry into the Chinese business market. In order to develop a better understanding of how Chinese culture influenced the interpretation of the marketing material used by the case study company, it was shared with the participants and qualitative and quantitative data collected. Participants‟ attitudes and opinions towards the material were investigated to achieve the purpose of the research. The key element of the analysis was to determine the impact of culture on the interpretation of the various forms of marketing communication in a business-to-business setting. While research on China is increasing due to the important role played by China in the global arena, and Chinese culture has been researched in a variety of contexts, studies looking specifically at the role of Chinese culture in the interpretation of integrated marketing communication in a global, business-to business context, have not been conducted. However marketing communication that is misinterpreted can have major negative effects on the global companies. This research aims to fill this research gap. Findings showed that Chinese culture does have a major impact on interpretation of this company‟s IMC. The study reveals that the Chinese are still heavily influenced by traditional Chinese teachings in their interpretation and understanding of communication, specifically Confucius and Tao philosophies. Using these principles businesses can understand the basic underlying methods of Chinese communication. A key finding was that the most fundamental aspect of Chinese communication however was based on relationship-building explicitly through the means of „Guanxi‟ and the cultural customs that go with it such as drinking, the exchange of gifts and interpersonal meetings. Although this research is limited to the specific case study, it can aid marketers and business people alike in developing an understanding of the influence of culture on interpretation of integrated marketing communication in a Chinese business-to-business setting and in developing an effect IMC strategy. Recommendations for integrated marketing communication in Chinese markets are provided.
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