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The Impact of Subcultures on Marketing

Subculture Marketing Can Influence Consumer Behavior

To understand subculture marketing, it is essential to understand the meaning of subculture. Generally speaking, subculture can be defined as a distinct cultural group that exists within a society or a dominant culture. Members of a subculture have different beliefs, perceptions, and values from other members of the same community. A few examples of subcultural groups can be northerners, southerners, elderly, religious groups, geographic regions, etc. Because of the differences between subcultures and the leading society, there are differences in consumption patterns. Thus, marketers can target different products for different subcultural groups. For example, immigrants in the U.S. come from different cultural backgrounds. Consequently, they retain the same consumer behavior, pride, and tradition from their birth countries.

Furthermore, the existence of subcultures gives companies target markets that they can develop. Roughly eighty percent of people will most likely buy a product if a friend or family member refers to them. It means that community value is more important than what businesses tell their consumers. As can be seen, the impact of subcultures on marketing strategies and consumer behavior is significant. This post attempts to understand the role of subcultures in marketing, especially religious subcultures, and geographic regions.

The Influence of Subcultures on Unique Marketing Aspects and Consumer Behaviors

Cultures affect consumer behavior through the unthinking and spontaneous manner of consumers. For example, when a person drives past a billboard, that person does not have enough time to process that billboard thoroughly. Instead, the person’s opinion on the advertisement is likely to be influenced by his or her culture. In the experiment conducted by the author, people are divided into two groups by their cultures: Anglo Americans and Asian Americans. The two cultural groups are then shown two commercials by Welch, which is a famous grape juice producer.

The first commercial is promotional, which focuses on the benefits of drinking Welch’s grape juices (e.g., increase energy level). The second commercial concentrates on the preventive effect of drinking Welch’s grape juices (e.g., reduce risks of certain types of cancer). The result is that Asian Americans prefer the preventive commercial while Anglo Americans favor the promotional ad. However, when asked to examine the two ads more carefully, there is no difference in how the two cultural groups rated the commercials. This outcome indicates that cultures can only affect marketing and consumer behavior on a spontaneous level. Once consumers have time to study more about the products, the influence of religions on marketing decreases.

When a new product is launched, regarding subculture marketing, companies should take into account the influences by cultural differences because consumers have not had time to get to know the products. Their cultures will heavily influence them. For example, consumers in the United States are perceived as immensely individualistic. In other words, Americans make their purchasing decisions based on personal choices. On the other hand, Japanese consumers are inclined to buy and consume products or services, depending on the prosperity of a collective group such as their friends and family. Due to this cultural difference, marketing advertisements that focus on individuals have superior performance in individualistic cultures such as the United States. Likewise, marketing advertisements that concentrate on groups tend to do better in collective countries such as Japan.

An excellent case of how a business can make its product appealing to different cultures is Apple. Apple does not customize its iPhones based on perceptions. This design helps eliminate the two disadvantages described in the previous paragraph. However, people across the globe are still impressed and loyal to iPhones despite their cultural differences. The reason behind this is that Apple offers cultural customizations through customer experience, not through its physical products. For example, Apple’s stores are customized, based on cultures.

In spite of common elements like the Genius Bar, the store experience is designed toward cultural differences. For instance, Apple’s store in Milan, Italy, has an entrance similar to a glass fountain that also serves as a background for the big Amphitheatre. This store helps re-energize a piazza in the heart of Milan. On the contrary, Apple’s store in Paris, France, offers architectural details with marble columns and mosaic floor tiles. This architect is ideal for Parisians’ tastes and cultures. In addition, Apple makes it easy for people to get supports in their languages with local phone numbers and live chat. Furthermore, Apple also tailors its applications towards cultural differences. For example, to enhance Chinese customers’ experience, when updating its GarageBand digital audio software, Apple included Chinese language and musical instruments, such as the Pipa and Erhu.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Being Influenced by Cultural Differences

The most significant advantage of being influenced by cultural differences is that company can reach broader audiences and expand its market. The more cultures companies can reach, the more prominent chances companies can find customers who need their products. One of the disadvantages of being influenced by cultural differences is that companies can quickly lose their unique identity.

For example, McDonald’s is famous for its beef burgers in the United States. However, this reputation on beef burgers does not exist in other countries, such as India, where beef is not accessible. Another disadvantage is that it is hard for companies to control the quality of their products or services across cultures. It is because the products and services are customized built upon perceptions. As a result, the class will vary based on the customization process. Another disadvantage is choosing the wrong cultural markets. It means that the markets are too small, or people in those cultures do not like the products.

