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Understanding cultural differences

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Plan

I. What Is Culture?

a. Basic Assumptions, Values And Norms Drive Practices And Behaviors

b. Culture Operates At Various Levels – The Visible Artifacts To The
Deeply Rooted And Unconscious

c. The Role of the Leader in Transmitting Culture

II. Why Assess Culture?

a. Closing The Gap Between The Real And Ideal Culture

b. Value and Goal Alignment across Subcultures, Divisions and Geographic
Regions

c. Individual-Organization Fit

d. Organizational Change

III. What is Corporate Culture?

IV. AMERICAN CULTURE

V. Corporate Culture and Local Culture

VI. American Business Executives Abroad

VII. Key Points for Foreigners to Keep in Mind

a. When Working with American Business

b. When Working with Individual Americans

VIII. Public Relations, Corporate Image, and Advertising

IX. Characteristics of Successful American Business Executives

Culture is a technical term used by anthropologists to refer to a system
for creating, sending, storing, and processing information developed by
human beings, which differentiates them from other life forms. The terms
mores, tradition, custom, and habit are subsumed under the cultural
umbrella. Sometimes culture is used in reference to the fine arts. While
art and literature do indeed form an important part of a culture, in
this book the term is used in its wider context.

I. What Is Culture?

Your organization’s culture is not (he espoused list of values developed
at an offsite by the executive team and framed on the wall in your
lobby. These are ideals. What you strive to be as an organization and
what values you hope to endorse, may be different from the values,
beliefs, and norms expressed in your actual practices and behavior.
Don’t fool yourself. It is critical that you find out who you really are
as well as striving for who you want to be. Awakening the emperor to the
fact that he/she has no clothes is often a risky and delicate first step
in closing the gap between the real and the ideal. Cultural assessment
can provide measurable data about the real organizational values and
norms that can be used to get management’s attention. It can dispel some
of management’s illusions about what really matters in the organization
and will tell them how far off the mark things really are. Management
may find that it is not practicing what it preaches. However, telling
the CEO the truth about the organization he/she has built, can often be
dangerous to your career progress. Delivering such a message takes skill
as a coach and a willingness to take risks and confront conflict.

a. Basic Assumptions, Values And Norms Drive Practices And Behaviors

The culture of an organization operates at both a conscious and
unconscious level. Often the people who see your culture more clearly
are those from the outside—the new hires, the consultants or vendors.
When coaching or I advising senior management, remember that culture
comprises the deeply rooted but often unconscious beliefs. values and
norms shared by the members of the organization. Those not living inside
the culture can often see it more objectively. Better to ask a New
Yorker to tell you what Californians are like than ask a Californian.

Culture drives the organization and its actions. It is somewhat like
“The operating system” of the organization. It guides how employees
think, act and feel. It is dynamic and fluid, and it is never static. A
culture may be effective at one time, under a given set of circumstances
and effective at another time. There is no generically good culture.
There are however, generic patterns of health and pathology.

b. Culture Operates At Various Levels – The Visible Artifacts To The
Deeply Rooted And Unconscious

Culture can be viewed at several levels. Some aspects of culture arc
visible and tangible and others are intangible und unconscious. Basic
assumptions that guide the organization are deeply rooted and often
taken for granted Avoidance of conflict is a value that is an excellent
example of an unconscious norm that may have a major influence on the
organization but is frequently unconscious. For an insider, this is
difficult or impossible to sec. particularly if the individual has
“grown up” in the organizational culture. Recently hired employees, the
external consultant and the executive coach is frequently in the best
position to identify these unconscious assumptions or values. Espoused
or secondary values are at a more conscious level; these are me values
that people in the organization discuss, promote and try to live by. All
employees of Hewlett Packard, for example, are required to become
familiar with the values embodied in the “HP Way. ” Some of the most
visible expressions of the culture arc called artifacts. These include
the architecture and decor, the clothing people wear. the organizational
processes and structures, and the rituals, symbols and celebrations
Other concrete manifestation of culture are found in commonly used
language and jargon, logos, brochures, company slogans, as well as
status symbols such as cars, window offices, titles, and of course value
statements and priorities. An outsider can often spot these artifacts
easily upon entering an organization. For insiders, however, these
artifacts have often become part of the background.

