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Archive for October, 2010

(TBKTSG) – Trước khi khuyến khích tinh thần sáng tạo thì những người làm giáo dục nên chăng dạy cho học sinh từ tấm bé về tinh thần kỷ luật và thái độ có trách nhiệm? Dạy thật cụ thể thế nào là kỷ luật, thế nào là trách nhiệm chứ không chỉ hô hào suông! Có như thế thì vài mươi năm sau, chúng ta mới mong có được một đội ngũ lao động chuyên nghiệp.

Nhờ cái bửng xe bị rách toác mà tôi biết ông, một ông già người Hoa có cửa tiệm chuyên tân trang các loại bửng xe trên đường Phạm Viết Chánh. Ông ngồi đó trong căn tiệm nhỏ hẹp, kẹp cái bửng giữa hai chân và chăm chú làm việc. Ông không chỉ hàn vá mà còn tỉ mỉ mài, cạo để miếng vá được liền lạc, hài hòa với cả phần còn lại. Giữa buổi sáng thành phố ồn ã, náo nhiệt, người ta vội vã ăn sáng, vội vã phóng xe, hình ảnh một ông già tỉ mẩn ngồi hàn bửng cứ như từ quá khứ hiện về, từ Sài Gòn nửa thế kỷ trước, thong dong, nhàn nhã. Tôi nhìn ông làm việc, muốn chụp một tấm ảnh để giữ kỷ niệm về một ông già có cách thức làm việc chăm chút, tỉ mỉ, để đem về dạy con dạy cháu. Tôi thật sự thấy kính trọng ông vì tình yêu công việc, vì tinh thần trách nhiệm mà ông thể hiện trong từng động tác khiến cái bửng sau khi hoàn thành, người không tinh mắt khó mà nhận biết chỗ vá. Ông lấy tiền công 30.000 đồng, nhưng nếu ông đòi 100.000 đồng tôi vẫn hết sức vui vẻ trả vì ông xứng đáng được như vậy. Báo chí cũng kể chuyện ở Nhật có một cụ ông làm nghề đánh giày đến vài chục năm. Giày ông đánh không chỉ sáng bóng như mới mà độ sáng bóng còn giữ được rất lâu khiến ông trở thành người đánh giày nổi tiếng. Có du khách nước ngoài từng được ông đánh giày cho, lần sau khi trở qua Nhật đã mang theo hàng tá giày cho ông đánh và trả tiền công gấp mấy lần giá ông cụ đề nghị. Bởi vậy, không có công việc nào sang hơn hay hèn hơn việc nào, nếu công việc được làm với sự chuyên tâm và tinh thần trách nhiệm. Thế mới có chuyện người làm nghề đánh giày vẫn được người đời trân trọng!

 Cách đây không lâu, một công ty châu Âu chuyên sản xuất động cơ máy bay đã có cuộc điều tra nghiên cứu về nguồn nhân lực của Việt Nam. Trong báo cáo khảo sát có một nhận xét đáng lưu ý như sau: so với người Thái Lan thì người Việt Nam sáng tạo hơn, năng động hơn nhưng lại thiếu phép tắc, thiếu nền nếp. Khi quy trình công việc được phổ biến, nếu người Thái răm rắp làm theo thì người Việt lại hay có sáng kiến chỉnh sửa quy trình. Một chuyên gia ngành hàng không kể rằng để thay một tấm vật liệu trên thân máy bay, quy trình đòi hỏi rất khắt khe với những quy định cụ thể như động tác xoay con vít qua trái bao nhiêu lần, qua phải bao nhiêu lần…, vậy nhưng công nhân Việt Nam lại không tuân thủ vì nghĩ rằng đi theo quy trình chỉ tổ “rách việc”, quy trình này cần được cải tiến! Kết quả là tấm vật liệu trị giá 15.000 đô la Mỹ bị hỏng, hãng phải đặt hàng một tấm khác từ nước ngoài gửi về và phải chờ 15 ngày, trong suốt khoảng thời gian đó máy bay đành nằm ụ khiến hãng thiệt hại thêm vài triệu đô. Rõ ràng, chi phí cho sự “sáng tạo” không đúng chỗ quá đắt, chưa kể sự sụt giảm uy tín của hãng đối với khách hàng.

 Chúng ta thường nghe những lời khen về sự khéo tay và sáng tạo (cũng lại sáng tạo!) của thợ Việt Nam nhưng đồng thời cũng nghe than phiền về tinh thần trách nhiệm của họ. Một cái máy còn mới tinh đang vận hành thì một con ốc bất ngờ văng ra chỉ vì trước đó nó không được siết chặt; một cái ổ cắm điện mới xài không bao lâu thì khe cắm đã không còn giữ được phích cắm; tốp thợ xây sửa nhà sau khi rút lui còn để lại một bãi chiến trường cho gia chủ dọn dẹp và cạo rửa mất mấy ngày… Khổ thay không chỉ có người thợ mà cả chủ doanh nghiệp và lãnh đạo chính quyền cũng thiếu gương mẫu về tinh thần trách nhiệm. Lô cốt “đi qua” để lại một mặt đường tái lập chiếu lệ, nham nhở; rừng đầu nguồn cũng đem cho nước ngoài thuê, và khi được hỏi về ảnh hưởng xấu của việc làm này trong tương lai thì vị lãnh đạo cao nhất của địa phương đã hồn nhiên trả lời rằng việc đấy (tác hại của việc cho thuê rừng) để vài mươi năm sau sẽ tính! Người ta chỉ chăm chăm biết đến công việc của mình, chủ ý làm sao cho xong phần việc của mình còn hệ lụy do thiếu trách nhiệm thì không cần biết tới.

Trước khi khuyến khích tinh thần sáng tạo thì những người làm giáo dục nên chăng dạy cho học sinh từ tấm bé về tinh thần kỷ luật và thái độ có trách nhiệm? Dạy thật cụ thể thế nào là kỷ luật, thế nào là trách nhiệm chứ không chỉ hô hào suông! Có như thế thì vài mươi năm sau, chúng ta mới mong có được một đội ngũ lao động chuyên nghiệp. Mà chuyên nghiệp là gì, phải chăng trước hết là làm đúng công việc được phân công, theo đúng quy trình được phổ biến và hoàn thành đúng thời gian? Để công nghiệp hóa, hiện đại hóa đất nước, trước khi cần những con người có tính sáng tạo để “đi tắt đón đầu” như khẩu hiệu ta thường nghe, chúng ta rất cần những người thợ, người chủ doanh nghiệp, những vị có chức sắc trong bộ máy công quyền làm đúng công việc của mình với một bổn phận và tinh thần trách nhiệm cao nhất. Nếu từ những người lao động giản đơn đến những chính trị gia đều có tấm lòng đối với nghề nghiệp mà ta hay gọi là lương tâm chức nghiệp như ông lão đánh giày bên Nhật hay ông thợ già hàn bửng xe ở một góc nhỏ của Sài Gòn thì Việt Nam đâu khó để vươn lên và phát triển.

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Zon cu của ba mẹ và chị Lem đã được hơn hai tháng rưỡi.

Rất nhiều cái khác: cân nặng hơn (tháng thứ nhất tăng 1.1kg, tháng thứ 2 tăng 1.8kg, 15 ngày tháng thứ ba tăng 0.8kg), hay khóc hơn, ngủ thì thôi, cứ tỉnh dậy là khóc toáng lên đòi ăn, đòi bế (ui dà, đáo để hơn chị Lem rồi), và ngày càng giống ba (mọi người nhận xét vậy).

Zon cu khi bú sữa, hai tay nắm rất chặt. Bình thường Zon bú ừng ực đều đặn trông rất ngon. Khi Zon rắm (eo ôi, rất thường xuyên), Zon vừa bú vừa khóc, miệng ngạu giống y chang con mèo con khi vừa ăn vừa gầm gừsợ người khác lấy mất thức ăn. Mồ hôi của Zon rất thơm, ba cứ hít hà mãi không chán.

