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Cultural and National Stereotype

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The issue of cultural and national stereotype is significant to people in all over the world because it leads the way of thinking in particular nation to interact with people in different cultures. It is very necessary to understand and appreciate other cultures in order to communicate and develop international relationships in terms of human condition and economic activity. This essay is divided into three sections, It will begin by comparing and contrast the two articles between Piller’s article “Intercultural Communication” which describes about stereotype of advertising and marketing and Yong’s article “East meets west” which is about cultural stereotype The second section will examine how much Yong and Piller agree with cultural and national stereotypes can help to understand concepts in terms of human condition and economic activity. Finally, the third part will give some examples of my own experience, which relates to an element in the articles.

Both Yong (2009) and Piller (2011) offer interesting insight into the field of cultural and national stereotype. However, there are some similarities and differences. The similarity of these two articles is the concept of stereotype. Yong (2009) describes his article about cultural stereotype which influence to the different way people think while Piller (2011) describes about stereotype in advertising and marketing. There are a lot of differences in these two articles. Firstly, Piller’s article is different from the Yong’s in sources and writing styles. Piller’s article was written in more academic style that is always used in textbooks while Yong’s article was written in a journal and used different style of writing and vocabulary Secondly, references style is also different. Piller wrote the references by mentioning the name and date of the authors at the end of each sentence while Yong mentioned sources by writing the name and some backgrounds of the authors to explain the content and give some examples to the readers.

According to Yong’s article, cultural and national stereotypes affect the way easterners and westerners think and react to different culture in different ways. Yong (2009) mentioned that there are popular beliefs that easterners have holistic views while westerners think more analytically due to their philosophy. However, Yong states that this is not a reasonable conclusion because many recent researchers believe that easterners have the ability to think like westerners and westerners can also think like easterners. Nisbett’s study explains the two ways of thinking in easterners and westerners (Nisbett, cited in Yong 2009). He studied how American and Taiwanese students describe pictures of a chicken, a cow and grass. Most American students choose a chicken and a cow and describe it by mentioning that they are both animals, while most Taiwanese students group a cow and grass together and describe about the relationship between a cow and grass because a cow eats grass. This experiment can demonstrate that culture differences can caused the way of thinking and make people from east and west think about the world in different ways (Nisbett, cited in Yong 2009).

Moreover, Yong also presents Oyersman’s study to explain that different ways of thinking can be dominated by social context. The study analyses 67 similar studies, which show how social context can change the way of thinking. For example, the experiment, which asks the East Asian volunteers to think about playing single sport, many of the volunteers from a single cultural background show their differences behavior which are not rely on their cultural background (Oyersman, cited in Yong 2009). This experiment shows that traditionally collectivist and individualist cultures could show differences in behavior of people from east and west to have both holistic and analytic thinking.

Besides understanding the way of thinking, advertising and marketing are also relevant in national and cultural stereotypes (Piller, 2011). The article talks about the use of linguistic stereotypes in advertising and marketing communications. She demonstrates this article that customers can be influenced by foreign conception and explains this situation by giving some examples of intercultural communication in Japan. Japan refers the tourist space, which is Hakone, to Switzerland by taking cultural and linguistic symbols and images from Switzerland. The purpose of using linguistic and cultural difference in advertising is to build up authenticity to refer to an original and to communicate positive aspects that associate the cultural or linguistic concept to a product (Piller, 2011).

Cultural or linguistic concept can be the main way of advertising and marketing. Foreign language is sometimes mixed to create intercultural branding image to fit target market in each nation because culture and national stereotypes can be useful to sell products and services (Piller, 2011). It has been widely recognized that many countries borrow words from foreign language to name shops, products and services because cultural and national stereotypes can show distinctive senses of each culture in order to build positive characteristics and achieve customer satisfaction. For example, the Japanese chocolate brand uses the French word ‘Nina’s derriere’ to name the shop. Even though customers cannot understand the actual meaning of derriere, the French word can be used to connote high quality food in order to bring a good image to the brand.

The use of intercultural and linguistic stereotypes in business is not only gives the positive aspect but it can also causes marketing communication problems because sometimes it is not suitable for certain market in terms of obscure words and meaning (Piller, 2011). Piller gives some examples of the way to create a brand name like Chevrolet Nova, which means does not move in Spanish or Mitsubishi Pajero, which means wank in French and the way to translate advertising slogans like Pepsi’s slogan ‘Come alive with Pepsi’ which was mistranslated into Chinese language as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead’ (‘Pepsi in China’ 2010, cited in Piller 2011). This could be an obstacle for a firm to enter new markets if they do not understand cultural and linguistic stereotypes in each market.

As well as the example of mixing word from foreign language mentioned above in Piller’s article is related to my own experience. In Thailand, there is an herbal skin care and life style brand called ‘Erb’. The sound of this brand is like ‘herb’ in English and it also like ‘erb im’ in Thai, which means ‘radiant glow’. Besides the name ‘Erb’ is easy for international customers to understand the meaning, the brand image is also expressed positive feelings of a flourishing happy and healthy person by its name. So, this Thai brand has lots of capability to expand its branches to other markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Taiwan and Hong Kong (Erb Asia, 2012). According to Piller (2011), I think that the use of English in ‘Erb’ is rarely show English culture stereotype because it is used to show only modern and high quality identities. It can be seen in this example that this name still provides a sense of Thai onto product because the main goal of Erb is to “reinterprets traditional Siamese [Thai] indulgences [and] bringing a touch of bliss to modern life” (Erb Asia, 2012)

In conclusion, when comparing Yong (2009) and Piller (2011), it can be said that both articles are focused on cultural and national stereotypes in different ways. Yong’s article (2009) is about people thought but Piller’s article is about business. It is more focused on the degree of agreement in both articles. Yong does not agree that stereotype can causes easterners and westerners think in different ways. He believes that people from east and west can think like each other. It depends on their conditions such as social context. For Piller, whose article focuses on advertising and marketing, believes that there are both positive and negative aspects of using intercultural and linguistic stereotype in business.

The positive aspect is about brand reputation and customer’s satisfaction while the negative aspect is about words meaning and mistranslation from one culture to other cultures. However, the example of my experience about Erb has shown that cultural and national stereotype had an effect on this brand in a positive way because its name can easily communicate both Thai and English meaning in one word. So, it tends to be easy to reach customer perception without misunderstanding the meaning.

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