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Culture and buying behaviour are found to be related in an unprecedented way the last decades. The recognition of this relationship has led to a growing number of research conducted across cultures. Consumer behaviour is largely determined by cultural factors comprised of mutually shared assumptions, norms, values and standards of a specific culture. Marketers and other experts have noted the increasing importance of seeking a deeper insight of the relationship between consumers and markets around the globe. Many studies revealed patterns between culture and consumer behaviour, between different ethnic groups and subgroups that contain similar cultural values (McCracken 1986). Researchers have found differences across subcultures in aspects such as brand loyalty, perceived risk and decision making (Doran 1994). According to these studies, buying decisions cannot be interpreted as independent events, because they are tightly related with social relationships and cultural values (Jaishankar, 1998). Cultural factors differ among countries, but they become complicated when people immigrate to foreign countries with different cultural understandings. In these cases, people are exposed to a wide diversity of cultural groups, with each group providing contradictory information that eventually affect their purchase behaviour.
People of different countries are carrying a specific national character, and the core values of any society are shaping its national culture (Hofstede, 1991). Companies must develop such marketing communications that respond to both domestic and global perspective. In the modern world, as companies are expanding towards new international markets and enter wider territories that deals with people from many different backgrounds, learning of the cultural features of consumer behaviour is of great importance in market segmentation, targeting and product positioning. The aim of this paper is to examine the concepts of culture and subcultures and to investigate the effects they have on consumer behaviour.
Culture is a part of every society and its concept is extremely important for understanding the consumer behaviour. Iit can be viewed as the shared memory of the human society (Solomon, 2006). The definitions of culture are mostly identical. Culture is defined by the beliefs, values and customs that serve to guide the consumer behaviour of members of a society. Those beliefs and values refer to the acquired feeling and priorities that individuals have about their things and possessions (Tyagi and Kumar, 2004). According to Hofstede (1991), Trompenaars (1993), and Czinkota, M.R. and Johnston, W.J. (1981), the culture is based on languages, education, laws, economy, religion, class, values, status, food customs, art, technology, manners and work pattern, shared in a specific society.
Culture has a profound influence and refers to those aspects of human activities, that are emblematic and meaningful- behaviour, expectations, values, customs and traditions. Cultural influence change under political, social, technological and economic forces, which makes it so dynamic and complex, that is often difficult to determine its impact on human behaviour. The influence of culture on contemporary consumers varies between countries, it is also affected by an individual`s family, friends and social environment during his whole life.
Analyzing the consumer preferences of different groups of people can be very difficult, and marketers have to take into account the specific factors that are essential to each market in order to adapt its product and its marketing strategy. Values and beliefs affect wide range of specific perceptions that impact the way an individual evaluates specific brand or product category. The past research have shown that different cultures respond differently to new product and technological innovations. If the influence of culture on consumer behaviour is misunderstood, a product might fail in a new cultural market (Mahajan and Muller, 1994; Maitland and Bauer, 2001; Takada and Jain, 1991; Tellefsen and Takada, 1999; Tellis et al., 2003; Van Everdingen and Waarts, 2003).
For instance, in some countries they value the Swedish made automobiles, in other they prefer the German once; in different societies people add sugar in their coffee, in others sweetener, they put ketchup on eggs versus on fries etc. In France men use more cosmetic products than women. In Japan the number four is considered unlucky, and more products are sold in groups of five. These are all examples of the behaviour of different societies.
A society with a common culture can be subdivided into various groups called sub-cultures. Subcultures are groups of people who share the same values and behaviour due to a common lifestyle or similar experience (Lenartowicz and Roth, 2001). They can be divided on the basis of socio cultural-nationalities- religion, racial groups; and demographics-language, gender, age. The sub-cultures differences in consumer behaviour can be used by marketers to segment the market activity and adapt the promotional activities, positioning, marketing mix and brand name. Below are described some important categories of subcultures on the basis of nationality, economic situation, religion, age, race, age and gender.
Many countries are divided in sub cultures. Within a particular countries there are vast amount of population who have origins from other countries, with each region having its hereditary characteristics. In India for example, there are Indians, Sikh’s, Indo Chinese, Punjabi’s, Parsees, Moghuls and South Indian people (Bhasin, 2016). These people show different consumer behaviour in dressing style, foods, language, cultural artefacts etc.
Age is a major subculture. The consumers’ habits, lifestyle, activities and hobbies evolve with the time. There are different stages that are considered to be distinctive – young people, married couples, single people, and elderly people. Different age groups have different preferences for music, magazines, foods, TV programs, movies, clothes etc. For instance, young people are more exposed to unhealthy products like fast food, in contrast to elderly people who need to have healthy diet in order to avoid health problems (Himansu, 2009).The factors influencing the buying decision process change according to the individual status- whether he is single, in a relationship, if he has children. They also change according to the region where an individual lives- in a city, in small town or in the countryside. Marketers should evaluate and measure the criteria that influence the buying behaviour in order to adapt to their customers.
Consumer economic situation or social class has maybe the biggest influence on the consumer behaviour of an individual. If a consumer has low income he will be more focused on price, while a person who belongs to a higher social class is interested in elements such as features and quality. Social class influences buying preferences in many aspects-clothing, entertainment, furnishing, what a person drives or rides, which product or brand he needs or does not needs. Some brands are focused only to one social class. Others, like BMW, adjust their products to match different classes (Normal, Premium and Super Premium cars) (Bhasin, 2016). The buying behaviour of people in certain social class is similar, and it is important for a business to adjust their marketing activities to them and invest in understanding the local culture.
All cultures have inherited different traits for males and females roles. However in the modern world the roles are slowly getting mixed and both genders perform the other`s traditional roles. Studies have revealed that genders react differently to advertisements. Women are influenced more by complex, category oriented ads, while men are affected more by simple attribute oriented ads. Marketers should analyze these preferences and advertise differently for men and women.
In every country around the world people belong to different religions, have different faiths and beliefs, like Christians, Muslims, Buddhist etc. For example, it is against Hindu culture for a bride to wear red on her wedding, for a Christian bride it is preferable to wear a white dress, and Muslims prefer wearing green on this occasions. For Muslims eating pork is against the Muslim religion, and for Hindus eating beef is considered to be a sin. Even with the same culture, these subcultures show distinctive purchasing behaviours.
It is important for marketers to understand the cultural impact on consumer behaviour for many reasons. The world is becoming more globalized than ever, and thanks to the studies done it is known that there are drastic differences between the cultures of the people, and therefore between their consumer behaviour. Businesses must recognize these differences in order to achieve customer satisfaction. If they consider all factors that influence consumers according to their culture, they will be able to sell their products properly and succeed in the specific market.
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