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Cultural influences on consumer behaviour

Several factors influence consumer behaviour, but the most important factors are the cultural ones. Cultural factors can be defined as a set of values and ideologies of a particular community or group of individuals. An individual is influenced during his existence by his family, his friends and his cultural environment or society. All of them will teach him values, and these values will influence his buying behaviour. Consumer behaviour of an individual can be influenced by three elements: religion, status (upper, middle or lower class) and gender (male or female).

Regarding religion, some people do not eat certain foodstuffs because eating them would be considered as a sin. For instance, Hindus do not eat beef while Muslims and Christians appreciate it. And for the Muslims, eating pork is against their religion. There is also some restrictions for clothes. In India, widows are expected to be wearing white clothes, otherwise they are treated with suspicion.

Then, a person from the upper class would never buy the same things as a person from the middle or lower class. In the upper class, people are used to own some luxurious things such as expensive gadgets, or a car. In the lower class, they would never spend money on such items and would rather spend money on necessary items. People from the middle class usually buy things to secure their future.

There are also differences concerning the gender. In our culture, males are not expected to buy and use beauty products, only females do. In our culture, if a male put makeup on, he would be laughed at. But in some other cultures a male buying fairness creams would not be judged.

Therefore, companies which are trading in international markets have to adapt to these elements. It is then important for marketers to understand the cultural impact on consumer behaviour. They have to study the specific cultures of their potential target markets to determine if their products are acceptable to its members; and some companies understand that very well.

That is the case for McDonald’s, which is a brilliant example of adaptation to the specificities of each culture and each market. To meet the needs and tastes of all the cultures, McDonald’s created some products like a McBaguette in France (with French baguette and Dijon mustard), a Chicken Maharaja Mac and a Masala Grill Chicken in India (with Indian spices) as well as a Mega Teriyaki Burger (with teriyaki sauce) or Gurakoro (with macaroni gratin and croquettes) in Japan.

If companies understand the differences between cultures, and learn how consumers think according to their culture, they will be able to produce good ways of communication and sell their products properly.

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