Consumer Behavior and Culture

Vaidotas Lukosius (Assistant Professor of Marketing, Tennessee State University, Tennessee, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 October 2004




Lukosius, V. (2004), "Consumer Behavior and Culture", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 21 No. 6, pp. 435-437.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

This book is about the importance of culture in the discipline of consumer behavior, specifically focusing on key aspects of consumption and consumer behavior across cultures. Indeed, some (or maybe the majority) of us still hold a belief that culture is simply a context in which consumer behavior takes place. Such a perspective is displayed by authors of popular consumer behavior textbooks, where chapters titled something like “The Meaning and Nature of Culture” or “Cross‐cultural Variations in Consumer Behavior” are common when introducing the idea of variations in consumer behavior.

Unlike the typical consumer behavior textbook, Consumer Behavior and Culture suggests that culture and consumer behavior are intimately knotted together and “untying the rope” is almost an impossible task. The book conveys a very simple message: “There are no global consumers, so the global market concept is a purely theoretical concept” (p. 314). To support his argument, the author presents a wealth of statistical information, including graphs and charts. The book also covers a variety of subjects, including the concept of self, social processes, mental processes, retailing, convergence, and globalization.

The introductory chapter, “Global Consumers in a Global Village”, primarily focuses on revealing misconceptions as well as challenging some widely disseminated assumptions regarding globalization. In his own words, the author suggests that the proposition that “increased global mobility for business and vacations will cause people to homogenize” (p. 5) simply is not supported by behavior and that “the Internet is not a homogenizing factor” (p. 10). He uses a large number of examples from academic and popular literature to illustrate the enormous continuing diversity of European and Asian countries while North American culture receives relatively less attention.

Chapter 2, “Values and Culture”, presents the basic definition of what culture is and how culture can explain some of the differences in consumption and consumer behavior. Initially, the author presents several definitions of what a culture is and how one should go about comparing cultures. The remainder of the chapter is devoted to comparing and contrasting two frequently‐used models: the well‐known Hofstede's five dimensions of national culture and the somewhat less familiar Schwartz's seven value types. Using a variety of examples and statistical data, de Mooij shows, with surgical precision, where the two models converge, but he also delineates still unresolved and conflicting differences. In the end, “because the Hofstede model is the most robust, it is used to explain culture's influence on consumer behavior” (p. 45).

In Chapter 3, “Convergence and Divergence of Consumer Behavior”, the author takes a tour to discuss the ongoing convergence/divergence debate where the issue is to establish whether societies are becoming more alike or increasingly differentiated. To support his argument, de Mooij uses statistical data (and presents it in a very readable and visually appealing format) to show that cultural variables are better at explaining consumer behavior than socio‐economic variables.

Chapter 4, “The Consumer”, is based on Manrai and Manrai's (1996) framework for the study of cross‐cultural consumer behavior. De Mooij acknowledges that a number of concepts embodied in such a “Western framework” are perceived differently across cultures. The discussion primarily uses the five Hofstede continuae to illustrate differences in explaining consumers' attributes, such as personality, the self, attitudes and lifestyles.

In Chapter 5, “Social Processes”, the author discusses motivation theories, such as those of Freud, Maslow, and McClelland, and emotions with respect to cross‐cultural behavior. Later on, de Mooij does an extremely good job in explaining the differences in emotional expressions across cultures using simple yet very insightful examples: “A sultry facial expression of American models is meant to express independence, whereas Japanese models present happy broad smiles to express dependence needs” (p. 152). The chapter concludes with a comparison of cultural variations regarding group processes.

Chapter 6, “Mental Processes”, is probably the most complicated, since the author touches on at least ten different subject areas and introduces the reader to a large number of theories, such as attribution theory, cognitive dissonance theory, elaboration likelihood model (ELM), etc. – all in just 40 pages! Nevertheless, we read this chapter with great enjoyment; de Mooij uses a very systematic approach to introduce a cultural dimension to the domain of cognitive consumer psychology. However, a reader with no or very little knowledge in cognitive psychology is very likely to skim (if that!) this chapter due to the extremely scientific and complex subject matter.

Unlike the previous chapter, chapter 7, “Consumer Behavior Domains”, is very easy to read since it is very descriptive. On the other hand, this chapter contains a lot of statistical information, since the author is comparing how products and services in several categories (12, to be precise) are acquired and used as well as ownership rates across the cultures. As in the earlier chapters, the author argues that the best explanation for such differences is provided by using Hofstede's five dimensions.

Finally, Chapter 8, “Applications to Global Marketing and Advertising”, is tailored to practitioners, since it provides key information about cultural variations on product development, branding, segmentation and marketing/advertising research in the global arena.

Who should read this book? First and foremost, anybody who is interested in learning more about culture and human behavior will profit. This book could serve as excellent supplemental reading for students taking an international marketing course. While some sections are a bit too complex to grasp without additional background, an average student should very easily finish reading this book during the course of a semester. Second, we would recommend this book for anyone entering into cross‐cultural consumer behavior research. The abundant references are worth the price of the book! Third, American students, who often have very limited exposure to European and Asian cultural contexts, may benefit from the shift in perspective. Too many American texts are written from a North American perspective, with examples from elsewhere appearing more as factoids, leaving students unaware of the deeper meaning and effects of culture. Finally, we do not think that this book would greatly benefit experienced marketers except for the references to some country‐specific statistical information.

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