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Culture In Marketing

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Thompson 4th Edition

International Marketing Strategy

Isobel Doole and Robin Lowe

Social and Cultural Factors

Social and cultural factors influence all aspects of consumer and buyer behaviour. The difference between these factors in different parts of the world can be a central consideration in developing and implemting international marketing strategies. Social and cultural forces are often linked together whilst meaningful distinctions between social and cultural factors can be made in many ways by the way the two interact and the distinction between the various factors is not clear cut. Differences in languages can alter the intended meaning of a promotional campaign and differences in the way a culture organises itself socially may affect the way a product is positioned in the market and the benefits a consumer may seek from that product.

A sewing machine in one culture may be seen as a useful hobby but in another culture a sewing machine may be necessary to the survival of a family.

Kotler (2003 included such things as reference groups, family roles and status within social factors. Whilst this is a useful distinction from the broader forces of culture, social class and social factors are clearly influenced by cultural factors. Take the example of the family which is an important medium of transmitting cultural values. Children learn about their society and culture through many means but the family influence is strong particularly

during the early years of a childs life. Furthermore the way in which family life is arranged varies considerably from one culture to another.In some cultures the family is a large extended group encompassing several generations and including aunts and uncles whilst in other cultures the family is limited more precisely to the immediate family of procreation and even then the unit might not be permanent the father and mother of the children might not remain together for the entirety of the child rearing process. Thus social and cultural influences interwine and have a great impact on the personnal and physiological processes in the consumer buyer behaviour processes and as such play an integral part in the understanding of the consumer in international markets. Toys R Us found quite distinct differences in the type of toys demanded in various international markets. Where as the US children preferred TV and movie endorsed products. Japanese children demanded electronic toys, South East Asian Children wanted educational toys and the more conservative cultures of the European markets expected a choice of more traditional toys.

Social and cultural factors have a huge impact in how marketing is perceived and interpretated as different cultures and social norms hold different values and this can affect a societys views. Therefore marketerors need to be have a high knowledge and awareness about different aspects of a countries culture or cultures as the case can be so it can communicate effectively with them through their marketing strategies. A cultures different values

What is culture?

Prehaps the most widely accepted definition of culture is that of Ralph Linton (1945): " A culture is the configuration of learned behaviour and results of behaviour whose component elements are shared and transmitting members of a particular society " Or perhaps more appropriately : ' The way we do things around here'. In releation to International marketing, culture can be defined as ' The sum total of learned beliefs, values and customs that serve to direct consumer behaviour in a particular country market. Thus culture is made up of three essential components.


A large number of mental and verbal processes which reflect our knowledge and assessment of products and services.


The indiacators consumers use to serve as guides for what is appropriate behaviour. They tend to be relatively enduring and stable overtime and widely acceptable by members of a particular market.


Overt modes of behaviour that constitute culturally approved or acceptable ways of behaving in specific situations. Customs are evident in many events in ones life e.g birth, marriage, death and at key events in the year e.g Christmas, Easter, Ramadan etc.

Such components as values beliefs and customs are often ingrained in a society and many of us only fully realise what is special about our own cultures, its beliefs, values and customs when we come into contact with other cultures. This is what happens to firms when they expand internationally and build up a market presence in foreign markets. O ften the problems they face are a result of their mistaken assumption that foreign markets will be similar to their home markets and so they can operate in a similar manner. Frequently in international markets the toughest competition a firm may face is not another supplier but the competition or beliefs as a result of cultural differences. This means that for a company to succeed in that market they often have to change ingrained attitudes to the way they do business. The beliefs and values of a culture satisfy a need within society for order, direction and guidance. Thus culture sets the standards shared by significant portions of society which in turn sets the rules for operating in that market.

Hofstede (2001) identifies a number of layers within a national culture.

Layers of Culture

- A national level according to ones country which determines our basic cultural assumptions.

- A regional/ ethnic/ religious linguistic affiliation level determining basic cultural beliefs.

- A gender level according to whether a person was born as a boy or as a girl.

- Ageneration



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