Cultural Nuances in Changing Consumer Behavior: Lessons for Cultural Positioning

Cultural Nuances in Changing Consumer Behavior: Lessons for Cultural Positioning

Sarmistha Sarma (Institute of Innovation in Technology and Management, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2727-5.ch016


Culture is significant to developing consumer behavior. Companies that have succeeded in understanding the dynamics of culture have been able to withstand the test of time in developing as successful companies. The constantly evolving marketing discipline has come to rest heavily on understanding the cultural nuances of the target market in an effort to decode the buying behavior. Culture shapes the way we lead our lives, therefore culture determines the consumption pattern of the consumers. Marketers have been closely monitoring the cultural clues in order to make their marketing strategies directed towards the target consumers. Here it is important to understand the extent to which culture governs consumer behavior and shapes the cultural positioning processes. This chapter discusses the concept of culture and its impact on consumer behavior and finally discusses upon the concept of cultural positioning citing various marketing examples.
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Cultural norms have often defined the needs and the buying choices of the consumers. Cultural backgrounds have also influenced the information processing prowess and the buying motivations (Aaker & Briley, 2006). Business houses today are global in nature invariably they have to think about the cultural nuances of the target consumers which might motivate them to buy. When we compare a country with the rest of the world it is perceived as an economic basket but its cultural heritage is seen to provide a sense of pride to the citizens. Culture can be intriguing to a marketer by providing a business opportunity at the same time it may give resentment like in the case of Euro Disney plan being termed as a ― ‘Cultural Chernobyl’. The concept of culture, in the past was recognized in Anthropology, Sociology and Psychology, but now has been gaining importance for Marketing (Ogden & Schau, 2004). The 90’s witnessed the emergence of theoretical contributions on the application of culture to Marketing (Steenkamp, 2001). Besides, a rich stream of cross-cultural empirical studies has been generated (Steenkamp, ter Hofstede and Wedel, 1999). The contribution of culture for the understanding of international consumer behaviour, either by conveniently replicating studies originally developed in one country (often the US), or by testing Marketing theories and models cross-culturally, has increasingly gained momentum and importance (Craig & Douglas, 2001).There is however a need to identify new segmentation approaches, to detect opportunities for integrating and coordinating strategies across national borders and ―to develop new creative approaches to probe the cultural underpinnings of behavior (Craig & Douglas, 2001).

What is culture and its elements that have such a profound influence on the buying intensions of the target consumers? Some scholars favoured the perspective that consumers were converging (Levitt, 1983), which gathered support among theorists (Yip, 1989). Opponents to standardization, however, believed that culture maintains a powerful influence on buying behavior, and that apparent homogeneity of preferences might hide differences in several aspects of consumer behavior (Manrai & Manrai, 1996). The social sciences (e.g., Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology) have long established the influence of culture on human behavior. Some of the popular definitions of culture by experts are:

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