c. The Role of the Leader in Transmitting Culture

One of the critical factors in understanding a corporate culture is the
degree to which it is leader-centric. Ask yourself, how central is our
leader to the style of this organization? If you are the leader
yourself, the culture of your company is likely to reflect your
personality, including your neurosis. So if the CEO avoids conflict and
tends to sweep it under the carpet, don’t be surprised if you see
avoidance of conflict played out in the organization. The behavior that
is modeled by the leader and the management team profoundly shapes the
culture and practices of the organization. What management emphasizes,
rewards and punishes can tell you what is really important. The behavior
of members of the senior team, their reactions in a crises and what they
talk routinely talk about, all sets the tone of the culture. If the
culture is already firmly established when the CEO assumed leadership
and he/she simply inherited a strong set of traditions, then he/she may
play the role of the guardian of the old culture. On the other hand,
CEOs such as Lou Gerstner at IBM, or Lee Iococca at Chrysler were
brought in to be a change agent charged with dramatically transforming
the organizational culture.

II. Why Assess Culture?

a. Closing The Gap Between The Real And Ideal Culture

Why would a company be interested in assessing its culture? If the
organization wants to maximize its ability to attain its strategic
objectives, it must understand if the prevailing culture supports and
drives the actions necessary to achieve its strategic goals. Cultural
assessment can enable a company to analyze the gap between the current
and desired culture. Developing a picture of the ideal and then taking a
realistic look at the gaps is vital information that can be used to
design interventions to close the gaps and bring specific elements of
culture into line. If your competitive environment is changing fast,
your organizational culture may also need to change. However, you may
only need to change some of its practices and secondary values while
keeping a few precious and non-negotiable core values intact. Often an
objective assessment tool can be zero in on a limited number of elements
of culture that need to change, rather than embarking on the futile
attempt to change the entire culture.

b. Value and Goal Alignment across Subcultures, Divisions and Geographic
Regions

In many companies there is a strong dominant culture that is pervasive
throughout the organization and across business units or even regions.
This kind of organization is said to possess a high level of cultural
integration. However, often the culture in large organizations is not
singular or uniform. Organizations can vary widely in terms of the
degree of cultural integration and the strength of the subcultures that
coexist. Subcultures may share certain characteristics, norms, values
and beliefs or be totally different. These subcultures can function
cooperatively or be in conflict with each other. In general, subcultures
can differ by function, (engineering vs. marketing), by their place in
the hierarchy, (management vs. administrators, assistants) by division,
by site, or by geographic region and country.

It may be both undesirable and unrealistic to try to homogenize the
organization across all of its parts. Still, a thoughtful assessment of
the culture can facilitate the alignment of values and strategic goals
across subcultures and geographic areas. It is very important for global
companies to tolerate and support a certain amount of cultural
differentiation. Yet there may be a core of values, a subset of four or
five deeply held principles that management thinks should cut across
subcultures, divisions, and international settings.

c. Individual-Organization Fit

Corporations that are growing fast must hire a large number of new
employees. It is critical that these new hires are a good fit with the
current culture. If an individual is out of synch with the culture, the
organization’s cultural antibodies will often attack. However, there
must also be a good fit with the culture that you are trying to create.
It is now possible to make hiring decisions based on quantitative
assessment of the compatibility between the candidate’s personality,
values and behaviors and both the current and desired culture.

d. Organizational Change

Today the pace of change is so rapid, particularly in the high tech
industries. Only organizations that can adapt to j this fast changing
environment can survive. However, as Built to Last, by Jim Collins and
Jerry Porris has demonstrated, enduring great companies are usually
built on both a solid foundation of timeless core values, but also on
the adaptability of their behavioral practices, secondary values,
structures and other cultural artifacts. The secret to a company that
will last is its ability to manage both continuity and change. Such
companies are capable of responding with nimbleness to the environmental
drivers that necessitate change in strategy and practices. These drivers
include: rapid technological change, changes in industries and markets,
deregulation, aggressive competition, the global economy, increased
organizational complexity, new business models Getting a profile of the
current culture can enable organizations to thoughtfully bring the
elements of the culture into alignment and move forward towards an
ideal.

