Skip to content

Cultural Customization: Part 1

Any company considering entering or expanding into a global market will be faced with the complex task of understanding the culture of their target audiences. Deciding which languages to translate and localize your content into is fairly straightforward, but understanding how your audiences will perceive your message is an entirely different story.

In this three-part blog series, I will write about country orientation and cultural customization. For part one, I will focus on culture, cultural competence, cultural customization and the cultural tripod strategy.


Culture is the combination of the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of people. It is defined by everything from language, traditions and customs to religion, music and art. Culture affects how human beings see the physical world and the meaning they associate with different objects and words.

Cultural Customization_P1 - 1

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is a consistent set of values, behaviors, attitudes and policies that enable a system or organization to work effectively in a certain cross-cultural situation. It also involves the complete understanding and respect of a culture and the knowledge of what to say to whom, where and when. Successful cross-cultural communication depends on verbal communication, the language spoken, and also on non-verbal communication, like context, body language and the relationship with time, personal space and authority.

A complete understanding of cultural nuances will allow you to effectively and appropriately deliver intended messages, introduce certain products and grant unique experiences. Communication needs to be culturally competent for each of your target audiences by developing a thorough understanding of cultural background, awareness and sensitivity in order to effectively communicate messages.

Cultural Customization

According to Professor Nitish Singh, an Associate Professor of International Business & Director of Program Innovations at the Boeing Inst. of International Business, St. Louis University, the most important aspect needed to effectively communicate, introduce or culturally customize products, content or interfaces is an understanding of the cultural expectations of the end user. This understanding can be obtained with the assistance of cultural experts and global digital marketing experts.

Cultural Tripod Strategy

The safest way to successfully address cultural customization is through the Cultural Tripod Strategy. This strategy consists of three elements: perceptual, symbolic and cultural value levels.

  • Perceptual Level: this involves the senses and deals with tangible concepts such as colors, shapes, sizes, spatial orientation and visual input processing in general.
  • Symbolic Level: this is the one in charge of helping decode meanings for a society and includes the understanding of things like non-verbal communication and humor, which in turn helps understand symbols, rituals, colors, etc.
  • Value Level: this will help you understand societal expectations and even consumer behaviors by assessing the orientation of these values, including: affective or neutral, specific or general, masculinity or femininity, among many others.

Ultimately, reviewing and testing the cultural customization process is crucial for reaching a culturally diverse global audience and relaying your brand’s message appropriately and effectively. In the next two parts of this blog series, I will discuss ways to adapt your content even more.


This blog was part of an assignment for the Global Digital Marketing & Localization Certification program.

Singh, Nitish. Cultural Customization Of Digital Media – An Imperative.pdf

Singh, Nitish. Writing for an International Online Audience.pdf

Singh, Nitish. Global Digital Media – Managing International Communities.pdf

Creating Culturally Customized Content for Website Translation