Cross-Cultural Marketing: Race, Ethnicity, and Other Cultural Challenges

Successful cross-cultural marketing requires today’s organizations to be socially and culturally competent entities with vast understanding of people, language, ethnicity, race, and other demographic and sociocultural challenges characterizing institutions and society. Companies must seek to bridge the gaps between people and their race, culture, and other differences. This means hiring diverse value creators, valuing social justice and equality, and keeping the focus on creating and delivering superior value and satisfaction to all stakeholders regardless of human social and physical characteristics. Business is all about acquiring, growing, and retaining customers and catering to their differences as valuable segments with unique and diverse needs.  

Organizations should accept that all instances of communication and interaction with stakeholders represent and affect marketing as these serve to affect perception of customer value via Service, Quality, Image, and Price (Weinstein’s SQIP Diamond). As business organizations witness events like those in Charlottesville unfold, they must consider how America’s current ethnic and racial challenges affect marketing communications efforts and act in ways to become more ethically and socially responsible marketers helping to address society’s causes and problems. Racial and ethnic blunders in marketing communications are not new and have been influenced by the types of events characteristic of Charlottesville, as well as deeper historical and social-cultural prejudices we have been unable to overcome for centuries.

While much of the blunders involving high profile issues of race and ethnicity seem to occur with the type of marketing communication known as advertising, they are not limited to that element of the marketing communications mix. Here are some examples of marketing communications blunders involving race and ethnicity:

1.      In April 2002, Abercrombie & Fitch debuted a line of T-shirts using Asian caricatures portraying Asian American oppression from the past as forced and indentured laborers, mocked the Buddha, and depicting various stereotypes of Asians. As a result of public outrage, the company had to recall the series of T-shirts.

2.      In August 2012, two models for Abercrombie & Fitch in South Korea took photos of themselves posing with what is known as “Asian squinty eyes” to mock Asian physical appearance, and this almost drove the company out of the market.

3.      In August 2017, Google fired a software engineer, James Damore, after he wrote what is regarded as an “anti-diversity” memo [“Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”] questioning Google’s diversity efforts, and in which, he argued that the comparatively lower percentage of women in technical positions was a result of biological differences instead of discrimination.

Long before Abercrombie & Fitch’s sociocultural-ethnic and racially insensitive marketing, many big brand companies experienced the negative consequences of not understanding how differences in culture, ethnicity, race language, and other factors affect marketing and reception to brands. Here are several examples:

1.      Pepsi’s 1960s “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation” campaign which in the Chinese market translated to suggest that Pepsi brought customers ancestors back to life, something both offensive and impossible to Chinese customers.

2.      In the 1980s, when KFC debuted in China, the company’s popular slogan “finger-lickin’ good” was translated as “Eat your fingers off”.

3.      In 1992, Fiat, an Italian car manufacturer wanting to target modern independent working women in Spain designed a direct-mail marketing campaign for its Cinquecento hatchback by mailing out “love letters” on pink papers without indicating that it was a promotional creative advertisement. As a result, this led to panic among thousands of women with many refusing to leave their homes.

While we have made significant progress in some areas as far as race and ethnicity issues are concerned, there is still much to be done in terms of companies being more assertive and responsible players in addressing today’s social pains. Unfortunately, there are still companies that are feature racially insensitive marketing communications. For example, Colgate is still advertising and selling “Black People Toothpaste” (Hei Ren Yao Gao) in Asia, and we still see ethnic and racial undertones in movies and television advertisements.

Marketers must be knowledgeable and aware of issues of race, culture, and ethnicity in both past and present contexts and as a result, become more socially and culturally sensitive in their interactions with customers and other stakeholders. Cross-cultural marketing practices are important and companies and their leaders and managers need to invest in responsible and respectful marketing communications. Events such as Charlottesville can be used to educate employees on racial, ethnic, and cultural awareness as they act as value creators and providers for their companies. Moreover, companies expressing and showing solidarity on social justice and equality is a major reputation or image-building strategy that can lend support to such cause.

Image source:, 2017

Donovan A. McFarlane, M.I.B., Ed.D., D.B.A., is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at

Embrace Marketing Innovation and Value-Creation for 2017 New Year!

Welcome back to the Huizenga College and New Year 2017!

Let us be thankful that we made it as we get ready for another swift-moving year.