Organizations develop cultures whether they try to or not. If your
intention is to appraise individual-organization fit, align culture with
its strategic goals, understand subcultures, assess mergers and
acquisitions partners, or to make organizational changes in practices or
values, understanding your culture in an objective manner can give you a
business advantage and spare you enormous time and money. Not
understanding your culture in today’s business world can be fatal.
Sometimes the emperor or empress needs to be told that his/her baby is
ugly. Having objective measurement tools such as Hagberg Consulting
Group’s “Cultural Assessment Tool” can provide a consultant or coach
with valuable objective measurement of existing culture. Executives are
frequently analytical and quantitative in their orientation. Having data
and an assessment tool to deliver a painful message may be the key to
getting management to pay attention and face the reality of what kind of
culture really exists. It is also useful in preventing the demise of me
messenger.

III. What is Corporate Culture?

As your text points out, every company (or institution, organization,
etc.) has a culture of its own, and employees are usually smart to try
to fit in with that culture. The culture of a company deals with its
atmosphere and social preferences and includes aspects such as how
employees dress, whether they are free to talk among themselves about
non-business topics, whether breaks arc limited and strictly timed,
whether entry-level employees are free to visit upper-echelon offices,
whether superiors are addressed by first name or by Mr. /Ms. whatever,
and a host of other considerations. Now no one is going to give you a
list of the cultural aspects of the company you work for; those aspects
are often intangible and difficult to define. But as an employee, you’ll
pick them up over time. There are a number of factors that tend to
influence corporate culture, and your book does a good Job of explaining
them. However, remember that your text is talking about tendencies;
don’t make assumptions about the culture of any particular company until
you’ve been with it long enough to leam it firsthand A company’s history
will influence its culture, particularly in terms of how stable the
culture is. If you are hired by a company (hat has been around for 100
years and done things pretty much the same way for the whole lime, you
probably aren’t going to be able to change the culture much. If. on the
other hand, me company is relatively new. the culture might not be
firmly established, and you may have some influence on it. The type of
business has more to do with culture than the company’s history. Let me
give you an example by comparing the cultures of two long-standing U. S.
companies. When I was heavily involved in corporate life in the late
’80s, ЮМ was considered me bastion of conservative business. Now, I’ve
never been in an IBM office, and what 1 heard might be an exaggeration.
But the scuttlebutt was that you could wear any color suit as long as it
was dark blue or dark gray. I read that the employee restrooms and
lounges were painted orange because studies have indicated that that is
the least restful color, and die company wanted to discourage employees
from spending time in the Johns. Men were more or less expected to wear
wing-tips, and women were expected to wear 1/2-inch heels in dark colors
and neutral-colored hose.

Now, just as IBM is the father of all business machine companies. Disney
is the father of animation in the U. S. I have been inside the Disney
corporate offices. The employees wear shorts and tennis shoes. They
wander between each other’s offices at will. Some play music in their
offices. Some sit at their desks, and others lounge on sofas. The
difference? IBM is a conservative company that produces a product used
largely by business professionals Ii wants to exude professionalism and
confidence. Disney produces films; it wants to encourage its employees
to be creative in any way it can. It hires artists and writers.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that the corporate culture may vary
from department to department. When I first started in advertising as a
writer/editor, I was in the creative division of the company. Now, we
didn’t wear shorts or jeans, but the women did wear slacks and sweaters,
and none of the guys wore jackets or tics. The people in the front
offices wore suits, though.

The idea is that you need to find out what the culture of your peers is
and adapt to it. Generally speaking, when you first join a company and
don’t know what is expected, you should keep in mind that it is better
to err on the side of conservatism and formality than on the side of
informality.

IV. AMERICAN CULTURE

The U. S. is not a melting pot: ethnic groups persist. Nonetheless,
Americans feel a bond to other Americans that transcends differences in
ethnic origins.

