Apple's European culture clash

Apple's European culture clash

Summary: There's a shift in Europe to a more homogenous, centrally-managed Apple - much like it is in the U.S., but I'm not sure that it will work. Europe is a loosely associated collection of neighboring countries with starkly different cultures. The United States, on the other hand, are closely knit units with similar cultures.

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TOPICS: Apple
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There's a shift in Europe to a more homogeneous, centrally-managed Apple - much like it is in the U.S., but I'm not sure that it will work. Europe is a loosely associated collection of neighboring countries with starkly different cultures. The United States, on the other hand, are closely knit units with similar cultures. If Apple is planning to market its products to Europe as a single unit rather than a group of discrete societies they're bound to have problems.

Apple has it tough in Europe. The problem is that Europe still isn't a common market like the U.S. The Netherlands, UK, France, Spain, Germany and Hungary all have very different cultures. Each country in Europe has different ways of doing similar things. The way they advertise, enjoy lunch, the time they have dinner, the jokes they find funny are completely different from one country to another.

In The Netherlands, for example, they have very liberal opinions on gay marriage, drugs, premarital sex, abortion and euthanasia, but you can't sell cars with ads featuring naked women. Whereas in other countries nudity in advertising is acceptable but everything else mentioned above is not.

Apple Europe is managed from France and there is a perception in parts of Europe that Apple's central rulings often seems ridiculous. Advertising is virtually non-existent, apart from some random billboards and television commercials and ads come off as enigmatic.

Although Apple's marketing strategy appears to be working in the U.S., they shouldn't force a single generic marketing message down the throats of Europeans. It won't be effective and has the potential to alienate one of Apple's largest and fastest growing markets.

Topic: Apple

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7 comments
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  • Maybe you are right, but I think you are not ...

    As a European who has been living in the U.S. for more than ten
    years I don't agree with your point of view.
    There are many products in Europe that are advertised exactly
    the same way throughout different countries, where the only
    interchangeable variable is the language. The car industry is the
    perfect example. Your example of nudity is very extreme, partly
    true, but not really applicable to Apple. True, there are cultural
    differences, but in the collective imaginary (which is the sweet
    spot that ad agencies try to hit all the time) the western
    population of the planet all tend to live in the same fantasyland.
    The big divide nowadays is represented by religions, with all the
    baggage of "rights and wrongs" that they bring with them and
    most of Europe share the same religious roots. Furthermore,
    modern technology has the power of making us all think and act
    in very similar ways, regradless of the language or cultural
    differences. There are blogs in France, in Italy or Spain. There
    are online forums, there is Amazon and there is Ebay. Friends
    and family share digital pictures and movies online, they send
    online invitations and buy music on the internet just like we do
    here in the U.S. Ad agencies have been dealing with this for
    decades before the EU was a reality. They know how to give a
    billboard campaign or a TV commercial, or even just a brochure
    the appropriate "touch of flavor" to appeal to different
    audiences. Why should marketing communication be a problem
    only for Apple?
    Backwater
    • Agreed: many more similarities than differences

      Having lived in various parts of europe, I would agree that, beyond the obvious language issue, the similarities between european countries and cultures far outweigh the differences and indeed many multi-national brands use exactly the same marketing across Europe and indeed, the world - pretty much the entire fashion industry, for example.

      Of course, it depends what you're selling, but buyers of Apple hardware and services almost certainly have similar requirements: whether they're British or Brazilian, they're going to have be looking for similar things in a music player or a laptop.

      In fact, it is precisely because of the difference between how Apple deals with customers in different markets that makes me refuse to have anything to do with them: in the US iTunes charges (an already unjustifiable) $0.99 per track, in the UK, it charges $1.84 - yes: that's almost twice as unjustifiable.
      NooBee
  • Apple yo-yo

    Well - Apple certanly seem to yo-yo every 5 years on this subject... Europe, UK, Europe, UK. Must cost a fortune to make those savings ;-) The answer is there simply by talking the customers - no debate needed.
    Yes, Apple still needs to be lean (but certainly not mean)when it comes to marketing messages. But hasn't everyone missed the point? Apple now has global reach, and so the message has at last - for the iPod at least - become globalised. It's at the PC level where the message needs to be localised, and better. The US has had the consistency of an Apple story for years. I still think the 1990s adverts are staggeringly good, but part of a growing story. All we ever saw in Europe was the occassional massaged chapter. Apple can reach out now - big style - in part through its supporters and existing (not insubstantial user base.
    Get in now which Vista is still a distant (uncertain) promise.
    Split the messages between 'existing users' and 'new potential users', not different countries. That way you firm up the great foundation while encouraging the new users to get involved. Support us, the supporters, to help get the message out. The best unpaid sales force Apple could wish for. Passion is what I'm speaking about here.

    Oh, and employ marketeers that actually understand (and empathise) with the users and their passion.

    J
    jbuyer1
    • I don't understand

      The last time I looked the UK was part of Europe and part of the EU. Have they dragged it further out into the Atlantic in my absence?

      Regarding the original subject I think I agree with the first comment that Europe is linguistically diverse but largely culturally homogenous. Therefore the same advertising is used right across Europe by a lot of companies and it is difficult to see why this should be a problem for Apple.
      jorwell
  • Culture

    Actually, the differences in culture between most EU countries
    are not much bigger than those between different American
    states - you can do things in California that might be a little,
    erm, "frowned upon" in the Mid-west, for example. :)
    ianbetteridge
    • Ouch! No Culture Differences?

      I've spent over 20 years in Europe and can't tell you in strong enough terms that you are so completely wrong that it boggles the mind to think you weren't being ironic. Please tell me you aren't so dillusional that you actually believe what you wrote!
      germans aren't different from italians? portuguese and swedes are cut from the same wood?the french and english are indistinguishable from each other?
      Well I had a good laugh.
      thegestunkenaraygun
      • Schizophrenic

        I have parents who were born in Europe, I hold dual citizenship with Canada and an EU member-state.

        Europe needs to acknowledge that it has a highly schizophrenic attitude towards culture. The states in Europe are no different than the difference between Alaska and Maine in the US, or Newfoundland and Alberta in Canada. Europe has the added difference of language, but realistically most people are bi or tri-lingual so event that difference is not a big one.

        The sooner Europeans get over their "cultural" differences, the sooner you guys can get your constitution off the ground. Eating pasta or a Frankfurter does not a difference make.
        ITTech001