Bridging the Gap: Understanding Cultural Differences

The Importance of Understanding Cultural Differences

By Andrew Woodcock, TVG Account Executive

There’s a phrase in Russian that closely corresponds to one in English: “mir tyesen.”  Word for word, this phrase means “the world is tight,” but the base meaning is closer to our phrase “it’s a small world.” Modern communication technology is bringing the world closer every day.

Today, it’s just as easy to talk to a colleague in China as it is to talk to a colleague who just left the office for lunch. However, that doesn’t mean that your interactions with the Chinese colleague should be the same as with your American colleague. Culture and national identity are alive and well, and should be taken into account whenever you interact with someone from a different background than your own.

Whether you’re traveling to a different country for business or have just hired a diverse team of skilled workers around the world, you must always be prepared to encounter and overcome cultural differences and language barriers. Here are a couple of tips on how to help bridge the gap between cultures and make for a more comfortable and diverse workplace environment.

Read up on the culture you’ll be encountering

Every country in the world, old or new, has a rich and storied history. They celebrate their own holidays, cook national dishes, listen to their own styles of music and wear clothes appropriate for their culture. Take some time to Google the history, art and customs of the country you’ll be visiting. Not only will it be personally enriching, but it will also give you a way to connect with the local people. Showing off your knowledge of the local customs and history will make those around you realize you truly care about their culture, and aren’t just visiting for business and cool Instagram photos.

Learn the language

Languages are hard to learn. You spent years in grade school learning all the grammar and intricacies of English. Why spend more time learning a whole new language—especially when so much of the world speaks English already? Well, the fact that almost everyone can already speak English makes learning a foreign language all the more impressive. Even if you can only recite a couple key phrases, it shows that you‘re making the effort to bridge the cultural gap. Rather than your colleague reaching out to you by speaking English, the two of you are meeting in the middle as equals.

Be patient

Unfortunately, no matter how much you research a country or how well you know the language, there will always be some culture shock and confusion. “False friends” may cause confusion and frustration. These are words that sound the same in two languages, but have different or even opposite meanings (for example, if you go to Russia and ask if there are any “preservatives” in your food, you’re asking if there are any contraceptives in it). Words, actions or gestures that are not offensive to us can be very offensive to someone from another culture, and vice versa. When this happens, it is important to stay patient and be accommodating. Working through these frustrations together will lead to a smarter and stronger bond between you and your colleagues.

Keep an open mind

When I learn a new language, or study the history of a culture I’m unfamiliar with, I think of it as exploring a new world. There are so many things that make each culture unique. You have to be open to trying and learning new things in order to work smoothly with a diverse team. Always try to think about how they see things from their perspective; doing so will give you insight on their corner of the world.

All of this being said, there are so many similarities between people of all nations. We all laugh at the same physical comedy, groan when we have to clean up our pets’ messes, and cry when we lose a loved one. After all, we are all human.


Andrew Woodcock is an account executive at The Vandiver Group in St. Louis, Missouri. Follow The Vandiver Group on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn and Instagram.

The Plague of Viral Marketing

The Red Swimsuit Phenomena – The Plague of Viral Marketing

By Madeleine Smith

On Wednesday, May 4, Sunny Co Clothing posted a picture on Instagram of a red swimsuit. If you posted the picture of the swimsuit on your Instagram within 24 hours, you were promised the same suit delivered free to your doorstep! While shipping and handling were not covered, the swimsuit, which retails for about $64.99, was completely free. A portion of the proceeds from the shipping were to go to Alzheimer’s research.

Sure enough, Instagram blew up with this image. It went viral. Twitter blew up with funny commentary, and even celebrities made comments on social media about the infamous “red swimsuit.”

It didn’t take long for Sunny Co to realize they were in over their heads, where they responded with a post: “Due to the viral volume of participants, we reserve the right to cap the promotion if deemed necessary.”

On top of this, they stated that shipping could take 3-6 WEEKS.

At first glance, it seemed like a great marketing plan. Wow, brand awareness! Free advertising! Positive attention! However, I’m interested to see how Sunny Co now plans to retain their customers.

Historically, when brands and products go viral, or grow rapidly, there is usually the inevitable downfall. This happens all the time. It happened to the once trendy LA fashion brand, Nasty Gal.

  • Sales hit $24 million in 2011, which was a 200% increase from the year before, the brand said publicly.
  • In 2012, they hit $100 million.
  • By 2015, they dropped down to $77 million.
  • In 2016, they filed for bankruptcy.

Nasty Gal and Sunny Co share the tactic of cultivating one-time buyers. Spending money on indirect advertising, like online ad banners, can score you a multitude of people who might buy your product once. But, if you spend $100 on an ad and one person buys an item one time, you aren’t really making money. The same scenario applies to Sunny Co’s red swimsuit. If you spend the time and hire the workforce to ship thousands of free swimsuits, are you really making money? On top of that, if you can’t deliver on your promise of a free product, are you really building your brand’s reputation for future success?

As far as I know, no one who participated in this promotion received their red swimsuit yet.  People I know have deleted their repost from Sunny Co, the original Instagram account has been shut down, and no one is talking about the brand or product anymore on social media.

Marketing dollars and social media exposure are valuable for brands when they’re targeted. If you’re in B2C sales, focus on building relationships. If your product is good, the sales will follow.  One hundred loyal customers are more valuable than 500 one-time buyers. B2C relationships last longest when they are built like any other relationship. Find your audience, personalize your message, follow up with good customer service and a good product, and retain your clientele.


If you need help crafting a successful digital marketing campaign, TVG has got you covered! Give us a call at 314-991-4641.

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

The Importance of Media Literacy in the Age of “Fake News”

By Donna Vandiver, TVG President & CEO and Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

Long before there was “fake news”, there was disinformation, propaganda and censorship. Many Americans are able to evaluate and decide if something they are reading is real or not. But many also have difficulty discerning “fake” news from actual, factual information. This is especially so when false stories can be shared in an instant across the globe via social media channels. Read more

The Business of Storytelling

The Business of Storytelling

By Andy Likes, TVG Senior Vice President

Over the last 11+ years in PR, I’ve had the opportunity to work with nearly every type of subject matter expert, including doctors, engineers, lawyers, financial planners and everything in between. One thing is certain with subject matter experts- they know their job and the company better than anyone. Read more

Random Acts of Kindness, Inspired by Dr. King

Random Acts of Kindness: TVG Day of Service

By Patty Olsen, TVG Senior Project Manager

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was more than just a single day of giving back to the community where I have lived, worked and flourished. It was an opportunity to model what principled citizenship looks like to my elementary-age son. Read more

College Athletes in the ‘Real World’: What Lacrosse Taught me about Work Ethic, Leadership and Accepting Challenges

College Athletes in the ‘Real World’

By Annie Spewak, TVG Intern

Up until a year ago, my life revolved around lacrosse. My dedication to the game often dictated everything I did from my social life to my class schedule, but it also earned me a scholarship to play Division I in college. Over the years, I’ve encountered people who think sports are rather useless; after all, most athletes will never go professional, and will never earn a paycheck playing the sport. Read more

The Art and Science of the Exhibit Hall: Presentation Skills for Conferences

Presentation Skills for Conferences

By Andy Likes, TVG Vice President

How many of you have been to a conference in the last year? You probably remember lots of helpful breakout sessions and keynote speakers you’d love to hear again. Now what about the exhibit hall? Read more

Why is Corporate Reputation So Important?

Corporate Reputation

By Donna Vandiver, President & CEO

At TVG we do a lot of crisis communications work, so we are constantly assessing the damage a crisis can do to a client’s reputation and image. Read more

New Business Connections that Last: Building a Bridge

New Business Connections that Last: Building a Bridge

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

It’s a competitive world out there. It’s more difficult than ever to make first impressions memorable, especially when your potential new business targets are already being pitched by multiple agencies and vendors. How do you get their attention, and build a relationship that turns into a business opportunity? Read more

Millennial and Baby Boomer Share Office Space, Hilarity Ensues

Baby Boomers vs. Millennials

By Patty Olsen, TVG Senior Project Manager and Baby Boomer

We hear a lot about Millennials in the media these days, but not so much what it’s like to work next to one. From my perspective as a Baby Boomer, it seems we have plenty to learn from one another. Read more

10 Things You Need to Know If You Work with Millennials

Working with Millennials: 10 Things to Know

By Abbey Theban, TVG Account Executive

As a millennial in the communications field, I know how much every brand, organization and corporation wants to get inside our heads. Read more

Building Client Relationships for Business Success

Building Client Relationships for Business Success

By Laura Vandiver, TVG VP of Research & Strategic Insight

We all want to have success in our work lives. But, if you ask 30 people what success means to them, you’re likely to get 30 different answers. At the heart of all these definitions of success, however, will be one core objective: the ability to make connections. Read more