—Jackson Toby, “America Works Despite All the Odds” —Wall Street Journal

Like people all over the world, Americans take their culture for
granted. Indeed, it’s only in juxtaposition with other cultures that
Americans begin to understand the influence of their own culture on
their behavior. Only when we can see that there is more than one
approach to life and many different ways of behaving can we begin to
experience the strong, pervasive influence of our own culture.

It is more difficult to describe American culture than German or French
culture because the United States is not just another country; it spans
a continent, and has a population of over 250, 000, 000 people whose
ancestors came from virtually every country in the world. American
culture is a rich mix of Anglo-Saxon, French, German, Scandinavian,
Spanish, Italian, Latin American, Native American, African, Polish,
Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, and Arab
influences, Just to name a few. In its early days the country was
strongly influenced by the British and other people from northern
Europe; its laws are based on British common law and American English
has absorbed many northern European words. While the U. S. is a nation
of immigrants and there are ^any people in American business who are not
of northern European heritage, for the purposes of our discussion of
American culture, it is the American-European culture we refer to and
not the many other cultures represented in the American population. This
dominant or mainstream business culture is the norm to which people with
other cultural backgrounds are expected to conform, particularly in
large corporations.

Despite its ethnic diversity, the U. S. has managed to absorb bits and
pieces of many cultures and weave them into a unique culture that is
strikingly consistent and distinct. You can pick out Americans any place
in the world, often very quickly, because of their behavior. Among their
most observable traits are openness, friendliness, informality,
optimism, creativity, loudness, and vitality.

In common with others, Americans tend to be ethnocentric, in part
because of the great size and economic power of the United States.
Unlike the Germans and the French, Americans do not have close foreign
neighbors with whom they interact constantly. The country shares borders
with Canada and Mexico, but relatively few Americans have dealings with
or know much about either country.

While the United States has absorbed millions of people from countries
around the globe, the core culture of the United States has its roots in
northern European or Anglo-Saxon culture. As a result, it is a
predominantly monochrome, low-context culture. To succeed in the
American economic system, people must adapt to schedules and the other
conventions of doing business in a monochrome, low-context environment.
It also means their approach to life is compartmentalized and they need
detailed background information because they do not have well developed
information networks.

V. Corporate Culture and Local Culture

Businesses which have strong corporate cultures have certain advantages
over those that don’t. A strong corporate culture provides shared ideals
and a common way of communicating. It also performs several other
important functions:

1. Increasing context (i. e., providing necessary background data)

2. Decreasing compartmentalization

3. Increasing information flow

4. Facilitating organizational unification and coordination

5. Increasing survival capabilities

In good times a strong corporate culture is not a prerequisite to
survival. In bad times it is vital. Companies that do not have a strong
corporate culture and a strong corporate image will tend to fragment
under the stress of the struggle to survive when times become difficult.
Strong corporate cultures are cohesive; they bind their employees
together. They encourage cooperation and enable companies to respond
quickly and effectively to changing conditions.

But a strong corporate culture at home does not necessarily guarantee an
effective corporate presence abroad. Overseas, it is necessary first to
create an environment in which the indigenous employees can flourish.
Management must adapt the company’s corporate culture to the local
culture. This adaptation requires great patience in the home office and
depends in large part on the selection of the foreign manager, who must
understand the requirements of the home office and also have the skills
to interact effectively with the local people. Interfacing between the
home office and the local affiliate is the greatest challenge to any
overseas population. In time local employees should be encouraged to
adapt the corporate culture and corporate image to ensure maximum impact
on both local people and local markets.

VI. American Business Executives Abroad

Corporate cultures are apparently more exportable than national cultures
and are certainly more understandable to Americans, who are used to the
idea that working for a company means doing things the company way.

When Americans work overseas, they tend to isolate themselves in “golden
ghettos” and interact with each other rather than with the people of the
host country. We have observed this phenomenon for over thirty years;
only in the last decade have we noted a heartening change. Today many
Americans, the younger executives in particular, really do try to live
in the country of assignment, making friends and learning the language.
Somehave had prior experience living abroad with their parents or in the
Peace Corps. This change in attitude and behavior has made an enormous
difference in their ability to adapt and learn the foreign culture.

