Cultural Influence in Advertising : A Comparative Analysis of IKEA’s Video Advertising in Sweden and Japan

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/HLK, Medie- och kommunikationsvetenskap

Abstract: International marketing activities have a great impact on the prosperity and competitiveness of multinational companies (Akgün, Keskin, & Ayar, 2014). That is why the design of marketing activities is especially important. Researchers claim for cultural sensitivity. According to their work, culture has a significant influence on marketing content which needs to be culturally adapted (Kaur & Chawla, 2016). Based on these assumptions the present study aims to discuss the concepts of culture in relation to standardization and adaptation of IKEA’s advertising content published in Sweden and Japan. The study is focused on IKEA since the company is known to implement a standardized marketing approach with only minor cultural adaptations (Burt, Johansson, & Thelander, 2011).   To accomplish that goal a multimodal critical discourse analysis is applied. The analysis seeks to identify the similarities and differences in IKEA’s video advertisements published in Sweden and Japan to determine how the company promotes its products. The analysis is limited to visual semiotic choices. The interpretation of the results is linked to the findings of Hofstede’s theory of cultural dimensions: Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism versus Collectivism, Masculinity versus Femininity, Long- and Short-Term Orientation and Indulgence versus Restraint. The study revealed that signs for both concepts standardization and adaptation were visible in IKEA’s advertisements. Especially the analysis of the Japanese sample has shown that IKEA follows a standardized marketing approach when it comes to communicating the company’s core values such as gender equality. This value was frequently depicted in the Japanese advertisements where gender division usually prevails. However, less significant aspects such as those concerning the outer appearance of the actors were culturally adapted. These findings underline a dialectical relationship between culture and advertising content. Leading theoretical frameworks lag to take into account this continuous discourse that emphasizes the importance to implement the perspective of a changing environment in further theoretical contributions.   

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