Consumer behaviour across cultures


Thai Life Insurance


Children are often asked about the future and what they want to be when they are growing up. Unfortunately, the answer is unpredictable. As the lyrics of the song in this advertisement say, "Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, the future's not ours to see." - "The First Step" insurance (Thailife, 2009).

Thai life insurance has always produced advertising that always touches the audience's heart. This case study examined the consumer behavior especially the advertising target market which are mothers or young women who are planning to have children in the future.

The advertisement is analysed through Thai culture by using the five dimensions of Culture by Geert Hofstede mother's identity, self-construal and mortality salience. Finally, these theories will show how the consumers related to the advertisement and why the advertisement touches the emotions of the Thai audience.


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Globalisation is the key success which brough about irreversible transformation of the insurance market in Asia. It was the dynamic growth for the global insurers regarding the changing of socio-economics (Haworth, 2008). Within Thai insurance sector, the market leader is AIA accounting for approximately 29% in 2007. However, the second largest insurance company is Thai Life Insurance (TLI) with 14% of the market share (Haworth,2008). The Thai insurance industry is in sync with the expansion of Thai economy has now recovered from the Asian financial crisis and it is experiencing growth dramatically (See Appendix 1). The trend is expected to continue though the public recognition of the need for the insurance (Haworth, 2008).

Thai life Insurance was established in 1929 and is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Thai people. The company collaborates with other organizations to create new projects to create benefit for the Thai customers. The activities that the company has created have clearly shown strong commitment to Thailand. The First Life insurance company is run by Thais for the Thai people (Thailife, 2005)

For many years, Thai Life Insurance Company was ranked number one among Thai insurance company because it concentrate on product quality and product development based on international standard. Therefore it provides financial security to each family efficiently with a comprehensive service throughout Thailand (Thailife,2005) (See Appendix 2).

In order to understand more about this advertisement, culture analysis by using the five dimension of culture will be adapted to explain consumer behaviour to change their beliefs and attitude towards the importance of insurance.

Culture Analysis

Five dimension of culture by Geert Hofstede

The five dimension of culture was developed by Geert Hofstede, it is a model to help to understand the similarity and difference along with power distance, individualism/ collectivism, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation. (Mooij, 2004) In this report, the model will be used to explain how well this advertising represents Thai cultures in each dimension as follow;

Analysing the five dimension of culture with the advertisement

Power Distance Index (PDI)

From Hofstede dimension of culture presents that the power of distance of Thailand is on of the highest Hofstede rankings which is equal to 64 (Hofsted, 2003). This reflects the high level of inequality of power in the society (Mooij, 2004). However, this particular advertisiment will be analyse the relationship between mothers and their children. Therefore, the power of distance of this advertising is equal zero. There is no distance or gap between mothers and children. As a result, the role of a mother plays will make their children have a sense of equality in their right and opportunities in life compared to other disabled children.

Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI)

Another highest rank of hofstede dimension of culture is uncertainty avoidance being equal at 64. In order to reduce the level of uncertainty, rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented in the soceity (Hofstede, 2003). It can be seen from the core product which is "The First Step" insurance for the new born. It is related to the Thai uncertainty avoidance which is relatively high. Especially, the mother will be much more concerned about their children. Moreover, the future is unpredictable and threatened by uncertainty, thus the mother who has seen these advertising will try to avoid and reduce these uncertain situations. (Mooij, 2004). Therefore, the mother will need the "First Step Insurance" to protect their love ones. From this case study, it will support the reason why Thailand has the high uncertainty avoidance index. It is because of Thai people are concerned about their life in long term and try to provide the low risk for their life.

Individualism (IDV)

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The lowest dimension of Hofstede in Thailand is Individualism at 20. As a low score of individualism, Thai society is Collectivist (Hofstede,2003).The collectivism culture is based on strong group cohesion and there would be a large amount of loyalty and respect for the members in the society (Mindtools, 2009). Applied to the advertisement, it can be clearly seen that the children performing the concert in front of their mothers which mean that Thai collectivistic society tends to value emphasizing in-group obligation (Gregory and Munch, 1997). Mothers and children have harmony in emotions. Moreover, the advertisement appeals to social norms and roles consistent with intended audience's value orientation. (Han and Shavitt, 1994)

Masculinity/Femininity (MAS)

