Written by admin on April 20th, 2011




Everybody in this world is a consumer. Everyday of our life we are buying and consuming an incredible variety of goods and services. However, we all have different tastes, likes and dislikes and adopt different behaviour patterns while making purchase decisions. Many factors affect how we, as individuals and as societies, live, buy, and consume. External influences such as culture, ethnicity, and social class influence how individual consumers buy and use products, and help explain how groups of consumers behave. The study of culture encompasses all aspects of a society such as its religion, knowledge, language, laws, customs, traditions, music, art, technology, work patterns, products, etc. Culture is an extremely critical and all pervasive influence in our life.


Define culture Identify the various influences on culture Describe sub-cultures and its influences


CULTURE – Meaning

For the purpose of studying consumer behaviour, culture can be defined as the sum total of learned beliefs, values and customs that serve to guide and direct the consumer behaviour of all members of that society. Howard and Sheth have defined culture as “A selective, manmade way of responding to experience, a set of behavioral pattern”. Thus, culture consists of traditional ideas and in particular the values, which are attached to these ideas. It includes knowledge, belief, art, morale, law, customs and all other habits acquired by man as a member of society. An accepted concept about culture is that includes a set of learned beliefs, values, attitudes, habits and forms of behaviour that are shared by a society and are transmitted from generation to generation within that society.

Culture is learned through the following three ways:

1. Formal learning: parents and elders teach children the proper way to behave. For instance, you have been taught that you need to study to be successful and happy in life. This learning may influence your response both as a student and individual towards education.

2. Informal learning: we learn by imitating the behaviour of our parents, friends, or by watching TV and film actors in action

3. Technical learning: instructions are given about the specific method by which certain things to done such as painting, dancing, singing etc.

Characteristics of Culture

?Culture is learned.

?Culture regulates society –Norms, standards of behaviour, rewards and punishments.

?Culture makes life more efficient

?All members follow same norms.

?Culture is adaptive.

?Culture is environmental.

?Multiple cultures are nested hierarchically.

Culture also determines what is acceptable with product advertising. Culture determines what people wear, eat, reside and travel. Cultural values in India are good health, education, respect for age and seniority. But in our culture today, time scarcity is a growing problem, which implies a change in meals. Some changes in our culture:

1. Convenience: as more and more women are joining the work force there is an increasing demand for products that help lighten and relieve the daily household chores, and make life more convenient. This is reflected in the soaring sale of Washing machines, microwaves, Pressure cookers, Mixergrinders, food processors, frozen food etc.

2. Education: People in our society today wish to acquire relevant education and skills that would help improve their career prospects. This is evident from the fact that so many professional, career oriented educational centers are coming up, and still they cannot seem to meet the demand. As a specific instance count the number of institutions offering courses and training in computers that has opened in your city.

3. Physical appearance: Today, physical fitness, good health and smart appearance are on premium today. Slimming centers and beauty parlours are mushrooming in all major cities of the country. Cosmetics for both women and men are being sold in increasing numbers. Even exclusive shops are retailing designer clothes.

4. Materialism: There is a very definite shift in the people’s cultural value from spiritualism towards materialism. We are spending more money than ever before on acquiring products such as air-conditioners, cars CD players etc, which adds to our physical comfort as well as status.

Types of Culture

? ?National culture

o The culture prevalent in a nation, common to everyone

??Popular culture

o The culture of the masses with norms of mass appeal

?? Subculture

o The culture of a group within the larger society

o Group identification based on nationality of origin, race, region, age, religion, gender,  etc.

?? Corporate culture

o The company’s values, rituals, customs, myths and heroes

Hofstede’s five Dimensions of Culture

Culture has a profound impact on the way consumers perceive themselves, products they  buy and use, purchasing processes, and the organizations from which they purchase. Marketers, however, are giving more attention, to understanding macro cultures and how they affect consumer behavior. Hofstede found five dimensions of culture that are common among 66 countries. These dimensions serve as a foundation for characterizing, comparing and contrasting specific national cultures, and they are helpful in identifying

environmentally sensitive segments of the market.


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.


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.



M.phil scholar,
Department of Commerce,
Periyar University, Salem-11

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