Over two years ago, I wrote a post about the importance of cultural context when communicating — a cola advertisement went horribly wrong because the cultural context was not taken in account. Well a similar situation occurred again recently. The German consumer products company Henkel had to pull their Bref Duo Stick toilet freshener product from store shelves in the Ukraine because someone didn’t take cultural context into account.
As you can see, the toilet freshener looks suspiciously like the Ukraine’s flag; turns out that the Ukrainian people don’t particularly appreciate watching a smiling woman place their flag in the toilet, even if it is just on TV. Of course, the company apologized, but once again, this situation emphasizes the importance of fully understanding the culture you are operating in. See … cultural filters determine how people receive and understand messages.
On a much more micro scale, cultures exist in organizations as well, and they too act as a filter on how people accept and interpret messages. Worth keeping in mind if you’re a leader and communicating with your people; recognize that if you don’t take your organization’s (or department’s) culture into account, you run the risk of the your message being misheard or misunderstood.
So have you observed situations where culture has distorted a message. Please share by adding to the Comments below.