Religious Subcultures and Their Implications for Marketing

Religion is one of the most influential and significant parts of the life of most human beings. As a matter of fact, around seventy percent of Americans associate themselves with a religion. Religious subcultures can affect consumer behavior and marketing strategy through four main components: beliefs, rituals, values, and community. In terms of the first component, which is beliefs, different religious subcultures share different views about it. For example, Christians believe in the afterlife while Buddhists share ideas about the permanent self, which is also known as an unchanging soul. Those beliefs may have some influence on specific marketing strategies. For example, previous studies have found that fear of death makes people want to buy more luxury products. However, the beliefs in the afterlife among Christians lower their death anxiety, thus, decreases their desire to purchase luxury products.

Second, rituals can be viewed as religious ceremonies that are performed in the same and prescribed manner or order. Some examples of routines are daily prayers, baptism, meditation, etc. Studies have found that cleansing or purification rituals of past sins or bad behaviors are likely to have an impact on consumer behavior. After those purification rituals, people will change their consumer behavior as an effort to fix their past mistakes and improve their lives. The changes in consumer behavior can be donating, becoming vegetarians, recycling, etc.

For these types of consumers, marketers can increase customer loyalty to their brands by showing how their products are compassionate towards animals and environmentally friendly. Third, religious values provide instructions and directions to believers about what, when, and how much to consume something. For example, Islamic dietary law does not allow its followers to eat pork. Marketers can take advantage of religious dietary restrictions to create a target market for their products by highlighting the fit between their products and customers’ religions. For instance, companies can use words such as “pure” in labeling their products.

The final component is the community. Religious consumers support other members of their religions and assist in satisfying their needs. Members of the religious subculture want to buy products to help preserve their identity and stand out from the rest.

If a company can offer a product that makes members of a religious subculture feel different to the rest and stimulates the development of their subculture, the members of that subculture will be loyal to that company and give the company a great word of mouth marketing that the company can ever have. This is also known as the brand community. When a consumer has become and remained a member of a brand community, that consumer is required to continue using and owning the brand. The brand community, in this case, is the religious subculture. When a consumer starts buying a product because of his or her religion, as long as that consumer remains being a follower of that religion, he or she will continue using the product.

A well-known illustration of how a firm can promote itself among religious communities is Chick-fil-A. The company has implemented robust marketing strategies to boost the company’s image within the Christian community. The company gives out CD’s and toys that contain Christian messages with children’s meals. Chick-fil-A also makes donations to several Christian organizations and charities such as Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru). The most persuasive evidence that shows the support of Chick-fil-A to Christian is to close all Chick-fil-A locations on Sundays, which was explained as a way to honor God.

Geographic Regions as Subcultures and Their Impact on Marketing Strategies

The way that marketers target geographic regions as subcultures in their marketing strategies is known as geographic segmentation. It is viewed as the division of a big market into different smaller markets that consist of customers with similar needs and product requirements. Companies may choose to market their products in one state, but not the others. They prefer to limit their markets to some geographic areas.

Geographic segmentation can have various forms such as the southern region versus the northern part, rural area versus urban area, cold area versus warm area, etc. The purpose of geographic segmentation is to deal with limited resources. Because companies have limited resources, it is impossible to make products that meet the demands of all customers. By choosing the best possible geographic regions to pursue, companies can focus their resources on specific markets to gain competitive advantages and better positions in those markets. The primary marketing strategy for geographic segmentation is product differentiation. It means that companies offer different products to different regions.

A famous example of this type of marketing strategy is McDonald’s. The company offers different versions of its burgers in different countries. For instance, in the U.S., McDonald’s is well-known for its beef burgers. However, in India, McDonald’s does not sell beef burgers. Instead, it focuses on promoting chicken burgers and veggie burgers. In Arabian countries, the company introduced McArabia chicken burgers.

Summary and Conclusions

In today’s business world, it is advantageous for marketers to consider the evolving consumer scenery in terms of culture and subculture differences. This is essential because marketers may try to approach different consumer groups with the same traditional marketing strategies. Marketing customizations based on subcultures can help companies expand their markets and earn customer loyalty. The typical example of marketing customizations is Apple. The company has customized its customer experience based on their cultures and regions.

Similarly, Chick-fil-A has its customization focuses on a specific religious subculture. This customization focus has increased customer loyalty and brand awareness of Chick-fil-A among the religious groups. Even though there are advantages of applying different marketing strategies to different cultures, there are some drawbacks, mostly that companies may lose their identity or choose the wrong target subcultural markets. Because there are advantages and disadvantages, companies should consider the costs and benefits of focusing on different subcultures before they deploy any marketing strategies.

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