American business is often criticized for its lack of concern for the
families of its overseas employees. Many executives are assigned
overseas for short periods, usually two years, which is simply not
enough time to learn the language and integrate into the society-
Additionally, since they expect to be leaving m two years, they may feel
the effort of learning the language would be wasted, another example of
how the American short-term time orientation adversely affects business
performance.

Spouses of American executives overseas bear the brunt of adjusting to
the local culture since they must cope with housing, schools, shopping,
repairs, health care, and social life- They need not only language
training but orientation to the culture as well. Quite often
American-espouses are unable to obtain work permits. With their husbands
or wives working long hours or traveling extensively and the children at
school, the spouses are left alone with no means of communication—with
predictable results. The rate of marital difficulties, divorce, and
alcoholism among American families abroad is high and reflects a lack of
understanding and intelligent planning by American business. Recently,
however, some American business firms have become slightly more
realistic and are now willing to make longer assignments overseas,
permitting employee and spouse to become fluent in both language and
culture.

American overseas business personnel today are much better educated and
informed than their predecessors of thirty years ago and more competent
and adaptable. For many years American business was not cognizant of the
crucial importance of proper selection and training of overseas
personnel. As a result they lost millions of dollars. In the past there
was an unfortunate tendency to transfer problem employees abroad, and
even today there are many Americans working overseas who should never
have left the United States. You can usually spot them in restaurants
and bars of clubs or international hotels, loudly voicing their
frustrations with locals, arrogant and impatient. Despite these
unfortunate errors in selection, there has been a noticeable improvement
in the quality of American business representation overseas. An
executive who has been successful in the U. S. often has difficulty when
transferred abroad because of her or his expectations of continued
success. When those expectations are not met (because the techniques
that were successful in the U. S. do not always work in foreign
cultures), the result can be a devastating sense of failure. The ability
to cope with failure is therefore a prime qualification for
cross-cultural effectiveness, but is unfortunately not a quality highly
prized in American business.

It is our strong recommendation that only the best and most adaptable
people be sent overseas and that their training in both language and
cross-cultural effectiveness be extensive. A recent study for the
Southern Governors’ Association concluded, “We have yet to learn a
critical lesson: the language of trade is the language of the customer.
” We would add that the language of the customer includes not only the
spoken language but also the language of behavior, that is, the culture.

Once the company has invested the time and money in training, it should
leave the employees in the country long enough to reap the benefits (a
minimum of five years). Several executives agreed with the highly
experienced general manager of a German subsidiary, who said, “American
companies make a big mistake by rotating their managers too often. ”

Companies should also develop long-term plans for utilizing the
expertise of overseas employees once they return to headquarters. All
too often their knowledge and experience is ignored and lost. Even
worse, their overseas experience may be a handicap to career advancement
in the United States since they may be perceived as having been out of
the mainstream.

In our interviews overseas, almost all the directors of American compan
ies overseas ranked the home office as their number one problem.
Americans have a world-wide reputation for oversupervising their foreign
operations. One top manager (a Swiss) with many years of experience
working for American companies abroad had this to say: “American
companies tend to keep you on a short leash. There are constant demands
for reports and financial data. At headquarters you are smothered with
staff who ‘know better’ about everything. Overseas you are alone but you
are closely watched; whenever there’s a blip, you hear from headquarters
and they hover and hover. ”

It is difficult for headquarters to understand what is happening i in a
foreign operation. The people who are most likely to know f are those on
the spot who are cognizant of the cultural differences involved. Thus,
the best policy for the executives at the home office is to assign good
people to foreign posts and then, listen to what they say.

VII. Key Points for Foreigners to Keep in Mind

There are several characteristics that flow from the massive size of the
United States as well as from the great variety of cultural antecedents
that distinguish American culture from all others.

In spite of the numerous and visible inequities in the American system,
there is still no society in the world that provides both the freedom
and the opportunity to become a success for anyone who has brains or
talent and is willing to apply her- or himself. America is still the
land of opportunity.

