Consumer behaviour across culture

Published: Last Edited:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.


This study will evaluate the influence of culture and cultural values on style of appeals used in advertising Peak Milk “its in you” to Nigerians. Also, it uses the eclectic method to decipher advertising strategies that appeal to Nigerians. The advertisement [see appendix A] is perceived as an epitome of what appeals to Nigerians because it cuts across age, gender, and lifestyle in the Nigerian society. To further understand this, a semiotic analysis is used to “decode elements of visual images” (Seale, 2004 p.274), as well as encoded message using the signified and signifier.


Royal Friesland Campina, a Netherlands based company, established West African Milk Company (WAMCO) in Nigeria in 1974 (Friesland campina). They are the producers of Peak milk, a diary product which is the market leader in diary based nutrition in Nigeria (Nigerian bulletin).

Therefore, one would ask should companies that are market leaders spend heavily to promote their brand given that “there is no direct link between a commercials and product usage in the mind of consumers” (Mooij, 2005 p.275),. bBut, she also affirmed that advertising works in diverse ways.

Thus, the aims of this study, to find out how advertisers effectively appeal to the Nigerian market?

According to World Bank report, “Nigeria is the largest country in Africa with a growing population of 148 million people, about 200 ethnic groups and 500 indigenous languages”. It is also perceived to be the second largest economy in Sub Sahara Africa.

One can deduce from this that it is a multi ethnic nation enriched with diverse norms and values. In this case, how can advertisements reach out to this populace knowing the diversity that is inherent in the nation? In order words, what appeals to Nigerians?


To understand the appeals and cultural dimensions employed in this advert, the entrenched message has to be worked out using semiotics analysis especially because “symbolism is highly used in high context culture” (Mooij, 2004 p.33).

As indicated by Baldwin, 2004 p.51 “semiotic is the systematic study of sign” used to decipher the denoted and connoted meanings embedded in advertisements. But, it is less objectiveity and generalizable because of its reliance on personal interpretation of the researcher (Seale, 2004 p.272).

Embedded in this adverts are signs which can be understood by the “relationship between signifier and signified” (Seale, 2004 p.273).

This illustrates how “the signifier of the overt meaning in an advertisement has a function of its own” (Williamson, 1978 p.19). In this scene, the product (the only time it appears in the advertisement) is placed by the endorser while preparing for training. The sign could be interpreted in different ways with one being that the product helps Nwankwo Kanu to become even better.

Here, the significance of milk is transferred to Nwankwo's performance. From the advertisement one can see that “this correlation is non-sequential [because] the two things are not linked by ... a narrative but by their place in a picture” (Williamson, 1978 p.19). “The transference of significance [also] does not exist in the advertisement, but requires us to make the connection” (Williamson, 1978 p.18). It was not stated in the advertisement that Nwankwo Kanu is succeeding because of his consumption of Peak milk or milk makes oneyou achieve one's your ambitions, therefore, this meaning does not come into place until the transference is completed by the audiencewe complete the transference ourselves.

Transference cannot occur if the object (peak milk) does not have any significance to be transferred. That is to say that a system of meaning must already exist in which milk is seen as a nutritious fluid that “contains some health promoting component” (Barlic, 2001 p.3). Also, there is no direct correlation between Kanu and Peak milk in the advertisement but, the milk is strategically positioned [see appendix B] in other to create assumption in the mind of the viewers. The link relates to what Nwankwo Kanu means to Nigerians. This advertisement “presents this transference of meaning to viewers as fait accompli” (Williamson, 1978 p.25) because it is only in the advertisement that this transference takes place.


Goodenough 1971, cited in Usunier et al 2005 p.5 defined culture as

“a set of beliefs or standards shared by a group of people which helps the individual decide what is, what can be, how to feel, what to do and how to go about doing it” (Usunier et al, 2005 p.5).

It is seemingly the attitude and behavior that characterizes the functioning of a group ( and could also be said to be the attributes and values of a set of people.

Cultural values is alleged to be the “root of consumer behaviour which is a process where people use ideas and experience to satisfy needs and desires” (who said this) therefore, advertisements of products should be adapted to a nation's dimension of culture (Mooij 2004 p.2).

Relating this to Nigeria, Hofstedes' dimension of culture propagates that Nigeria is a high power distance nation which is also very collectivist and has a low uncertainty avoidance nature. It is also seen as a short term oriented populace and is midway in the masculinity index [see appendix C].

From the Hofstedes' classification of Nigeria, it could be said that there is a visible sign of status and ambition mentality with results being attributed to one's own ability (Hofstede 2005), though identity most often is based on social network whereas, a very result oriented driven (mooij 2004) attitude is maintained.


