Barriers and Incentives in Consumer Acculturation
ABSTRACT - This paper offers a comprehensive perspective on consumer acculturation. Basic concepts are defined, and a perspective is developed, emphasizing barriers and incentives in consumer acculturation, deriving from differences between the culture of origin and the new cultural context encountered. Relevant cultural factors are identified, and the impact of the various factors is proposed as explicit propositions resulting in a unifying perspective on consumer acculturation. Theoretical and managerial implications are highlighted.
Kjell Gronhaug, Mary Gilly, and Lisa Penazola (1993) ,"Barriers and Incentives in Consumer Acculturation", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. W. Fred Van Raaij and Gary J. Bamossy, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 278-286.
This paper offers a comprehensive perspective on consumer acculturation. Basic concepts are defined, and a perspective is developed, emphasizing barriers and incentives in consumer acculturation, deriving from differences between the culture of origin and the new cultural context encountered. Relevant cultural factors are identified, and the impact of the various factors is proposed as explicit propositions resulting in a unifying perspective on consumer acculturation. Theoretical and managerial implications are highlighted. The purpose of this paper is to focus on how cultural environmental factors mediated through the individual may influence her or his consumption acculturation. In doing so, we will use the following approach. First, basic concepts that are needed to capture the phenomenon under investigation, i.e., consumer acculturation, and factors influencing this to occur, are discussed. Next, a perspective to guide our investigation emphasizing barriers and incentives to adapt the individual¦s consumption activities to the new cultural environment, deriving from differences between the culture of origin and the new cultural context, is developed. We then proceed by identifying elements from these cultural contexts, and discuss how they may exert influence on consumer acculturation stated as propositions. Finally, implications for marketers, other constituencies, and consumer acculturation research are highlighted. Culture The multidimensionality and complexity of culture have been described in many ways. Kroeber and Kluckhan (1952) in their seminal effort to define the concept stated that: CC
This paper offers a comprehensive perspective on consumer acculturation. Basic concepts are defined, and a perspective is developed, emphasizing barriers and incentives in consumer acculturation, deriving from differences between the culture of origin and the new cultural context encountered. Relevant cultural factors are identified, and the impact of the various factors is proposed as explicit propositions resulting in a unifying perspective on consumer acculturation. Theoretical and managerial implications are highlighted.
The purpose of this paper is to focus on how cultural environmental factors mediated through the individual may influence her or his consumption acculturation. In doing so, we will use the following approach. First, basic concepts that are needed to capture the phenomenon under investigation, i.e., consumer acculturation, and factors influencing this to occur, are discussed. Next, a perspective to guide our investigation emphasizing barriers and incentives to adapt the individual¦s consumption activities to the new cultural environment, deriving from differences between the culture of origin and the new cultural context, is developed. We then proceed by identifying elements from these cultural contexts, and discuss how they may exert influence on consumer acculturation stated as propositions. Finally, implications for marketers, other constituencies, and consumer acculturation research are highlighted.
The multidimensionality and complexity of culture have been described in many ways. Kroeber and Kluckhan (1952) in their seminal effort to define the concept stated that:
CC, we think culture is a product; is historical; includes ideas, patterns, and values; is selective; is learned; is based on symbols; and is an abstraction from behavior and the products of behavior. CC All cultures are largely made up of overt, patterned way of behaving, feeling and reacting. But cultures likewise include a characteristic set of unstated promises and categories which vary greatly between socities (p. 157).
This quote reflects beliefs that culture is learned and shared with other people, and influences not only how one behaves, but also one expects other to behave. How culture best can be understood and how to explain the functioning of culture have, however, changed over the years. For example, many anthropologists now prefer the term "enacted" (instead of learned), which recognizes that people don't just passively accept culture, they actively create it (cf. Keesing 1974; Swidler 1986).
Swidler (1986) in her penetrating analysis sees culture as shaping a repertoire or "tool kit" of habits, skills, and styles from which people construct "strategies of action" (p. 273). In order to act purposefully the individual needs both procedural and contextual knowledge, i.e. domain specific knowledge allowing for "contetual rationality" (March, 1978, p. 592) in addition to rules and procedures to exhibit "procedural rationality" (Simon 1978, p. 8). The acquisition of a repertoire of habits and skills as proposed by Swidler (1986) reflects the belief that relevant knowledge to exhibit intendedly rational behavior both may be learnedBor enactedBin a specific context, and that this knowledge may be (more or less) context bound.
