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Culture, Content and Context: Brand U Study Guide

Basically, the theory of High and Low Context Cultures refers to the way persons of different cultures interact with each other throughout their daily lives. THe theory was developed by Edward T. Hall who defined culture as, "man's medium ... personality, how people express themselves (including shows of emotion), the way they think, how they move, how problems are solved, how their cities are planned and laid out, how transportation systems function and are organized, as well as how economic and government systems are put together and function.

From a marketing point of view Content is specifics. It's details. It's what's said. Context is more nebulous. It's the background within which the "Content" is received, reviewed, and evaluated by potential and existing customers. Depending on the cultural background of the customer, the content or the context may be the more important aspect of your communiction.  

Cultures that favor low context communication styles and those that favor high context hold completely opposite sets of norms that conceptualize the total spectrum of communication including language, non-verbal communication, customs, perceived values, as well as concepts of time and space.

Low Context

High Context

  • Logical and linear
  • Personal control over the environment
  • Present and future oriented
  • Reliance on the verbal over the nonverbal message
  • Competitive
  • Change over tradition
  •  Relational and intuitive
  • Love and harmony with nature
  • Past oriented
  • Reliance on non-verbal codes over verbal messages
  • Cooperative
  • Traditions over change

Low Context Cultures

Low context countries primarily consist of North America and much of Western Europe. If you needed to characterize low context cultures in one word, individualism would reside as your champion.

Solving problems in this type of society consists of stating all known factual details and then evaluating their significance one by one. When drawing conclusions regarding the problem at hand, facts play the chief role rather than intuitive speculation. Once the conclusion has been thoroughly evaluated and exhausted, the message must be openly and directly articulated.

Another important aspect of low context communities is their freedom to openly question and challenge authority. This type of freedom reinforces the idea that individuals exhibit behaviors of personal power and individualism. People are encouraged to verbalize their desires for answers and change if necessary.

High Context Cultures

Asia, Africa, South America, and much of the Middle East are classified as high context cultures. Their cultural values can be defined as collective. This means the key cultural emphasis is placed upon group and interpersonal relationships over individual desires. Developing trust between individuals plays the most crucial cultural function within any high context society.

According to Hall, these cultures prefer group harmony to individual achievements. Emotions and behaviors are more openly expressed and more highly valued than pure reason or words. The context of a situation, such as a speakers tone of voice, gestures, postures, and sometimes even the persons historical family status, holds greater significance than the situation itself. Here, flowery language, humility, and elaborate apologies are expected.


"Marketing today is not so much about the content of "What you do", but about the context of "How you do it," and "How it is perceived."

G. Bulloba, CattLeLogos

Topics on this Page
  • Low Context Cultures

  • High Context Cultures

  • Branding Study Guides
    Good Brand Management
  • Twelve Days of Branding
  • Wish They All Could be
        CattLeLogos Brands
  • Eye on the Internet
  • Favorite Do's and Don'ts
  • Web Site Spelling Bee
  • Business Marketing
  • Context and Content
  • Global Marketing Gaffes
  • Seven Rules of Networking
  • Just for Fun
  • The Brandawacky
  • 12 Steps to Brand Recovery

  • Cross Cultural Workshops
    Exploring Cultural Mindsets
    Historical, Cultural, and Linguistic Perspectives
    Japanese Business Practices
    Latin American Business Practices
    Negotiating with Japanese Business Partners
    Effective Communication with Non-Native Speakers
    Survival Japanese


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