Understanding cultural and Sub-cultural influences on individual, norms and their roles, customs, Traditions and Value Systems

01/06/2020 1 By indiafreenotes

Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as members of society.

Culture influences the pattern of living, of consumption, of decision-making by individuals. Culture is acquired. It can be acquired from the family, from the region or from all that has been around us while we were growing up and learning the ways of the world. Culture forms a boundary within which an individual thinks and acts. When one thinks and acts beyond these boundaries, he is adopting a cross-cultural behaviour and there are cross-cultural influences as well.

The nature of cultural influences is such that we are seldom aware of them. One feels, behaves, and thinks like the other members of the same culture. It is all pervasive and is present everywhere. Material culture influences technology and how it brings cultural changes like use of telephones, mobile phones, clothing styles and fashions, gives the marketers a chance to improve the product, packing, etc. to meet the needs of the customers.

Norms are the boundaries that culture sets on the behaviour. Norms are derived from cultural values, which are widely told beliefs that specify what is desirable and what is not. Most individuals obey norms because it is natural to obey them. Culture outlines many business norms, family norms, behaviour norms, etc. How we greet people, how close one should stand to others while conducting business, the dress we wear and any other patterns of behaviour.

Culture keeps changing slowly over time; and is not static. Changes take place due to rapid technologies. In case of emergency, war, or natural calamities, marketers and managers must understand the existing culture as well as the changing culture and culture of the country where the goods are to be marketed. Major companies have adapted themselves to international culture and are accepted globally.

Coca Cola is sold allover the world. Procter & Gamble and other companies give cross-cultural training to their employees. By making cross-cultural mistakes, many companies have difficulty in pushing their products for example,

(i) Coca Cola had to withdraw its 2 litres bottle from Spain, because it did not fit in the local refrigerator; (ii) Many countries are very traditional and do not like women displayed on the products. This acts as a detriment to business in those countries.

Variation in Cultural Values

This shows the relationship between individuals and the society. The relationship influences marketing practices. If the society values collective activity, decisions will be taken in a group. It gives rise to following questions which affect consumer behaviour.

Individual/ collective: Whether individual initiation has more value than collective activity?

Romantic orientation: This depicts whether the communication is more effective which emphasises courtship or otherwise. In many countries a romantic theme is more successful.

Adult/ child theme: Is family life concentrated round children or adults? What role do children play in decision-making?

Masculine/ Feminine: Whether the society is male dominant or women dominant or balanced.

Competitive/ Cooperation: Whether competition leads to success. This is achieved by forming alliances with others.

Youth/ age: Are prestige roles assigned to younger or older members of the society. American society is youth oriented and Korean is age oriented. Decisions are taken by mature people in Korea.

  1. Environment Oriented Values

Cleanliness: If a culture lays too much stress on cleanliness. There is scope for the sale of beauty creams, soaps, deodorants, insecticides, washing powder, vacuum cleaner, etc. In western countries, a lot of emphasis is placed on this aspect and perfumes and deodorants are widely used.

Performance/ status: A status oriented society cares for higher standards of living, and chooses quality goods and established brand names and high prices items. This is true for the United States, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and most Arabic countries.

In performance oriented societies, where rewards and prestige is based on an individual’s performance, less importance is given to brand names. Products which function equally well and may not be big brand names are used. Germans do not give the same amount of emphasis to brand names. The marketers adopt strategies accordingly.

Tradition/ change: Traditional oriented societies stick to the old product and resist innovation or new techniques. In traditional societies, there is less scope for new products, and old traditional products are in greater demand. In some societies which are upwardly mobile, consumers are looking for modern methods, new products, new models and new techniques.

Risk taking/ security: An individual who is in a secure position and takes a risk can be either considered venturesome or foolhardy. This depends on the culture

of the society. For developing new entrepreneurs risk taking is a must. It leads to new product development, new advertising themes and new channels of distribution. Security oriented societies have little chances of development and innovation.

Problem solving/fatalist: A society can be optimistic and have a problem solving attitude or, be inactive and depend on fate. This has marketing implications on the registering of complaints when consumers are dissatisfied with the purchase of the products. Advertising plays an important part and gives guidance to the consumer, and removes these doubts to a great extent.

Nature: There are differences in attitude over nature and its preservation. Consumers stress on packing materials that are recyclable and environment friendly. Some countries give great importance to stop environmental pollution and to recycling of products.

Companies like P&G, Colgate-Palmolive captured a great extent of the market by offering products which are less harmful to the environment. They also use ingredients in the products which are not harmful in any way.

2. Self-Oriented Values

Active/passive: Whether a physically active approach to life is valued more highly than a less active orientation. An active approach leads to taking action all the time and not doing anything. In many countries, women are also taking an active part in all activities. This makes the society a highly active one, where everybody is involved in work.

Material/ non-material: In many societies money is given more importance, and a lot of emphasis is on being material minded. While in many societies things like comfort, leisure and relationships get precedence over being materialistic. Materialism can be of two types.

  • Instrumental materialism, which is the acquisition of things to enable one to do something or achieve something. Cars are used for transportation.

People like to possess things of material value which would help them to bring efficiency.

  • Terminal materialism, is the requisition of materialism for the sake of owing it rather than for use-Art is acquired for owing it. Cultural differences play art important role in this type of materialism. Instrumental materialism is common in the United States of America, where as Japanese advertisements are mostly dominating terminal materialism.

Hard work/leisure: This has marketing implications on labour saving products and instant foods. Some societies value hard work and consider it as a fuller life. Others adopt labour saving devices and instant foods to have more leisure time at their disposal.

Postponed gratification/ immediate gratification: Should one save for the rainy day or live for the day? Sacrifice the present for the future, or live only for the day? Some countries like The Netherlands and Germany consider buying against credit cards as living beyond one’s means, whereas credit cards are very popular in America and other countries having a different cultural orientation, some prefer cash to debt. Some societies save for tomorrow; others enjoy the present and spend lavishly.

Sexual gratification/Abstinence: Some traditional societies curb their desires, food, drinks or sex, beyond a certain requirement. Muslim cultures are very conservative, and do not want their women to be seen in public or be exposed, so the Polaroid camera which gives instant photographs can be purchased and pictures can be taken by the family members without their women being exposed to the developers in a photo lab.

Humour/ serious: Should we take life lightly and laugh it off on certain issues or, take everything seriously? This is an- other aspect of culture. Advertising

personnel selling techniques and promotion may revolve around these themes and the way the appeal for a product is to be made in various cultures.


Culture can be divided into subcultures. A subculture is an identifiable distinct, cultural group, which, while following the dominant cultural values of the overall society also has its own belief, values and customs that set them apart from other members of the same society.

Sub-culture categories are:

(i) Nationality: Indian, Srilanka, Pakistan , (ii) Religion: Hinduism, Islam

(iii) Race: Asian, black, white (iv)Age: young, middle aged, elderly

(v) Sex: Male, Female (vi)Occupation: Farmer, teacher, business

(vii) Social class: upper, middle, lower (viii) Geographic regions: South

India, North-eastern India

  1. Regional, Ethnic, and Religious Influences on Consumer Behavior

The three major aspects of culture that have important effects on consumer behavior are regional, ethnic, and religious differences. Firstly, consumption patterns may differ in various regions of India and the world, and marketing strategy can sometimes be tailored specifically to these regions.

Secondly, our country has a number of different ethnic groups, and population trends will dramatically alter the demographic profile of the country in the next 50 years. The very diverse Asian American subculture is described as young and having higher socioeconomic status, placing strong value on the family and the group, and being strongly brand loyal. In spite of its diversity, marketing strategies can be developed for this group.

Finally, religious beliefs and values can influence consumer. Many marketers are now becoming multicultural in their marketing activities by trying to appeal to a variety of cultures at the same time. Although the diversity of the Indian melting pot may be unique, there are many important ethnic groups in other

areas of the world.