Khoảng thời gian này Zon rất giống chị Lem hồi bé – khuôn mặt, dáng nằm cong như con tôm (mông chạm đầu) và cũng trông rất hiền và ngộ nghĩnh (hehe, không biết người khác có nghĩ vậy không hay chỉ “mèo khen mèo dài đuôi”).

Chị Lem rất yêu em và thích chơi với em. Có hôm nhân lúc không có mẹ, Lem tranh thủ thay tã cho Zon, khi gần xong mẹ đi vào Lem hoảng hốt kéo quần cho em nhưng không kịp (mẹ bảo trông rất buồn cười). Khi ba bế em, Lem thích đi bên cạnh tranh thủ cà nhẹ đầu vào người em, mặt trông rất khoái chí (ba không tả hêt được, động tác rất đặc trưng của Lem).

Trông hai chị em thật dễ thương và thánh thiện!

Thứ 7 này Zon cu tiêm phòng đây. Cầu mong mọi chuyện tốt đẹp.

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28/6/2010 – 28/7/2010

Tối qua lần đầu tiên Zon bú được một lúc 90ml sữa. Kỷ lục! Thế là cu Zon đã được một tháng. Trong sự yêu thương, lo lắng của ba mẹ, chị Lem, ông bà và các bác, Zon đã “vượt qua thử thách” đẻ thiếu tháng để ăn nhiều, ngủ nhiều, trông “ra dáng” hơn nhiều so với lúc mới sinh (trộm vía, trôm vía). Ba mẹ bế thấy nặng và đầm tay nhiều hơn lắm, không biết tăng thêm được bao nhiêu cân.

 Cu Zon khi đòi ăn: tay khua khoắng, chân đạp, miệng đớp đớp và khóc rống lên. Hay nhất là khi đưa bình sữa gần miệng, Zon lập tức vươn miệng ngoạp đồng thời lấy tay vồ lấy nút lấy nút để.

 Cu Zon khi ngủ: đầu hay ngoẹo một bên, đặc biệt là có thói quen gác va cong một chân lên gối trông như “lão nông”.

Cầu mong mọi sự bình yên cho cu Zon của ba mẹ và chị Lem

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Bureaucracy is supposedly unsuitable to quickly changing and highly demanding features of contemporary organizations as this type of management is synonymous to red tape and it represents dozens of negative effects such as rigidity, alienation, and low commitment (Adler, 1999, pp.37). However, with core characteristics of the bureaucratic form (e.g. formalization, hierarchy and specialization) (Adler & Borys,  1996, p.1) as well as evidence of  ongoing existence of this management method, bureaucracy is proved to remain relevant in terms of following facets: it very fits organizations characterized with routine tasks; it comes up with exceptional requirements of some specific organizations; it is very well-suited to ease the tension of interest conflict between members of organization; and an appropriate style of bureaucracy will create and foster trust, commitment and motivation among employees. This paper argues that bureaucracy will keep pace with fast-moving contemporary organizations provided that organization management takes into account cultural features, quality of labor force, and the need of continuous improvement.

Despite the fact that bureaucracy possesses some negative consequences such as rigidity, alienation, and low commitment (Adler, 1999, p.37) or bureaucracy is under criticism for dehumanizing people (Grey, 2005), there is evidence of bureaucracy existence in today world. For example, in America, the democratic government uses the rules of bureaucratic management; and bureaucratic principles are applied in administration of the customs and the foreign service alike (Mises, 1983, p.47). Normally, when bureaucracy is discussed, this management style is usually assimilated to red tape, over-controlling bosses, and apathetic employees (Adler, 1999, p.36); or it is regarded as incompatible to individual liberty, personal accountability and other virtues (Du Gay, 2000, p.67); or it is even regarded as one of the great evils (Adler, 1999 p.46). Nevertheless, this stereotype against bureaucracy is probably shaped by practical adoption of insufficiently bureaucratic form in nontraditional communist countries. According to Pearce (2000, p.151), bureaucracy in these countries is characterized by particularistic organizational practices that are designed to encourage excessively high level of formalization and hierarchy in favor of minority group interest (e.g. workplace authority, leaders). By contrast, universalistic bureaucracy is intended to enhance satisfaction of employees and effectiveness of organization as well (Pearce, 2000, p.150). This paper argues that the relevance of today’s bureaucracy is derived from universalistic practices that involve performance appraisal system, job description, financial accounting systems, and grievance procedures (Heneman at al.1989, cited in Pearce, 2000, p.159). In other words, the transparency and efficiency-oriented goal of this bureaucracy type may be used to explain why almost every organization at least capitalize on some extent of bureaucracy features (Jaffe, p.116).

The current existence of bureaucracy may be primarily attributed to positive influences derived from bureaucracy rules that may be suitable at different extent to organizations regardless its sorts or level of development. Apparently, it is normally agreed that there is inevitable conflict in the interest between members of an organization. For example, the interest of workers and managers not always come hand in hand (Adler, 1999, p.45). According to Jaffe (p.97), this conflict in interest that inevitably cause organization tension, may be neutralized through bureaucratic rules (e.g. procedures, supervision or coordination) so as nonowners find their interest while creating interest for organizational owners. Additionally, (Adler, 1999, p.96) also points out that bureaucratic rules are more easily exercised and enforced if all members of organization have common interest. For example, both managers and workers find their interest in complying with rules and principles of fire or safety prevention practices and as a result, the high level of bureaucracy formalization to have these rules strictly exercised and enforced is voluntarily accepted by all members of organization. Obviously, in this regards, the formalized procedures of the representative bureaucracy are necessary and relevant for any sort of organization.

Max Weber states that bureaucracy is said to be the most rational form of management and it remains relevant today (Adler, 1999, p.37). While agree with this opinion in general, this paper argues that the different extent of bureaucracy application depends on organization form, size as well as organization tasks.

As bureaucracy is characterized with hierarchical structure, formalized procedures, and staff expertise (Adler, 1999, p.37), this management style is thought to remain suitable for large-scale organizations in which timeliness, conformance and orderliness are crucial to get the whole system run smoothly. These requirements, obviously, are especially demanding for success of contemporary organizations that typically come under pressure of increasingly fierce global competition. Furthermore, the application of bureaucracy management style with high level of formalization and standardization is fairly desperate for specific sectors or organizations such as military, hospital or police offices – particular organizations whose performance is thought to  be hardly conducted without the high degree of formalization and arbitrary rules. Undoubtedly, the operation of  highly-disciplined organizations like police offices is unlikely to be well performed to ensure security or social order in the absence of bureaucratic rules.

Additionally, with respect to organization tasks, bureaucracy is considered to be beneficial for routine tasks that are characterized by repetition; and to be counterproductive for non-routine tasks that are typical of innovative (Adler, 1999, p.37). Accordingly, employees are more motivated in no routine tasks with low level of formalization as well as in routine tasks with high level of formalization. Apparently, in an organization whose tasks are primarily routine, if most employees are satisfied with high level of formalization and control (Jaffe, p.65), bureaucratic form is said to remain relevant. In this view, there is dilemma of efficiency of bureaucracy form for routine tasks and issue of employee’s involvement. As argued by (Adler, 1999, p38), unmotivating and repetitive tasks are typical of involvement of employees with low expectation of work; and as a result, organization may find it hard to get these employees highly involved to catch up with today’s competitive environment. However, on this view of this paper,  the satisfaction of employees with high level of formalization or hierarchy that ensure the efficiency in their workplaces is that organization want to achieve for routine tasks. For example, development methodologies at Toshiba’s Fuchu Works software development organization and several of the most successful American electronic corporations are formalized and standardized at high degree without alienating the software developers (Adler, 1999, p.40).  Thus, as Gery (2005) states that the modern world is the world of efficiency where particular ends is achieved by means of focus, once efficiency is guaranteed, organizations are said to be able to cope with the competition.

