Jurnal Internasional Perilaku Konsumen.

An integrative framework for

cross-cultural consumer

behavior

David Luna

University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater,

Wisconsin, USA, and

Susan Forquer Gupta

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

Keywords International marketing, Consumer behaviour, National cultures,

Cross-cultural management

Abstract    The world economy is becoming increasingly cross-cultural. During the next decades, as marketers enter new international markets, an understanding of how culture influences consumer behavior will be crucial for both managers and consumer researchers. This article presents a framework that integrates and reinterprets current research in cross-cultural consumer behavior. The framework also serves to identify areas that need further research and can be used as a template for marketers seeking to understand their foreign consumers. The article also attempts to integrate from an applied perspective two distinct traditions in the study of culture and consumer behavior: the anthropological approach and the cross-cultural psychology tradition. The need for a practical framework  Marketers at the end of the twentieth century are confronted with increasingly multicultural marketplaces. Globalization of markets and international competition are requiring firms to operate in a multicultural environment. In addition, migration patterns and transnational communication media like satellite television are creating multicultural populations in domestic markets and exposing consumers to alternative behaviors and wants (Douglas and Craig, 1997).Several attempts have been made to develop integrative views of current research on cross-cultural consumer behavior. However, existing models of the effect of culture on consumer behavior do not offer a framework in which literature can be adequately integrated, are not firmly grounded in theory, or do not contain a full account of how specific cultural dimensions affect specific consumer behavior components. Existing models are often too complicated to put in practice, containing an abundance of abstract terms and constructs that managers may not fully comprehend, let alone use to collect information on foreign consumers (Manrai and Manrai 1996). As a result, Douglas et al. (1994) call for further research in the area stating that “strong theoretical and conceptual frameworks are needed, integrating constructs from the different research traditions and disciplines” (p. 300). The research register for this journal is available athttp://www.mcbup.com/research_registers

The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at

http://www.emerald-library.com/ftInternational

 

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In some cases, researchers have succeeded in providing clear managerial models of consumer behavior across cultures (e.g. Samli, 1995). Our framework builds on such work and extends it by: offering a dimensionalization of culture which is both easy to  operationalize and theoretically rigorous; providing a widely accepted definition of consumer behavior in terms of its components instead of only listing consumer behavior topics which may or may not be affected by culture; and  comprehensively integrating and interpreting current research in light of each of the interactions between cultural manifestations and consumer behavior components proposed in the framework. As Douglas et al. (1994) suggest, our framework combines different sources, research traditions, and methodological philosophies on how to conduct cross- cultural research. Culture and consumer behavior Emic and etic approaches Cross-cultural management researchers have traditionally used Hofstede’s (1980, 1997) definition of culture, which equates culture to “the collective programming of the mind which distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another” (Hofstede, 1997, p. 5). The focus of this definition is the comparison of one culture with another. This is an etic definition of culture. Researchers that follow an etic approach in cross-cultural consumer research generally look for universal or culture-free theories and concepts. They search for variables and constructs common to all cultures that can be directly compared in order to discover how those cultures are different from or similar to each other. This approach is typical of cross-cultural psychology and other comparative social sciences. An alternative approach is the emic methodology, which focuses upon understanding issues from the viewpoint of the subjects being studied. Culture is defined emically as “the `lens’ through which all phenomena are seen. It determines how these phenomena are apprehended and assimilated. Second, culture is the `blueprint’ of human activity. It determines the coordinates of social action and productive activity, specifying the behaviors and objects that issue from both” (McCracken, 1988, p. 73). Emic approaches to culture do not intend to directly compare two or more differing cultures, but promote a complete understanding of the culture of study through “thick description” (Geertz, 1973). The methods utilized in conducting emic research do not provide “culture-free” measures that can be directly compared. Instead, they provide “culture-rich” information. The choice of emic versus etic approaches depends on several important factors, including the nature of theresearch question, the researcher’s resources and training, and the purpose of the study.Cross-cultural

 

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From an applied perspective, the two definitions of culture, emic and etic, can be considered as two sides of the same coin. Culture is a lens, shaping reality, and a blueprint, specifying a plan of action. At the same time, a culture is unique to a specific group of people. By utilizing the research provided by both approaches, we gain a more complete understanding of the culture(s) of interest. We will now discuss a model describing the mutual influence of culture and consumer behavior. The interaction of culture and consumer behavior Figure 1 depicts a model of the mutual influence of culture and consumer behavior. An individual’s behavior is a result of that individual’s cultural value system for a particular context. Individuals’ cultural value systems are developed over time as they are socialized into a particular group. Societal culture as well as regional subculture and familial values all influence the formation of an individual’s cultural value system. Thus, the cultural value system includes cultural elements that individuals have in common with the group(s) to which they belong, as well as idiosyncratic values unique to the individual. As the model suggests, culture affects consumer behavior, which itself may reinforce the manifestations of culture (Peter and Olson, 1998). An individual’s consumption behavior may be viewed and imitated or rejected by others. It can then become the group’s norm of behavior and be identified as part of the culture of a given population. Marketers’ actions serve as a Cross-cultural

 

 

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vehicle to transfer meanings or values from the culturally constituted world to consumer goods (McCracken, 1986, 1988), so marketing communications are represented in the model as a moderator of the effect of culture on consumer behavior. At the same time, marketing communications may also affect a culture’s manifestations through advertising (for example, Calvin Klein’s ads have reinforced the “thinness” value in American society). Of course, as Figure 1 shows, marketing communications can affect consumer behavior independent of culture. When considering this model, it is worth noting that, from an emic perspective, culture may not be seen as a construct apart from and causing behavior. Emic researchers view culture as inseparable from the individual, as an inherent quality (Geertz, 1973). Wedepict culture as causing consumer behavior in order to develop aframework that managers can easily implement to compare the behavior of consumers from different cultures and isolate the cultural causes of consumer behavior differences. Culture influences behavior through its manifestations: values, heroes, rituals, and symbols (Hofstede, 1997). These are the forms in which culturally-determined knowledge is stored and expressed. Thus, each cultural  group possesses different cultural manifestations. We utilize these manifestations, as they encompass most elements of culture described by other authors (e.g. Sojka and Tansuhaj, 1995). We will now describe the four manifestations in detail. Values. The term values rests at the heart of most definitions of culture. In fact, most research seems to agree that values drive an individual’s behavior. Historically, consumer researchers have often cited Rokeach (1968, p. 161), who viewed “a value as a centrally held, enduring belief which guides actions and judgments across specific situations and beyond immediate goals to more ultimate end-states of existence”. Examples of values are “freedom,” “pleasure”, “inner harmony”, and “happiness” (Rokeach, 1973). There are different taxonomies of values. For example, Rokeach’s view of values implies a differentiation between preferred end states of being (terminal values) and preferred modes of behavior or means to achieve end states (instrumental values). Other authors divide values into the desirable and the desired (Hofstede, 1980). Yet other authors classify values into global values, domain-specific values, and evaluations of product attributes (Vinson et al., 1977). Global values are the most centrally held, while attribute evaluations are the least central and are situation- specific. Hofstede’s (1980) landmark study of the dimensions of culture can be considered, an etic approach to the study of cultural values. That study explicitly described values as the core of culture and defined them using Rokeach’s definition. Hence, its premise was that the values preferred by a group of people separate them from other groups and thus cultures can be compared with each other using values as a standard. Hofstede’s studyCross-cultural

 

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revealed four dimensions of culture: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism, and masculinity. Emic research focusing on consumption and the meaning of objects in the lives of the individual has also applied values theory to explain how we organize information in our environment. McCracken (1988), for example, refers to “cultural principles”. These are the ideas according to which phenomena are organized, evaluated and construed. Examples of cultural principles include “strength”, “refinement”, or “naturalism”. Cultural principles help individuals assign meaning to the world that surrounds them. People’s behavior embodies and expresses these principles. McCracken’s cultural principles bear a strong resemblance to Rokeach’s values. Other emic researchers have also found cultural values to be at the root of certain consumer behavior processes such as the diffusion of innovations (Arnould, 1989). We can conclude, then, that both the etic and the emic philosophies seem to refer to similar constructs but from different perspectives (between-cultures versus within-cultures). The notion of values, or at least some variants of it, is central to most views of culture. The definition of values has evolved over time, but it has remained a central component of culture. Therefore, in this article we will use the term values as an inclusive construct composed of many of the variations in definitions and terminology developed by cross-cultural researchers. Heroes. The term heroes refers to “persons, alive or dead, real or imaginary, who possess characteristics which are highly prized in a culture, and who thusserve as models for behavior” (Hofstede, 1997, p. 8). This concept will be extended in the present article to include reference groups and opinion leaders (McCracken, 1986, 1989). Heroes may influence consumer behavior through their association with certain products and brands (e.g. Michael Jordan and Nike sports apparel). Marketing communications offer an obvious vehicle for this association. Rituals. The concept of rituals is often erroneously interpreted as behavior of religious or mystical significance. While religious rituals are indeed an important type of ritual, Rook’s (1985, p. 252) definition of rituals is much broader: The term ritual refers to a type of expressive, symbolic activity constructed of multiple behaviors that occur in a fixed, episodic sequence, and that tend to be repeated over time. Ritual behavior is dramatically scripted and acted out and is performed with formality, seriousness, and inner intensity. McCracken (1988, p. 84) adds that a ritual is “a social action devoted to the manipulation of the cultural meaning for purposes of collective and individual communication and categorization. Ritual is an opportunity to affirm, evoke, assign, or revise the conventional symbols and meanings of the cultural order”. While Rook’s (1985) definition focuses on the form that rituals take, McCracken’s emphasizes the goal of ritual behavior.International

 

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Rituals are pervasive in any society. There are grooming rituals, romantic rituals, feeding rituals, and they are constantly being performed by all members of a society. Rituals are important for consumer behavior because they involve the consumption of goods and services. Rituals give origin to consumers’ cognitive schemata and scripts, which ultimately reinforce ritualistic behavior. Marketers’ actions moderate the reciprocal relationship between rituals and consumer behavior through advertising, which models ritualistic behavior and helps it spread. Consumer products play a significant role in ritualistic behavior. Products can be employed in their symbolic  capacity to operationalize the ritual (Solomon and Anand, 1985). Products can be considered, therefore, as ritual artifacts and their consumption as part of a ritual. Symbols. Symbols are a broad category of processes and objects that carry a meaning that is unique to a particular group of people (Geertz, 1973, p. 89). Hence, a society’s symbols may not exist in different cultures, or their meaning may be different. Language is a set of symbols, as are different gestures, pictures, or objects. The symbols most frequently studied by consumer researchers are language (Sherry and Camargo, 1987) and consumer products. Several authors have examined the symbolic nature of products and consumption. We can infer from this body of research that product symbolism is generated at the societal level (Solomon, 1983). Cultural values, expressed in society’s perceptions of reality and beliefs of what is desirable,seem to be transferred to products through vehicles like advertising (Belk, 1985). These products then become charged with cultural meaning. For example, a pair of sneakers can be elevated to a cultural symbol for the value “a sense of accomplishment” by ads that show Michael Jordan wearing them. Finally, individuals, in their efforts to define their social self, are moved to consume the products which are now charged with symbolic meaning (Durgee, 1986). The central role of values. We can infer from previous research (e.g. Belk, 1985; Hofstede, 1997) that values have a central role amongst the other manifestations of culture and that the relationship between these and values is characterized by a mutual influence. Hence, symbols generally express cultural values. Through consumption rituals, consumer goods become symbols of cultural values. At the same time, symbols reinforce values, or may even shift them. For example, if basketball shoes are seen as a symbol for wealth and repeated advertising associates wealth with a desirable end state, values may shift in certain societal groups toward considering wealth as a terminal value. The nature of the relationship between language-as-a-symbol and values has been subject to debate (e.g. Pinker, 1994). Some authors suggest that language influences values, and others propose that cultural values determine the form of languages. It is possible that the relationship is bidirectional. For example, cultural values may motivate the creation of words that may notCross-cultural

 

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exist in other cultures. At the same time, language may give origin to values that are literally “unthinkable” in other cultures because of a lack of adequate terms to discuss them (consider the revolution that Arabic numerals brought to mathematics and the subsequent shift in cultural values concerning the physical world). However, existing research seems to be inconclusive in this area. The definition of heroes as expressed above implies that heroes are an embodiment of cultural values. Heroes are chosen because they are individuals or groups that represent what members of a cultural group believe in. The relationship between values and heroes can also be bidirectional. As described by McCracken (1986, p. 76), new cultural meanings can be invented “in a modest way. This invention is undertaken by opinion leaders who help shape and refine existing cultural meaning, encouraging the reform of cultural categories and principles”. The definitions of rituals included in this article imply that rituals are for the most part an affirmation of values. However, rituals can also influence cultural values to the point where values may be revised and cultural meaning is manipulated (McCracken, 1986). For example, consider a rite of passage that muncovers or reinforces certain values upon the uninitiated individuals, thus making them members of the group. Consumer behavior elements. The elements of consumer behavior listed in Figure 1 are drawn from previous work in consumer research and are expressed in the American Marketing Association’s definition of consumer behavior as “the dynamic interaction of affect and cognition, behavior, and the environment by which human beings conduct the exchange aspects of their lives” (Bennett, 1995). In this article, cognition includes any construct or process that refers to memory structures or self-construal. Affect refers to the attitude/intention formation process and its outcomes: attitudes toward an entity, either material (e.g. products) or abstract (e.g. an ethnic group). Behavior includes individual choices and behavior patterns, such as media usage or food shopping. A framework and review of cross-cultural consumer behavior Figure 1 is useful in describing the interaction of culture and consumer behavior. From this understanding, we developed a framework that expresses the effect that each of the manifestations of culture has on the elements of consumer behavior. Table I represents the framework. Reviewed studies are subcategorized according to their approach (emic/etic) to further highlight where gaps in information may exist. Following Douglas et al. (1994, p. 298), we considered studies based on anthropological, ethnographic or semiotic perspectives and studies which focused on the analysis of behavior within one culture as essentially emic in character. On the other hand, studies based on a cognitive or social psychology perspective and studies which compared cultures on certain dimensions were considered etic in nature. Table I alsoincludes examples of managerial issues for each of the culture-consumerInternational

 

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Table I.

An integrative framework of the effect of culture on consumer Behavior a  Cognition Affect Behavior Values Etic approach: Etic approach: Etic approach: Information processing (McCort and Malhotra, 1993) Self-construal (Aaker and Schmitt, 1997) Attribute perception (Shimp and Sharma, 1987) Emic approach: Cultural categories and mental schemata (McCracken, 1988; D’Andrade, 1992) Examples of managerial issues: How do consumers use time, what makes time move quickly/slowly for them? What values are considered positive in your consumers’ culture? Are country of origin effects important in your market? How do consumers categorize your product? Who is your competition? Ad-elicited attitudes (Taylor et al., 1997; Gregory and Munch, 1997; Han and Shavitt, 1994; Zhang and Gelb, 1996; Aaker and Williams, 1998) Generalizability of ELM (Aaker and Maheswaran, 1997) Generalizability of intention models  (Lee and Green, 1991; Cote and Tansuhaj, 1989) Ethnocentrism and attitude toward products (Shimp and Sharma, 1987; Netemeyer et al., 1991) Preference judgments (Perkins and Reynolds, 1988) Representation of affect (Bagozzi et al., 1999)Examples of managerial issues: What is the expected level of information in an ad? What positive values can use/ ownership of your product be linked to? Is your product consumed in public or private? Importance of parents in attitude formationGeneral consumption patterns (Hirshman, 1981; Shim and Gehrt, 1996; Sood and Nasu, 1995; Ellis et al., 1985) Response to sales promotions (Huff and Alden, 1998) Information exchange (Dawar et al., 1996) Family purchasing roles (Ford et al.,1995) Ethnocentrism and car purchase (Shimp and Sharma, 1987) Examples of managerial issues: Do your consumers act as members of identifiable culture groups/or a diverse mix? Does country of origin affect purchase of your product? Do people attend religious servicesevery week? Who controls purchasing in the household?(continued)?|Cross-cultural

 

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Table I. Cognition Affect Behavior Symbols Etic approach: Language as symbol ± psycholinguistics (Luna and Peracchio, 1999; Schmitt et al., 1994) Emic approach: Products as symbols (Levy, 1981) Language as symbol (Sherry and Camargo, 1987) Examples of managerial issues: What connotations does the language in your ads have? What products are symbols of nationalism? Modernism? Etic approach: Language as symbol ± sociolinguistics (Koslow et al., 1994) Language as symbol ± psycholinguistics (Pan and Schmitt, 1996) Example of managerial issues:  Which language produces betterattitudes toward your product? Etic approach: Language as symbol ± psycholinguistics (Dolinsky and Feinberg, 1986; Schmitt and Zhang, 1998) Emic approach: Products as symbols (Ger and Ostergaard,1998; Wallendorf and Arnould, 1988; Levy, 1981) Products as social stimuli (Solomon, 1983) Social interaction (Costa, 1989) Having, giving (Belk, 1985; 1990) Examples of managerial issues: Does consumption of your product contain symbolic meaning for the consumer? Heroes Etic approach: Perception of spokesperson ethnicity (Wilkes and Valencia, 1989) Emic approach: Perception of celebrity advertising (McCracken, 1989) Examples of managerial issues: What do consumers think about the actors in your ads? Can your targeted consumers see themselves as users of your product?  Etic approach: Attitudes elicited by spokesperson ethnicity (Deshpande and Stayman, 1994; Whittler, 1989) Examples of managerial issues: Do local ad actors produce better attitudes? Do the actors evoke the image you wish to portray of your product? (e.g. Ads to run in China, “We are local and part of your community” vs. “We are a symbol of U ifestyle”.) Etic approach: Influences in decision making (Childers and Rao, 1992) Example of managerial issues: Do people wear your brand just because their heroes do? (continued)_?|International

 

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Table I Cognition Affect Behavior Rituals Emic approach: Grooming rituals (Rook, 1985) Possession rituals (Mehta and Belk, 1991)Examples of managerial issues: Is your product connected to any rituals in the life of your targeted consumer? Is your product seen as an integral part of becoming an adult?  Emic approach: Preference for innovations (Arnould,  1989) Example of managerial issues: Does using your product make people feel part of their peer  groups? nEmic approach: Adoption of innovations (Arnould, 1989; Solomon and Anand, 1985) Examples of managerial issues:  Do foreign consumers use your products differently from your domestic consumers? Does the ritual usage of your product ? change as consumer segment changes?

Note:

A A similar table could be used as a checklist for managers seeking to understand how foreign consumers are affected by their cultures. Here, the table is used to list some of the articles that currently exist in each of the areas. In order to be included in our review, articles had to meet two important criteria: they had to be theoretically and methodologically rigorous, and they had to describe the connection between cultural and consumer behavior elements. This review was not meant to be all-inclusive, but rather selective. _?|Cross-cultural

 

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behavior interactions. We now proceed to review extant research on cross- cultural consumer behavior in light of our framework. The effect of values on consumer behavior Values and cognition. In their review, McCort and Malhotra (1993) describe a number of studies on the effect of cultural values on information processing issues such as perceptual categorization, perceptual inference and learning. For example, some studies have explored the effects of culture on cognitive processes like perception of time (e.g. BergadaaÁ , 1990). Similarly, Aaker and Schmitt (1997) examined the effect of cultural orientation, operationalized along the individualism-collectivism dimension, on self-construal. In a controlled experiment, Aaker and Schmitt (1997) found that both individualist and collectivist consumers use brands for self-expressive purposes (as in McCracken, 1988). They use brands, however, in different ways: collectivist consumers use brands to reassert their similarity with members of their reference group, while individualist consumers use brands to differentiate themselves from referent others. Consumer ethnocentrism is a construct often studied by cross-cultural researchers. The construct, as operationalized by Shimp and Sharma (1987), could be viewed as an instrumental value (Rokeach, 1973). In their study, Shimp and Sharma (1987) found that consumers’ ethnocentrism determines their perceptions of domestic versus foreign products (cognition), as well as their attitudes and behavior. Other studies of the relationship values-cognition have taken an emic perspective. McCracken (1988, p. 73) describes the notion of cultural categories: “cultural categories are the fundamental co-ordinates of meaning. They represent the basic distinctions with which a culture divides up the phenomenal world”. Categories are similar to the psychological construct of schemata. They help individuals organize and give meaning to the world. There are several types of cultural categories: categories of time, space, nature, and person. One of the most important ways in which categories are substantiated is through the consumption of goods. Cultural categories are formed according to cultural principles, or values. Similarly, D’Andrade (1992) also describes how mental schemata are influenced by culture. Thus, the anthropological view of culture also recognizes that cognitive constructs (i.e. categories) are determined by cultural  manifestations (i.e. values). Values and affect. Numerous studies have examined the role of cultural values on the attitude formation process. We can distinguish between advertising studies and consumer behavior studies. Affect toward the ad  and/or product represents two of the most important gauges of success in advertising. Therefore, a number of advertising researchers have examined  affective variables in cross-cultural advertising. In particular, several studies have attempted to ascertain the role of cultural values on ad-elicited attitudes. For example, Taylor et al. (1997) compared high and low contextInternational

 

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cultures (Korea and the USA, respectively). Their results indicated that consumers from low context cultures preferred commercials with high levels of information. Gregory and Munch (1997) examined cross-cultural differences in ad effectiveness along the individualistic/collectivistic dimension. Their findings suggest that ads that depict norms and roles consistent with local cultural values are more effective than ads which do not. Han and Shavitt (1994) and Zhang and Gelb (1996) also examined ad effectiveness in individualistic versus collectivistic cultures. They found that ads emphasizing individualistic benefits were more persuasive in the USA. On the other hand, ads that focused on family or in-group benefits were more effective in Korea. Product category moderated these results: the effect of congruity between culture and the ad appeals was more pronounced for publicly used products than for products purchased and used privately. Contrary to those findings, Aaker and Williams (1998) showed that ego- focused emotional appeals can elicit more favorable evaluations from collectivist consumers, while other-focused emotional appeals can produce better results with individualist consumers. The authors justify these counterintuitive results by theorizing that appeals that do not match the value orientation of consumers are processed more intently than ads that match their values. The authors, however, acknowledge that, perhaps in public situations or with more publicly-consumed products, the results might follow the opposite, more intuitive pattern found by previous studies (e.g. Han and Shavitt, 1994). These seemingly contradictory results warrant a more detailed examination of the role of cultural values on ad effectiveness. Also studying cross-cultural advertising, Aaker and Maheswaran (1997) examine the cross-cultural generalizability of dual-process models of persuasion such as the ELM (Petty et al., 1983). Aaker and Maheswaran’s (1983) findings reveal that, while the models can be applied in different cultural contexts, cue diagnosticity may be affected by cultural values (i.e. certain cues may be considered central by one culture and peripheral by another). Some consumer behavior studies that do not focus on advertising have attempted to determine the generalizability of models developed in the USA to other cultures. For example, Lee and Green (1991) found that the Fishbein behavioral intentions model can also be applied to collectivistic cultures. Their study suggests, however, that in a collectivist culture the societal norms component of the model has a higher relative weight than in individualistic cultures. Similarly, Cote and Tansuhaj (1989) explored the culture-bound assumptions in behavior intention models. Other cross-cultural studies of affect have examined the representation of affect (bipolar versus dialectic) in independent-based cultures like the USA versus interdependent-based cultures like China (Bagozzi et al., 1999). Values and behavior. Anthropologists have long theorized about the influence of culture on decision making (Stewart, 1985). In consumerCross-cultural

 

 

 

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research, several studies have focused on how cultural values are materialized in consumers’ observable behavior. Hirschman’s (1981) study of Jewish subculture in the USA, for example, found that Jewish consumers differed from non-Jewish consumers in childhood exposure to information, adulthood information seeking, product innovativeness, and product information transfer. Also examining subcultural differences in the USA, Shim and Gehrt (1996) found that Whites, Native Americans, and Hispanics tended to approach shopping with orientations consistent with the values predominant in their respective groups. Sood and Nasu (1995) focused on consumer behavior differences originating in the different religious values of the USA and Japan. An unusual approach taken by Ellis et al. (1985)  measured the “Chineseness” trait among US consumers and the impact it had on their behavior. Other studies concerned with consumers’ behavior as it is affected by cultural values have focused on specific behaviors, such as response to sales promotions (Huff and Alden, 1998), information exchange patterns (Dawar et al., 1996) and family purchasing roles (e.g. Ford et al., 1995). Altogether, values seem to be the manifestation of culture most often studied by researchers, which confirms that values are a central construct in an individual’s cultural identity. In other words, values may be the most important of the four manifestations of culture (Hofstede, 1997), and can be used effectively to distinguish one culture from another. Researchers willing to explore the role of cultural values on consumer behavior must reconcile the seemingly contradictory findings of some of the studies described in this section. The effect of symbols on consumer behavior Symbols and cognition. Most research in this area has explored the impact of language on consumers’ cognition, for the most part in an advertising context. The study of cognition and cognitive structures lends itself naturally to being studied through the tools of cognitive psychology. Hence, several studies in this area apply psycholinguistics theories to consumer information processing. The study of language in advertising has experienced increased attention from researchers. For example, Luna and Peracchio (1999) extend two theories developed by researchers in psycholinguistics to advertising targeting bilingual consumers. Schmitt et al. (1994) compare speakers of Chinese and English and the implications that structural differences in languages have for consumers’ information processing and mental representations (e.g. whether visually or auditorily presented information is remembered better). Other researchers have taken an anthropological, interpretative approach in the study of the relationship between symbols and cognition. For example, Levy (1981) investigated how consumers’ values, expressed in symbolic food consumption, affect their interpretation of reality through story telling. Sherry and Camargo (1987) examined the effect of language as a symbol onInternational

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consumers’ cognition. Their study suggested that mixed-language (Japanese- English) ads communicate certain values that single-language ads could not express. Symbols and affect. The effect of language on ad-induced attitudes has received some attention. For example, Koslow et al. (1994) applied a sociolinguistic approach in their study of advertising to US Hispanics. The authors use accommodation theory to explain their results and argue that Hispanic consumers’ perception of the advertiser’s sensitivity toward their culture mediates language effects on attitudes. Positive responses to ads are evoked if they include at least some portions in the Spanish language. Panm and Schmitt (1996) followed a cognitive approach to show that a logograph- based writing system (i.e. Chinese writing) promotes visual processing, while alphabetic systems promote aural processing during attitude formation. Symbols and behavior. Studies that focus on the impact of symbols on the observed behavior of consumers across cultures follow two distinct methodologies. Some practice traditional methods adopted from psychology (or psycholinguistics), and others employ an interpretative approach in the anthropological tradition. The former tend to focus on the role of language on consumers’ behavior, while the latter venture into symbols other than language. Using a psycholinguistics approach, Dolinsky and Feinberg (1986) examine language and how consumers from bilingual subcultures process information in their first versus their second language. They find that second language processing leads to information overload and suboptimal decisions more easily than first language processing. Schmitt and Zhang’s (1998) study suggests that language shapes some mental schemata, which may lead to different choices across cultures/languages. Other studies of symbols and consumer behavior focus on the symbolic nature of consumption using an interpretative research methodology. Ger and Ostergaard (1998) show that the symbolic consumption of clothes reflects the often conflicting cultural values of the Turkish and Danish cultures. Wallendorf and Arnould (1988) found that personal memories give meaning to the possession of favorite objects in the USA, while social status is the main source of meaning in Niger. Therefore, the symbolic nature of consumption and/or possession varies from one culture to another. The effect of heroes on consumer behavior Heroes and cognition. Wilkes and Valencia (1989) explore how heroes influence the cognitive processes of consumers. Their results show that there may be an “ethnic bias” in the perception of the prominence of the roles played by actors of the same ethnicity as the consumer. For example, Hispanic consumers may see Hispanic actors as playing a more important role than they actually do. At a more theoretical level, McCracken (1989) described how celebrity endorsement operates as a process of meaning transfer. Culturally-constituted meaning first moves into the persona of theCross-cultural

 

 

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celebrity. Then, the meaning moves from the celebrity into the product. Finally, it moves from the product into the consumer. Heroes and affect. The effect of spokesperson ethnicity on the effectiveness of advertising has been explored in several studies (Deshpande and Stayman, 1994). One significant result from this research is that the more consumers are aware of their own ethnicity/culture, the more effective will be a spokesperson from the consumers’ ethnic/cultural group. Additionally, consumers holding a higher degree of racial stereotypes will tend to employ racially focused heuristics in their product evaluations (Whittler, 1989). Heroes and behavior. Most research examining the relationship between culture-specific heroes and consumers’ behavior has focused on the role of reference groups on consumer decision making. Childers and Rao (1992) examined family and peer influences in consumers’ decisions across cultures. Both studies found differences in the groups influencing consumers: in countries with traditionally strong family ties (e.g. Mexico, Thailand), family members had a stronger influence on a consumer’s choices than in countries in which the family plays a less prominent role (e.g. the USA). The effect of rituals on consumer behavior Few cross-cultural studies explore the role of rituals in consumer behavior. One exception is Mehta and Belk’s (1991) study of the possession ritual of Indians and Indian immigrants to the USA. The authors describe the use of possessions by immigrants in securing identity. Possessions are seen as a symbol to retain their Indian identity in public settings, and the possession ritual helps shape their cognitive structures, their perception of the self. Arnould (1989) describes the preference formation process within ritualistic behavior in the Niger Republic and also how rituals influence the behavior of consumers in that culture. Solomon and Anand (1985) describe how female rites of passage in contemporary New York determine clothing consumption. The relationship between values, symbols, rituals and consumer behavior is a complicated one. As Mehta and Belk (1991, pp. 408-09) assert, “rather than a result of the persistence of abstract Indian cultural values . . . the data in this study suggest that this [ritual] may be a strategy of aggregate identity preservation anchored in more concrete symbols”. Thus, rituals may not necessarily reflect the values of the culture where the rituals originate. Indian food may be eaten by Indian immigrants in the USA (a ritual), but food purity precepts are ignored (a traditional Indian cultural value). Instead, the rituals serve as an outward sign to secure one’s identity. Researchers must investigate these complex relationships in future studies, particularly as they apply to each of the three components of consumer behavior: cognition, affect, and behavior.International