Regarding to the low MAS scores in Thailand. Thailand is indicated as a feminine society and tends to show care to others and focus on quality of life (Mooij, 2004). It can also refer to the feminine role identity for example childlike, gentle, love children, sensitive to other's needs, tenderness and understanding (See Appendix 3). According to the advertisement, the storyline of TVC is trying to target mothers who are the target market and therefore it helps them realize that the future and uncertainty. The mothers some show emotion of pride, others feel worried, but all wish their children to do as best as they can. While, the chorus now sing a song and give a very different meaning for mothers, "Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, the future's not ours to see." (See Appendix 4). In addition, it can be seen from most of the scenes that they show the picture of mothers. This means Thai society has emphasis on the mother's role and also show the advertisements images are focused on caring which is match the nature feminine characteristic(See Apendix 3).

Long Term Orientation (LTO)

Long Term Orientation is the way to demonstrate how people perceive time dimension in long term valued in thrift and perseverance versus from short term in traditiotnal and social obligations. Particularly in Asian countries tend to have a high score of "Long Term Orientation". (Mindtools, 2009). However, in this advertisement it can be explained in a short term orientation in order to make a decision to buy the insurance for the new born baby as soon as possible. The advertisement gives the motivation to mothers by showing both the able and disabled children together. The scenery shows the audience inequality in life but it will cover and make mothers feel secure and give protection to their children by using "The First Step" insurance. Thus, the mothers do not have much time to consider about buying the insurance; they must buy as soon as possible in order to protect their children.

On the other hands, the advertisement can also be linked to the Long Term Orientation. According to the Hofstede dimension indicates that Thailand is a long term orientation. It can be explained from the advertisement that Thai people always plan for the long term period. For example, mother's will decide to buy the insurance not just to protect their children, but also as a way parents can save money for their children until the age of 15. This means parents will plan for their children future life.

The table below will show more how this advertising represents the five dimension of culture.

Mother Identity

Motherhood is subject both to assumptions that it is an identity that can be taken for granted - it is "natural" (Earle and Gayle, 2003, p.19). A role of mother might appear to be the identity as a root in natural biology or defined by the relationship between women and their children. Moreover, the characteristic of good mother could be self-sacrificing, selflessness and forgiveness. By the way, motherhood can be a cultural identity, linking to the social dimension of self which can be explored by the cultural aspects (Earle and Gayle, 2003, p. 31). Therefore, to be a mother is a natural act and even those who are not or can not be a mother, they still have the mother identity and therefore understand the meaning of motherhood (Kidd , 2002).

Thai mother

" The land of smile" is another name for Thailand. It is known for the charm of it's women. The Thai's say, the wife should be a function as "the hide legs of elephant" this mean men cannot have success in their life without support from the women. Even though the time has change, women are working more outside and have all kinds of positions in public as men do. But Thai women are supposed to find their fulfillment in the role of mother and wife, this is the role of the culture that has been assigned to Thai women (Mulder, 1994). In Thai education, the idea is formulated that a mother is the most important person.

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" Mother has given life to the child, suffering for and feeding it at great psychological and physical cost to herself. What's more, she is the source of love and care, and she give all freely. This tide of goodness results in a moral debt on the child, a debt that is never able to repay" (Mulder, 1994)

Applying the mother identity to the advertisement, most of the scenes are focused on the mothers and children. It is trying to explain "the added value of living" from the product by showing the disable and normal children singing the song called " Que Sera Sera. The story begins with the boys and girls aged around 5 singing the song at a school concert in front of their parents. The song is enabling the children to question their parents about how their lives will be when they grow up, and the answer from their parents is essentially that the future is unknown and unpredictable. However, the mothers, some proud, others looking worried but all wishing their children to do their best. At the end of the advertisement, the camera focuses on a pregnant mother holding her belly in her hand and it's appears, "First Step Life Insurance Content". For whatever will be, Thai life insurance." (See Appendix 5). This advertisement tried to connect the natural identity of a mother and child. It fulfills the gap of the unpredictable and worries of the mother that link to the inequality (disable children) to have the equality of life by making a decision to use "The First Step" insurance product.

Self - Construal

The Self-Construal role is related to the self when the product helps the consumers achieve goals as well as demonstrated the influence of the cognition, emotions, motivation and behaviours of individual. (Bettman, no date). The consumer's behaviour is in part to construct their self-concept and to create their own identity communicate their self concept to others.