Moreover, bureaucracy is seen as a necessary management style that creates and fosters trust, commitment and motivation of employees (Pearce, 2000, p.151). In this regards, the controversial issue is that whether this function of bureaucracy remains suitable for contemporary organizations in comparison with other styles of management?

With respect to effectiveness in promoting positive attitudes of employees towards their workplaces, there are contradictory views of bureaucracy in comparison with democratic forms. Whereas participative management style if regards as flexible to promote motivation and cooperation of employees (Quang & Vuong, 2002, p.15), bureaucratic segmentation limits employees to their particular job, and consequently, it inhibits the “mobilization of multiple intelligence” (Jaffe, P.121). However, while agree with the former statement, this paper argues that the later opinion do not cover positive features of bureaucracy that also help promote motivation and commitment of employees. Based on opinion of Pearce (2000, P.150), according to which formalized systems that are used by the large organization in the developed world include performance appraisal systems, job descriptions, job posting procedures, this paper asserts that motivation and commitment of employees can not be achieved if organization is unable to create an management scheme that ensure transparent accountability, equity and operating efficiency. Obviously, these criteria of a management system can be found in bureaucracy style. For example, when result-based performance appraisal is applied in performance activities, employees, who are genuinely competent and expect to be assessed on the basic of universal principles such as merit rather than personality or special relation, become more committed to their workplaces. This positive attitude of employees, as suggests by Adler (1999, p.153), will encourage them to improve job performance, and in return, organization performance is improved as well. Furthermore, when employees are more committed to their organization, the tension deprived form conflict in interest between them and managers is likely more easily defused. In other words, the efficiency and productivity of organization, that is especially vital for contemporary organization to be more competitive, is evidently realized under influence of bureaucratic management regime.

Another criticism of bureaucracy is that its inability to be adaptive to today’s fast-changing organization (Pearce, 2000, p.120). That is why there is a suggestion that bureaucracy has become out-of-date to come up with increased international competition, and consequently, bureaucracy is supposedly needed to be replaced by more flexible arrangement such as contracting and alliances (Pearce, 2000, p.159). However, as discussed above, bureaucracy management style with core features (e.g. formalization, hierarchy and staff expertise) is particularly well-suited to specific sorts and sizes of organization. Significantly, in order to keep pace with today’s increasingly competitive environment as well as to ensure efficiency, organizations are required to take into account quality of labor force as well as cultural features and the application of bureaucracy need to be continuously improved to be more adaptive to organizational changes  in their practices of this management style.

The efficiency of bureaucracy is largely influenced by how its rules are implemented in relation to quality of organization labor force. According to Pugh (1976, cited in Adler & Borys, 1996, P.62) and Mintzberg (1979, cited in Adler & Borys, 1996 P.62), conformation – in form of written rules, procedures, and instructions, is designed to enable employees to improve their tasks (i.e. enabling formalization), and to coerce effort and conformance from employees (i.e. coercive formalization). While many bureaucratic procedures are considered by both employees and employers as obstacles rather than guidelines to be implemented (Jaffe, p102); and coercive formalization is criticized for not giving employees opportunities to get involved in the process (Adler 1999, P.71), this paper suggests that although it is not always the case, but sometimes strict rules and disciplines are said to be implemented arbitrarily. For example, in an organization where there are incompetent and irresponsible workers, it is not effective to depend on their awareness and voluntary compliance with organization procedures. Under this context, coercive formalization as a type of bureaucracy is thought to operate more effectively than enabling formalization and as Adler & Borys (1996, P.82) consider, sometimes it can be used as a necessary evils although virtual efficiency of bureaucratic method is achieved at expense of creativity and motivation (Adler, 1999, P.38). In contrast, enabling formalization is appropriate if employees are voluntary and competent to contribute to the improvement of organization activities as this type of formalization is designed to encourage committed employees to perform their jobs more effectively and reinforce their commitment (Adler & Borys, 1996, p.83).

Punishment-centered bureaucracy is said to generate the greatest tensions between management and employees (Jaffe, P.96). It means, in order to get employees comply with organization procedures or principles, some kinds of rules are enforceable and imposed by management on the workers. In this regards, the most concern of management is how to achieve this goal in most effective way or the efficiency of bureaucracy is inevitably depends on how organization’s cultural values match the extent of bureaucracy application. For example, whereas the Japanese managers play high values on communication processes, interdepartmental relation, and a paternalistic approach, American counterparts underline supervisory styles, decision making and control mechanism (Culpan and Kucukemiroglu, cited in Quang & Vuong, 2002, P.3). Not surprisingly, the bureaucratization of Japanese employment relation of Japanese employment relations increases employee’s commitment by producing a constitutional order with arbitrary power of authority (Dore, cited in Adler & Borys, 1996, P.84). Meanwhile, the bureaucratization of employment relation in American corporations leads to the establishment of internal labor market in which managers can divide and exploit workers (Edwards, cited in Adler & Borys, 1996, P.84). Furthermore, the concern of today’s organization management in terms of how to apply effectively bureaucratic rules under cultural diversity in workplaces. Obviously, effects of bureaucracy are definitely different from culturally homogeneous organizations to culturally diverse organizations. Thus, the controversial issue for HR managers here is how to conduct bureaucratic management under multicultural-oriented as well as  one-cultured-based organizations.

As organizational culture is understood to be under shape of many factors such as the company’s history, present management, the nature of product or service or natural culture (Baird, Compton & Nankervis 2005), today HR managers need to understand that bureaucracy like other management styles are under influence of social cultures in which organizations operate, and management styles may vary in a given culture (Nguyen & Truong, P.3, 2002). That is why it is very crucial to identify a best-suited type of bureaucracy so that the organization can be  operated in the most efficient manner , avoiding any unnecessary conflict of benefits between employers and employees with different cultural background, and most importantly, this management style should be in favor of the organization as well as its workforce.

Indeed, alongside continuous movement of organization towards higher degree of efficiency and productivity, bureaucracy is also required to be more flexible in application. It means, formalized procedures or standardized disciplines are needed to be implemented consistently to the characteristics of bureaucracy but they are not necessarily kept unchanged regardless any movement of organization in which they are operating. If bureaucracy is originally designed to assure efficiency of organization (Pearce, 2000, P.150), the rules of bureaucracy are required to constantly to change accordingly to match the change of organization. However, it is noticed that any change or modification in bureaucracy application should not deviate from it core functions of assuring efficiency, conformance, and timeless of organization operation. In other words, the improvement and flexibility of this management style should not to be equated with its abandonment.

In conclusion, bureaucracy as a particular style of management remains relevant and necessary to contemporary organizations, especially to those characterized by large-scale size, routine tasks and to those performance of which is essentially and vitally relies on high degree of hierarchy and formalization of bureaucratic form. Furthermore, despite the quickly changing practices of international business context as well as diverse movement of organization structure, the core features of universal bureaucracy such as formalization, hierarchy and staff expertise in favor of timeless, conformance and clear accountability remain inevitably necessary for contemporary organizations to stay ahead of increasingly intensified competition. Finally, organization management is supposed to take into consideration factors affecting efficiency of bureaucracy application such as quality of labor force, cultural characteristics and most importantly, continuous improvement of this management style to catch up with quick change and high demand of contemporary organizations. Indeed, bureaucracy, like any other styles of management, inherently has both negative and positive effects, the issue for contemporary management is how to take advantages and diminish the disadvantages in the most appropriate application.

References

Adler, P, S 1999 .‘Building better bureaucracies’, Academy of Management Review, pp.36-49.

Adler, P, S & Borys, B 1996 .‘two types of Bureaucracy: Enabling and Coercive’. Aministrative Science Quarterly, pp.61-89.

