Anthropology Marketing

Why the (Anthropology) Concept of Culture is Important to Marketing and Competitive Advantage

culture, marketing, competitive advantage
Written by Paula Gray

Think of culture as a “framework” built from the values, beliefs, customs, and behaviors that are learned by the members of the group through the process called enculturation.  This process happens from birth and then as the child grows, they grow up inside the culture.

This cultural “framework” is shared by the members of the group, meaning that they all have this in common.  That’s how you can often tell who belongs to a particular culture; they will share in that cultural framework.

All buying decisions are made within the cultural context, so it’s important that marketers gain a thorough understanding of the concept of culture to drive competitive advantage.

It’s important to note though that this does not mean that every member of a culture has the identical set of values, beliefs or behaviors, there is always tremendous human variability.  However, this common, shared cultural framework is their shared foundation.

As it applies to marketing, you can also think of culture as the lens through which each person sees the world.  Every single individual (ourselves included) interprets all experiences, needs, wants, and available solutions through this lens of culture.

So, it’s important for marketers to understand how this cultural lens shapes how our customers see the world but also how it shapes the way we as marketers view the world and view our customers.

Know that as you look at your market research data and analyze those patterns, habits, beliefs, and values of your customers, you will need to acknowledge that you are looking at it and making some assumptions according to your own cultural lens.  A great multi-cultural marketer can recognize where their own culture diverges from that of their customer.

Once you’ve studied what makes up the cultures in the geographic regions you are targeting, let that information inform all your marketing strategy and messaging going forward.

For more specifics and an in-depth, detailed look at how culture shapes buying decisions check out the webcast “Marketing for a Global Audience:  Understanding the Cultural Context of Buying Behavior”

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About the author

Paula Gray

Paula Gray is an anthropologist and the Director of Research and Knowledge Development at AIPMM. She has traveled the globe to work with companies throughout the US, Europe, Africa and Asia-Pacific to help them gain a deeper understanding of their customers. She is featured in Linda Gorchels' book The Product Manager's Handbook and has contributed to several books on product management including The Guide to the Product Management and Marketing Body of Knowledge (ProdBOK). She is also the author of numerous blog posts and papers including Business Anthropology and the Culture of Product Managers.