"Crosscultural advertising. An behavorial approach to standardisation of emotional advertising"


International brand positioning by emotional items is an advertising strategy which is appropriate to the communication conditions in most European countries: market saturation, information overflow and life style oriented consumption. One important argument for an European positioning is the increased opportunity to see foreign advertising. The reasons are the high mobility of the consumers in Europe and the media-overspill between European countries. Each time the consumer becomes aware of the brand it should leave a similar impression in his mind. If not brand recognition will be lower or it will even cause irritation. Therefore it is vital that the positioning is understood in the same way in the different countries.

Due to the high costs of the creative work one prefers the standardised execution of the positioning by using the same picture and a translated copy. If the same picture can be used depends on the visual language which is common in the international target group.

The exploration of the mental associations of the target group provides information (1.) if a special positioning will be effectively reached using the same picture and (2.) what this picture has to show in detail in order to be correctly understood by the consumers. The understanding of a positioning item was operationalized by the concept of word meaning.


All in all, the study based on 74 keywords such as happy, content or adventurous which describe emotional positioning items. Two aspects of word meaning were measured: (1.) the visual associations to each keyword using a word association test under imagery-instruction and (2.) the affective reaction using a graphic differential to grasp the evaluation and the intensity (activity) of each keyword. Both research instruments had been validated crossculturally in a pretest.

The culture of the target group limits the meaning of a keyword and therefore the understanding of a corresponding picture. In this context culture was operationalized through several independent variables which were all specific for persons.


Finally 15 hypotheses about the effects of these independent variables on the similarity of word meaning were deduced from psychological, sociological and cultural anthropological research on emotions.

These hypotheses were scrutinised in Germany, France and Switzerland by interviewing 6400 students. Only the effect of a common language and of the collectivism of the ingroup on the similarity of word meaning were verified.


Nationality, age, sex and geographical descent were not significant. Independent from the variables there were some special keywords which have a very similar meaning for the different groups. These are keywords referring to regions or countries, e.g. Caribbean or French. The latter result suggests that pictures which bear national stereotypes are understood internationally in the same way. They are suitable for international brand positioning by standardised advertising because in most cases

they are rated positively.

Based on these results some pragmatic rules for international advertising development were deduced. Their possible applications were shown in an expert system for designing advertising.


Source: Dmoch, T. (1997), Interkulturelle Werbung. Verhaltenswissenschaftliche Grundlagen für die Standardisierung erlebnisbetonter Werbung, Aachen: Shaker-Verlag.





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