Acculturation has been conceptualized in several ways in past research. Redfield et al. (1936), for example, define this concept as:
". . . those phenomena which result when groups of individuals having different cultures come into first-hand contact, with subsequent changes in the original culture patterns. . ." (p. 149).
In their Summer Seminar in 1954, the Social Research Council proposed the following definition:
". . . culture change that is initiated by the conjunction of two or more autonomous cultural systems. . ." (SSRC 1954, p. 974)
A closer look at the two definitions reveals that a prerequisite for acculturation is contact between two (or more) groups from different cultures. The first of the quoted definitions claims that "first-hand" contact is required for acculturation to take place. The SSRC's definition is broader, as it contends that
"Acculturation change may be the consequence of direct cultural transmission; it may be derived from noncultural causes, such as ecological or demographic modifications induced by an impinging culture;. . ." (p. 974)
It should also be noted that the term cultural contact often is used instead of acculturation, in order to emphasize that immigrant, don't just the host culture, they help to change it, i.e., the result of cultural contact is two-way influence (Furnham and Bochner, 1986).
Acculturation implies change(s). Culture is a complex phenomenon consisting of a variety of cultural elements. Various cultural elements are gradually learned, adopted or rejected (Berry, 1980). This is also reflected in previous research conceiving acculturation as a process. A new culture may be learned (and adopted to) more or less fully. When the new culture is learned to the extent that the newcomer is accepted as a genuine member of the new culture s/he is said to be assimilated. Even though acculturation may take place among both (all) groups with different cultural background encountering each other, the focus here will primarily be on individuals crossing borders, i.e., newcomers often facing the new situation as cultural minorities.
Consumers and their behaviors represent an important arena for inquiry which has for long have attracted researchers from several disciplines. Several definitions of consumer behavior appear in the consumer behavior literature. The definitions offered vary in scope and width [Most of the definitions focus on the individual, emphasizing consumer behavior as decision making (e.g., Assael, 1984), and de-emphasizing the social aspect of this behavior (for an exception, see Zaltman and Wallendorf, 1983). Moreover, it is not unfair to say that past research on consumer behavior has demonstrated a strong bias towards pre-purchase behavior (cf. Arndt, 1976).]. Consumer behavior can be conceived as a process, including acquisition (i.e., recognition of buying problems, search behavior, evaluations and execution of purchases), use and disposal of goods. Consumers seek product and services to satisfy specific needs. According to Boyd and Levy (1962) consumers emphasize specific goals related to their consumption system. Thus consumers become buyers to obtain something; i.e., purchase (and use and disposal) of goods may be seen as means to reach specific consumption goals, whatever they are. Consumption activities including consumption goals and symbolic meaning of goods (Levy, 1981) are learned and shaped in a cultural context. An important aspect of the cultural context is the product/service environment in which the consumer is embedded. The individual is immensed in a cultural context over the whole life-span, so are her or his consumption activities. Through observation, imitation and interactions with socializing agents, individuals learn the culture brought up in and they become socialized as consumers (Moschis, 1984). Consumer acculturation refers to the subset of acculturation related to consumption activities.
Acculturation implies, as noted above, changes, so do consumer acculturation. Several authors have noted that such changes can be stressfull (Padilla, 1980, Furnham and Bochner, 1986). Changes are associated with efforts and may require new skills in order to be completed. In borrowing from the literature on strategy (e.g., Porter, 1980), individuals can be conceived as confronted with various barriers in making acculturation changes (cf. Zaltman and Wallendorf, 1983, p. 508), as are firms when trying to enter new markets. When the individual enters a new culture s/he may be confronted with barriers due to lack of knowledge and skills, which may hamper consumer acculturation. There may as well exist factors that help immigrants resist acculturation (cf. Mehta and Belk, 1991). Type and "height" of these barriers, whatever they are, have implications for which aspects of the consumer behavior that will be changed, in what order, and the speed of changes that will take place when entering a new culture. Understanding of barriers faced by the consumer is thus of importance to grasp the phenomenon of consumer acculturation.
There may be various reasons for changing consumption behavior. To be accepted in a new cultural environment often requires adaptive behavior, as reflected in the old saying: "When in Rome, do as the Romans do!" Thus knowledge of incentives for change is important to understand consumer acculturation. Even though the market place is of crucial importance for consumption, or more correctly for acquisition of goods and services, consuming activities may take place in other settings, e.g., at home, alone, together with family, friends, colleagues, bosses and clients. Expectations to own consumption activities vary across social arenas, so may incentives to change such activities. Identification of incentives for acculturation, and under which conditions they are effective, is thus important for our understanding of consumer acculturation.
