Cultural Customization: Part 1

June 21, 2017

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 Competence


Cultural Customization_P1 - 1Cultural 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.

Further Resources on Translation Services


You may gain further insight into content strategy, content localization, translations and related topics by reviewing previous blogs written by GPI:



GPI's content strategists and localization specialists can help analyze your website and provide guidance on any localization and global digital marketing requirements. GPI also offers Global Search Engine Marketing Services and many other Translation Services.


Please feel free to contact GPI at with any questions about our language and technology services. Also, let us know if you have any interesting blog topics you would like us to cover in our future blogs. You may request a complimentary Translation Quote for your projects as well.



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


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Marina is a native Spanish speaker from Rosario, Argentina with over 15 years’ experience as a certified English-Spanish translator and interpreter. She graduated with a dual degree in Technical-Scientific and Literary Translation and Simultaneous and Consecutive Interpreting from the Instituto de Educación Superior Olga Cossettini in Rosario. She has extensive experience with most well known CAT tools including the range of SDL tools such as SDL Trados Studio, MultiTerm, Wordfast, SDL Idiom WorldServer, Translation Workspace, XBench, etc. She has also served as a CAT Tool Instructor conducting an average of 50 courses and workshops for many associations, private institutes and conferences. Over the years she has provided Spanish language translation and interpreting for a multitude of translation agencies, Global Fortune 500 companies, Governments and NGO’s. When not working she enjoys traveling, cooking, reading and movies with her family.