Social Class and Consumer Behavior in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Cross-Cultural Marketing

Social Class and Consumer Behavior in Sub-Saharan Africa: Implications for Cross-Cultural Marketing

Ayodele Oniku (University of Lagos, Nigeria)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 23
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7906-9.ch009
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The development around social class evolvement in sub-Saharan African market dated back to pre-colonial era when traditional African institution operated on the basis of royalty, land ownership, subjugation of weak tribe, and superiority of strong and powerful tribes. The advent of slavery and migration of white settlers and traders (slaves and goods) further entrenched social class structure in the system. The advent of colonial rule greatly impacted social class system whereby new strata were created based on the new administrative system that colonial system introduced into sub-Saharan Africa. Largely, acquisition of formal education, salary and wage-collection jobs, business opportunities, Western religion, clothing styles, and new roles to the traditional chiefs opened doors for new social class strata. Social class has witnessed development and improvement that has further improved marketing system and consumer understanding in the society through design of products and services for the market.
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Social class measurement in behavioural marketing represents a fusion of socio-economic developments with different behaviours exhibited by consumers in market which invariably affect the buying decisions. In other words, social class is a function of economic power, lifestyles and societal values possesses by individual that influences his/her position in the social classification in terms of what he buys, uses or types of association he/she belongs to in the larger society. By and large, the social classification or level relies largely on the socio-economic power an individual controls and the level of societal values and prestige attached to each stratum of the social class.

In the early work of Myers, Stanton and Haug (1971), “social class is based upon the idea that a society …….constructs some ideal or optimum which is most highly regarded by members of the society ………. The more closely individuals or group conform with the ideal, the more they are respected and admired by others and the higher their position in the hierarchy of social levels. Higher societal levels or strata are said to carry more status in society than lower status; they are of higher social class” (Myers & Reynolds, 1967, p. 206). Thus, the basic operating powers that social class identification hinge on is socio-economic conformity, societal appraisal of hierarchy level and respect and status attributed to each hierarchy level and stratum. It further shows that social class mobility exists in that individual can aspire to move across the ladder rung as he/she increases the economic power he possesses which thrust certain respect and prestige on him. Thus, every society can be viewed in terms of social class because it defines the classification of skills, achievement, wealth, association, and other qualifications that set apart people within a system (Berkman, Lindquist & Sirgy, 1997).

In business and, largely marketing, social class is regarded as a basis to identify different consumers in market, and hence polarisation of market into different segments so that right products will be made available to the right consumers. American Marketing Association describes “social class as a national status hierarchy by which groups and individuals are distinguished in terms of esteem and prestige” (Peter & Olson, 1999, p. 317). The hierarchies for marketing decision recognition are entrenched in the following classes – upper, middle, working and lower class (Peter & Olson, 1999); the privileged/skill chooser, the semi-skilled chooser and disconnected chooser (Robenstine, 2001); the Peninsula People approach – upper class, upper-middle class, lower-middle class, upper-lower class and lower-lower class (Berkman et al, 1997).

Besides being a basis for market segmentation, social class levels further provide opportunities for marketing organisation in effective application of pricing, product, distribution and promotion decisions to meet the different requirements and needs of each stratum of social class. For instance, different good and services are available to meet social status needs, and products are equally available to propel or establish individual in desired social class status. Also, social class projects different lifestyles that individual or consumers in a society can aspire to experiment or exhibit; hence products and other marketing policies and strategies like promotion are tuned to help consumers identify and actualise chosen or aspired lifestyles. Social class reveals why consumer buys a particular goods or service at a particular time and what will be needed to fulfil the purpose. For instance, the yearning for a specific clothing style is a function of desired purpose or needs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Chieftaincy: A family traditional and heritage title that determines the privileged class of the holder and offspring or family members in the society.

African Religions: Traditional African religious practices that involve idolatry and the tenets are totally different from Christianity.

Indigenous Africans: Class of people that dwell on sub-Saharan Africa who have their roots in Africa and live within the system and another group who were returned slaves and live within the African communities.

Political Class: Class of Africans who by virtue of their business or profession developed a closed relationship with colonial government or military ruling class and become part of the ruling class.

Western Education: A replacement to primitive African style of learning that emphasizes formal method of classroom education for all and sundry and is based on communication in writing, reading, and numeric.

Individual/Family Land Owners: A practice whereby a community land belongs to a particular family who in turn sells the land to others as a source of income earnings.

Military Coup D'état: Popular military intervention across the sub-Sahara African nations that promote military men to political class and public administrators.

African Society: A collection of people united by tradition, norms, values and culture that emphasize idolatry, polygamy, extended family practice, peasant farming, victims of slavery, low economic potentials, etc.

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