Cultural Values

Culture is Prescriptive:

Culture involves ideal standards or patterns of behavior so that members of society have a common understanding of the right and proper way to think, feel and act. Norms are society’s rules or guidelines specifying what behavior is appropriate or inappropriate in given situations. For example, Americans generally take for granted the norm of first come first served. This rule affects our shopping patterns as we line up waiting to be served in a bank or restaurant. This type of norm is an example of a folk way, which is a customary and habitual way to acting. If someone broke in at the head of the line thus violating the norm, group members would likely respond negatively. Sanctions are pressures brought to bear on deviant individuals so that they conform their behavior to what society expects. It may be that other patrons in line might frown at or mutter remarks about the offender in an attempt to coerce acceptable behavior. Mores are norms (which have been generally codified into laws) that are vital to society’s survival and well being prohibiting such things as murder, robbery and treason. Violators of mores are often sanctioned eerily, such as punishment by death or imprisonment.

Although folkways and mores appear to be relatively stable and slow to change, our desire for novelty and variety as consumers must also be met. This occurs through the process of short term conformity. Fashions are folkways that are widely accepted within society and last for only a short time. Styles of clothing automobiles and home design illustrate how looks that are popular on year may be unpopular within a few years. Fads are folkways that are even shorter lived and accepted by only a narrow segment of the culture. Sometimes fads may become crazes, when individuals allow themselves to be preoccupied by them.

Cultural values are important to the organized and integrated nature of culture. A cultural value can be defined in a sociological perspective as a widely held belief or sentiment that some activities, relationships, feelings, or goals are important to the community’s identity or well being. In a psychological vein, values are defined as centrally held and enduring beliefs that guide actions and judgments across specific situations and beyond immediate goals to more ultimate end states of existence. Values therefore produce inclinations to respond to specific stimuli in standard ways. That is a specific behavior is expected to either help or hinder the attainment of some value or group of values. Consumers then are motivated to engage in behavior designed to enhance the achievement of certain values and to avoid those behaviors perceived to hinder the attainment of certain value states.

However, because there often is confusion over the concepts of attitudes and values, it may be useful at this point to clarify these terms. Attitudes can be viewed as the individual’s positive or negative evaluations of objects, situations or behaviors, which predispose the individual to respond is some manner. Values on the other hand, transcend specific objects and situations. They deal with modes of conduct (termed instrumental values) and end states of existence (called terminal values) that is, an individual who has a value has an enduring belief that a particular mode of conduct or end state existence is preferable to some other mode of conduct or end state of existence. Values serve as standards or criteria that tell us how to act, what to want, and what attitudes to hold, and they allow us to judge and compare ourselves with others. Compared to attitudes which focus directly on specific objects, situations or actions values transcend specific circumstances. Whereas individuals may possess thousands of attitudes they are likely to possess less than a hundred values.

Values are culturally determined this means that they are learned from social interaction largely from our families and friends in settings such as schools and churches. Values strongly influences consumer behavior; even though specific situations may dictate slightly different actions, overall there is much similarity in consumer behavior within a given culture such as in tastes, methods of shopping and so forth.

It is crucial for the marketer to understand society’s basic value structure so that strategy decisions do not fly in the face of ingrained cultural patterns. It is much easier to harmonize with the culture than to attempt to change fundamental cultural values.