Culture and Its Effects on Consumer Behaviour

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“Of all the environmental influences on consumption decisions, culture is the one that is most encompassing, yet taken most for granted.” (p. 240 The Canadian Perspective, Consumer Behaviour, Second Edition)” The word culture is derived from the Latin word, cultura. Giving an exact definition of culture is not easy; in 1952, some researchers reviewed 164 definitions of culture. According to Hatch (1985), culture is ‘The way of life of a people. It consists of conventional patterns of thought and behaviour, including values, beliefs, rules of conduct, political organization, economic activity, and the like, which are passed on from one generation to the next by learning- and not by biological inheritance’. It can be said that culture is a very important factor that affects a person’s behavior and perception, consequently affecting marketing strategies of companies. The following are some important characteristics of culture: 1. Culture is comprehensive: this implies that all parts of a culture should fit together in a logical manner 2. Culture is learned: we are not born with culture; it is learnt and shared with others and with the different institutions that we encounter over the course of our lives. 3. Culture is manifested within boundaries of acceptable behaviour: failure to behave within the prescribed norms may lead to punishment for example: being arrested by the police for indecent exposure in public (such as nudity) or being laughed at by other people for wearing a suit on the beach 4. Culture can be static or dynamic: for example, US culture has changed a great deal since the 1950s however in Saudi Arabia culture has remained essentially unchanged. (Perner, L., 2008)

Culture exists in multiple forms: it could be of an organization (corporate culture), of an entire country (National culture), or of a group of people within the country (subculture). A subculture consists of people who share common demographics, social characteristics or values. Subcultures can be segmented based on ethnicity, age, social class, geography, etc. Examples of sub cultures include Hispanic people living in the USA, High school groups, Goths, and Punks.

Consumer behavior is the study of how people buy, consume and dispose of products. It is influenced to a large extent by social factors, such as culture, family relationships, and some other aspects of the external environment. Culture greatly influences consumer behavior; it contains the common meanings and socially constructed values that are acknowledged by the majority of members of a society or a social group. Culture includes factors such as shared values, beliefs, norms, attitudes, affective reactions, cognitive beliefs, and patterns of behavior. Advertising has a big effect on our perceptions and values; Today we have an advertisement-induced version of culture that lacks realism and gives rise to images which are anything but true. Advertisements no longer give us a chance to develop our authentic self; all of us try to be like someone we see in advertisements. For example, many young girls would love to dress up like Britney Spears or other celebrities even if they do not particularly like their style. This imitation happens because media tells girls that Spears is the ultimate image or symbol of what is considered "contemporary" in our society. Authentic self, therefore, turns out to be buried under a mass of false cultural values. Advertising is intricately connected with the principle of consumption, which states that a large number of consumers buy anything that advertisements say is good for them, including culture and value. Authentic refers to the quality of a person to stay unaffected by what he/she sees in ads or TV commercials. When the society is not influenced by advertisements, it becomes capable of developing its own authentic self. Similarly, what we get today in the form of culture is also profoundly influenced by media, more specifically...
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