Consumer Behavior and the Cultural Marketing Landscape

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by guest author: Dr. David S.B. Butler

The marketing planning process is initiated by setting goals that may be articulated as mission statements for a specific campaign or relationship with a client (Richardson et al. 2015). Marketing planning proceeds with target market analysis that identifies and evaluates the business environment (the context) where marketing will transpire. It is important to recognize that just because consumers share geographic space, this does not mean that they share common characteristics or that they will be receptive to the same promotional content.

Prioritizing the culture of consumers as a key element of marketing planning articulates which consumer segments of a target market are most receptive to offer(s) associated with a marketing initiative. “While an understanding of the cultural context of domestic business is invaluable, the importance of culture is even more vital within the international sphere…When studying both domestic and foreign societies, anthropologists are especially skilled in finding and explaining patterns of behavior that impact strategies and tactics” (Tian 2010). Fields (2014) contends, “Brands never speak directly to consumers or customers. It’s always through the medium of culture” CultureasCompetitiveAdvantageforMarketers. Therefore, marketers can maximize their effectiveness by localizing and customizing promotional content that meets the cultural expectations of consumer segments being targeted. Contemporary research makes it clear that marketing content that is consistent with the cultural perception of potential or recognized customers represents culturally customized content which “…decreases cognitive effort to process information on the site and represents an environment where demands are clearer, leading to easier navigation and favorable attitude toward the web site” (Singh and Periera 2005:25). Empirical studies evaluating consumer behavior make it clear that culture has a resounding impact on the perception and action of consumers. Singh and Periera (2005) explain “in a world where customers are one click away from a competitor’s web site…it would be disastrous to overlook what has been established as a key element affecting consumer preferences: culture” (Singh and Pereira 2005:25).

Incorporating cultural research into target market analysis offers marketers and their clients the opportunity to capitalize on cultural variation of consumers by producing culturally relevant content that is consistent with the ideals and expectations of cultural groups (Butler 2012). Research studies clearly indicate that customizing online content based on cultural expectations has a beneficial effect on consumer behavior and Web ROI (return on Internet advertising as well as website investment) (Singh Pereira 2005:24-25).

Recognizing the significance of cultural context to promotional content has led to the emergence of cultural marketing as a specialization that is applied toward target market analysis. Culture from the perspective of Business Anthropologists researching consumer behavior represents what consumers do (lifestyle choices, hobbies, purchasing decisions), how they do what they do (how conversions/purchases occur) and why they do it (motivations for making purchases). “Culture is the medium through which all communication travels, and it’s what complicates marketers’ efforts. Just as water bends light, culture changes – sometimes to a great degree – the direction, impact and meaning of communication” (Fields 2014). Marketers communicate through promotional content designed to persuade potential consumers to take action. “Many businesses concentrate their marketing efforts on one of several segments of a culture…understanding the cultural behaviors and attitudes of potential clients helps businesses market their products and services in relevant and effective ways” (Mack 2016).

Adding cultural affiliation of consumers to target market analysis facilitates a holistic understanding of consumers that enhances a marketer’s connection between promotional content and consumer expectations. In order for Business Anthropologists and marketers to create cultural consumer segments and customize content to connect with their potential consumers they must recognize the overarching significance of culture to the online and offline (brick and mortar) marketing landscape. Singh and Pereira (2005:24-25) suggest the Internet is made up of content that is the byproduct of culture and that culture is important to Internet Marketing because it represents a ubiquitous variable that influences online consumer behavior.

Cultural context defines the where (geographic location and culture of consumers), who (demographics, psychographics and culture of consumers), and what (product or service offer and sales/conversions) of target market analysis. Research and strategic planning undertaken to achieve goals for a marketing campaign should be relative to the cultural context of a marketing plan. A concept proposed here that is absent from contemporary marketing and Business Anthropology literature is Cultural Marketing Landscape. The cultural marketing landscape represents a context for target market analysis that applies cultural insights with geo-targeting and traditional consumer behavior analysis focusing on demographic and psychographic consumer segments. The evaluation of a target market as a cultural marketing landscape might facilitate 1) the development of several cultural segments and represent multi-cultural marketing OR 2) this landscape might represent a marketing context that contains a single cultural group targeted for advertising locally or abroad. To optimize consumer receptivity, contemporary marketing practice (online and in brick and mortar contexts) should capitalize on the opportunity presented by prioritizing culture and evaluate target markets as cultural marketing landscapes. If marketing context (the where and when of a marketing initiative) is overlooked rather than evaluated holistically the relationship between consumer segmentation, geographic space and culture will be overlooked and an opportunity to culturally customize content will be lost.


2015. Kiddon, Joan and Larry Light. New Brand Leadership: Managing at the Intersection of Globalization, Localization and Personalization. Pearson FT Press.

2013. Buzan, Tony and Chris Griffiths. Mind Maps for Business, 2nd Edition. Pearson International.

Dr. David S.B. Butler is a Professor in the Internet Marketing Program at Full Sail University and is a PhD in applied anthropology.  He specializes in cultural marketing, consumer behavior analysis, and target marketing analysis.   You can read more from Dr. Butler at: