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How Cultural Accuracy Checking Can Make or Break Your Global Business Venture


Doing business around the world means your product or service has to be suitable for lots of different cultures.

If it’s not, your chances of success are reduced.

This is why cultural accuracy checking is vital for today’s global businesses and organizations; it’s important to not only look and feel credible in different countries but to also connect with the target audience, whether in the USA, China or India.

Failing to invest in cultural accuracy checking or cultural sensitivity assessments can lead to all sorts of problems for businesses, some of which you can read more about here.

This includes having your product banned in a country, generating a whole load of negative PR or simply becoming the butt of a joke.

A Case Study in the Need for Cultural Accuracy Checks in Business

It’s not often that we use a kid’s movie to demonstrate the need for cultural accuracy in the business world, however, Mulan is a great example!

There are huge lessons to be learned from the $200 million-dollar, 2020 Disney film, which was lambasted with complaints over cultural inaccuracy and insensitivity from the start.

If you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s Disney’s take on the 4th Century poem, Ballad of Mulan.

It tells the tale of a young Chinese warrior woman preparing for marriage as dictated by tradition. However, when news that her frail father is to be drafted into the Chinese military reaches her, Mulan disguises herself as a man to take his place.

Watch the video if you want to know more!



Anyway, there was a lot of investment into the movie from China plus a strategic business plan to tap the potential of Chinese cinema-goers to offset the losses caused by increased streaming in the West.

The film was about China, backed by the Chinese and aimed at a Chinese audience.

However, it all went wrong.

The movie caused considerable controversy in China and was criticized as being culturally inaccurate. As you can see below, some people didn't hold back!

Criticism of Mulan movie quote

The producers were labelled ignorant of Chinese culture and conversations relating to misrepresentations, stereotypes and biases were discussed extensively on social media.

It appears that the predominantly Western production team saw little or no reason to consult people of Chinese heritage when working on the production!

As an example, the New Zealand-born costume director developed an understanding of Chinese costume designs by visiting exhibits in European museums.

Another example is that the film overlooked Chinese culture when introducing fantasy themes and instead adopted the use of Western-centric traditions, such as dark magic and witches.

Chinese themes were either omitted or interpreted in a basic or substandard way with little attention to their true meaning. Not only was this off-putting for the Chinese audience, but it also gave an inauthentic experience to non-Chinese viewers.

The Importance of Cultural Accuracy Checking in International Business

So, how can a kid’s Disney film be relevant to international business?

Essentially, it demonstrates the significant scope for professionals to fall foul of culture and to get it wrong, sometimes spectacularly.

Whether it’s gaming, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, sports or retail, the business world is littered with examples of companies getting culture wrong and being pilloried as a result.

For businesses, errors which lead to products or materials that are deemed detrimental or harmful to a particular cultural group can lead to unwanted media attention, loss of sales, boycotting of products and more.

screenshot of Arabic shop signs in Karachi in Call of Duty 2

Take for example the best-selling game, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, which depicted Karachi as an underdeveloped city with shop signs written in Arabic, as per the image above.

Many Pakistanis were rightly offended to see one of their biggest cities for commerce described in this way. Since Pakistanis speak Urdu – and not Arabic - they also felt this linguistic inaccuracy demonstrated a stereotype based on religious affiliation.

The failure to consider culture demonstrates the producers' ignorance of life outside their own immediate world, coupled with ambivalence to potential users.

To this effect, businesses that want to embrace international opportunities must be sensitive when producing products or materials directed at another culture and validate their accuracy so that users from that cultural group can positively identify with the content.

Whether this is through formal cultural accuracy and sensitivity checking or engaging input from international offices, the investment is sure to protect a business’s reputation and boost its chances of success.

cultural accuracy checks


Cultural Accuracy Checking Service

At Commisceo Global we have been helping businesses check the cultural accuracy of their products and services for 15+ years.

We have top-notch procedures in place carried out by in-country assessors around the globe.

Click here to read more about our cultural accuracy checking service

If you need help with a project, please get in touch to learn how we can support you.


 Main blog image by Mart Production on Pexels

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