Understanding Consumer Behavior Of Ethnic Minorities Cultural Studies Essay

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With growing number of people are emigrating from one country to another each an every year, the world population is turn out to be more diversified. In the developed countries like the U.S and the U.K the number of new immigrants are growing in a huge number, basically people from Asia and African nations are immigrating in these countries. This rapid growth of minority group has opened a large potential market to the firms. But for that marketers need to understand the actual cultural change in the immigrant. The acculturation process brings a clear idea to the marketers how and to what extent the ethnic minority people are influenced by the dominant or host culture. Acculturation helps marketers to understand the change in the buying behavior of those immigrants. This paper tries to describe the acculturation process and consumer behavior with different model, and how this acculturation process helps to understand the buying behavior of the ethnic minority group.

Previous researches have illustrated acculturation in different ways. The Social Science Research Council (1954, p.974), has described acculturation as, "a cultural change which is initiated by the conjunction of two or more autonomous cultural system." Berry et al. (1992), has illustrated the term acculturation. "as the cultural transmission experienced by an individual due to his or her direct contact with another culture." The acculturation process may occur to individual level as well as group level. Although individual's acculturation may be influenced by the group level acculturation, both of them may not always develop in the same means. It is easy to change the cultural behavior of an individual than the whole group. An individual can be highly accultured by the host culture, while the group he/she belongs may not be accultured at all. Therefore the process is not too easy to understand while describing the change pattern on the behavior of an ethnic minority group.

Researchers have measured the acculturation process with the help of some scale on various items such as, "language preference and knowledge about the host culture." Laroche et al. (1997) has elaborated the process into three different dimensions, such as- "media exposure, social interaction and participation, and English language use with family members." Again Gordon (1964) has further illustrated seven distinct dimensions of acculturation:

Different researchers have proposed different structures for the acculturation construct. Some proposed purely behavioral variables (Laroche et al. 1997), some look t purely attitudinal variables (Berry 1980). Therefore, to understand the consumer behavior it is very important to define a clear multidimensional construct of acculturation and measure the construct accordingly.

Social Cognition: According to social cognition, "cognitive processes stem from people's pragmatic goal, which themselves drive from multiple sources, including personal-level variables, situational constraints, societal structure, and evolutionary mechanisms." (Fiske, 1993; James 1890). According to James (1890), "cognition follows from people's goal, which varies according to their social situation."

Cultural Competence: To cope up with the new culture immigrants involved in cultural change by influenced the host culture. According to this theoretical view, "people choose among a wide range of pragmatic cognitive tactics based on their goals, motives, and needs as determined by the power of the situation, and thus most significant cognitive activity result from motivation." (Fiske, 1993).

Although acculturation and ethnicity are two different cultural aspects, they are interrelated to each other. Acculturation describes the cultural change in any minority group when they come in touch of a dominant host culture, whereas ethnicity describes the 'cultural position' of a particular group. Penazola and Gilly (1999) stated that, "acculturation may be influenced by the power of ethnic identity." They have also stated that the ethnic identity of a group may also be influenced by acculturation when they fully accept the host culture losing their culture of origin. It is very important to marketers to understand both the ethnicity and acculturation process while selecting any marketing strategy for a particular segment of people. They need to concentrate on both the social aspects. When the immigrants of a ethnic minority group come in touch of a new cultural group they may or may not be accultured completely by the host culture. They may change their dressing and food habits but may not change their religion and other cultural believes. Therefore marketers has to strategies themselves according to the acculturation process of the ethnic group, only focusing on the ethnicity may hamper their business in the market.

Consumer Buying Behavior:

Consumer behavior is the, "study of when, why, how, and where people do or so not buy product." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumer_behaviour, accessed 04/09/2010). Understanding the consumer behavior is not so easy to the marketers. The heterogeneity of the people in the market makes it more complex to understand individual's behavior.

While understanding the buying behavior of ant ethnic group, it is very important to understand the cultural adaptation process of that particular group. To what extend a group is adopted the culture of another group has a great impact on the buying behavior of that group. Acculturation process helps to understand the change pattern in the immigrant. If the minority are influenced by the host to a grater extent and change their cultural behavior according to the host then it would be easy for the marketers to make marketing strategy according to the host country's people even for the immigrant. But if it does not take place completely then they have to think differently for the host people as well as the immigrant. How much people are accultured with the dominant culture will help out marketers to get out of this complex situation.

Acculturation and the U.S Hispanic market:

The number of immigrant in the U.S is increasing day by day. And among all other immigrants in the U.S the number of Hispanic minority group is increasing rapidly in the U.S market. Therefore marketers are more concern about them to fulfill their marketing demand according to their need. The Hispanics are the group of people whose country of origin is Latin America, Spain or Mexico. To understand the buying behavior of those Hispanic group marketers need to understand their acculturation process first. It is the duty of the marketing managers to categorize customers into dissimilar groups according to their choice of preference. That is why the concepts of segmenting, targeting and positioning concepts come into the market.

The useful way to understand the U.S. Hispanic market is by their age groups, like the new generation immigrants, first-generation U.S. , second-generation or old immigrants, etc. By the help of the age group of the Hispanic people marketers have identified that, the longer a person has been in the U.S. , the more acculturated they will be and therefore they are expected to be of the same purchasing behavior that of the host market, as they have completely adopted the culture, dressing style, food habit of the dominant host culture. They have completely relinquished their culture of origin. But in case of the new generation Hispanic group it is quite difficult to understand the buying behavior of them, as they have still keep hold of their origin og cultural believes.

Acculturation and Chinese-American Childs:

A research has shown that the most of the foreign born Chinese-American, those are highly educated and middle income group are proffered to talk in their native language i.e. Mandarin or Cantonese, (Debby K. 2004). The research has also shown that 67%-70% of the Chinese-American prefer their native language. Therefore it has found that in case of the language the Chinese-American are not totally accultured by the American culture. But the study also shown that those Chinese-American have changed their food habit as they have increased their consumption level of the American food like snack food, hot dogs and hamburgers than their traditional Chinese foods, (Debby K. 2004). So it can be said from the research that the food habit of those Chinese- American has highly accultured by the host culture. Therefore it is easy to marketers to understand the eating habits of that particular Chinese immigrant, as they have adopted the food habit of the host American people.

Acculturation and Second Generation Indians in Britain:

Among all other Asian minority immigrants the U.K, Indians are occupying almost 50% of them. The second generations Indians are not that accultured by the culture of Britain. They still have retained their own cultural of origin, especially the second generation 'Punjabi Sikh'. They came from the northern part of India during 1960's. But yet after 50 years living in the U.K they have not fully accultured with the British culture. They still wear their traditional dress, they still celebrate their own festivals in the U.K, the have maintain their own food habit, even they talk in their original language which is Punjabi. Therefore marketers have to make the products according to their need not according to the host culture if they want to make them a potential buyer.


The market is becoming more dynamic with the increasing number of immigrants in differ culture. That opens a new market to the markets as well as making their job tougher to identify their specific need and demand. Because the immigrants are not every time following the host nations culture, and even sometimes they are partially following retaining some of their original cultural believe with them. Acculturation is the process through which marketers can get the idea, to what extent the immigrants are influenced by the host culture and to what extent they have adopted the dominant culture. If they are completely accultured then the task of the marketers get easy, as they (marketers) can follow the same strategy which they used to follow for the host nations. But when these immigrants are not accultured completely with the host culture then it becomes hard to the marketers to make a different type of strategy for those minority groups. Thus it can be said that to understand the buying behavior of an ethnic minority group, marketers definitely need to understand the acculturation process.