Cultural misunderstanding, it can happen to you.

15 09 2006

When we think of industry leaders in marketing and branding, Disney comes to mind. Geniuses in promoting their brand. Magnificent marketers. Leaders in the theme park industry. Universally recognized brand.

What could possibly go wrong with their expansion into Hong Kong and the Asian-Pacific market? Cultural misunderstanding.

Expansion into international markets and working with other cultures has created unforeseen headaches and problems for Disney once again. Disneyland struggles in Hong Kong

This is not the first time Disney has encountered cultural problems in international projects. EuroDisney also suffered from problems related to culture and customs that were not predicted or not taken seriously.

Disney is not alone. Virtually all organizations seeking to export and participate in international markets face steep learning curves about culture, customs and manners. Mistakes are made, at times very costly mistakes.

The lesson to be learned is to spend the time and money to understand your international markets and the culture where you will be doing business. It’s not enough to understand your brand and current customers. Never underestimate any cultural factor, and never assume that your model, project or way of life will be embraced fully and without reservations.

Related Links

Create great international business relationships

Stereotypes and global business



6 responses

15 09 2006

Hi Lee,

This is a very relevant subject in today’s “global” market. There is an interesting case of the launch of Kit Kat in Japan, which was done in a unique manner based on genuine insight into Japanese culture. I think Nestle is one organization that understands the importance of local cultures much more than most others.


18 09 2006
Rajan Sodhi

I couldn’t agree with you more. Too often companies forget the purpose is to understand and serve your customers. If you decide to market/serve a new customer base with a different set of values and cultures than what you’re used to, understanding and respecting them fully is your only chance for success. Failing to do so can prove to be very costly.

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