Baird, M, Compton, R & Nankervis, A (eds) 2005, Human Resource management: strategies and processes, 5th edn, Thomson, Melbourne.

Du Gay .P 2000, In Praise of Bureaucracy. Publications Ltd, Lodon.

Grey, Ch 2005 .A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about studying organizations. Sage Publications Ltd, London.

Jaffe, D .Organization theory: Tention and change, 1th edn. University of North Florida, New York.

Mises, L, V 1983. Bureaucracy. Margit Von Mises, New York.

Pearce, J.L 2000. ‘Insufficient bureaucracy: trust and commitment in particularistic organizations’. Organization Science, pp.148-162.

Quang, T & Vuong, N, T 2002. ‘Management Styles and Organizational Effectiveness in Vietnam’. Research and Practice in Human Resource Management, 10(2), 36-55.

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Cross-culture communication

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to deliver a proper understanding about cross-cultural communications through comparison of two academic definitions of this complex process and analysis of the theories of barriers as well as factors in designing and implementing an intercultural communication.

The findings of this paper is that the barriers and factors of multicultural communications are performed in very different manners depending on different cultural background; they exist in perception of people in host cultures as well as in mindsets of people from home cultures; and more importantly, these barriers and factors can be diminished or developed respectively depending largely on attitude, ability and efforts of multinational companies.

Introduction

Cross-cultural communications are defined similarly by the University of Pennsylvania (1989) and Samovar & Porter (1982) as a process of communications between people from differently cultural background. However, the two definitions are different in terms of the condition of this process . In terms of design and  implementation of a successful cross-cultural communication, there are a number of barriers as well as factors. Barriers are objective such as cultural distance, difference in cultural dimensions and cultural sensitivity to creative communications; or subjective such as ethnocentrism and illusion of control. Accordingly, the objective factor is cultural diffusion; subjective factors are positive cross-cultural attitudes, cross-cultural training, and adaptation strategies. Further, these barriers and factors are mentioned in relation to McDonalds’ company and they can be found in other four samples summarized from academic articles.

1. Two definitions.

1.1 First definition .

“The process of communications across cultural boundaries” (University of Pennsylvania, 1989).

1.2 Second definition

“Intercultural communications entails the investigations of cultural and the difficulties of communicating across cultural boundaries. Intercultural communications occurs whenever a message produced in one culture must be processed in another culture” (Samovar & Porter, 1982).

The similarity of these two definitions is that cross-cultural communications are said to occur between different cultural groups (i.e. cultural boundaries) regardless the countries they live. For example, cross-cultural communications can be taken place between Chinese-Australians and Greek-Australian in Australia (i.e. in the same national market), between Chinese people from China to other countries (i.e. across market) and between Chinese and Americans (i.e. separate markets).

However, unlike the first definition, the second one plays more emphasis on difficulties of intercultural communications. On the perspective of marketing communication, this indication is more likely to close to the perception of marketers to whom the issue of communicating with people in diverse culture is seen as one of the greatest challenge in marketing communication (Ricks, 1998, cited in Kale, 1991). Secondly, whereas the fist definition just states the intercultural communication merely as a process, ignoring conditions when and how this complex process happens, Samovar and Porter (1982) point out that the interactive process between people from different cultural groups actually occurs when the message by senders in one culture is comprehended by people from another culture.  In the marketing circumstance, cross-cultural communications occurs when a message from a seller from a culture is necessary in the process by buyer form another culture (Bush and Ingram, 1996, cited in Bush et al. 2001).

2. Barriers of cross-cultural communications

2.1 High level of ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism comes from the love for one’s own country resulting to reluctance to buy foreign products. Ethnocentrism is one of the elements of a framework for intercultural disposition (Gudykunst et al.1977, cited in Bush et al. 2001). However, unlike other elements of cross-cultural attitudes, high level of ethnocentrism is viewed as a barrier that multinational companies must overcome entering a new market. Hence, despite the high extent of global sales, McDonalds’ may encounter difficulties in promoting “fast-food” culture in Asian countries like China , Japan or Vietnam  where traditional foods are a pride and integral of national cultural values.

Furthermore, ethnocentrism exists not only in consumers’ mindset and attitude towards foreign products but also in the perception of foreign entrepreneurs themselves. According to Gladstone (1998), there are a number of the US businesses are resistant sending their people abroad for international training because of the existence of ethnocentrism within the corporate culture.

Illusion of control

In process of marketing multicultural communications, this paper argues that the proper attitude and respect of transnational corporations towards cultural value of host countries are said to be much crucial to gain acceptance form local customers. According to Cummings (1994), the greatest barrier to cross-cultural communications is the illusion of control that is illustrated by a number of characters like impatience, arrogance or misconception that “the rest of the world is a slightly difference vision of ourselves). As Americans are thought to be egocentric or personal-oriented (Gladstone, 1998) or they are characterized by inherent biases of individualism, superiority that do not fit the nature of global thinking or cross-cultural thoughts (Barnett and Weathers, 1995 cited in Firos at al. 2002).

As a result, American-originated companies, including McDonalds’, inevitably face much negative reaction from customers in host markets. The negative biases against American businessmen’s’ low level of cultural adaptation can be seen even in European countries where there is low degree of schychic distance in comparison with the United Stated of America. For example, Americans executives are complained by their European counterparts as people who do not know how and when to eat and drink properly; or they do not know evething about European history; or simply address European counterparts by their first name (Barnett and Weathers, 1995 cited in Firos at al. 2002). Obviously, McDonalds’, like other US enterprises, essentially needs to set up cross-cultural communications that “stand guard against the delusion that such communication has already occurred” (Cummings, 1994).

Cultural distance

Cultural distance is concerned with the extent of difference between the senders and the receivers in perceiving and interpreting messages (Samover at al. 1991). It means, the closer and more similar schychic distance in culture between two countries is, and the more similar their repertoire in communication is. Certainly, some cultures are said to possess more difficulties in cultural communications than others (Gladstone, 1998). That is, a Big Max product of McDonalds’ is obviously more culturally acceptable in Germany and in India as the USA and Germany are more similar in cultural values than the USA and Asian countries (Mueller, 1991).

Because of the cultural distance, McDonalds’ may save more money from a standardized advertising program in Western European countries that that from a localized advertising program in Asian countries as the overall usage of standardized messages was more workable for advertisement used between Western markets than for massage transferred between Western and Eastern markets (Meller, 1989).

Cultural sensitivity towards advertising

As advertising perception plays a significant role over consumers’ intention to resist the products (Chan et al, 2007), and as there is no opportunity for the seller to correct mistakes when advertising images are received from the buyers (Kale, 1991) any negligence of cultural values of advertising massages may lead to bad response from local audience. For example, foreign actors face linguistic boundaries in speaking Japanese on national television commercials because many Japanese people regard these gaijin tarento (foreign talent) as anomalies (Miller, 1995 cited in Martin, 2005). In order to avoid any unintentional abuse of cultural norms and values, multicultural companies need to a similar message is accepted in one culture but is unaccepted in another. For example, while high-context culture is more strait-laced about sexually intimate matters, low-context is more liberal towards sex theme (Shao & Hill, 1994 cited in Chan et al. 2007). Consequently, an advertising video clip on television using sex appeal is acceptable in US (e.g. low context culture) but it entirely is seen as a taboo in China or Vietnam (e.g. high-context culture).

Differences in the four cultural dimensions

Hofstede’s (1980) work on cultural differences in intercultural comparison in areas like management, social psychology, anthropology, sociology, marketing and communication (Albers, 1994 Kale, 1991 cited in An, 2006). Accordingly, four main cultural dimensions comprise power distance (i.e. social desire for hierarchy or egalitarianism), individualism (i.e. societal preference for a group or individual recognition); masculinity–femininity (i.e. gender role), and uncertainty avoidance. A lot of multicultural communication barriers between the seller and the buyer can be illuminated by differences in their position on these four cultural dimensions (Kale, 1991). For example, businesses operating in the South East Asia found that power distance structure of the society does not permit personal contact with any of the local authorities or the individualism-collectivism dischnomy’s influence on business communication is blamed for premature termination of the assignment (Gladstone, 1998).

