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Advertising and Culture

In developing countries, advertising displays the orientation of a society,that the culture is progressing towards;that is advertising acts as a cultural indicator of progress. Culture is defined as the sum total of learned beliefs, values and custom that serve to direct the behavior of consumers of members of a particular society.

The belief and value components of the definition refer to the accumulated feelings and priorities that individuals have about things and possessions. Beliefs consist of the very large number of mental or verbal statements that reflects a persons particular knowledge and assessment of something (another person, a store, a product, a brand etc.). Values also are beliefs. Values differ from other beliefs, however, because they meet the following criteria:
They are relatively few in number They serve as a guide for culturally appropriate behavior

They are enduring or difficult to change. They are not tied to specific objects or situations. They are widely accepted by the members of a society.

Both values and beliefs are in a broad sense, mental images that affect a wide range of specific attitudes and this, influences the way a person is likely to respond in a specific situation. E.g. the criteria a person uses to evaluate alternative brands in a product category, or his or her eventual preference for one of these brands over the other, are influenced by both a persons general values and specific beliefs.

Customs are overt modes of behavior that constitute culturally approved or acceptable ways of behaving in specific situations. Customs consist of everyday or routine behavior.For example, a consumers routine behavior, such as adding sugar and milk to coffee, having a salad after a meal rather than before the meal etc., are customs. When we are exposed to people with different cultural values or customs, we become aware of how culture has molded our own behavior.

Thus, a true appreciation of the influence that culture has on our daily life requires some knowledge of at least one other society with different cultural characteristics. For e.g., to understand that brushing our teeth twice a day with toothpaste is a cultural phenomenon requires some awareness that members of another society do not brush their teeth twice daily. Culture exists to satisfy the needs of the people within a society. It offers order, direction and guidance in all phases of human problem solving by providing, tried and true methods of satisfying physiological, personal and social needs. For example, culture provides standards and rules about when to eat(not between meals), where to eat(in a popular restaurant where the quality of food is good), what is appropriate to eat for breakfast etc.

Culture is also associated with what a societys members consider to be a necessity and what they view as a luxury. Culture also provides insights as to suitable dress for specific occasions. Dress codes have shifted dramatically. Cultural beliefs, values and customs continue to be followed as long as they yield satisfaction. When a specific standard no longer satisfies the members of the society, however it is modified or replaced, so that the resulting standard with current needs and desires.

Culture is gradually but continually evolving to meet the needs of the society. There are three distinct forms of cultural learning: Formal learning, in which adults and older siblings teach a young family member how to behave Informal learning, in which a child learns primarily by imitating the behavior of selected others, such as family, friends etc. Technical learning, in which teachers instruct the child in a educational environment about what should be done, how it should be done, and why it should be done.

Although a firms advertising can influence all three types of cultural learning, it is likely that many product advertisements enhance informal cultural learning by providing the audience with a model of behavior to imitate. This is especially true for visible or conspicuous products, where peer influence is likely to play an important role. The repetition of advertising messages creates and reinforces cultural beliefs and values. For example, many advertisers continually stress the same selected benefits of their products or services.Ads for cellular services often stress on the clarity of their connection, or the nationwide coverage of their service as well as the flexibility of their pricing plans.

It becomes difficult to say if the cellular service subscribers inherently desire these benefits from their service providers or after years of exposure to advertising appeals stressing these benefits, they have been taught by marketers to desire them. Culture is frequently viewed as group customs that link together the members of the society. Common language becomes a critical component that enables people to share values, experiences and customs. The family serves as the primary agent to pass along basic cultural beliefs, values and customs to the newest members. The two other places for transfer of selected aspects of culture are educational institutions and places of worship.

A fourth place that plays a major role in transferring culture throughout society is the mass media. Consumers receive important cultural information through advertising. In a cultural context, advertising has the expanded mission of reinforcing established cultural values and aiding in the dissemination of new tastes, habits and customs.E.g. new FMCG products, new tastes in food, celebration of mothers day, fathers day etc, eating out. In planning their advertising, marketers should recognize advertising to be an important agent for social change in our society.

Culture is continually evolving and requires to evolve to function in the best interests of a society. The marketer must carefully monitor the socio-cultural environment in order to market an existing product more effectively or to develop promising new products. Many factors are likely to produce cultural changes within a given society such as new technology, population shifts, resource shortages, wars, changing values and customs borrowed from other cultures. For example, today with more nuclear families and more working women lot of changes have occurred. Many working women are in careers that were once considered to be exclusively male oriented. Late marriages of women who are self sufficient is a trait that visibly exists today.

The changing nature of culture means that marketers have to consistently reconsider why consumers are doing what they do, who the purchasers and the users of their products are ( male, female,or both), when do they shop, how and where they can be reached by the media and what new product and service needs are emerging. Marketers who monitor cultural changes often find new opportunities to increase corporate profitability. For example, marketers of products & services as life insurance, financial, clothing who have attempted to take advantage of their target segments.