Culture includesBamong other thingsBlearned and shared symbols, values, attitudes, knowledge and behavior. Being immensed in a culture also implies being familiar with a specific product/service environment and social institutions, as well as having social relationships. The social relations are in fact important as information and norms are transmitted and learned through such relationships. To establish social relationships takes time and requires social skills. For the individual, social relationships are important and they are of great personal value. According to Coleman (1988), such relationships can be conceived as "social capital", and they represent an important part of the human capital as well. Crossing cultural borders imply that new social settings must be learned, and new social relationships created.
Opportunities and situations (see Belk, 1975) in new cultural settings may also influence the individual consumption acculturation. Consumer behavior and consumer acculturation may be conceived as "all cultural". The many cultural influences reflected in learned values, attitudes, knowledge, behavior and opportunities exposed toBare of utmost importance for the individual¦s consumption activities. The various barriers and incentives to consumer acculturation can be related to two cultures, i.e., the culture of origin and the new culture encountered . Based on the above discussion the following perspective can be introduced.
Figure 1 is to be read as follows. Barriers and incentives are hypothetical constructs. A variety of factors related to the culture of origin and the new culture encountered can be perceived as barriers and incentives for the individual in her or his consumer acculturation process, influencing the amount, aspects and speed of acculturation of consumption activities. Characteristics of the contact with the new culture, such as length, intensity, and quality may modify the effect of the various incentives and barriers.
INFLUENCING FACTORS AND PROPOSITIONS
Our next step is to identify various classes of cultural related elements [Note the width of "cultural elements" encompassing cultural learned values, attitudes, knowledge, behavior as well as the context, including institutions, social settings and so on in which the individual is embedded, where her or his cultural learning is shaped.], and discuss how such elements mediated through the individual can be related to the hypothetical constructs and subsequent consumer acculturation. It should also be noted that it is the differences in culture that may lead to changes in prior learned culture elements and cause consumer acculturation. In the following, we proceed by first considering broader cultural issues, and then by focusing on more specific aspects and their relevance for consumer acculturation. The factors to be discussed are grouped as follows:
BCultural characteristics; i.e., aspects characterizing cultures as a whole;
BStructural elements; i.e., more stable (permanent) aspects of the cultural context influencing the individual;
BLanguage and symbols; i.e., basic aspects of cultural learning;
BCultural values; i.e., cultural learned beliefs which the individual find personally and socially worth striving for (see Rokeach, 1968);
BThe social (cultural) context, in which socialization and consumer learning takes place.
BRoles and situations occurring in social cultural contexts assumed to influence consumption activities, and thus consumer acculturation;
BSome personal correlates, assumed to possess descriptive and predictive power for consumer acculturation.
CONSUMER ACCULURATION PERSPECTIVE
1. Cultural Characteristics
Cultures are characterized and classified in several ways. We in no way intend to review this literature, but will restrict ourselves to consider the following aspects: cultural prestige (or rank order); cultural context (high vs. low); cultural distance; and cultural awareness.
a) Belonging to a specific culture gives identity. When confronted with other cultures, a rank order of the cultures may be established. Belonging to one culture may be perceived more attractive than being associated with the other. For examples, at the turn of the century it was observed among white immigrants e.g. from Scandinavia when coming to America, the land of hope, they did their utmost to hide their cultural origion. They never looked back, and tried as fast as possible to adapt to this new cultural environment. Thus, a positive gap in perceived attractiveness between the new culture and the culture of origin, may be considered as a force enhancing acculturation, leading to the following proposition:
P1: The more attractive the new cultural environment is perceived (compared with the culture of origin), the more rapidly will acculturation, and thus acculturation of consumption activities take place.
b) A crucial dimension of culture is the context of communication, (often dichotomized as "high" versus "low", Hall, 1976). In low cultural contexts, communication is more explicit, relying on explicit verbal communication and symbols. High cultural contexts in contrast depend more on non-verbal, "hidden" aspects of communication. Crossing cultural contexts represent changes, requiring tremendous amount of new knowledge in order to adapt. Our contention is that acculturation will take place more rapidly within similar contexts of communication, than across such contexts. On the other hand, it is believed that less strain is involved in moving from a high to a low cultural context is higher than the other way around. Thus it is postulated that:
P2: (a) Consumer acculturation will take place more rapidly within than across cultural contexts of communication.
(b) Consumer acculturation is more likely to occur when moving from high to low than will be the case when moving from low to high cultural contexts.
