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  • Writer's pictureOctavio Murekian, PhD

Why Understanding Cultural Diversity is Important?


Table of Contents




Why Understanding Cultural Diversity is Important?


1. What is Cultural Diversity?


Cultural diversity refers to a group of individuals who differ from one another in terms of their race, gender, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.


A workforce made up primarily of people from different countries, genders, sexual orientations, races, backgrounds, etc would serve as an example of a culturally diverse workplace.



2. Why is Cultural Diversity Important?


Cultural diversity is important because it aids in eliminating unfavorable stereotypes and individual biases regarding various populations.


Furthermore, acknowledging and respecting "ways of being" that are not necessarily similar to our own is made easier by cultural diversity. So that we can create bridges for trust, respect, and understanding across cultural boundaries as we connect with others.


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3. Cultural Diversity from a Marketing Research Perspective


There is little doubt that quantitative research has been slowly and steadily taking over the social sciences in the past century.


There are some valid reasons for this, and whilst I find myself rooting for qualitative methods there is a stone-cold logic to numbers that seem to comfort researchers.


4. Assumption Research Example


As I was looking around the Internet, I saw a Daily Mail article proclaiming Mexico to be the most body-confident country in the world.


Intrigued, I decided to read the study (Done by GFK, a large and prestigious market research company) with the results as follows:

Why Understanding Cultural Diversity is Important?

Mexico tops the chart, with 29% completely satisfied whilst Japan is at the bottom and whilst it is interesting to note that Mexico is one of the most obese countries in the world whilst Japan is one of the slimmest, personal confidence need not be tied to weight.

What you might also notice is that there is a high representation of Latin and Hispanic countries in the top 10 spots, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Spain.

You wouldn’t be surprised to assume that from those results, weight loss or body-changing products might feel that there is little market across them, they would of course be wrong.

Further reading the study showed me that they asked all respondents one question ”How satisfied or dissatisfied are you with your looks?’’.

Whilst I believe there are inherent methodological issues with resuming a complex construct such as body confidence to one question, as well as having a question phrased positively and negatively, let's just for the sake of this article take their question at face value and assume that everyone understood it correctly and responded on their looks.




The issue I have with the study is the fact that its results are very unlikely to represent actual body confidence, and also unlikely to understand where this body confidence stems from.

As a veritable book could be written on each country, for the sake of brevity I will focus on some specific examples of underlying cultural forces that shaped the answers.

Latin culture, for example, is characterized by what some sociologists call machismo, which “requires individual men to make a display of physical power and social domination and to disdain any feminine, or supposedly feminine, traits” (Leiner 1994, p. 79).

This machismo is a trait that was inherited by colonial Spaniards and among other things, it was suggested as a form of control for the male body (Hardin 2002).

This machismo culture would have indeed made male respondents make a positive assertion about their bodies (In their minds, influenced by machismo culture, a lack of confidence would have been seen as a feminine trait) therefore tainting their responses and making the answers irrelevant.


5. Understanding Cultural Differences in Consumer Research



Macho culture, for example, can explain Mexican male consumers’ taste in fashion or other goods, and the use of this underlying cultural force can make for powerful marketing.

To uncover how this type of cultural force shapes behaviors, however, a researcher needs to have a level of granularity and freedom in analyses that is difficult to achieve in a quantitative study.

This is especially the case as competing influences can affect how these forces are expressed; macho culture in Mexico is not the same as in Argentina.

Despite the similarities between the countries, understanding where there is a cross-over between cultural influences and where there is not is critical for marketing managers when designing efficient and hard-hitting campaigns across the continent.

I used machismo as an example to illustrate this point, however, it is only one of many influences across cultures that would have affected the answer.

Turning our attention to the ‘least confident’ country in the study Japan, the study ignores important traits of Japanese society.

Japanese, for example, is a vague language; certainty is not common in communication.

It is not uncommon when having a conversation with a Japanese person to hear the word ‘maybe’ several times.

Likewise in Japanese society, traits such as vanity and narcissism, which are common in Latin American cultures, are thoroughly frowned upon.

Japanese proverbs such as ‘the nail that stands out gets hammered’ illustrate this type of mentality, knowing that it is therefore not surprising how the Japanese participants responded; this is however not necessarily how they truly feel about themselves.



Conclusion


Through this brief analysis, my aim was to illustrate the issue of making assertions out of purely quantitative data.

Our identity, our behavior, and our consumption of goods and services are thoroughly influenced by culture, and whilst this might not always be evident at first sight, it is always there.


This is where a strong qualitative focus can bring out an understanding of behaviors that are much more difficult to access qualitatively.


 

References

Hardin, M. (2002). ‘Altering Masculinities: The Spanish Conquest and the Evolution of the Latin American Machismo’. International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies (2002) 7: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1013050829597

Leiner, M. (1994).’Sexual politics in Cuba: Machismo, homosexuality, and AIDS. Boulder,



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