Advertising is believed to be the most culture-bound element in the marketing mix since it is highly influenced by culture which happens to be the most important factor in explaining information found in advertising (Usunier, 2005 p.413). This is vital because response towards product based one's interpretation of advertisement is often biased by cultural influence [see appendix D]. (this sentence is not clear)

  • The son's respect for his dad and achievements depicts High power distance of Nigerians.
  • The likelihood of the son to follow his father's foot step (hair style, football skills displayed) [see appendix E] shows the collectivist side of Nigerians.
  • Nwankwo Kanu being very ambitious despite shortcoming and high level of responsibility displayed illustrates the masculine character of Nigerians.
  • The ability to remain calm in adversity, less anxiety and relaxed atmosphere proves the low uncertainty avoidance nature.
  • Ability to focus on goal portrays short time orientation. (is it short time or short term? cos u earlier said short term)


Known to be among the happiest people on earth, Nigerians are fighters whom despite all odds try to actualize their dreams hence the slang “suffering and smiling” (mypenandpaper). As a result of this, success and achievements are celebrated.

The core values that characterize Nigerian culture are achievements, materialism and sense of pride. Advertisers try to target these core values in orderother to target Nigerian attitude towards advertising messages which focuses on self improvement and achievement of personal goals as well as collective goals but overall, the feeling of harmony with others.

In other to sell products, it has been discovered that “advertisers rely overwhelmingly on persuasive messages to sell product and services(where is the closing quotation sign?) also minding the fact that “consumers have favourable attitudes towards messages that reflect their own socio-cultural values” (Alozie, 2009 p.1) [see appendix F].

The main plot of this advertisement is brand retention. It appeals to Nigerians by using a positive figure in Nigeria and his son telling his success story thereby, associating the brand to his success.

Agrawal 1995, cited in Usunier 2005 is of the belief that “‘cultural sensitivity”(be consistent with quote sign)' is generally portrayed in advertisement via the use of appeals (p.413). Tellis 2004 noted three major forms of appeals in advertising which are arguments, emotions and endorsement (p.23) but two are mostly inherent is this advertisement.


Oguntimehi believesbeliefs that it is “a battle for advertises to entice television target audience into viewing a commercial”.

For this reason, they use celebrities to endorse brands and create a general conditioning procedure (Till, 2008 p.180) which makes the advertisement very successful in terms of keeping public's attention throughout the duration of the advert, and also heightening retention which would ultimately lead to purchase intention of the product [see appendix G]. This can only be achieved if the audience is familiar with the endorser and identify with the source (Oguntimehi, 2009).

Prior to this advertisement by peak milk majority of Nigerians do not know or have not seen Kanu's son therefore this grabs their attention.

(Tellis, (2004 p. 179) pointed out that “celebrities tend to be unpredictable and can hurt brand by their behavior and statements”. However, Till noted that “the use of celebrity endorsers is profitable despite the risk involved” (Till, 2008 p.182).

Two very important models based on the work of social psychologists should be taken into account while shopping for endorsers. These are, the Credibility model and the Attractiveness model which depicts the trustworthiness of the endorser and the likeability as well as the familiarity of endorser respectively (Till, 2008 p.183; Tellis, 2004 p.182).

This advertisement features Kanu simply known as ‘Kanu' and nicknamed ‘papilo': Nigerians' most decorated soccer player, striker for the National team of Nigeria and for the English Club, Portsmouth (Okon, 2009).

His enthralling performance and being one of Africans most highly recognized footballer in the history of football (Okon, 2009), has endeared him to the hearts of millions of Nigerians.

According to (Okon, 2009), even though celebrities have an aura of greatness in the eyes of the public, it is germane that they ideally fit the brand being projected.

Since milk is seen as very nutritious and has high content of vitamins and minerals, it strategically aligns with the endorser used because of his health history and continuous success.

It is believed that their popularity posses the power to influence consumers to swap loyalty to the endorsed brand as well as make such adverts linger continually in the public's memory (Okon, 2009). This is coherent with the elaboration likelihood model where “affect transfer is considered to be stronger in low-involvement situations” like buying milk (Till, 2008 p.182).


Advertising has the power to attach emotional values to the brand which in turn builds positive reputation (Thomas 2008). According to (Fill, (2009 p.520), advertisers often use “emotion-based messages” to make distinctions in products placement especially when there is little or no differentiation between its products and that of competitors. Therefore, this appeal uses characters within a plot to pass across emotional messages in drama like scenes (Tellis, 2004 p.23) so as to grab consumers' attention. Due to consumersthem preferring characters that can be identifiedthey can identify with (Usunier, 2005 p.419), in advertising the Peak brand the advertisers made use of a personality that every Nigerian across all gender, tribe, religion and ages can relate with.