There are two comparison of self-construal between Eastern and Western culture. Westerners tend to be independent to self-construal, they think as an individuals, personal self, and de-emphasizing of others. On the other hand, Asians tend to be more self social and connect themselves to other people which is an interdependent self-construal (Markus and Kitayama, 1991). Self- Construal also affects the cognitive performance, aesthetic preferences and social interactions for example; people might change their preferences because of the influence from their families, relatives or their friends (Psych-it, 2009). In addition, when the individual develops self-construal, their self concept depends on the stability, trust, and their personal relationship (See Appendix 6).

According to Levy (1959) mentioned that the consumers not only buy the product just because of what they do, but also for what the products meaning to them. In this particular advertising, not only will the mother buy the insurance in order to protect her children they will also buy it because the product link the inequality of life can be made equal by this product. The self-construal can be connected to the interdependent of a collectivistic society because they need to maintain harmony and fulfil personal goals.

In particular, when individuals adopt self-construal, they often pursue goals that are instilled by other members of their collective and are not necessarily their own personal value (Psych-it, 2009). Therefore the disabled children in these advertisements will decide whom they want to be dependent on their relationship with their mother. It is also related to the song when mother answers to child "what ever will be, will be, the future's not ours to see". This means no matter what happens to the child, even if they are deaf, blind, no legs or hands, their mother still always love them, encourage and always stand by their sides. Finally the children will realize that no matter who they are or what they want to be, their parents, especially their mother will be giving all the love to them and just be whatever their mothers said to them. Although, they unfortunate born in life but mother will make them proud of themselves and turn them to into the opportunity in their life.

Mortality Salience

The fear of death is in the rooted of human nature. To face with this fear, people will find the way to avoid the risk to continued existence (Mandel and Smeesteers, 2008). The Mortality Salience can be explained that if cultural worldviews provide protection from the fear of death, then it will remind people the root of fear and will increase the needs of individuals to value their own cultural and self-esteem. Thus, the death-related issue can increase consumer behavior of purchase and consume the products to protect them from the fear of the death (Wikipedia, 2009).

In addition, humans are always aware of their possibility of their death. Thus, each society tries to provide the meaning and organizations for people's lives in to continue without fear. Complying them with values of culture to increase the individual's feeling of security and provide them capable of living, associated with particular cultural standards that apply to them (Wikipedia, 2009).

This Mortality salience can be adapted to the advertisement in the scene which shows the cloud with the lyric "The future's not ours, to see Que Sera, Sera". The dark cloud is the symbolic of the fear of death and uncertainty situation (See Appendix 4 and 5). This scenery plus the meaning of the song will stimulate the fear of death for the audience. The fear will persuade and increase the mothers need to plan and purchase the "The First Step" for their children's future.


Due to the word limitation and time constrain it did not give me the opportunity to analyse other aspects that can related to this advertisement. However, there are some other theories associated with this advertisement and it can be narrow down through the advertising. Another limitation is that the advertisement was shown just only in Thailand because of the Thai insurance company. Thus, it could be analysed in terms of a Thai culture point view point. Although a mother's identity is universal across the world, culture values in other countries would be different. Therefore, to analysed in other point of views from other countries will reveal both pros and con sides, which would be more affective analysis in this report.


The series of Thai Life Insurance advertising has touched many Thai's audience hearts for many years; however, the company never stops from aiming higher with another TV campaign 'Que Sera Sera' "The First Step" insurance. After "The First Step" campaign was launch on 30th September 2009 to promote the new line of product in order to increase overall sales for a month. It has been reported from Siam Business, a Thai newspaper that the advertisement was well accepted by increased sales of approximately 20% of the target market in the first month (Siam Business, 2009).

The campaign was successful because the company was working on the concept of "The Added Value of Living". On the other hand, the company makes the differentiation from the previous campaign and other insurances companies for this product by adding the product attitude to the audience along with building of the emotions of the customers. It is because of "emotions" and "feelings" appeal would travel better than "thinking" (Mooij, 2004, p.156). The advertisement itself sent the message that creating the meaningful associations with culture value and norms that structure in the human mind which are linked with user or brand, to make the advertisement relevant and be meaningful to the consumers (Mooij, 2004)

In conclusion, this advertisement can explain Thai culture. The analysis of the adver- tisement in the particular aspects of the culture values that affect the consumer behavior's attitude toward the insurance product in a collectivistic culture, Thailand.


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