THE INFLUENCE OF CULTURE ON CONSUMER BEHAVIOR
The study of culture is a challenging undertaking because its primary focus is on the broadest component of social behavior - an entire society In contrast to the psychologist, who is principally concerned with the study of individual behavior, or the sociologist, who is concerned with the study of groups, the anthropologist is primarily interested in identifying the very fabric of society itself
What Is Culture?
Given the broad and pervasive nature of culture, its study generally requires a detailed examination of the character of the total society, including such factors as language, knowledge, laws, religions, food customs, music, art, technology, work patterns, products, and other artifacts that give a society its distinctive flavor In a sense, culture is a society's personality For this reason, it is not easy to define its boundaries
Because our objective is to understand the influence of culture on consumer behavior, we define culture as “the sum total of learned beliefs, values, and customs that serve to direct the consumer behavior of members of a particular society”
The belief and value components refer to the accumulated feelings and priorities that individuals have about "things" and possessions. More precisely, beliefs consist of the very large number of mental or verbal statements (i.e. "I believe ____") that reflect a person's particular knowledge and assessment of something (another person, a store, a product, a brand)
Values also are beliefs However; values differ from, because they meet the following criteria 1) They are relatively few in number
2) They serve as a guide for culturally appropriate behavior 3) They are enduring or difficult to change
4) They are not tied to specific objects or situations
5) They are widely accepted by the members of a society
Therefore, in a broad sense, both values and beliefs are mental images that affect a wide range of specific attitudes that, in turn, influence the way a person is likely to respond in a specific situation. For example, the criteria a person uses to evaluate alternative brands in a product category (such as Volvo versus Jaguar automobiles), or his or her eventual preference for one of these brands over the other, are influenced by both a person's general values (perceptions as to what constitutes quality and the meaning of country of origin) and specific beliefs (particular perceptions about the quality of Swedish-made versus English-made cars)
In contrast to beliefs and values, customs are overt modes of behavior that constitute culturally approved or acceptable ways of behaving in specific situations Customs consist of everyday or routine behavior For example, a consumer's routine behavior, such as adding sugar and milk to coffee, putting ketchup on hamburgers putting mustard on frankfurters, and having a salad after rather than before the main course of a meal, are customs Thus, whereas beliefs and values are guides for behavior, customs are usual and acceptable ways of behaving
Understanding of various cultures of a society helps marketers predict consumer acceptance of their products
The Impact of Culture
The impact of culture is so natural and automatic that its influence on behavior is usually taken for granted For instance, when consumer researchers ask people why they do certain things, they frequently answer, “Because it's the right thing to do” This seemingly superficial response partially reflects the ingrained influence of culture on our behavior Often it is only when we are exposed to people with different cultural values or customs (as when visiting a different region or a different country) that we become aware of how culture has molded our own behavior Thus, a true appreciation of the influence that culture has on our daily life requires some knowledge of at least one other society with different cultural characteristics For example to understand that...
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