Also used is the subliminal effect which further entrenches the product value in the mind of the populace consequently anytime you think of Kanu's trail, success or even his son, you think of Peak milk (prior to the advertisements majority of Nigerians did not know Kanu's son). This also appeals to the collectivist nature of Nigerians in order to build brand loyalty which is a “key concept in collectivist cultures and spreads from people to product” (Usunier, 2005 p.93).

Hofstede notes that cultures with lower uncertainty avoidance like the West African Region have tendency to ask for less information since information reduces uncertainty which they are not prone to (Hofstede 2005).

One could see that the advert does not supply any information about the product. This could be as a result of Nigerians being low uncertainty avoidance in addition to the advertisers trying to create an impression in the mind of the populace in other to establish the product in their minds by associating its product to the emotional past of Kanu in that way giving the product added value.

Time is not viewed as a linear fashion rather as a composition of events that have occurred. Generally, Nigerians are known to operate a two-dimensional time phenomenon- a long past and present (Alozie, 2003). This advert makes reference to past victory as a nation in the 1996 Olympics and Kanu's victory over his health.

According to (Wilson, (2005 p158), the trend of using nostalgia as a way to sell various products is not new. It is a “bittersweet emotion” (Wilson, 2005) so its application has to be well thought of.

The advert “clearly attempts to trigger”(who said this?) nostalgia in consumers as well as potential ones. The advertiser used images from the past to attract the publics' attention (Nigeria's victory in 1996 Olympics a feat that everyone desires to see again).

The advert does not provide facts about the product, identification with the brand comes only at the end of the commercial (Mooij 2004 p. 135) it drives at associating certain traits with the product so when you think of those traits, automatically you think of the product. It focuses more on emotional appeal thus associating the product with achievements despite all odds which could be said to be the core value of Nigerians.

According to Decision Analyst, the extent to which an advertisement succeeds is dependent on the strength of the creative concept.


Slice of life appeals to self esteem (Taflinger 1996). According to “it is the actual experience represented realistically and with little alteration.”

Shilbury, et al (2003: 176) stated that, “‘Slice of life advertising uses some aspect of daily life as a part of the advertising. The intent behind this approach is to communicate messages and images to consumers that they can relate to”'. Despite this, (Fill, C. (2009 p. 518) is of the view that the message should be presented in such a way that the receiver can identify immediately with the scenario being presented. Fill's view relates with this advertisement in the sense that the storyline used can be related to by every Nigerian (the story of the Olympics game, the health challenge the endorser faced and how he came through to mesmerize Nigerians in the world of football).

(Applegate (2005:139), is of the view that slice-of-life television commercial does not work, primarily because the intended consumer's attention is pulled away from the product and of the character or some other element in the story. He feels a slice-of-life design will only work if the customer's attention is on the sales message. To achieve this, it aims at self-persuasion using self-imagining technique thereby allowing audience visualize themselves as the character trying to solve a particular problem and being helped by the brand (O'Shaughnessy, 1995 p483).


It is important to note that in every country, there are immense inconsistencies within cultures (kitayama & markus, 1994 p.289) therefore there would be individuals who appear to have different attributes as stated in this study.

The study is partly empirical that is, it not fully based on proven theories so, partly observational.

Also, due to time constraint and the word count limit, the research was restricted to cover the few areas represented in the report.

To give more credence, a focus group interview would have been conducted of Nigerians to actually see how they respond to this advertisement and how it appeals to them.


Culture is more than merely one's lifestyle. It delves deeper to categorise ones experience (Kitayama & markus, 1994 p285).

Evidently, the advertisement uses the referent system where it brings into play Kanu a notable soccer player in Nigeria. “It is a connotation that is made to denote the product” (Williamson, 1978 p.100). Hence, the product is given value by Kanu who already has a value to Nigerians. But, if someone from another culture knows Kanu as a footballer, they will not have access to the referent system because, the meaning of the message will be difficult to interpret (Mooij, 2004 p.211). This is why this advertisement specifically appeals to Nigerians.

In advertising to Nigerians, marketers have to put into consideration the cultural background, literacy level as well as income of the masses in order to permeate the market (Baker, 1965 p.47). Also, the right type of appeal has to be employed. The most consistent used in Nigerian advertising is family value (collectivism, love, care, endurance, protection, investment) and a bit of western values (individualism, personal development, ambition, youthfulness).

This advertisement promotes family value (using Kanu's family especially his son) [see appendix H] as well as personal development (“I worked hard to be even better”).

It also promotes values such as hard work, success and good health which it inferred the product could help achieve.

Important also is the use of colour (green: the national colour of Nigeria) which played a major role in this advertisement. According to (Gorn, et al (1997 p.1387), “advertisements containing color with higher level of value lead to greater liking for the advertisement”. One's attitude towards an advertisement could be as a result of the effect of colours on feelings. The analysis of this effect on advert retention is beyond the scope of this work.



FILL, C. 2009. Marketing Communications: Interactivity, communities and content. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited