Family forms and functions vary substantially around the world, even round the country. For example, where nepotism is seen as a problem in American organizations, it is more often seen as an organizing principle in Chinese and Mexican forms. Or consider the Dutch executive who lives with his mother, wife, and kids in home in Maastricht that his family has owned for the last 300 years. Then there’s the common practice of the high income folks in Cairo buying an apartment house and filling it up the extended family – grandparents, married siblings, cousins, and kids. Or how about the Japanese mother caring for her two children pretty much by herself, often sleeping with them at night, while her husband catches up on sleep during his four hours a day commuting via train And there’s the American family in California – both parents work like dogs to support their cars closets, and kids in college, all the while worrying about aging grandparents halfway across the country in Texas.

Even the ratio of male to female children is affected by culture. For example, the gender percentage of boys aged one to six is 52 in India and aged one to four is 55 in China. Obviously these ratios have long term implications for families and societies. Moreover, the favoritism of boys is deep seated in such cultures as demonstrated by the Chinese Book of Songs circa 800 BC:

All these differences lead directly to differences in how children think and behave. For example, individualism is being taught the first night the American infant is tucked into her own separate bassinette. Values for egalitarianism are learned the first time Dad washes the dishes in front of the kids or Mom heads off to work or the toddler learns that both Grandpa and little brother are properly called.


In most cultures the first social institution infants are exposed to outside the homes takes the form of a church, mosque, shrine, or temple. The impact of religion on the value systems of a society and the effect of value system on marketing must not be underestimated. For example, Protestants believe that one’s relationship with God is a personal one, and confessions are made directly through prayer. Alternatively, Roman Catholics confess to priests setting up a hierarchy within the Church. Thus some scholars reason that Protestantism engenders egalitarian thinking. But no matter the details, religion clearly does affect people’s bits, their outlook on life, the products they buy, the way they buy them, and even the newspapers they read.

The influence of religion is often quite strong. So marketers with little or no understanding of a religion my readily offend deeply. One’s own religion is often not a reliable guide to another’s beliefs. Most people do not understand religions other than this own, and / or what is known bout other religions is often incorrect. The Islamic religion is a good example of the need for a basic understanding of all major religions. Between 800 million and 1.2 billion people in the world embrace Islam, yet major multinational companies often offend Muslims. The French fashion housed of Chanel unwittingly desecrated the Koran by embroidering verses from the sacred book of Islam on several dresses shown in its summer collections. The designer said he had taken the design, which was aesthetically pleasing to him, from a book on India’s Taj Mahal and that he was unaware of its meaning. To placate a Muslim group that felt the use of the verses desecrated the Koran, Chanel had to destroy the dresses with the offending designs, along with negatives of the photos taken of the garments. Chanel certainly had no intention of offending Muslims, since some of its most important customers embrace Islam. This example shows how easy it is to offend if the marketer, in this case the designer, has not familiarized himself or herself with other religions.