 

 

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Research issues for the twenty-first century The effect of manifestations of culture on consumer behavior Cultural differences between social groups materialize in four manifestations: values, symbols, and rituals (Hofstede, 1997). Values have received most of the attention from cross-cultural consumer researchers. The literature on the effect of values on consumer behavior dimensions must now be complemented by research on the other three manifestations of culture. In particular, symbols and rituals must be more clearly understood in order to better define their effect on the dimensions of consumer behavior. Other research questions that need to be addressed include: . What is the relationship among the different manifestations of culture? Are cultural values always the origin of symbols, rituals and heroes? If values indeed determine the specific form of the other three manifestations, is there also a reciprocal effect? How stable and exhaustive are the manifestations of culture? Models of consumer behavior may need to be expanded to take into account cultural dimensions. This could be done by either generalizing existing models to include cultural variables (e.g. items belonging to the four cultural manifestations of our framework), or by implementing different models in different cultures. Following are several examples of how future research might proceed in this task. Values and consumer behavior. Models of the diffusion of innovation or of new product adoption (Rogers, 1983) need to be generalized to include cultural variables (Takada and Jain, 1991). For example, cultures in which following tradition is considered a terminal value may have relatively slow adoption and diffusion curves. In contrast, cultures in which innovativeness is seen as an important value will have much faster adoption cycles. Symbols and consumer behavior. In advertising research, the resource matching hypothesis (Peracchio and Meyers-Levy, 1997) predicts that an ad’s effectiveness depends on finding a balance between the required and available resources to process the ad. When targeting other cultures, it is likely that a firm will be targeting bilingual or multilingual individuals. As shown by Luna and Peracchio (1999), if individuals are presented with a message in their second language, the resources available for processing the ad will be substantially diminished. This will subsequently impact the relative effectiveness of ads. Therefore, the resource matching hypothesis could be generalized to take into account cultural variables like language or, more generally, symbols. Rituals and consumer behavior. Consumer purchase models relying on scanner data which incorporate variables such as price, promotions or advertising may need to be generalized to include cultural variables. For example, if an item is being consumed as part of a ritual (e.g. curry powder toCross-cultural

 

 

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affirm one’s belonging to an Indian subculture), price and other variables might lose at least some of their significance. Heroes and consumer behavior. Models such as the Fishbein behavioral intentions model may need to be revisited (Lee and Green, 1991). For example, a specific culture could place a strong weight on certain subjective norms like the household elder’s opinion, while other cultures may tend to place emphasis on other heroes, or on none at all. The relative weight of attitudinal and subjective norm components may also shift from one culture to another. For example, in Western cultures, group interests are not considered as important as they are in Eastern cultures. In summary, consumer behavior models must take culture into account. Our nframework could be used by researchers to identify the factors that might have to be considered. Feedback effects and moderators Figure 1 specifies that the relationship between the manifestations of culture and the dimensions of consumer behavior is bidirectional. For example, through their actions, consumers validate and reinforce their culture. This assertion is supported by previous conceptual work (Peter and Olson, 1998), but must be explored empirically by future researchers. For example, McCracken (1986) describes how the consumption of goods (a behavior) becomes a symbol of cultural values. Solomon’s (1983) application of symbolic interactionism to consumer behavior may serve as a framework for future empirical investigations. The model depicted in Figure 1 also includes one main moderator, marketing communications. Most existing research on how marketers’ actions affect culture examines the consequences of advertising on cultural values. Thus, conceptual/theoretical studies suggest that advertising can either reinforce or shift cultural values (McCracken, 1986, 1988, 1989; Belk, 1988; Ger and Belk, 1996) and symbols (Belk, 1988). However, empirical studies that examine the influence of advertising on cultural values are inconclusive, and sometimes contradictory. In their empirical work, several researchers have found that ads support and reinforce values (Belk and Bryce, 1986) or change them (Pollay and Gallagher, 1990), but other studies suggest that advertising has no significant effect on values like materialism (Richins, 1987) and that product class may overwhelm advertising effects on cultural values (McCarty and Hattwick, 1992). In any case, there seems to be a direct relationship between culture and advertising, as proved by a myriad content analyses of advertising comparing ads from different cultures (e.g. Murray and Murray, 1996). The mixed results obtained regarding the relationship between marketingmix and culture warrant further research in this area.International.

 

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Acculturation The increasing migration of people around the world creates complexity in most markets. As these people are exposed to their host culture they begin to acculturate and may adopt its norms of behavior. As Douglas and Craig (1997) suggest, increased migration is one of the forces that are causing “radical changes” in consumer behavior. Immigrants not only adapt, or acculturate, to their host culture, but they also change the culture themselves. Because of the mutual influence between immigrants and their host culture, some researchers refer to acculturation as one of the components of a more general construct, cultural interpenetration, which includes the bidirectional links between immigrants and their host culture (Andreasen, 1990). Acculturation has been found to moderate the effect of (sub)culture on consumer behavior by a number of researchers. Studies have found that acculturation has a moderating effect on affective variables such as attitudes toward advertising (Deshpande et al., 1986), attitudes toward models featured in advertising (Ueltschy and Krampf, 1997), and on the comparative persuasion of TV commercials in different languages (Roslow and Nicholls, 1996). Acculturation also moderates subcultural influences on behavior, such as spousal or family roles in consumer decision making (Ganesh, 1997; Webster, 1994), general consumption patterns (Wallendorf and Reilly, 1983), the weights given to certain attributes in the choice process (Kara and Kara, 1996), coupon usage (Hernandez and Kaufman, 1991), and brand loyalty and purchase of prestige products (Deshpande et al., 1986). Thus, the moderating role of immigrant acculturation highlights the importance of understanding how culture affects consumer behavior even at the domestic level. Researchers must continue to systematically define the effect of consumers’ acculturation, particularly as it relates to each of the components of consumer behavior and the manifestations of culture. Unfortunately, measurement problems abound (Gentry et al., 1995; PenÄaloza, 1994), so future research must develop a theoretically sound yet practically efficient method of measuring consumers’ acculturation. The role of mass media on immigrants’ consumer behavior is also an area that requires further exploration (Andreasen, 1990). Future studies must also examine the role of immigration on the host culture. Managerial implications Our framework can be useful for managers by providing them with a checklist to ensure that all possible sources of variation in consumer behavior due to cultural differences are taken into account. In this section, we discuss several examples of potential applications of our framework to managerial situations. Market comparisons If a firm is considering which foreign markets to enter and with whatmarketing mix, it may want to evaluate which markets possess similar culturalCross-cultural.

 

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characteristics. Once this is ascertained, the firm could offer a relatively standardized marketing mix in those cultures possessing high similarity ratings. Cultural similarity ratings could be built by listing a series of issues of importance to the firm under each of the bivariate interactions between cultural manifestations and consumer behavior components. Once distance scores have been computed for each of the issues of interest, global similarity scores can be computed among countries, or individual scores could be mapped using an MDS algorithm. Marketing planning Following Kotler (1997), the marketing process consists of developing a Segmentation-Targeting-Positioning scheme and designing a marketing mix to support it. Our framework could help marketing managers in this endeavor. For example, suppose a UK executive of a soft drink manufacturer, Caf-Cola, is assigned to the East-Central European region as a marketing director. The region comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. While the executive believes the three markets have relatively similar characteristics, she also believes that each country should have its own marketing plan. Our framework could be used to develop a good understanding of each market and, at the same time, retain a uniform procedure for segmentation which could be used in the three markets. Segmentation could proceed as follows: First, develop a list of items for each of the bivariate interactions between cultural manifestations and cultural components. Next, administer the items as a survey to a sample drawn from the market(s) of interest. Then, follow standard segmentation procedures to analyze the data (e.g. factor analysis, . . .). In the end, any of the interactions between culture components and consumer behavior components could be a potential basis for segmentation. This segmentation methodology would go beyond values segmentation, incorporating the other cultural manifestations in a more comprehensive approach. Targeting could then be carried out for the segment(s) identified in the above procedure for which Caf-Cola believes it has a competitive advantage.Positioning of the product or service in each market would be implemented accordingly. Similar marketing mixes could be implemented across markets (i.e. in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia) for segments which are culturally similar along the segmentation criteria and are present in multiple nmarkets. Ultimately, firms like Caf-Cola should consider the congruity of their marketing mix (e.g. ads) not only with the values, symbols, heroes and rituals of a culture, but also with how those cultural manifestations influence the cognition, affect and behavior of consumers. Finally, it should be noted that marketing communications can be a powerful tool to shift or reinforce cultural manifestations. McCracken (1986), for example, explains how advertising can create symbols. Hence, a firm interested in transforming a luxury automobile into a symbol for the values “natural living” and “understated success” can associate its brand with those values through advertising until consumers perceive the automobile brand toInternational

 

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be synonymous with the values. Rituals and heroes can similarly be created by advertising. Values, as the central and most enduring manifestation of culture, may be more difficult to change. However, in the long term, values such as “sophistication” or “Americanness” could be awakened in consumers of certain cultures through repeated advertising or public relations. Conclusion This article provides a framework that integrates and reinterprets current research in cross-cultural consumer behavior. The framework is of a practical nature in that it can be easily operationalized by managers and consumer researchers interested in understanding how culture shapes consumer behavior. This framework is distilled from a more general model of the relationship between culture and consumer behavior. Managers can use the framework as a template to examine how consumers in foreign markets will react to their products or services. For example, a marketer entering a foreign country could research each of the cells in Table I to identify potential culture- related problems or issues. Academic researchers will find the framework useful because it identifies strengths of the current body of literature and the areas that require further attention. Additionally, this article attempts to reconcile two different approaches in the study of culture as it affects consumer behavior. Etic and emic philosophies are seen as two sides of the same coin, each complementing the other. Through the integration of previous work on cross-cultural consumer behavior, our framework provides a global view of the interaction of culture and consumer behavior. Consumer researchers must now investigate the areas within the framework for which there is a lack of rigorous study.

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