Cultural and subcultural influences on consumer behavior

How do Culture and Subculture Affect Consumer Behavior?
How does culture affect the needs we recognize, how we search, our evaluation of alternatives, our shopping habits, consumption habits, how we dispose of products?

Parts of Culture
Culture:  norms, roles, beliefs, values, customs, rituals, artifacts
Culture classifies things into discontinuous units of value in society
Codes classified units, develops behaviors, specifies priorities, legitimizes and justifies the classifications
Consumer socialization - the process by which people develop their values, motivations, and habitual activity
Culture creates meanings for everyday products
We study how the use and/or collections of products and their meanings move through a society

Nature of Culture—Components
Norms: rules that designate forms of  acceptable and unacceptable behavior
Customs: behaviors that lasted over time and passed down in the family setting
Mores: moral standards of behavior
Conventions: practices tied to the conduct of everyday life in various settings
Ethnocentrism: the tendency to view one’s own culture as better or superior to others

Key Points about Culture
It is learned:  transmitted from generation to generation
It rewards acceptable behaviors
It stays the same, yet can change
Family, Religion, School and Peers:  what is the relative influence of each?
Values Transfusion Model shows how these combine
Will any become more, less relevant?
Consumer socialization:  the acquisition of consumption-related cognitions, attitudes, and behaviors.

What is similar about . . .
Age grading
Division of labour
Property rights
Family / kinship groups
Status differences
Magic / luck superstitions
Personal names
Body adornment
Music and dance
Incest taboos
Cleanliness training

These are called “cultural universals”
One of the largest surveys of cultural life was undertaken by the Functionalist sociologist George Peter Murdock ("The Common Denominator of Culture", 1945)

He claimed to have identified approximately 70 cultural features that could be considered universal in human societies.

Cultural Generalizations

The “Languages” of Culture
Color choice that signifies death varies across regions of the world
The color red
Bright colors
Colors and fashion

Self-time, interaction time, institutional time

Other “Languages” of Culture
What is the acceptable personal space across cultures?
Gestures, postures, or body positions
Friendship and agreements
Government and Laws

Certain Dimensions of Culture are Relevant to Consumer Behavior
Power distance:  equality and informality vs. distance and formality
Uncertainty avoidance:  comfort with not knowing
Masculine vs. feminine:  are there rules of behavior related to being a man? Being a woman? Are their nurturing behaviors that are valued? Aggressive behaviors?
Individualism vs. collectivism:  does country X emphasize the growth and rights of the individual or of the group?

What Myths and Old Wives Tales Do You Know?
Throw salt over your _____ shoulder when _____

Always eat ____________ on New Year’s Day

Always ______________for someone’s birthday

Always give _____________ for Valentine’s day

When sending wedding invitations, how many envelopes are used? __________

Eat __________ when you have a cold

How do these Myths relate to Consumer Behavior?

People may just use products because they think that they have to
People may not understand if there is a reason for such use - is chicken soup really good for a cold?
People may not accept your product if there is a better alternative, even if it’s not in the same product class – we find this in bringing innovations to new markets
There may be certain expected behavior for the giver and for the receiver

What About Things You Expect to Receive?
At graduation, you expect that you will get a ________________.

If you were planning a baby shower, you would expect people to bring __________

If you were consulting for a Party Store, what types of items would you recommend that they carry?
Balloons, streamers
Plates, napkins, cups

For instance. . .

Function, form, and meaning are defined by one’s culture
What does the product do for us?  What are the benefits?
What should the product look like? What should it be made of?
When should it be used? By whom? Can it be given as a gift?
Who shops? Who is exposed to ads? Who traditionally uses the product?

Core Values in Marketing
What are the basic food groups?  For Whites? Blacks?  Hispanics? etc?
What about the aspects of consumer behavior? Consumer research?
EG - Is the decision process carried out the same way?
Are the structure of attributes the same?  Compensatory vs. Noncompensatory?

Does someone’s membership in a cultural group affect their consumer behavior?

Suppose you were consulting with a greeting card company
Which holidays?
Which themes?
What is appropriate language?
What are appropriate pictures/graphics?
Who would send the card?
Does Hallmark really mean “the very best”?

Do you belong to any Subcultural Groups?
Subculture is a distinct cultural group which exists as an identifiable segment within a larger, more complex society

Some Hard Facts

Key Concepts
Acculturation: measures the degree to which a consumer has learned the ways of a different culture compared to how they were raised

“Consumer acculturation”- how people learn consumer behaviors in another culture

Black or African-American Subculture

 Marketing to African-Americans
African-American consumers expect respect within the marketplace and must feel a sense of acceptance, BUT

How to identify genuine needs and wants? Go back to cultural universals
Foods - based on learned cultural norms
Clothing - styles and colors that are preferred
Physiologically-relevant:  cosmetics

Black Subculture
A high proportion of families are headed by women
Black women influence many purchases that might otherwise be purchased by men
Advertising often appeals to the strength black women portray in life
Often unavailability of shopping areas in neighborhoods causes great disparity in spending power
Differences in decision making patterns and in media usage

Asian American Subculture

Asian- and Pacific Island-American Subculture

Distinct subcultures within Asian American group

Asian Americans - similarities
They are cost conscious and very brand loyal
They shop mostly within their communities
Language barrier may be a challenge for marketers
The most effective advertising to Chinese-Americans reflects traditional family values

Asian Americans - differences
Differences in reasons for coming to, living in the US, desire to return to homeland
Significant differences in household decision making - male or female dominance
Difference in innovativeness
Differences in use of homeland media - English best for broadcast; Asian languages best for print
Similarities and differences in reactions to marketing stimuli, such as colors, themes in ads

Hispanic Subculture

Hispanics (continued)
They think of themselves as Hispanic or Latino first and as Americans second
90% indicate that Spanish is the most important feature of their culture
Two-thirds of Hispanics prefer to speak Spanish at home
20% of Hispanics do not speak English at all

Key Ideas

Marketing to Hispanic-Americans Stereotypes Regarding Language Religious Subcultures

Why Do We Study Cohorts?

Subculture Based on Age
They influence purchases in approx. 60 product categories
They select the stores in which they spend their own money
By appealing to preteens, marketers build brand loyalty at an early stage
The medium of choice for them is television


Young Adults—Generation X

Generation X (continued)

Baby Boomers
Those born between 1946 and 1964 (78 million)
Total income is over $1 trillion, increasing at a rate of 10% per year (versus 5% for the rest of the population)
They have a high level of education
They have more discretionary income than other groups and they buy more and save less
Boomers are health conscious

Baby Boomers (continued)
They are becoming less materialistic in outlook and their product and service selections reflect their concern for the environment and quality of life
They use credit cards and buy expensive exercise equipment
Boomers keep up with fashions
The marketing of nostalgia works well with them (especially older baby boomers)

There were approx. 35 million people over 65 in 2000—it is the fastest growing segment of the population
Households are small and their need for new purchases is limited
They enjoy convenience in the marketplace and appreciate their leisure time
Their recent feature story:


Seniors (continued)
They spend more on themselves
They perceive themselves as younger than their years – cognitive age versus chronological age
Although brand loyal, they tend to try new products or brands if given good reasons to do so
The senior market can further be segmented on the basis of age, activity level, health, and mobility