The Importance Of Culture In Marketing

The Importance Of Culture In Marketing

Marketing. From whichever angle you want to take it, it’s about understanding. It’s your product or service, solving a consumer problem. That takes an understanding of a) the consumer b) the problem c) how to solve it and d) your competitors. This understanding is deeply rooted in knowledge of the culture in which your target audience is situated.

Culture has a huge effect on consumer behaviours. It is what determines why certain products sell well amongst certain ages, nationalities and businesses but not in others.  It’s what actually moulds target audiences. At a global scale, what sells well in the Western world, may not in the Middle East. What is a successful advertising technique in Australia, may be a complete flop in Japan. Americans respond well to big bold advertising, the British, not. There is a market for skin whitening products in Asian countries, but they’re much less popular in the West, and funnily enough, the market for sunscreen is not that great in the Middle East.

Consumer behaviours vary from country to country, based on socio-economic factors, geographic and political influences as well as social history and traditions. Consumer behaviours are as varied as the very cultures they emerge from. Without even crossing borders in other countries, culture evolves consumer behaviour in-country, especially in geographically expansive ones. Consumers differ in age, in beliefs, in socio-economic status, in education, in sex, in religious preferences and although united by a common ‘culture’, such individual-specific variations have the ability to influence their buying behaviour and exposure to marketing techniques. That sees the rise of multiple sub-cultures within an umbrella culture; consumers affiliated with that sub-culture more than likely needing a completely different kind of marketing strategy to a completely different problem.

With such variation how on earth do you even find a target audience? The great thing is, us human beings like to group together; we like to be part of a common, part of a group, it’s how we feel secure in our identity; and that is the whole premise behind ‘trends’ and ‘movements’ be it in fashion, food consumption or political affiliations. As social creatures, collective identity gives us a sense of belonging and security. You see, although there is infinite opportunity for each and every human being to be autonomous, there is safety in numbers; and that is how general cultures come into play.

Whilst there are hundreds of extremely different cultures with different consumer economies across the globe, that is not to say that trends don’t transcend cultural difference. The ability to establish a brand across continents regardless of stark cultural differences requires serious investment in market and consumer research, and of course, a very sellable product. Facebook for example is successful globally, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion and age. Starbucks has cleverly adapted their franchise to mould to different cultures, from America, to Vietnam, to Italy. Same goes for another giant, Cadbury. Their marketing is specifically adapted to suit the the cultural norms of the consumer; from their advertising to their chocolate bar flavours. These kinds of adaptations aren’t just happening on a global scale either; depending on how specific a target audience your business has, adaptations to appeal to the end user have to be on a micro-scale. Promoting Devonshire scones in Cornwall would, for example, be catastrophically bad for business.

And there you have it, culture really is the driving force behind consumer behaviours and with its ever fluid nature and endless sub-culture formation, investing heavily in target audience research is essential in the world of marketing.