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Chapter 17 Global Consumer Culture. CONSUMER BEHAVIOR, 8e Michael Solomon. Chapter Objectives. When you finish this chapter you should understand why: Styles act as a mirror to reflect underlying cultural conditions. We distinguish between high and low culture.

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Chapter 17 global consumer culture l.jpg

Chapter 17Global Consumer Culture

CONSUMER BEHAVIOR, 8eMichael Solomon

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Chapter Objectives

When you finish this chapter you should understand why:

  • Styles act as a mirror to reflect underlying cultural conditions.

  • We distinguish between high and low culture.

  • Many modern marketers are reality engineers.

  • New products, services, and ideas spread through a population. Different types of people are more or less likely to adopt them.

  • Many people and organizations play a role in the fashion system that creates and communicates symbolic meaning to consumers.

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Chapter Objectives (cont.)

  • Fashions follow cycles.

  • Products that succeed in one culture may fail in another if marketers fail to understand the differences among consumers in each place.

  • Western (and particularly American) culture has a huge impact around the world, though people in other countries don’t necessarily ascribe the same meanings to products as we do.

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The Creation of Culture

  • Influence of inner-city teens

  • Hip-hop/black urban culture

  • Outsider heroes, anti-oppression messages, and alienation of blacks

  • “Flavor” on the streets

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The Movement of Meaning

Figure 17.1

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Cultural Selection

Characteristics of fashion/popular culture:

  • Reflection of fundamental societal trends

  • Style begins as risky by small group, then spreads as others become aware/confident

  • Styles as interplay between deliberate inventions and ordinary consumers who modify styles to suit needs

  • Cultural products travel widely

  • Influential media people decide which will succeed

  • Most styles eventually wear out

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CPS: set of individuals and organizations responsible for creating and marketing a cultural product

Three major CPS subsystems

Creative subsystem

Managerial subsystem

Communications subsystem

Culture Production Process (CPS)

Figure 17.2

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Cultural Gatekeepers

Cultural gatekeepers: are responsible to filtering the overflow of information and materials intended for customers

  • “Tastemakers” who influence products consumers get to consider

  • Throughput sector

    • Movie, restaurant, and car reviewers

    • Interior designers

    • Disc jockeys

    • Retail buyers

    • Magazine editors

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High Art versus Low Art

  • High and low culture blend together today in interesting ways

    • Costco now stocks fine art (Picasso, Chagall)

    • We appreciate advertising as an art form

  • The arts are big business…marketers often incorporate high art to promote products

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Creative directors in advertising agencies sometimes view their advertising creations as art rather than a craft. Their clients—the actual marketers—usually view it as a craft.

  • Which should it be? Why?

  • What kind of conflict might arise between these two differing opinions?

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Cultural Formula

  • Cultural formulae: certain roles and props often occur consistently

  • Mass culture churns out products for a mass market

    • Aiming to please average taste of undifferentiated audience

    • Certain roles/props often occur consistently

  • Recycling of images

    • Creative subsystem members reach back through time for inspiration (“remix” the past)

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  • Can you identify a cultural formula at work in romance or action movies?

  • Do you see parallels among the roles different characters play (e.g., the hero, the evildoer, the temptress, etc.)?

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Reality Engineering

  • Many consumer environments have images/characters spawned by marketing campaigns or are “retreads”

  • Marketers use pop culture as promotional vehicles

    • “New vintage” (e.g., “used jeans”)

    • Elements used are both sensory and spatial

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Examples of Reality Engineering

Reality engineering: marketers appropriate elements of popular culture and convert them for use as promotional vehicles

  • Japanese “alibi buddy” service

  • Rick’s Café in Casablanca

  • Coyote Ugly bars

  • Seinfeld’s “Soup Nazi”

  • Nissan’s brief in-person live commercials

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Reality Engineering (cont.)

  • Cultivation hypothesis: the media’s ability to distort consumers’ perceptions of reality

    • Heavy TV viewers overestimate how wealthy people are and likelihood that they will be victims of a violent crime

    • Media also exaggerates frequency of behaviors such as drinking or smoking

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Product Placement

  • Insertion of specific products and use of brand names in movie/TV scripts

    • Desperate Housewives ad on drycleaners bags

  • Is the line between advertising and programming becoming too fuzzy?

