This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

May 17, 2006

International Cultural Influence

For many years, American culture has been followed and adopted by people in countries all over the world. Young people particularly pick up eating habits (McDonald’s), clothing preferences (Nike), and much more. They watch American television shows---in English and in translations---and become great fans of singers, actors, and sports figures. We see evidence of international cultural influence on television news when we see citizens of other countries wearing American clothing and hear them using American jargon.

As China opened up, a whole new group of middle class consumers eagerly came under the influence of American culture. From blue jeans to Starbucks coffee, the young, upwardly mobile, in-tune consumers actively demonstrated their hunger for American goods, services, and experiences. Recently, in part as the result of the United States’ actions on the world stage, the cultural orientation has been shifting to a European influence. Indications are that before long we will see another shift---to Chinese-made products. In fact many believe that this shift is already underway.

Global marketers are studying the Chinese and international motivations that drive buying decisions in an effort to understand---and benefit from---the growing segmentation of the Chinese market. Once rightly perceived to be a more unified market, where one size, color, shape would satisfy everyone, China’s market is now becoming much more sophisticated, similar to the diversity found in the United States, Europe, and Japan. As consumerism in China builds, so will we see differentiation in individual tastes, wants and needs of its segments.

Of course, the real beneficiary in China will be the media. We will see the rise of syndicated market research, just as we have seen for years in the US and Europe.

Watching trends, we look beyond China to other parts of the world under the influence of Western cultures. American and European marketers are deeply invested in extending their reach and penetration. They must now anticipate and prepare for competition from Chinese marketers. There is a new player in the global race for cultural influence, the tremendous consumerism impact, and the more subtle pursuit of political attachment.

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