Because of the way in which American business and marketing systems are
organized, and possibly because of reinforcement from the extensive and
ubiquitous television commercial, the tempo of American business
interactions is unusually fast. Everything is faster and bigger in the
United States. Keep this in mind: Americans tend to “tailgate” other
people.

In the U. S., there is no defined class system. People are constantly
moving up and down in the social system because of variations in their
financial and educational status. Americans are very status-conscious
and place great emphasis on status symbols such as money, celebrity,
power, image, possessions, and institutional affiliations.

In over a quarter of a century of working with, talking to,
interviewing, and being friends with people from other parts of the
world, there is one point that is made consistently: American friendship
patterns are of the temporary sort and often do not go very deep. The
reasons behind this are many and varied and relate to the unusual
mobility of most Americans, especially those in business.

As a consequence of their extreme individualism, American loyalties are
for the most part linked to careers and no/ to the organization. Loyalty
to organizations is discouraged by the narrow, bottom-line, cost-cutting
philosophy of many American business firms.

a. When Working with American Business

1. Remember that American business works in a short time frame. Its
executives and managers want immediate results and are not as interested
in building long-term relationships as Europeans are.

2. In general, when you employ Americans, check their education and
previous employment references carefully. Do not assume everyone is
honest. In our research, we heard many complaints about falsified
records.

3. Be very careful in choosing an American manager. Spend the necessary
time and money to investigate the backgrounds of those you consider good
candidates. Encourage the person you select to make friends and build
networks at your home office.

4. Americans arrive at meetings with an agenda they wish to follow. If
you want something discussed, be sure it is placed on the agenda ahead
of time. Bring a short written statement to circulate.

5. Be prepared for the problems of compartmentalization in American
business. Do not assume information will be shared.

b. When Working with Individual Americans

1. Because the United States is a mix of many ethnic groups, you must
determine whether the person you are dealing with is monochrome or
polychrome so that you can then adjust your strategy accordingly. Most
Americans are monochrome: they do one thing at a time, they don’t like
interruptions/ and they have a strong need to finish whatever they are
working on. They also compartmentalize information and do not share it
freely. Even members of minority ethnic groups tend to adopt the
monochronic behaviors of the majority culture in their business
dealings.

2. Americans are individually oriented and concerned with their own
careers. Their loyalty is first to themselves and then to their employer
or organization.

3. Americans want to be liked and accepted. They prefer people who don’t
make waves and are good team players.

4. Equality and egalitarianism are important to Americans. They resent
people who pull rank or seem to consider themselves superior,

5. Most Americans are open, friendly, casual, and informal in their
manners. They do not mean to insult you if they call you by your first
name.

6. Americans like to come right to the point. They are uncomfortable
with indirection and subtlety.

7. Learn all about the Americans you work with: their background,
education, and hobbies.

8. Keep in mind that appearances are important to Americans.

9. Be open to diversity.

10. When dealing with American employees, give specific (preferably
written) instructions, avoid vagueness and indirection, be lavish with
praise and recognition, and do not discriminate against or disparage
anyone, especially women and minorities. If you need to correct an
American employee, first seek guidance from your American staff. To be
effective, correction of a subordinate must be based on knowledge of
that person.

VIII. Public Relations, Corporate Image, and Advertising

In the United States there is a difference between a person’s facade and
her or his image- Facade is what people present as their public
exterior; it’s composed of their personality and their Personification
of cultural values. Image is artificial and imposed and is, in business,
the product of public relations and advertising. The image can be a
product image, a corporate image, or the image of the company’s top
official. Many American companies are closely identified in the public
mind with the person who runs the company, such as Lee lacocca with
Chrysler and Mary Kay Ash with Mary Kay Cosmetics. The product, the
corporation, and the CEO should all project a consistent image, and this
is the job of the company’s advertising agency.

Americans are very image-conscious. They think in terms of how their
actions wil! affect their own personal image, the image of their
product, or the image of their company. When Americans have to make a
decision, they consider how the decision will make them or their company
look. The American preoccupation with image leads some foreigners to
decry the shallowness of Americans.