3. Factors of cross-cultural communications

3.1 The diffusion of consumer culture

According to Solomon el al. (2007), global companies apparently benefit from increasing diffusion of consumer culture. Obviously, in today’s consumption market, consumers in every country worldwide are inclined to accept import product from other countries as they are willing to absorb any culture they like For example, consumers like using products of Coke, Pepsi or McDolads’ because these global corporations’ images gives them positive assurance, psychological reinforcement or social acceptance (Clow and Baak, 2007).

3.2 Positive cross-cultural attitudes

According to Bush et al. (2001) the success of cross-cultural communications is primarily attributed to intercultural disposition including following factors.

Empathy: Ability to understand and share with other’s thoughts, feeling and experience. It said that a person will be more likely to be multicultural effective in communication if he/she knows how to empathize with others (Cleveland et al. 1960, Ruben, 1976, cited in Bush et al. 2001)

Worldmindedness: Refers to extent of willingness to accept new ideas, new cultures. Consequently, the worldminded marketing people are thought to be in better position to build up a good relationship with a buyer from a new cultural group.

Attribution complexity: refers to accuracy in comprehending differences and similarities between one culture and another (Gudykunst et al.1977, cited in Busg et al. 2001).

Hence, these factors of positive cross-cultural communications are thought to make up communication competence that ensures the success of marketers in communications with culturally diverse customers from different cultural background.

3.3 Cross-cultural training

Cross-cultural training involves increasing the ability to communicate with people form differently cultural background (Gladstone, 1998). According to Tung (1979, cited in Gladstone, 1998), training for marketers working abroad involves language training, environmental briefings, and cultural specific training. In terms of corporation perspective, the cross-cultural training is easier to be implemented in corporations with lower level of perceived ethnocentrism and the opposite. As discussed in barrier section, intercultural training is significant for the global marketing communications of McDonalds’ due to following reasons.

McDonald’s is a typical American company and as Americans are globally thought to be egocentric and personal-oriented (Gladstone, 1998). That is, McDonalds’ executives as well as sale force staff are essentially need to be trained how to ease this negative biases to gain more favorable treatment for local stakeholders.

McDonalds’ has hundred thousand chains supplying fats food in absolutely culturally diverse countries. Obviously, sale force people without training can not handle their tasks successfully in their daily communications with customers.

3.4 Adaptation strategies

Consumers behave differently based on their different cultural background and they tend to highly appreciate marketing efforts that respect their cultural heritage (Solomon et al. 2007, p.433). Therefore, this paper argues that adaptation is primarily significant in cross-cultural communications as opposed to standardization as stated by Fatt (1967, cited in Mueller, 1989) arguing that clients may be satisfied with similarity of products and advertising messages.

Relationship building (i.e. marketing relationship) is supposedly very important in business-to-business communication and the way of this process performed is very specific depending on cultural differences of low-context or high-context nature; individualism or collectivism societies. For example, building relationship is known as “old mate” for New Zealand culture, Guanxi or friendship for Chinese, right connection for Indians (Zhu et al. 2005) or in Vietnam, people tend to get to know their counterparts as a person before setting down to business (Smith, 1996). Whereas messages are very explicit in a low-context societies (i.e. words contain most of information in communications) and managers tend to go straightforward to business discussion, in high-context societies like Asian countries “if you are not willing to take the time to sit down and have a cup of green tea, you have a problem” (Cateora, 2001 cited in Firoz et al.2002).

Therefore, although McDonalds’ engages in business-to-consumer market, the marketing cross-cultural communication application in relationship building is very crucial in establishing favorable relationship with other stakeholders – government, local communities, outlets owners and media.

Based on distinctive differences between collectivism and individualism cultures, advertising messages are said to be designed and presented in accordance with cultural values where messages are in existence. For example, in order to demonstrate effectively it’s slogan “I am lovin it” through visual advertising messages, this paper recommends that McDonalds’ may take advantages of individual images of celebrities to promote McDonals’ brand image in cultures that are characterized by individualism. In contrast, a visual message that displays a happy image of family enjoying themselves with Big Max is said to be very appropriate in a collectivism cultures.

4. Samples of cross-cultural communications

4.1 Successful adaptation story of the Canadian’s largest tobacco manufacturer (Davis and Dewhirst, 2005)

The Imperia Tobacco Limited (ITL) had been successful in their advertising campaign of launching new cigarette brand namely Prayers in Quebec, a predominantly French-speaking province of Canada by keeping the balance between adaptation to the culturally specific market and retention of the product’s core identity. For example, models used in the advertising are required to look like Quebecois rather than those with features of Anglo/American people; on the other hand, image advertising represents a consistent brand image (e.g. youthful self-expression, independence and freedom).

This sample is illustrated for Factor 3.4 (i.e. adaptation strategies)

4.2 Successful Public Relation story of McDonalds’ in Thailand (Business Asia, 1998 cited in Fletcher and Brown, p.561, 2005)

After the Asian crisis in 1997, the government of Thailand launched a campaign urging consumers to “buy Thai, eat Thai”. Further, McDonald’s ‘golden arches’ was used in Thai TV as a sample to justify that buying foreign products compromises Thailand. McDonalds wisely responded to this boycott campaign by PR campaign promoting the ideal that its sales positively impact Thailand’s foreign exchange reverses instead of draining them indicating that up to 90% of a meal of McDonald’s contained local ingredients. Further, the advertising of next new product was based on Traditional Thai image. As the result, the sales quickly recovered for McDonalds’ products.

This sample is illustrated for Factor 3.3 (i.e. positive cross-cultural attitudes)

4.3 Unsuccessful story of poor communication adaptation of Indian Department of Tourism (Kale, 1991).

India’s failure in their campaign to publicize the tourism industry to Americans illustrates a poor application of Hofsted’s cultural dimension. Accordingly, characteristics of highly individualistic Americans’ culture such as autonomy, pleasure and variety were ignored in  tour packages designed by Indian Department of Tourism. Consequently, only one per cent of all Americans going abroad for holiday visit India (Kale, 1991).

This sample is illustrated for barrier 2.5 (i.e.difference in four cultural dimentions)

4.4 Unsuccessful story of Toyota’s advertising mistake in China (Liu & Han, 2006)

The slogan of Toyota’s advertising campaign for new car Prado in China “you have to respect to Prado” in a picture where stone lions salute Toyota’s car has accused of insulating China history and sparked protection from Chinese people. The reason is that the images of Dragon along with Lion are historically sacred symbols of China and the use of these images by Toyota are regarded as a cultural taboo.

This sample is illustrated for Factor 2.4 (i.e. cultural sensitivity to advertisings)

Conclusion

Barriers and factors of cross-cultural communications are characterized as both objective and subjective. In order to be successful and avoid culturally unexpected mistakes in this process, multinational companies are said to understand profoundly objective barriers (e.g. cultural distance, differences in cultural dimensions and cultural sensitivity to creative communications); decrease bad effects of subjective barriers (ethnocentrism, illusion of control); and take advantages of factors (e.g. cultural diffusion, positive cross-cultural attitudes, cross-cultural training, and adaptation strategies).

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1989, International Encyclopedia of communications, University of Pennsylvania, p.330.

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Abstract

According to newest ranking of world’s natural wonders (New7wonder, 2008)  most favourite names of landscapes among the first twenty rankings are located in developing countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam  or Philippine.

Despite being famous for naturally attractive destinations, these countries are not named among the most visited destinations (World Tourism Organization, 2008). It can be argued that there are a number of factors other than natural beauty that can make a tourist spot desirable to visitors – political stability, cultural diversity, economic development. It is usual that international visitors feel comfortable during their holidays in Australia, France or the United State of Americans. There is no doubt that these developed countries are financially superiors to promote their treasures like Opera House, Affel Tower or Liberty Statue.