  1. Age, Gender, and Household Influences on Consumer Behavior

Among the four major age groups, Teens, who need to establish an identity, are the consumers of tomorrow and have an increasing influence on family decisions. The somewhat disillusioned Generation X consists of smart and cynical consumers who can easily see through obvious marketing attempts. Baby boomers grew up in a very dynamic and fast-changing world, and this has affected their values for individualism and freedom. The 50 and older segment can be divided into two groups-the young again and the gray market. Neither group likes to be thought of as old. The affect of gender differences on consumer behavior is examined next. Sex roles are changing. Women are becoming more professional and independent, and men are becoming more sensitive and caring. Also, men and women can differ in terms of traits, information processing, decision styles, and consumption patterns.

Gender is consistent throughout lifetime, influencing customer values and preferences. Gender shows different consumption patterns and perceptions of consumption situations –E.g. the wedding ceremony.

Households play a key role in consumer behavior. The proportion of nontraditional households has increased due to factors such as

(1) later marriages, (2) Cohabitation, (3) Dual-career families,

(4)Increased divorce, and (5) Fewer children

Households also exert an important influence on acquisition and consumption patterns. First, household members can play different roles in the decision process (gatekeeper, influencer, decider, buyer, and user). Second, husbands and wives vary in their influence in the decision process, depending on the situation-husband-dominant, wife-dominant, autonomic, or syncratic.

  1. Psychographics: Values, Personality, and Lifestyles

The roles of psychographics in affecting consumer behaviour are

detailed below.

Values are enduring beliefs about things that are important. They are learned through the processes of socialization and acculturation. Our values exist in an organized value system, with some values being viewed as more important than others. Some are regarded as terminal values and reflect desired end states that guide behavior across many different situations. Instrumental values are those needed to achieve these desired end states. Domain-specific values are those that are relevant within a given sphere of activity. Western cultures tend to place a relatively high value on material goods, youth, the home, family and children, work and play, health, hedonism, and technology. Marketers use tools like value segmentation to identify consumer groups with common values.

Personality consists of the distinctive patterns of behaviors, tendencies, qualities, and personal dispositions that make people different from one another. Approaches to the study of personality include

1. The psychoanalytic approach, which sees personality arising from unconscious internal struggles within the mind at key stages of development;

2. Trait theories, which attempt to identify a set of personality characteristics that describe and differentiate individuals, such as introversion, extroversion, and stability;

3. Phenomenological approaches, which propose that personality is shaped by an individual‘s interpretation of life events

4. Social-psychological theories, which focus on how individuals act in social situations (e.g., compliant, detached, or aggressive); and

5. Behavioral approaches, which view an individual‘s personality in terms of past rewards and punishments.

Marketers also measure lifestyles, which are patterns of behavior (or activities, interests, and opinions). These lifestyles can provide some additional insight into consumers‘ consumption patterns. Finally, some marketing researchers use

Psychographic techniques that involve all of these factors to predict consumer behavior. One of the most well known Psychographic tools is the Values and Lifestyle Survey (VALS). The newer VALS2 identifies eight segments of consumers who are similar in their resources and self-orientations.

Japanese Culture Traits

American Culture traits

  • Homogenous
  • Harmony to be valid and  preserved
  • Group, not individual, important
  • Ambiguous
  • General
  • Hold back emotions in public
  • Process-oriented
  • Make a long story short
  • Nonverbal communication  important
  • Interested in who is speaking
  • Diverse
  • Fight for one‘s beliefs/positions
  • Individualistic
  • Clear-cut
  • Specific
  • Display emotions in public
  • Result oriented
  • Make a short story long
  • Verbal communication important
  • Interested in what is spoken

Product Strategy

Standardized Communications

Localized Communications

Standardized Product Global strategy: Uniform product/ Uniform Message Mixed strategy: Uniform Product/ Customized message
Localized Product Mixed Strategy: Customized Product/ Uniform Message Local strategy: Customized Product/ Customized Message