Corporate reputation can be the determining factor in public acceptance
of a product if the product is similar in quality and price to a
competitor’s. Dependability, performance, quality, and price are all
part of a company’s image. Sales in a competitive market are directly
affected by how well a company communicates its image of dependability
and high quality to the public at large.

The American communication style is like a newspaper headline: short and
to the point. Americans prefer digests to long articles and detailed
reports. They often announce at the beginning of oral presentations what
they are going to talk about and when the discourse will end. Short,
punchy presentations with humor are preferred (except, perhaps, for
technical, scientific, or academic papers). In the U. S., starting a
speech with a joke is common, but it would be a major mistake in West
Germany. Conversely, beginning a speech with a presentation of the
historical background of an issue—which is done frequently by German
speakers—would bore an American audience to tears-Because many Americans
have a narrow professional focus, they are not interested in general or
background information, but just in what they need to know right then.
Germans want lots of background information, historical context, and
examples. The French, of course, prefer elegant, elaborate presentations
that display wit and savoir-faire.

As we discussed in parts 2 and 3, the function of German advertising is
to transmit information white French advertising works to release a
positive emotional response. The function of American advertising is to
hype the product.

As we have noted Americans often exaggerate in both their written and
their oral communication. This is particularly true in advertising,
which is based on hyperbole, or “hype. ” Although ads in the United
States may contain information, it is seldom detailed and is usually a
bolster for the claims of product superiority. Exaggerated claims that a
product is the best, newest, most fashionable, or finest are effective
in the U. S. but would be both offensive and illegal in West Germany and
would win no awards in France.

Most of the money spent on advertising in the United States goes to
print ads. Local advertisers all over the country spend millions for
newspaper ads in their own areas, from very small ones in weekly
hometown newspapers to full-page ads in the New York Times. Because of
the complexity of the American market, a lot of money is spentannually
to analyze and conduct market surveys so that advertisers can target
their ads for a specific group. In the U. S. the CEO often takes a
personal interest in a company’s image and advertising; American ad
agencies are thus accustomed to working with the CEO and do not feel
secure unless the CEO is involved. This is not true in Europe, where the
advertising department of a company is usually the only group handling
advertisements.

Americans like idealized images. The women in them are usually young,
healthy, and beautiful, and the men are young, strong, and handsome.
Children are clean and smiling. Even ads directed toward older
population groups show young-looking though gray-haired people.

U. S. markets are segmented not only by age, gender, and Ticome but also
by region and ethnicity. There are fast-growing ethnic groups who will
exert a tremendous economic influence in the future, such as the
American Hispanic population (there are now over 250, 000 Spanish-owned
businesses).

The importance of getting to know local and regional customs and buying
habits in the United Slates was emphasized to us by a European
advertising executive: “Marketing, selling, distributing, and
advertising have to be in the hands of local people. You can’t just come
in and say, ‘Do it my way. ‘” Another advertising executive addressed
the same point: “You must be very French in France, very German in
Germany, and very American in America. ”

IX. Characteristics of Successful American Business Executives

The kinds of people who succeed in business in the United States are
goal-oriented, concerned with individual achievement, and interested in
the development of their own careers. They also tend to be pragmatic,
assertive, and relatively egalitarian; at the same time they need
constant feedback, evaluations, praise, and rewards—something they would
not get in German or French business. Unlike business in France or West
Germany, there are powerful American executives who are very young;
Europeans favor older, more seasoned top executives. Women are found at
top levels in some American businesses but are rare in Western Europe.

Decision making in American business is usually “top-down”— which means
American executives often make decisions without consulting
subordinates. The result is that decisions a re often made without
crucial input from various levels within the organization. In a
compartmentalized business organization it is very difficult to get
vital information to the decision makers. This is certainly true in
Germany and to a lesser degree in the U. S.

Many American businesspeople are driven to compete for promotion and
will sometimes sacrifice social and family life to work, a situation
rare in West Germany and France, where weekends and holidays are sacred
and work is not always the dominant force in one’s daily life.

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