The social and cultural environment in marketing

It is crucial for marketers to fully appreciate the cultural values of a society, especially where an organization is seeking to do business in a country that is quite different to its own. Attitudes to specific products change through time and at anyone time can differ between groups in society.

Even in home markets, business organizations should understand the processes of gradual cultural change and be prepared to satisfy the changing needs of consumers. Consider the following examples of contemporary cultural change in western Europe and the possible responses of marketers.

  • Leisure is becoming a bigger part of many people’s lives, and marketers have responded with a wide range of leisure related goods and services.
  • Attitudes towards the work/life balance are changing. The nature of work relation- ships can affect companies profits; for example, the dotcom bubble and dress-down Friday had a calamitous impact on the formal clothing retailer Moss Bros’ fortunes as consumers’ attitudes to work changed
  • The role of women in society is changing as men and women increasingly share ex- pectations in terms of employment and household responsibilities. Examples of marketing responses include cars designed to meet the aspirational needs of career women and ready prepared meals, which relieve working women of their traditional role in preparing household meals.
  • Greater life expectancy is leading to an ageing of population and a shift to an increasingly elderly culture. Or at this time with 60 % of the population being in the age of 15-40 years the Indian market is considered a youth market.
  • The growing concern for the environment

Some indication of the minutiae of changing life-styles and their implications for marketing was revealed in a report, Complicated Lives II: The Price of Complexity [06], commissioned by Abbey National from the Future Foundation. The report brought together quantitative and qualitative research with extensive analysis of a range of trends affecting families and their finances. The findings show that, between 1961 and 2001,

  • the average time women spent in a week doing cleaning and laundry fell from 12 hours and 40 minutes to 6 hours and 18 minutes;
  • the average time that parents spent helping their children with homework had increased from 1 minute a day to 15 minutes a day;
  • time spent caring for children increased from 30 minutes a day to 75 minutes a day; .the average amount of time spent entertaining went up from 25 minutes to 55 minutes; .time spent cooking has decreased for women, down from more than 1 hour and 40 minutes to just over an hour (73 minutes) per day. At the same time, men marginally increased their time in the kitchen, from 26 to 27 minutes per day.

There has been much discussion recently about the concept of ‘cultural convergence’, referring to an apparent decline in differences between cultures. It has been argued that basic human needs are universal in nature and, in principle, capable of satisfaction with universally similar solutions. Many companies have sought to develop one core product for a global market, and there is some evidence of firms achieving this (for example Coca Cola, McDonald’s). The desire of a subculture in one country to imitate the values of those in another culture has also contributed to cultural convergence. This is nothing new. During the Second World War many people in western Europe sought to follow the American life-style, and nylon stockings from the USA became highly sought-after cultural icons by some groups. The same process is at work today in many developing countries, where some groups are seeking to identify with western cultural values through the purchases they make.

Critics of the trend towards cultural convergence point to a growing need for cultural , identity which has been expressed, for example, in the rejection by some Muslim  fundamentalist groups of the values of western society. This poses new challenges for brand name and product offer will be the object of aspiration for the dominant groups in a country, rather than a hated symbol of an alien system of capitalism?