In developing an advertising campaign for American Hero Wrangler’s line of stone washed jeans its agency started with psychological research to understand consumers’ connection to wearing jeans and how Wrangler met that connection. After a series of individual 45 minute to 1 hour interviews with consumers, they realized that something was missing. They realized people didn’t consume in a vacuum, but in the social environment of culture. Culture values interact with emotional needs to influence behavior and cause to select the products we choose. Thus, the agency hired cultural anthropologists to do original observational research in homes, in stores, on streets and in special sales situations, as on car lots.

Wrangler had traditionally been a brand of jeans that real cowboys wore but urban cowboys avoided. The anthropologists went to rodeos, western bars, picnics and other places where people could be observed wearing jeans in comfortable surroundings. The traditional Wrangler wearer’s values were much like those of urban working class people. Whether rural or urban blue collar Americans valued: (1) community – sharing, group loyalty, friends, family, and the worth of the individual within the community; (2) tradition – continuity with the past, sports, nature, and traditional male outdoor activity; and (3) responsibility – self reliance, doing an honest day’s work and a good job, being in charge of one’s destiny.

The spend-and-strive late 1970s and early 1980s left this group out: but the Reagan presidency and a return to old fashioned values gave them a feeling of higher self worth.

Levi’s owned the urban male jean market and Lee was becoming entrenched with female buyers, but VF International, Wrangler’s parent company, had a strong heritage in the west, so various brand names were tried, including Cherokee, Dakota and Black hawk, but these didn’t connect with prospects. Finally, research and Wrangler’s desire to broaden its market without turning off current wearers led them to select the name American hero.

The advertisements paid tribute to hard workers and showed actual steelworkers, firefighters, and dockworkers. With an appealing synthesized music track the ads simplicity reached American men who had never thought of Wrangler. Wrangler’s image among retailers and consumers was given a facelift and brisk sales resulted.

We begin our study of environmental elements impinging upon consumers by first looking at the very braid, basic and enduring factor of culture. The story above illustrates how Wrangler was able to successfully market its jeans by understanding the cultural factors influencing its product. We shall investigate the role and usefulness of cultural analysis in the development of marketing strategies. After defining and characterizing culture, the basic cultural values of American consumers will be outlined. This recognition leads to an examination of cultural change and its effect on consumer behavior. Finally, cross cultural consumer behavior and its implications for international marketing.

Culture Defined:

It is difficult to present only one definition of culture and expect it to portray the richness of the field and its relevance to nderstanding consumers. However, the following two are representative:

That complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.

The distinctive way of life of a group of people, their complete design for living:

Therefore, culture is everything that is socially learned and shared by the members of a society. Culture consists of materials and non-materials components. Non-materials culture includes the words people use; the ideas customs and belief they share and the habits they pursue. Material culture consists of all the physical substances that have been hanged and used by people, such as tools automobile, roads, and farms. In a marketing and consumer behavior context, artifacts of the material culture would include all the products and services which are produced and consumed; marketing institutions such as safe way supermarkets. Kmart discount houses a 7-Eleven convenience stores and advertisements. Non material culture would include the way in which consumers shop in supermarkets, our desire for newer and better products, and our responses to the word sale.

The significance of culture in understanding human behavior (of which consumer behavior is a part) is that it extends our understanding of the extent to which people are more than just chemistry, physiology, or a set of biological drives and instincts. The implication is that although all customers may be biologically similar their views of the world, what they value, and how they act differ according to their cultural backgrounds.