  • Directors incorporate branded props for realism

  • Product placement can aid in consumer decision making

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  • Gamers have become a more sophisticated lot and are now more representative of the general population

  • Advergaming: online games are merging with interactive advertisements that let companies target specific types of consumers

  • Advertisers can get viewers’ attention for a much longer time in video games

  • Can tailor games and products to user profiles

  • Format gives advertisers great flexibility

  • Can track usage and conduct market research

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The Diffusion of Innovations

  • Innovation: any product that consumers perceive to be new

    • New manufacturing technique

    • New product variation

    • New way to deliver product

    • New way to package product

  • Diffusion of innovation

    • Successful innovations spread through the population at various rates

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Types of Adopters

Figure 17.3

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Adopting Innovations

  • Adoption of innovations resembles consumer decision-making sequence

  • Individualistic consumers are more innovative than collective consumers

  • Likelihood of adopting innovations categories

    • Innovators and early adopters

    • Laggards

    • Late adopters (mainstream)

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Adopting Innovations (cont.)

  • Innovators

    • Tend to be category-specific

    • Tend to favor taking risks

    • Higher educational/income levels

    • Socially active

    • Lead users

  • Early adopters

    • Concern for social acceptance (expressive products)

    • Involved in product category and value fashion

    • Tend to “field-test” style changes

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Behavioral Demands of Innovations

  • Three major types of innovations (amount of disruption/change they bring to our lives):

    • Continuous innovation

      • Evolutionary rather than revolutionary

    • Dynamically continuous innovation

      • More pronounced change to existing product

    • Discontinuous innovation

      • Creates major changes in the way we live

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Prerequisites for Successful Adoption


Innovation should be compatible with consumers’ lifestyles


People are more likely to adopt an innovation if they can experiment with it prior to purchase


A product that is easy to understand will be chosen over competitors


Innovations that are easily observable are more likely to spread



Product should offer relative advantage over other alternatives

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The Fashion System

  • Fashion system: all those people and organizations involved in creating symbolic meanings and transferring these meanings to cultural goods

  • Fashion affects all types of cultural phenomena (music, art, architecture, science)

  • Fashion as code/language for meanings

  • Fashion is context-dependent/undercoded

  • Fashion versus a fashion versus in fashion

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Cultural Categories

  • Cultural categories: basic ways we characterize the world reflects the meaning we impart to products

  • Culture makes distinctions between different times, leisure and work, and gender

  • Dominant aspects/themes of culture are reflected in design/marketing of items

    • Costumes of politicians, rock/movie stars

    • 1950s/60s: “space-age” mastery

    • Fashion colors for each season

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Cultural Categories (cont.)

  • Creative subsystems attempt to anticipate the tastes of the buying public

  • Collective selection: symbolic alternatives are chosen over others

    • Western Look

    • New Wave

    • Nouvelle Cuisine

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Behavioral Science Perspectives on Fashion

  • Psychological models of fashion

    • Conformity, variety seeking, attraction, etc.

    • “Shifting erogenous zones” and fitness premium

  • Economic models of fashion

    • Supply and demand

    • Parody display, prestige-exclusivity effect, and snob effect

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Behavioral Science Perspectives on Fashion (cont.)

  • Sociological models of fashion

    • Collective selection model (hip-hop and Goth)

    • Trickle-down theory

      • Mass fashion has replaced elite fashion

      • Trickle-across effect

      • Current fashions trickle up from lower classes

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Behavioral Science Perspectives on Fashion (cont.)

  • A “medical” model of fashion

    • Meme theory

      • Memes that survive are distinctive and memorable

    • Tipping point

  • Cycles of fashion adoption

    • Cabbage Patch dolls

    • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Normal Fashion Cycle

  • Fashions tend to flow in a predictable sequence

Figure 17.4

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Fashion Life Cycles (cont.)

Fashion acceptance cycle (using music as example):

  • Introduction stage: small number of music innovators hear a song

  • Acceptance stage: song enjoys increased visibility

  • Regression stage: song reaches stage of social saturation as it becomes overplayed

    Classic: fashion with an extremely long acceptance cycle

    Fad: short-lived fashion

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Comparison of Acceptance of Fads, Fashions, and Classics

Figure 17.5

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  • Boots with six-inch heels are a fashion rage among young Japanese women. They are willing to risk twisted ankles, broken bones, bruised faces, and other dangers associated with the platform shoes.

  • What is and what should be the role of fashion in our society? How important is it for people to be in style? What are the pros and cons of keeping up with the latest fashions? Do you believe that we are at the mercy of designers?

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Fad or Trend?

  • Chrysler’s PT Cruiser and retro cars: a fad or a trend?

  • Guidelines for long-term trends:

    • Fits with basic lifestyle changes

    • A real benefit should be evident

    • Can be personalized

    • Not a side effect or a carryover effect

    • Important market segments adopt change

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Behavior of Fads

Figure 17.6

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Transferring Product Meanings to Other Cultures

  • Innovations know no geographic boundaries

  • Costly consequences of ignoring cultural sensitivities

    • 1994: McDonald’s reprinting Saudi Arabian flag on disposable packaging/promotions

    • 2002: McDonald’s litigation settlement for mislabeling French fries as being vegetarian

    • 2002: McDonald’s cancellation of McAfrika

    • 2005: McDonald’s Prosperity Burger

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Starbucks’ standardized strategy worldwide

Critics: Starbucks obliterates local customs

Café flaneurs and oppositional localists

Ethics perspective: develop one approach for multiple, homogenized markets

Economies of scale benefit

Adopt a Standardized Strategy

 Click for

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Adopt a Localized Strategy

  • Disney learned cultural lessons

    • Disneyland Paris, Hong Kong Disneyland

  • Emic perspective: stress on variations across cultures

    • Each country is unique and has a national character

    • Strategy must be tailored to each specific culture to make product acceptable to local tastes

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Cultural Differences Relevant to Marketers

  • People around the world develop their own unique preferences

  • Marketers must be aware of a culture’s norms regarding sensitive topics such as taboos and sexuality

  • Language barrier and back-translation

    • “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”

    • Fresca is Mexican slang for lesbian

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Does Global Marketing Work?

  • In practice, a homogenous world culture has met with mixed results

  • Consumers in different countries do not use products the same way

  • Significant cultural differences can show up within the same country

  • Coca-Cola has been successful in crafting a single, international image

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Does Global Marketing Work? (cont.)

  • Multicultural marketing efforts tend to succeed more with two types of consumer segments:

    • Affluent “global citizens” exposed to ideas around the world through travels, business contacts, and media experiences

    • Young people influenced by MTV/other media

Click to view 

Quicktime video on

Motorola’s global


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Does Global Marketing Work? (cont.)

  • Three dimensions of global brands:

    • Quality signal: if a company has global reach, it must excel on quality

    • Global myth: brands are symbols of cultural ideals

    • Social responsibility: companies are expected to address social problems where they operate

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Global citizens: global success of a company is a signal of quality

Global dreamers: see global brands as quality products and readily buy them

Antiglobals: skeptical that global companies deliver higher-quality products

Global agnostics: don’t base purchase decisions on a brand’s global attributes

Consumer Segments Who Evaluate Global Brands

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I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke…

  • Western lifestyles associated with modernization and sophistication

  • U.S. television inspires knockoffs around the world (e.g., “The Apprentice”)

  • Also, U.S. television hits often start out as imported European concepts (e.g., “Big Brother”)

  • Middle East protested/boycotted American companies and products after events of 9/11

  • Critics in other countries: Americanization of their cultures = excessive materialism

  • Opposition to a global fast-food culture

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Emerging Consumer Cultures in Transitional Economies

  • Western “decadence” appears to be infectious in foreign countries

  • Globalized consumption ethic

    • Ideal of material lifestyle and well-known brands that symbolize prosperity

    • Rituals/product preferences in different cultures become homogenized (e.g., Christmas in China)

  • Attaining consumer goods is not easy for those in transitional economies

    • Loss of confidence/pride in local culture as well as alienation, frustration, increase in stress

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Emerging Consumer Culturesin Transitional Economies (cont.)

Creolization: foreign influences integrate with local meanings

  • Peruvian boys carry rocks painted like radios

  • Chivas Regal wrappers on drums in highland Papua New Guinea

  • Japanese use Western words for anything new and exciting

    • “I feel Coke and sound special”

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