However, it is unusual that there is very low brand awareness among tourist agent counter staff worldwide about above high-ranking beautiful wonders (Rod, 2003). It is a paradox that these naturally fascinating spots are not even named in these tourism “gatekeepers” as their top-of-mind tourism destinations. In contrast, other tourist spots in developing countries like Bali (Indonesia), or Bangkok, Phuket  beach (Thailand) joint very high degree of brand awareness.

This reality raises the question of building brand awareness as well as brand image for tourist destination under nearly similar condition. This paper, therefore, is aimed to find out why and how a tourist spot is more attractive and more frequently visited than other. More importantly, how good brand equity can make difference to a tourist destination.

Introduction

There are a number of developing countries that are famous for exotic and beautiful landscapes. However, although natural beauty is ranked as the first factor influencing travel decision, there are a lot of others determining the attractiveness of a tourism destination including infrastructure, shopping facilities, historical prominence, attitudes of local residents as well as local authorities towards tourists and so forth (Gearing et al., 1973). Moreover, even two countries with similarities in some or many of these factors may have different degree of attractiveness depending on how image of each country is perceived by tourists. Therefore, as “branding has to do with the way customers perceived and buy thing” (Vincente, 2004), this paper argues that the success of the destination marketing activities in developing countries is primarily determined by (i) the awareness and attitudes of local authorities and people towards their country identity; (ii) their ability to accentuate the positive country image as well as to address the negative image and (iii) the congruence of actual image, projected image (by the country authority) and perceived image (by customers).

These three main determinants of marketing destination are taken into consideration in an attempt to illuminate the fact that a developing country can be an attractive tourism destination under condition of being less advantageous than other developed countries in terms of economic development, infrastructure, finance capacity supporting tourism promotion campaigns and so forth. A number of samples of two developing countries – Thailand and Vietnam are used to illustrate this paper’s points of argument. These two countries are chosen because they are nearly similar in geography, population, culture, infrastructure and the level of economic development. Besides, some samples of other countries are also employed in the purpose of comparison with these two countries.

Issue 1: Understanding yourselves

According to (Han, 2005), factors influencing travel decisions involve push and pull effects. Accordingly, push factors are associated with the needs and wants of the visitors (e.g. motivation for discovery, demand for rest or relaxation and so on); and pull factors refer to the attributes and features of the destination itself. Taci & Kozak (2006) also suggests that the success of the destination marketing activities is determined by the extent of congruence between authorities’ projected image and customers’ perceived image. With respect to branding destination, this paper argues that brand identity that is defined as how a country see itself (Vincente, 2004) is primarily taken into consideration prior to brand images (i.e. how travellers see a country).

While nation branding is aimed to help the nation to “sell” its products and places (Fan, 2006), the crucial issues  for  nations is not just what natural beauty they have but what attitudes people in each country have  towards their country’s natural treasures in terms of exploration as well preservation. Vietnamese people are proud of their landscape Ha long Bay that is ranked first among recent ranking of new world wonders (New7wonder, 2008). However, The Vietnamese authority and local residents do not pay enough attention to preserve this spectacular landmark leaving it increasingly polluted and excessively exploited (Vietnamnet, 2007). By contrast, the Tourism Authority of Thailand very value quality tourism that concentrates on education and the responsible utilization of natural resources instead of merely prioritizing high tourist number (Kittikanya, 2006). If nation branding  helps a nation to improve its image of nation brand (Fan, 2006), these contrasting points of view towards tourism business may be used to illuminate the high gap in attractiveness of the two countries.

Another aspect of brand identity in brand destination is the role of people involved in the process of introducing and delivering tourism products to visitors as consumers tend to perceive the place image via characteristics of not only the place but also of people who live there (Nuttavuthisit, 2006). In this regards, the behaviour and professionalism of authority, tourist agents, tour-guides as well as local residents in some developing countries seem to be a big issue. For example, the first ambassadors of country to international tourists are immigration officers at airports and their behaviour may create bad or good impressions of the whole nation. Whereas the immigration officers in China, Singapore or Thailand airports always smile at visitors, their counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City’s airport in Vietnam do not do so at all. Professor John Quelch – Associate Dean of the Harvard Business School, is very impressive with the hospitality of the Thai land people and in a interview organized by a Vietnamese electronic newspaper, he said that Vietnam is also a very hospitable country (Quelch, 2005). Vietnamese people are supposed to thank him for his good comment but this country seems to be far from this generous compliment. Instead of being illusive of diplomatic comments of big figures, Vietnamese people desperately need to think about themselves more seriously and more critically. It would be better if complains of ordinary international visitors about quality of Vietnamese tourism service are seriously taken into consideration. The following comment of  an American tourist is an example. He said “Your tourism is not as professional as that of Thai land. They also bring visitors to shops but tourists do not complain. In Vietnam, for example, in Hoi an, visitors are not pleased where the prices for souvenirs are so different, some times 3-4 times. We consider that cheating and do not care, but we will not return again” (Vietnamnet, 2007). Apparently, this actual sample (among hundreds of similar ones) are very worth for people in charge of tourism industry as well as ordinary  residents in Vietnam contemplating about  who they are and subsequently what to do to improve the situation.

In terms of brand positioning, Kevin et al. (2002) states that points of difference alone are not enough to create a distinctive brand against competitors and it is a conventional misconception that building a brand is about starting with salient features. As every international tourist going to a new country on their holiday has different motivation: adventure, relaxation, exploration or social interaction. Undoubtedly, no matter what purpose of journey they have, they definitely do not pay a sum of money in exchange for annoyance or anger. Therefore, before finding ways to impress visitors, the tourist sector in developing countries essentially avoid frustrating or even outraging them with failure in fundamental and basic services.

Issue 2:  Building the positive and wisely address the negative images

According to Vincente (2004), the image of a less unknown country is shaped by the country category in which it is classified. And as a country image is the sum of believes and impression people hold about places, it is crucial for a developing country to take advantages of its positive nation brand and to diminish or correct its negative country image assuming that each country has a “biased” image to its international tourists, be it is strong or weak, clear or vague. Indeed, this tricky and challenging task involves building a strong country slogan, correcting negative country image and being consistent in conducting the integrated marketing communication.

A nation brand may represent variety of factors and associations including culture, history, people and tourist attractions (Fan, 2006). In terms of building an impressive slogan that can be effectively served as a necessary public articulation of a destination brand positioning strategy, the most challenge for a slogan or tagline is to make a country image stand out from other with its differentiating values and identities. In this regards, there are some successful slogans such as “Amazing Thai land”, “Uniquely Singapore”, Incredible India”, or “Malaysia Truly Asia” (Nuttavuthisit, 2006) and there is a criticism over the slogan of Vietnamese tourism “Vietnam -The Hidden Charm” (Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, 2006). Accordingly, it is believed that Thai Land tourism campaign with slogan “Amazing Thai land” fits with the reality that many tourists enjoy the idea of experimenting with something new, exotic and diverse from their home lifestyle. By contrast, “Vietnam – the Hidden Charm” is criticized as a confusing message in this country’s destination branding campaign. In fact, these comments are right but insufficient and they are likely to be under biases against these two countries’ images that may affect the diffusion and understanding of slogans. There is no doubt that Mr. Hermawan Kartaya – The Asia’s leading marketing strategist is also right with his comment that the Vietnamese immigration officers in Ho Chi Minh city airport need to show more charm at immigration counters with their smiles as their counterparts always do in Bangkok airport (Kartajaya, 2007). Keeping distance away from unpleasant behaviour of tourism-related people, slogan “the Hidden charm” virtually highlights the unexplored potentials of Vietnam’s culture, nature and people as this country is known for natural and beautiful attractions, diversity in cultures (The Vietnam Tourism Organization, 2005). Critically thinking, this is not a bad idea that fits with the Vietnam’s tourism potentials. However, the slogan of Vietnamese tourism campaign was supposed to come up with currently imperative issue of this country’s destination branding – improve the negative image of low level of professionalism as well as hospitality of tourism-related people. In other worlds, “The Hidden Charm” is not a wrong message but has been launched at a unsuitable time and has not kept up with the expectation of international tourists towards this country image.

