Monday, September 17, 2012

Marketing 101: Cultural Factors Affecting Consumer Purchases

In my last post I discussed the basics of Consumer Buyer Behavior, and I explored the Model of Consumer Buyer Behavior.  We are going to continue our discussion by exploring the various characteristics affecting consumer buying behavior.  Recall that consumer purchases are not just simple one-and-done affairs.  They are affected strongly by cultural, social, personal, and psychological factors.  These are all factors that we cannot control, but we have to take them into account or else our marketing is ineffective and money is washed down the drain.  Let's begin by examining Cultural Factors.

Cultural Factors
Cultural Factors are some of the strongest influences of consumer buyer behavior.  Cultural Factors are the set of basic values, perceptions, wants and behaviors that are "learned" by a consumer from their families and other important social institutions.  "Culture" is the most basic source of a consumer's wants and behavior.  It lives at the foundation of a consumer's world view.  Culture is mostly a learned behavior, being constructed by the society a consumer grows up in. That society "teaches" the consumer basic values, perceptions, wants and behaviors.  What a consumer is "taught" can vary greatly in different parts of the world.  For example, in the United States a child will learn such values as liberty, democracy, freedom, American Exceptionalism, working hard, making your own success, and family values. Children in many Asian countries will learn such values as social harmony, concern with social and economic well-being instead civil and human rights, loyalty towards authority and the well being of the family over the well being of self.

Marketers need to remember that every group or society has a culture.  Cultural influences can and will vary greatly from country to country, social group to social group.  If you do not account for these values in your marketing plans, your campaigns could be ineffective, and at worst embarrassing.

Subcultures
Every cultural group has numerous subcultures.  Subcultures are groups of people that have a set of shared values based on common life experiences and situations.  Subcultures can include different nationalities, religions, racial groups, and geographic regions.  Many of these subcultural groups make up important customer segments.  Because of this, marketers are designing products and marketing campaigns that are specifically tailored to their needs and wants.  An example of a growing customer segment and subculture is the "mature" consumer.

The MetLife Mature Market Institute published a report in 2010 summarizing this growing consumer segment.  In 2009 there were over 39 million people over 65 years of age, the majority of which are female.  The majority of these people were reported as healthy and active.  The top three areas of annual spending were in housing, transportation and food/beverage categories.  Armed with basic information such as this, many CMO's are finding opportunities to create new messaging campaigns for existing products to grow sales in this growing customer segment.  

Trends
CMO's and marketers need to always try to notice cultural shifts in order to discover new products that might be desired by consumers in other cultures and subcultures.  Recent trends that have developed over the past decade are the growth of health and fitness over junk and processed food products, and the personal entertainment market which has grown as group and family entertainment in the living room has decreased (think tablets and Netflix).  It is your responsibility to keep an eye on your customer segments, their cultures, subcultures, and any new trends that effect them or may bring new groups of customers to your products.  Are you?

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