Cultures diverge across Eastern European boundaries
Eastern Europe is widely regarded as an attractive homogenous trading bloc but Intersperience research into cultural differences reveals a complex picture, requiring marketeers to adopt a new strategic approach to wooing Eastern European consumers.
The international consumer research specialist conducted cross-border research, producing fresh insight into cultural differences and similarities and grouping countries into ‘clusters’ of nations with shared cultural behaviours.
Intersperience completed an extensive multi-lingual survey and applied a unique ‘Cultural Lens’ comparing behaviour on six dimensions and pinpointing nations with similar cultural traits. It identified five separate clusters, including an ‘Eastern cluster’ of four nations with shared underlying cultural behaviors - Russia, Turkey, Belarus, and the Ukraine.
A key implication of the research is that any attempt to group the former Soviet Union (FSU) countries together for marketing purposes will be unsuccessful as the four “Eastern Cluster’ countries exhibit marked differences in cultural behaviour compared to nations such as Poland, Romania and Lithuania which belong outside the Eastern Cluster.
In fact, of the latter three, Romania emerges as more culturally similar to Spain and Italy, while Lithuanie emerges as a unique case.
The nations within the ‘Eastern Cluster’ share several cultural behaviours including:
- a long-term orientation which means they are more likely to save and value thrift
- a hunger for new products and learning new skills
- a preference for communication involving non-verbal cues
- a tendency to pay attention to social branding and personal recommendation
- a keenness on self-service.
However, there is a peculiarity to the Eastern Cluster compared with the other cultural clusters identified by the study.
“Russia, Turkey, Belarus and the Ukraine constitute a cluster - but only just - their common cultural behaviours are relatively weakly shared compared to other clusters. That emphasises the importance of understanding cultural differences at a national as well as group level,” Paul Hudson, Intersperience Chief Executive, explained,.
He added that the factors underlying shared cultural behaviours are multi-faceted, which explains why the Eastern cluster constitutes nations with common cultural behaviours despite not sharing common borders, language, history or politics.
Hudson commented: “Winston Churchill famously described Russia as a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, and frankly he had a point. Too many organisations are oblivious to critical cultural differences and adopt an overly simplistic approach to dealing not only with Russia but Eastern Europe generally. Our research shows that a ‘one size fits all’ strategy for Eastern Europe is fundamentally flawed.”
He added: “Cultural behaviour is a complex issue which permeates every area of society. It influences brand perception and meaning and how people decode marketing messages. It influences whether people will relate to a brand which celebrates individualism and material wealth or which espouses more collective concerns. Marketing directors must grapple with these issues to communicate effectively with consumers in target markets.”