Hence, another determinant reinforcing the country positive image is how the negative image is addressed.

As discussed above, every country has both positive and negative images in the perception of the international tourists. For example, while Thailand is famous for Thai people’s magnificent hospitality or for the attractive image of the best place to ship, this country is also notorious for taking advantage of sex tourism as an attraction to draw international visitors (Nuttavuthisit, 2006). Likewise, whereas Vietnam is well-known for its spectacular natural beauty with a number of magnificent tourism attractions like Ha long bay or beaches, low level of professionalism of tourism-related people actually may dishearten the tourists to come back. Nuttavuthisit (2006) suggests that the positive perception of a country can be reinforced by deflecting attention away from the negative aspects. Similarly, Kotler (2002)  also proposed that negative images of a place may be tarnished by overwhelming the target consumers with positive images. In terms of psychological perception, they are very true with their comments as it may be easier to accentuate positive associations than attempt to refute negative ones. However, this paper suggests that the positive associations sometimes are incapable to compensate the bad impact derived from negative images. There is no doubt that the international tourists may be obsessed by the graphic images of child sex abuse in Bangkok this obsession may leave them less well-disposed towards Thai people hospitality. Likewise, the unique beauty of Ha long bay will be overshadowed by the cool faces of immigration officers or mindfulness tourist operators in Vietnam. Therefore, the negative image is necessary to be addressed straightaway and determinedly along with the leverage of the positive image. Further, in some countries like Vietnam, the correction of negative image should be placed in priority and supposedly affects the success of publicizing the positive image.

With respect to in marketing communication in the tourism industry, developing countries are apparently less financially capable in comparison with developed countries. However, the huge money for advertising is not always necessarily correlated with the success of a country brand image. And even at the same level of development, one country is able to build a distinctive and differentiating brand image, another does not. According to Table of Comparison for Asian countries  in terms of potentials in travel and tourism, infrastructure and Global Competitiveness Index Rankings (Appendix 1 ), organized by Business-In-Asia website in 2007, there is not very big gap differences between Thailand and Vietnam. However, while Thailand (along with its destinations like Bangkok and Phuket beach) has a very strong brand image of ‘exotic, fun, and friendly people” and this country has achieved higher level of brand awareness among counter staff employees in 190 travel agent worldwide than a number of other famous tourism destinations like Australia, Hawaii, Tokyo or the U.S and Vietnam is ranked on the bottom of this table (Rod, 2002). Additionally, according to a global study by FutureBrand, a leading Global brand consultancy, Thailand was also named as the “Best country Brand” in terms of value for money in the Country Brand Index (Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, 2006). Undoubtedly, this reality indicates that the success in destination branding does not simply come from finance superiority intended for costly advertising and promotion campaigns. Instead, as Rod (2002) claims, strongest motivator in tourism is to identify and most unique image that can create an emotional appeal and help an destination being chosen over others. In this regards, the country with promising tourism potentials like Vietnam is likely to face the problem of spotting the right image to promote to the outside world. While Malaysia is known for “multicultural with many beaches’; Thailand has the image of “hospitable people”; Vietnam has a very confusing or even very misleading image in the perception of outside world. Ridiculously, despite the fact that the war in Vietnam has passed for nearly 30 years but this country has still perceived as a country of ongoing war (Vietnamnet, 2007). The poor performance of marketing communication in branding destination is fully illustrated by the comment of Phillip Kotler, the father of modern marketing during his visit to Vietnam; “How many people in the world  know that Intel and Canon decided to choose Vietnam as the site of big plants instead of China” (Vietnamnet, 2007).

Issue 3: The congruence of Actual image, Projected image and Perceived image.

Thus, we have discussed about how the destination marketing activities is influenced by the awareness and attitudes of the local authorities and other tourism-related people towards their country identity; and by their ability to accentuate the country positive image as well as to diminish the negative image. In addition to these factors, the congruence of actual image, projected image (by the country authority) and perceived image (by customers) primarily contribute to the strong brand equity of a country.

Indeed, Tasci & Kozak (2006) have mentioned only two different factors involved in destination branding: projected and received images (Appendix 6). However, the actual image as the third factor has been added by this paper (Appendix 7) with the argument that the projected image is subjectively created by the tourist authority in an attempt to promote the positive image of a country as an appealing destination for international tourists. In fact, these commercialized images may or may not be compatible with the actual image depending on either how the tourism-related people understand their country identity (i.e. do they understand themselves?) or their ability to convey the actual image into the tourism campaign to make their country attractive and top-of-mind choice in the perception of consumers (i.e. do outside people positively perceive their country image?). As can be seen in this paper’s suggested diagram (Appendix 7), the success in  destination branding is primarily determined by the good match of actual, projected and perceived images. In fact, this challenging and tricky task necessitates very high degree of consistency of the integrated marketing strategy, especially the involvement of people as the most important factor in tourism service.

As discussed above, among developing countries, some countries are very successful in positioning their countries’ distinctive images and wisely promote them to international tourists but some others are still incapable to do so. One of the main reasons comes from inconsistency in conducting the whole marketing campaign. For example, in an effort to promote its country image, Vietnam has launch an advertising program on CNN for consecutive 13 weeks (Vietnamnet, 2007) and Vietnam government has embarked on a massive propaganda to encourage Vietnamese people all over the world to vote for Ha long Bay as one of the new world wonders (Appendix in the form of Brochure). In fact, these activities are the indicative of big effort of a poor country like Vietnam to carry out money-intensive campaigns to correct Vietnam’s negative and misleading image of a country of war. However, money and time on these promotional campaigns will not work unless they are necessarily implemented in tandem with other factors of the marketing mix campaigns. There are a lots of annoying practices to international tourists in this country: immigration officers are in cold faces, tourist operators are unprofessional and unreliable (i.e. people factor); hygiene standard is awful and infrastructure is very poor (i.e. poor physical evidence); and natural landscapes are polluted and excessively exploited (i.e. quality of products is degraded). Above all, this paper considers that the success of any tourism promotion campaigns is closely associated with the behaviour of people involved. There was a shameful samples of Vietnamese people that can undermines and neutralize any effort of any expensive promotional campaign. In May of 2008, Japanese Embassy in Vietnam organized the cherry blossom exhibition in Hanoi (Appendix 4). Unexpectedly, unlike the similar events in other countries where most visitors usually show good behaviour and in contemplating  Japanese magnificent cherry blossoms, on the opening day hundreds of visitors in Hanoi have scrambled to grab flowers with the helpless of security people. This spontaneous “robbery” happened in front of foreign visitors including Japanese organizers who were actually shocked to this unprecedented incident. Undoubtedly, this incident definitely alarms the decline in consciousness of a part of Vietnamese people. Therefore, it is imperative for Vietnam to pay more attention to education to improve people’s awareness of proper behaviour  along with any promotion programs. Unless this critical task is successfully materialized (i.e. change offensive actual images), any attempt of the authority to creating an positive country image (i.e. the projected image) will never match expectation of visitors (i.e. perceived images). In other words, the actual image precedes and guides the projected image and, subsequently, the authority is supposed to understand the former fist before thinking about the latter as today sophisticated international tourists are increasingly critical of any mismatch between an image intentionally projected in promotion ads and reality they genuinely experience (Nuttavuthisit 2006).

