Culture and digital ecosystems

George Bernard Shaw:

England and America are two countries separated by the same language.

Today we are all part of a globally connected world. Our time is littered with updating friends across the globe in real-time on exactly what we are doing, staying up-to-date minute by minute on the latest happenings around the globe, or receiving and replying to emails (even when we’re on the toilet!).

While there is a vast amount of social and cultural changes that have happened concerning this that affect peoples private lives, this has also fundamentally shifted the way in which we do business.

For many global businesses this manifests itself in now requiring communication and understanding outside of our organizational origin and across borders.

This is a small part of the transcending nature of the internet. That which breaks down borders and facilitates ubiquitous and continuous communication wherever we may be in the world.

Culture, beyond changing the ‘S’ to a ‘Z’

One thing that is often overlooked when considering this is that while we can be connected in real-time internationally to anyone whom we may wish, we sometimes fall short of recognising quite how diverse our cultural make up is. It’s true that there are some commonalities between people, cultures and societies, however it is also very true that many differ, sometimes fundamentally.

The UK and the US are regularly viewed as very similar markets, we all speak English, we wear similar clothes and follow similar trends, and our celebrities are recognised commonly.

However, when digging deeper is there much factual basis to this? Are our Westernized cultural trends shared so closed? Or are they really very different?

In this series we will explore more of the similarities and differences that exist between the UK and the US, reference a wealth of information to form the basis of our opinions and help to establish just how close to the similarity line each market is when considering: digital marketing, social media, consumer trends, organizational culture, talent gaps and also identify some of the challenges and areas of opportunity that we expect to face moving forward.

Geography (economic blocks)

The geographical comparison between the UK and the US is an interesting consideration; particularly when considering the immediate economic block that each exists in:

  • USA – North America.
  • UK – Europe.

“The US is really big!” Is often is the response when comparing the US to the UK, however something that should not be forgotten is the cultural change in such a small area like in the UK.

The complex array of different accents and dialects are representative of this.

A deep dive into culture

On a cultural level in the US, confidence and positivity is often much higher than their Atlantic neighbors. Americans in general are more likely to view tough times ahead as a road to a better future.

Sometimes this is represented as the American Dream and the burgeoning belief to achieve ‘against all odds’.

Brits on the other hand are likely to be more cautious in their approach, getting trapped in a state of negativity, openly criticizing the goings on around them and also demonstrating this through the perceived impact of the recession.

Research conducted by VisualDNA showed a higher number of Brits viewing this as a time to be more careful with their money, uncovering that the British are three times more likely to be careful spenders than those across the pond.

Emotionally this sets both the UK and the USA apart, this something that can have a clear impact on the digital markets and what advertising campaigns are likely to succeed due to resonating well with the local audience.

The key takeaway here is that achieving emotional resonance with a target audience, whether in the US or in the UK, should strongly consider context, relevance, values and customer motivations.

Consumer trends

Search and social both play pivotal parts in the discovery and decision-making process.


Legend: A channel’s position on the chart is defined by the ‘assist/last interaction ratio’. In general, ratios less than one mean the channel acts more as a ‘last interaction’, while ratios greater than one mean that the channel acts more as an ‘assist interaction’.

The ratios in this report have been normalized to clarify channels’ roles.


This data seems to agree with the US penchant to spend with less consideration than in the UK (highlighted above).

What we can see in this data from Google is that, on the whole the markets are again very similar when it comes to influencing online channels.

Consumer habits

Internet usage

The US certainly dedicates more time to the internet, clocking in approximately an extra hour daily when compared to the UK on both desktop/laptop and mobile.

Interesting figures considering that smartphone adoption has surpassed 50% in both markets, the continually referenced opportunity when it comes to mobile (and mobile marketing) is very real across both markets, and only looks likes it’s set to grow.



Source: We are Social

Online economic market size


With online US consumers spending more than £163bn in 2013 (according to Forrester research) a 13% increase of over 2012, vast and complicated as it is, the market potential is very real.

There’s a reason why breaking America is top of many budding business peoples minds. These same figures also forecast that online consumers will spend £592 billion by 2017 accounting for more than 10% of total retail sales (excluding travel).

(Source: Going Global in 2014 by Forward3D and Venda)


Comparatively the UK equivalent reached £78bn (according to Cap Gemini and IMRG), generating an additional £10bn in revenue in 2013, 12% more than 2012.

In the UK time spent online outshines all other European countries with a monstrous +10 hours ahead of European average.

Most important of all the UK demonstrate extremely high confidence in online shopping, just one of the contributing factors that it is the ‘most Internet-based major economy’.

How much of your Christmas shopping was done online this year? (US vs. UK)

This series is co-authored by Andy Betts and Ned Poulter, Copenhagen based Digital Marketing Consultant and Co-Founder of AvitaDigital,