Vive Les Differences

Roger M. Heeler, York University, Canada
ABSTRACT - The three papers in this session are so different that there are no appropriate overview remarks. Each will be considered independently, vive les differences.
[ to cite ]:
Roger M. Heeler (1981) ,"Vive Les Differences", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 08, eds. Kent B. Monroe, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 728-729.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 8, 1981      Pages 728-729


Roger M. Heeler, York University, Canada


The three papers in this session are so different that there are no appropriate overview remarks. Each will be considered independently, vive les differences.


Basic marketing texts indicate many variables by which a market may be segmented. Geography is commonly one of these variables and one that according to the authors receives insufficient attention. The authors provide an interesting and succinct review of geographic differences as viewed by various disciplines, and illustrate the differences in consumption patterns that may occur with beverage consumption data. Strangely, the only reference to international marketing where geographic differences are the foundation of the field, is in a one sentence aside at the very end of the article.

in missing the international literature, the authors have missed one of the most compelling practical reasons for geographic segmentation, that is differential reachability. Segmentation requires both heterogeneity of consumers between groups (which the authors discuss) and an ability to reach these groups differentially with the marketing armoury. Geographic units are much easier to target for differential price, product, distribution, advertising etc. devices than units formed on many other seasoning variables, for example AIO measures. Practical marketers make full use of these possibilities.

There is an element of ambiguity in the authors' concept of geographic subcultures. Most of the paper is concerned with specific territorially contiguous areas such as "the West". These groupings are those most easily reached by differential targeting. The authors final example concerns "urban" versus "rural" USA. These two groups occur nationally, like "old" and "young" and are correspondingly more difficult to target.

Another concept missed through ignoring the international marketing literature is the exportability of many items simply because they are foreign. For example, "New York Bars" are popular outside of New York in part because of their foreignness elsewhere. Specialties from one area provide big opportunities elsewhere - look at Colonel Sanders!

The pre-publication version of this paper was missing half its references. If the published version is too, a supplementary listing should be provided to the audience.

Reviewers of this paper noted that (a) the lifestyle differences between regions should be examined per se (b) to what extent are differences a function of other variables such as population age in California (c) what is the importance of geography relative to other variables (d) how distinct are the regions.


Consumerism having become big business in the USA, it is not surprising that academic entrepreneurs have turned to the task of examining its exportability. The Stanton et al paper examines the prospects for consumerism in Brazil which they regard as a paradigm for developing countries. For structural analysis they use Kotler's (1972) framework of the conditions likely to facilitate or limit the emergence of consumerism.

It is apparent that consumerism is still a difficult subject to define. In its widest sense, Kotler's (1972) definition

"A social movement (under any system) where buyers seek to augment their rights and powers in relation to sellers"

could embrace everything from Marie Antoinette's advice on cake, and the subsequent spate of head chopping, government change, and rewriting of European history that emerged, to the benign concerns of middle American burghers over the display of unit prices. Where should the balance be struck? The authors do not seem sure, and perhaps avoid the issue by considering only the concerns of the minority of Brazilians who are both relatively wealthy and live in cities. The political and economic miseries of the majority are ignored, Just as American winter visitors to Montego Bay can keep the horrors of Kingston from their vision. In this authors opinion the emphasis is probably appropriate for discussion of consumerism. As practiced, consumerism is a second level luxury for the very rich of the world, who are well beyond worrying about where the next meal is coming from. It is social concern with the gloves on.

This genteel limitation of consumerism makes the authors contribution relatively valid. Brazil is not a representative third world country. Most are much poorer and do not have the steady economic expansion of Brazil though many others also have a totalitarian regime of some type or another. But in major cities in many of these countries, a middle class for whom consumerism is a possibility exists. The authors should be projecting to this mini universe of Spartas around the world rather than to developing countries in general.

The analysis itself lacks the immediacy that might be added to the paper if it had been written by a Brazilian. But a useful array of secondary sources are used to indicate some of the pre-conditions and impediments to consumerism amongst the urban middle class. A couple of specific consumerism actions are quoted, but unfortunately the pervasiveness of consumerism actions is not well delineated. Towards the end the authors acknowledge that the government controls all and the press is restricted, so that consumerism might actually have a difficult time flourishing in Brazil. Perhaps they should have added an important prior corollary to Kotler's list of consumerism conditions. One must have a society that possesses and values liberal expression of competing viewpoints, and appropriate media to carry these expressions before the genteel force of consumerism can flourish. If this condition does not exist, the steady flow of consumerism may be replaced by the occasional eruptions of revolution.


This paper uses Tukey's (1958) hold out procedure to test for the stability of segments found by an AID fishing trip. Although Tukey's technique has been well known to a generation of social scientists, it is less used than it deserves, so a current example is of value to consumer behaviour researchers.

The word "validity" is in many ways too strong a word to use in association with the techniques. Validity carries overtones of full testing of the proper meaning of a pre-hypothesized concept or measure (see Campbell and Fiske (1959) or any social science research methods text). The jackknife is more of a reliability test, especially useful for showing the stability of fishing trip analysis. The authors show how this may be made to work for AID segments and acknowledge the degree of judgmental art that remains even after the science.

The analysis does not allow a small sample to stand in for a large one as the authors seem to imply. For example, the authors make much of one sub-segment that is found to be 100% stable through the hold out procedures. This segment consists of six cases drawn from a sample of 200. This sample has a confidence internal, considering random sampling error alone, of 1 case to 11 cases. If this segment is to be used for actual management purposes, clearly a more precise population proportion estimate is needed, which can only come from a larger sample.

Reviewers remarks included (a) an important topic for users of survey research (b) lots of guesswork still left in the analysis.


Campbell, D. T. and Fiske, D. W. (1959) Convergent and Discriminant Validation by the Multitrait - Multimethod Matrix," Psychological Bulletin, 56,81-105.

Kotler, P. (1972) "What Consumerism Means for Marketers" Harvard Business Review, 50, h8-57.

Tukey, J. W. (1958) "Bias and Confidence in Not-Quite Large Samples," (abstract) Annals of Mathematical Statistics, 29, 614.