In contrast to Vietnam, Thailand, another developing country with a number of similarities, is a successful sample of good match above-mentioned images. Obviously, the attractiveness of slogan “Amazing Thailand” is not achieved in isolation from other factors of integrated marketing communication. This slogan as well as  the newest campaign namely the “Seven Amazing Wonders” (Kittikanya, 2006) including Thainess, Treasure products, Beaches, Nature, Health and wellness, Trendy and Festivities truly represent what this country genuinely have and show to international visitors. These campaigns are not merely about the spectacular images on advertisements messages but what outside world hears is as truly as what visitors witness and experience. Further, Thailand ( and other Asian countries like Malaysia and Singapore) is able to nourish its nation brand through consistently themed, long-term and timely destination promotion campaigns that keep balance of key elements of tourism marketing and promotion (Nuttavuthisit, 2006). It is believed that the current Vietnam’s slogan “the Hidden Charm” seems to be less emotionally attractive than its previous one (Appendix 3) with the picture of a smiling girl that represents the message of smiling country to international visitors. Actually, smile and hospitality are what Vietnam desperately needs to have to start with its long-term tourism promotion campaign to the world.

The three-image diagram (Appendix 6 ) indicates that the size of these factors’ fit reveal the success of the branding destination resulting to the number of first as well as repeats visits. Additionally, the number of repeat visits to a country is primarily attributed to not only the perceived good match of images but also to the awareness and attitude of tourism-related authority addressing the issue of  this issue. It is believed that retaining current consumers is much cheaper than finding new ones (Kotler et al. 2007). With respect to tourism industry, Rittichainuwat (2007) claims that past travel experience to a particular place will prompt the idea of travelling there again and importantly, personal experience is said to exert more impact on next travel decisions than the intrusive information comes from commercials. Under the condition of limited finance capacity, this indicator is worth taking into account for developing countries attempting to encourage repeat visits. For example, in 2008’s tourism promotion plans, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has clearly specified marketing mechanics that were tailored to customer base of visitors who have previously travelled to Thailand (TAT, 2008). This program includes building a network of supporters of Thailand and implementing word-of-mouth marketing, relationship marketing, loyalty and reward programs to encourage referrals by repeat visitors. Being aware of the importance of repeat visits, but the Vietnam Organization of Tourism fails to build up a particular program to realize this target. When addressed the issue of repeat visitors, a person in charge of the tourism sector just has a general comment that they need to meet visitors’ demand for services, to have better tour guides. Two countries with two different approaches and not surprisingly, more than 70 per cent of international visitors plan to return to Thailand (TAT, 2008), while this figure to Vietnam is just 30 per cent (Vietnamnet, 2007). Actually, the brand image of Vietnam’s tourist industry is far from catching up with its Asian neighbouring countries like China or Thai land if detailed acting plans have not been sufficiently addressed.

Conclusion

In short, the success of destination branding, especially for developing countries, is primarily determined by the awareness of their country’s identity; their ability to accentuate the positive  as well as to address the negative images; and the congruence of the projected, actual and perceived images. Indeed, a strong country brand image is not always correlated with superiority in finance although finance capability, advanced infrastructure and availability of natural beauty are significantly influential in building a strong brand. In fact, a developing country can basically outperform another developed country in marketing destination activities in inferiority over these factors provided that it can capitalize on the country advantages to create a distinctive image in perception of international tourists. Besides, the reality of destination branding in developing countries also reveals that under the relatively the same conditions of geography, demography or level of economic development, a nation is able to successfully leverage its brand image but another is not. Above all, if destination branding is said to  substantially make a difference to a country brand, the role of people involved in this process is supposedly the most vital to create Unique Selling Proposition in tourist sector.

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The Big five factors are Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism

The Big Five model is a comprehensive, empirical, data-driven research finding. Identifying the traits and structure of human personality has been one of the most fundamental goals in all of psychology. The five broad factors were discovered and defined by several independent sets of researchers (Digman, 1990)

 The Big Five factors and their constituent traits can be summarized as follows:

Openness – (inventive / curious vs. consistent / cautious). Appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, curiosity, and variety of experience.

 Conscientiousness – (efficient / organized vs. easy-going / careless). A tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement; planned rather than spontaneous behavior.

 Extraversion – (outgoing / energetic vs. shy / reserved). Energy, positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek stimulation in the company of others.

Agreeableness – (friendly / compassionate vs. competitive / outspoken). A tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others.

Neuroticism – (sensitive / nervous vs. secure / confident). A tendency to experience unpleasant emotions easily, such as anger, anxiety, depression, or vulnerability.

Openness is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. The trait distinguishes imaginative people from down-to-earth, conventional people. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, appreciative of art, and sensitive to beauty. They tend to be, compared to closed people, more creative and more aware of their feelings. They are more likely to hold unconventional beliefs. People with low scores on openness tend to have more conventional, traditional interests. They prefer the plain, straightforward, and obvious over the complex, ambiguous, and subtle. They may regard the arts and sciences with suspicion or even view these endeavors as uninteresting.

I am likely to be the neutral in regards to this trait. In my normal life, I am quite sensitive to the beauty (any emotional  beauty that make me moved) and a sensational-appeal lover. On the other hand, I am a down-to-art person in my business. I am prone to cry  watching a moving scence in a movie but I am quite rational grabing a business chance in the favor of my side.

My rating: 5/10

Conscientiousness is a tendency to show self-discipline, act dutifully, and aim for achievement. The trait shows a preference for planned rather than spontaneous behavior. It influences the way in which we control, regulate, and direct our impulses. 

I am absolutely a self-disciplined person and I hate taking  chances of being unplanned.

My rating: 10/10

 Extraversion is characterized by positive emotions, surgency, and the tendency to seek out stimulation and the company of others. The trait is marked by pronounced engagement with the external world. Extraverts enjoy being with people, and are often perceived as full of energy. They tend to be enthusiastic, action-oriented individuals who are likely to say “Yes!” or “Let’s go!” to opportunities for excitement. In groups they like to talk, assert themselves, and draw attention to themselves. Introverts lack the social exuberance and activity levels of extraverts. They tend to seem quiet, low-key, deliberate, and less involved in the social world. Their lack of social involvement should not be interpreted as shyness or depression. Introverts simply need less stimulation than extraverts and more time alone. They may be very active and energetic, simply not socially. 

My rating: 7/10

Agreeableness is a tendency to be compassionate and cooperative rather than suspicious and antagonistic towards others. The trait reflects individual differences in general concern for social harmony. Agreeable individuals value getting along with others. They are generally considerate, friendly, generous, helpful, and willing to compromise their interests with others. Agreeable people also have an optimistic view of human nature. They believe people are basically honest, decent, and trustworthy. Disagreeable individuals place self-interest above getting along with others. They are generally unconcerned with others’ well-being, and are less likely to extend themselves for other people. Sometimes their skepticism about others’ motives causes them to be suspicious, unfriendly, and uncooperative.

I am an agreeable man, by all means

My rating: 9/10

Neuroticism is the tendency to experience negative emotions, such as anger, anxiety, or depression. It is sometimes called emotional instability. Those who score high in neuroticism are emotionally reactive and vulnerable to stress. They are more likely to interpret ordinary situations as threatening, and minor frustrations as hopelessly difficult. Their negative emotional reactions tend to persist for unusually long periods of time, which means they are often in a bad mood. These problems in emotional regulation can diminish the ability of a person scoring high on neuroticism to think clearly, make decisions, and cope effectively with stress. At the other end of the scale, individuals who score low in neuroticism are less easily upset and are less emotionally reactive. They tend to be calm, emotionally stable, and free from persistent negative feelings. Freedom from negative feelings does not mean that low scorers experience a lot of positive feelings.

This is a most challenging trait, indeed. We are incrasingly facing unpleasant thing both in our life and our work today. Admittedly, I am a person of high extent of neuroticism being vulnerable to be hurt. Probably I am a thoughful person.

My rating: 5/10

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