What’s ahead of us, financial events, more uncertainties, or will it be a year of plenty and joy? 2017 is the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese Zodiac, and it seems related to any of these. In fact, while our New Year began on January 1, 2017, the Chinese New Year will begin on January 28, 2017 as the 4147th Chinese year. Whatever the case, it is a New Year and we have already won a great fortune by being present despite going through what has been regarded as a very tough year, 2016. The year 2016 saw several grand changes that both individuals and organizations must remain mindful of as they plan their 2017 New Year Resolution to make personal changes and changes for their customers. In 2016 we lost several celebrities and more closer to us, loved ones. We also witnessed a shocking presidential campaign, and the consequential election with one of America’s most recognized businessman being elected to the Office of President of the United States – and this one is still probably holding people’s minds and hearts back in 2016!

Let us rebrand and reposition ourselves, our products, services, and organizations to move forward!

Strategic marketing embraces focusing on challenges and opportunities to align a product, service, or attributes thereof with mission and vision in a changing, dynamic, and complex environment. In order to respond appropriately to the changing demands of today’s markets, organizations must often reposition, rebrand, and augment services and products (McFarlane, 2016). So must individuals, as life, like the ever changing and ever evolving marketing environment, is an experiment in failures and successes! We must learn from our failures and re-strategize to go forward!

There will be even more significant changes ahead of us as individuals and organizations in 2017, especially with the “eccentricities” and ego of the President-elect and his Cabinet of millionaires and billionaires. Position yourself to weather these changes that will have political, social, and most importantly for individuals and businesses – certain economic consequences! Perhaps this is a good time to count your pennies and your dollars, check your client-customer base, rethink your marketing efforts, your product, your service, and the actual value you are creating and offering to customers, your competitive frame of reference, your competitive position, and how you are going to sustain throughout 2017!

If you are a business struggling with declining customer base, sales, and/or revenues, it is no doubt a marketing problem more than any other issue! There could be several reasons for this:

·         Customers are probably not convinced that you are offering better value, product, or service than your competitors.

·         Customers probably feel that the benefits your brand, product, or service confers do not equal costs, or are less than costs – check your prices, your value-packages, service-and-marketing mix, and brand equity!

·         You are probably lacking innovation and it is wearing at your brand’s value and your image needs a facelift – invest more in public relations (PR), social media marketing, and co-create value with customers and business partners.

·         Seek to better understand the current and emerging industry and broader market and business environments and gauge your marketing communications strategically and appropriately.

·         Conduct a brand strength test using surveys or other means – check to see what your customers are thinking, figure out your net promoter score (NPS), and marketing measures that really matter.

·         Stop fooling yourself and destroying your business model to be something you are not, but rather focus on your core competences and know your resources, and most importantly, your capabilities. These are important in building and sustaining competitive advantage.

·         Finally, value your people asset – see your employees and customers as your most valuable assets (Kotler & Keller, 2016), and do what it takes to meet and exceed their expectations, and most importantly, realize that political play has its limits, and will not do for your business what great marketing and innovation can! Striving to be like your competitor is not innovation, it is imitation and may not work for you! Therefore, seek new marketing, value-creating, and value-adding opportunities – and practice niche marketing!

As McFarlane (2016) advises, be an Early Progressive rather than a Late Progressive, and most importantly, stop remaining a Clueless about your personal, and marketing and business realities.

 “Early Progressives” had already thought about 2017’s New Year Resolution from about the middle of 2016, and probably evaluated and reevaluated self and environment, and a host of other key success factors (KSFs) many times over. If you are a “Late Progressive” you are still probably dealing with the traumas of 2016 – personal and business losses, decline in customer base, revenues, income, opportunities – but guess what? You still have time to evaluate and develop a resolution for success in 2017! Whatever the case, avoid being a “Clueless” and realize that it is now 2017, and you and your business have entered a tougher market and business environment. It is therefore time to drop the uncertainties and suppress those Type C tendencies (“C” for “Clueless”) – procrastination, fair of planning and facing change, passive leadership, political play, and wishful marketing, and start to engage real action and efforts to make 2017 a great year to remember!

The Huizenga College and the Marketing Faculty wish you a healthy and prosperous 2017!


Kotler, P., & Keller, L. (2016). A Framework for Marketing Management, 6th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

McFarlane, D.A. (2016). A New Year’s Resolution: Rebrand and Reposition Yourself! HCBE Marketing Blog: Real-World Marketing Ideas and Strategies, January 1, 2016. Retrieved from

Donovan A. McFarlane, M.B.A., M.I.B, Ed.D., is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at

Black Friday – Shopping Tips to Keep You Sane and Save Money!

Companies and customers have long been up in arms about Black Friday! With a tough economy where companies are looking to increase sales and revenues, and where financially strapped customers are looking for the best deals, this Black Friday is full of expectations and hope on both sides. Furthermore, the recent election has not made customers any more relaxed about the economy than they did in the immediate post-recessionary period of 2008, and deal hunting and bargains can certainly go a long way to saving for an uncertain economic and financial future under a soon-to-be new government administration.

Just type in “Black Friday” in Google or another search engine and you will get an idea of the advertising frenzy, deals, and promotions. In fact, from mid-to-early October, Yahoo’s Associated Press and other online news companies and forums had topics similar to the following: “… Black Friday Deals Leaked!” and dozens of others giving customers and prospects a sneak peek at leaked Black Friday deals. We all know by now that many of these so-called “leaked” ads and deals represent just another marketing and advertising tactic to get the buzz going! This is certainly needed to make this Black Friday a knockout one. Hopefully the number crunching will tell the bottom line story after this one-day-a-year frenzy has passed!

Black Friday is not just a super-shopping day that millions of Americans look forward to, but something that many save and plan for. As early as the end of October companies started building their marketing themes and ads around Black Friday, and dozens of articles across websites started offering Black Friday shopping tips on what to buy, where to go for bargains, including Black Friday do’s and don’ts. For example, Courtney Jespersen, a staff writer from, in her article “What to Buy, and Skip, on Black Friday 2016” written on October 21, 2016, advises customers to buy previous models of products in order to experience real savings, especially on Apple products, since “Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart discount Apple products each year on Black Friday, and previous-generation models usually see the most dramatic deals” (Jespersen, 2016, p. 1). Additionally, she also advises shoppers to skip toys on Black Friday, perhaps waiting for the Christmas deals on toys from Kmart, Wal-Mart and Big Lots, and other companies – and in this same light, to also skip Christmas decorations, waiting till December 26 (Jespersen, 2016). Some consumers might find her advice on Christmas decoration a bit purposeless, but after all, you can save them for next Christmas. Jespersen (2016) also advises customers to skip winter clothing, bedding, and mail-in rebates, and instead, buy the major staple of Black Friday – electronics such as TV, tablets, smartphones, and other similar items including home appliances, video gaming bundles including CDs and DVDs. This is good advice!

Before you start getting too excited about Black Friday shopping, here are a few tips that will be useful in helping you remain a responsible, conscious, and rational, wise shopper:

·         Check your finances! It is important to check whether or not you have disposable income to spend this Black Friday. If you simply don’t have it, don’t spend it. You still do not have to feel left out either. Spend the day or weekend doing something great – watch a movie, spend time with a loved one or loved ones, cook yourself a great meal, or something that makes you happy. Hopefully, it is not an expensive and regretful spending spree that gets your ticker going!

·         Take it easy on your plastic and cash as we currently don’t know where interest rates and the economy will go! You will have to pay back every dime you spend on your credit cards plus interests and the interests upon interests! Ellen Cannon, another staff writer from, in her November 1, 2016 article “Best Credit Cards for Black Friday and the Holidays, 2016” reminds us to shop smart with our credit cards and to consider the savings in using store cards, whole-sale club card brands, or regular credit cards as you shop.

·         Think and make a list of things you need rather than things you simply want. Many consumers shop on impulse, totally forgetting about their real needs. Impulse buying can cause post-purchase regret (Kotler & Keller, 2016) to become the highlight of your Black Friday shopping. Therefore, check your inventory of possessions before you decide to shop.

·         Consider the days and weeks after Black Friday, and the upcoming Christmas opportunities for getting bargains. After all, this is not your last chance of the year to get some deals, and good shoppers after all, know how to deal hunt even when it is not a special day of the year. So, if you do not have the currency to get that new appliance or whatever it is this Black Friday, just thank God to be alive!

·         Remember, you work very hard for your money, and deserve the best in customer value – highest level of service, top quality, and good prices – and businesses that treat you as their key asset and believe that the customer is king or honored guest (Weinstein, 2012). Therefore, expect great service as you exercise your buying decisions.

·         Finally, be safe and watch your environment when you go shopping at the malls and plazas. Scan your environment as you enter parking lots and malls, lock your vehicle, do not leave your purchase visible for opportunistic predators, and keep your purses, wallets, and credit cards safe!


