Discuss the Effects of Cultural Differences on Consumer Behavior
In addition to individual differences in how consumers respond to ads and brands, there are also predictable
sociocultural effects. We'll consider two examples: social class and age.
Some societies have clearer class distinctions than others, but gradations in socioeconomic standing are discernible
even in relatively classless societies. People tend to be more comfortable with others in comparable standing.
Social class is a construct that is more complicated than just economic access to resources. Income is important,
but so is family background (e.g., old money vs. nouveau riche) and career paths (e.g., some allowance for social
mobility). Old-monied people seek exclusivity in their brands, to affirm their special standing in society. They are
alarmed by the mass-class movement, in which designers of high-end luxury goods produce far less expensive
lines (albeit not of the same quality) to allow access by us peasants.
In contrast, nouveaus try to make purchases to attain their status, the purchases being the so-called status symbols.
They indulge in conspicuous consumption, e.g., buying goods with garish, loud branding that shows the world
they've made it. Obviously, designing products, brands, and marketing communications for these two different
groups calls for different approaches.
Age cohorts also produce reliable, predictable shopping patterns. Some patterns are obvious, following the
household composition and income availability. Young people first buy furniture and kitchenware, entertainment
and travel, and large screen TVs. They proceed to the stage of buying diapers and toys and minivans. Soon there is
college to pay for, then maybe travel, and, soon, health care. All highly predictable.
Age groups are particularly important when they are large in size. The infamous baby boomer group is beginning
to retire. Older people are traditionally ignored by advertisers who like to feature youth, but the deep wallets of
baby boomers will soon force companies to pay attention. Cruises will sell, whereas sophomoric movie comedies
The baby boomer generation was always societal minded, so we might expect to see large-scale altruism and
record levels of infusions of resources into nonprofits. In an odd contradiction, this generation was also dubbed
“the me generation,” and indeed sales of Viagra and cosmetic surgeries have also begun inching upward.
Social class and age cohort are among the various sociocultural factors that impinge on how buyers form
impressions and preferences, collect information, form opinions, and make brand choices. Gender matters: Men
and women are socialized differently, they think about products differently, and they shop differently.
Finally, ethnicity and country culture provide different perspectives, and they can be very interesting (and
complicated). We'll see examples throughout the book. Be forewarned: It is difficult to provide generalizations
without devolving into stereotypes, so note there are always exceptions. To foreshadow a few observations now:
Wealthy Chinese like their consumption conspicuous. Due to their purchases, Louis Vuitton has found its busy
season has moved to late-January and early-February, just before Chinese New Year (from traditional 4th quarter
peaks, attributable to Christmas shopping).
Danes are fond of luxury goods, and their society is so egalitarian that they believe luxury goods should be
accessible to all.
European brands tend to dominate the high end, due not just to a perception or cultural heritage but also to
structural industry differences, such as:
Fine craftsmanship in watches built in Switzerland,
Fashion or exotic cars designed in Italy, or
Supply chains such as extensive fields of flowers or vineyards for perfumeries or vintners in France.