Cannon, E. (2016). Best Credit Cards for Black Friday and the Holidays, 2016., November 1, 2016. Retrieved from

Jespersen, C. (2016). What to Buy, and Skip, on Black Friday 2016., October 21, 2016. Retrieved from

Kotler, P., & Keller, K.L. (2016). A Framework for Marketing Management, 6th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Weinstein, A. (2012). Superior Customer Value: Strategies for winning and Retaining Customers, Third Edition. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press.

Donovan A. McFarlane, M.B.A., M.I.B., Ed.D., is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship. Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at

A New Year’s Resolution: Rebrand and Reposition Yourself!

Strategic marketing embraces focusing on challenges and opportunities to align a product, service, or attributes thereof with mission and vision in a changing, dynamic, and complex environment. In order to respond appropriately to the changing demands of today's markets, organizations must often reposition, rebrand, and augment services and products.

On a personal level, you are a product of life's experiences, culture, education, socialization, etc., – and probably most importantly, Planning! You must examine your value creation and value adding processes and activities to ensure you are living up to expectations – most importantly, your expectations – the mission and vision you have and set for yourself. The New Year offers up an excellent opportunity for you to take stock - so plan, reposition, rebrand, and add value this year by having a resolution. To begin, it is important to understand that time and planning will be important to your success in 2016!

In fact...Congratulations!

If you have made it into New Year 2016, you have already won more than half of the battle! Now, you just need to plan and organize your resources if you have not started as yet! It is time to develop a New Year's Resolution!

A New Year Resolution is simply a personal pledge, affirmation, or promise to change, do, or achieve something for the New Year. The word "resolution" is a strong word that suggests determination and seriousness. You are going to get it done right? In order to do so you must plan timely and effectively!

When it comes to New Year's Resolution, people generally fall into three frames of mind: the Early Progressives, Late Progressives, and the Clueless!

The "Early Progressives" probably started thinking about their New Year's Resolution for 2016 from about the middle of 2015, and got more anxious and felt more compelled to start early reflection on what they want to achieve or change for the 2016. The "Early Progressives" are highly anxious to achieve and start their new projects and initiate new changes, and they race to set a New Year's Resolution before the ending of 2016. December 2015 was a month of high anxiety for "Early Progressives" because they could not wait to get started on accomplishing their New Year's Resolution. They are extremely time-sensitive because "The early bird will certainly get the worm!" January 2016 will be an important month for the "Early Progressives" and another month of high anxiety – it is not a month of celebration, but deep planning and gauging oneself for achievement with the first few days and first few weeks of the New Year.

The "Late Progressives" are probably still hanging on to 2015, and probably still figuring out, or just arrived at their 2016 New Year's Resolution. Whatever the case, "Late Progressives" still see January 2016 as good enough and early enough to set a New Year's Resolution – after all, January is the start of the New Year, not December! The "Late Progressives" feel less time-constrained than the "Early Progressives" and they feel the need to take time to reflect thoroughly on 2015 after it has elapsed. They are not in any hurry to set a New Year's Resolution until all the celebration is over – that means both New Year's Eve and New Year's Day 2016 – because both are still vestiges of the celebratory month of December 2015!

The "Clueless" are probably still clueless about what they want to achieve, uncertain what they accomplished and failed at in 2015, and are just calmly stepping into the New Year. After all, they value stability so much that even if things were just ordinary in 2015, they will not mind a repeat of the same for 2016. They are more concerned about whether or not 2016 will be worse than 2015, or as good as 2015. However, they are not doing anything about it since they feel that they can do little and things will happen as they should; a somewhat fatalistic disposition to things. They will probably not have a New Year's Resolution and feel more comfortable not stressing about it; after all, life is complicated enough. Whatever the case, the "Clueless" will certainly be less tired and less taxed at the end of 2016, and perhaps healthier since their "Type C" personality ("C" for "Clueless") leaves them very relaxed and living day to day rather than constantly trying to overdo it or outdo others. If you ask me, having this frame of mind is not a bad idea until it is time to cash in your chips!

So, which of these frames of mind best reflect your approach to the New Year? What's your New Year's Resolution?

Whichever and whatever it is, the Huizenga College of Business and its Marketing Faculty would like to wish you a healthy and prosperous Happy New Year!

Donovan A. McFarlane, M.B.A., M.I.B, M.S., Ed.D., is an Adjunct Professor of Marketing in the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. He can be reached at