To our knowledge, no research has been conducted that directly examines these propositions. On the other hand, in business there seems to be considerable evidence that business people from high cultural context adapt more easily to low cultural environments (e.g., Japanese doing business in the U.S.), than do business people when moving from low to high cultural contexts (e.g., Americans dealing with Japan).
c) Several attempts have been made to scale cultures according to degree of similarity (or difference), i.e. cultural distance (e.g., Hofstede, 1984). Cultural distance reflects degree of difference. Intuitively it is so that the more similar, the less dramatic are the changes to absorb elements from a new culture. Thus we postulate that:
P3: The smaller the distance between the new culture and the culture of origin, the more likely and the more rapidly consumer acculturation will occur.
d) Viewed in a historical perspective, cultural awareness (pride) has been rapidly increasing the last few years among minorities and immigrants in the U.S., as well as other places around the world. For instance, a study conducted among Hispanics living in the U.S., showed that 89% strongly agreed with the statement, "We should pass on to our children a sense of belonging to our religions and national tradition" (Yankelovich, Skelly and White, 1981, p. 16).
It has for long been recognized that acculturated minorities retain specific elements of their culture of origin, which can be seen as a characteristic of the American 'melting pot'," or as recently stated by Iacocca (1984), ". . . Except to the American Indians, we're all immigrants or children of immigrants. So it's important that we go beyond the stereotypes we've lived with. . . . All the ethnic groups brought their culture, their music, their literature. They melted into the American pot - . . . but somehow they also managed to keep their cultures intact as each rubbed off on the other" (p. 356). Cultural awareness (pride) addresses that it is important to conserve specific elements from the culture of origin. With regard to consumer acculturation we will propose:
P4: The higher the cultural awareness (pride) is related to specific consumption related activities/elements, the higher the likelihood that these elements will be retained when encountering a new cultural context.
For example, food is important to man, and the symbolic meaning attributed to the preparing and consumption of food vary across culture (cf. Levi-Strauss, 1978). In many cultures food and eating-related events are attributed great importance, which is easily observed among immigrantsBand children of immigrantsBsticking to the eating habits acquired in their cultures of origin, not only decades, but generations ago.
2. Structural Elements
Any culture contains a variety of structural elements, influencing the content of cultural learning. Here we will focus on two structural characteristics, the cultural product/service environment and the structure of channels of information (media).
a) An important aspect of any culture is the product/service environment in which the consumer is embedded, influencing the individual¦s socialization as consumer (Gr°nhaug and Venkatesh, 1987). Moving to another culture often implies changes in the product/service environment for the individual. The consumer may be confronted with new, unknown goods, and many of the goods acquainted with, will not be there. The lack of known products and services may lead to more or less conscious search for and evaluation of substituting alternatives. Intuitively, the more important the no longer available products and services are, and the more attractive the substituting consumption alternatives (and/or consumption practice) are perceived to be, the more likely that they will be adopted. Hence, the following propositions:
P5: (a) The more important specific consumption alternatives adopted in the culture of origin and no longer available, the more willing the individual will be to search for, evaluate and adopt substituting consumption alternatives in the new cultural environment, and
(b) the more attractive new consumption alternatives are to the consumer, the more likely that these alternatives will be adopted.
The easily observable adjustment to the American product/service environment suggests that consumption alternatives are readily available, and that the alternatives are perceived as attractive, often superior to what the newcomers are used to (as it is often observed that even when products and services from the culture of origin are available, they are substituted with alternatives new to the newcomers).
It should also be noted that consumption alternatives may be acquired through different markets, such as "the open market" (i.e., commercialized markets) and "closed markets" (e.g., exchanges taking place between neighbors, Gr°nhaug and Dholakia, 1987). Open market exchanges (probably) represent a larger fraction of the total amount of exchanges made by consumers in developed than in developing countries. "Open" markets are easier to enter than "closed" markets, (but often other exchange media, i.e., money versus personal services/products are needed in order to operate in this market). Hence, we suggest that:
c) Consumer acculturation will be positively related to the relative occurrence of open market exchanges in the new culture confronted with.
This proposition also implies that consumption activities mediated through open market exchanges in the new cultural environment, will be adopted more rapidly than consumption activities mediated through non-open markets.
b) Information needed to learn a new cultural environment is mediated through information channels. The greater the exposure to and the more available is relevant information, the more rapidly acculturation will take place, thus:
P6: (a) The more exposure to and the more accessible is the relevant information, the more rapidly consumer acculturation will occur.
The media structure as such will be of importance as new information is spread more rapidly and to a larger public through mass media than through personal communication. This implies that in societies where relevant [By relevance it is meant that the newcomer has access to and is capable to make use of the media.] mass media plays an important role, changes will take place more rapidly compared to societies where mass media plays a less dominant role (cf. Zaltman and Wallendorf, 1983, chap. 5). Hence, we suggest that:
(b) The more dominant is mass media communication of the total communication in the new cultural environment, the more rapidly consumer acculturation will take place (given that the mass media are relevant to the newcomer).
From this (P6b) also follows that:
(c) Consumption activities exposed in mass media communication will be learned and acquired more rapidly than consumption activities primarily mediated through personal sources of communication.
When turning our attention to the American scene it is evident that the most attention is devoted to brands in mass media marketing communication, and less mass media exposure is devoted to use, disposal and emphasizing the social meaning of goods, which mainly is learned through experiences, observations and through personal communication with others. Thus we will hypothesize that:
(d) Knowledge of brand alternative and brand attributes is acquired more rapidly in a new culture, than is knowledge of use, disposal, and the symbolic meaning of products and services.
O'Guinn et al. (1986) also made the following interesting observation:
"Consumer acculturation via the mass media offers a safer way and less riskier path than direct contact. One doesn't have to worry about making embarrassing mistakes when one doesn't interact." (p. 582)
The perceived credibility of the various channels of information is an important modifying factor. As the perceived credibility of various sources of information may vary, it is proposed:
(e) The higher the perceived credibility of the source of communication, the more emphasis will be placed on this source.
From this proposion also follows that, the more credibility is attributed to mass media (in mass media dominated cultures), the more rapidly will consumer acculturation take place in such environments.
3. Language and Symbols
Cultural knowledge is mediated through symbols, such as signs, letters and words. Here we will focus on language and the symbolic meaning of consumption activities.
a) Languages represent the prime means of communication. To fully understand and have command over a language is a time consuming learning process. Moving to another culture with language(s) different from the language(s) being used in the culture of origin intuitively represents a barrier for acculturation to take place. Lack of language skills in the new cultural environment hampers access to new information and the learning of the new cultural context, thus:
P7: (a) Consumer acculturation will occur more rapidly among newcomers with relevant language skills than among newcomers lacking such skills.
And among newcomers without the culture relevant language skills it follows that:
(b) The more rapidly relevant language skills are acquired, the more rapidly consumer acculturation will take place, (because language are institutionally linked with other acculturation activities).
b) Products and services convey symbolic meaning as noted by Levy (1959) in his recognized Harvard Business Review article three decades ago, "Symbols for Sale". Consumption activities convey symbolic meaning. The importance of symbolic meaning of activities and material goods to the individual has for long been recognizedBand researched in disciplines like social anthropology (e.g., Goffman, 1959; Mauss, 1967, 1925) and sociology (e.g., Veblen, 1899), but has until recently only been devoted modest attention in marketing and consumer behavior research (see Wallendorf and Arnold, 1988 for an excellent review of prior research efforts). The symbolic meaning of consumption activities is learned in social settings, and they vary across cultures. Much of this knowledge is "personal", acquired through observations, interactions and personal experience not easily conveyed to others (cf. Polanyi, 1958). Entering a new cultural context implies that much of the prior learned symbolic meaning of consumption activities will be obsolete. Due to the "personal" ("tacit") characteristic of such learning, it is assumed that:
P8: (a) The symbolic meaning of consumption activities is more difficult to acquire than is knowledge about brands and brand attributes.
It is believed that learning of the symbolic meaning of consumption activities, (which is an important aspect of consumer acculturation) will occur at a slower pace than will the familiarizing with and adoption of products in the new culture. Even though this proposition has not been directly tested in prior research, several studies reveal that various minorities groups attribute different values and meanings to consumption activities which is also reflected in the composition of their consumption patterns. From this also follows that:
(b) Learning of consumption symbolism will be positively related to degree of involvement in social consumption settings in the new culture.
This (P8b) is easily observable among immigrant families, where the youngsters, i.e., the most socially involved in the new culture, more rapidly recognize the symbolic aspects of consumption activities, than do the older family members. [The more rapid socialization among children, has also been recognized to lead to parental pressure on the child to be a "bridge" for the parents in the new culture (Endicott, 1984); i.e., what Reisman and Rosenborough (1955) have termed "reversed socialization."] It should, however, be noted as reported by Belk et al. (1980), that the ability to recognize the symbolic social aspects of consumption activities is minimal among preschoolers, but almost fully developed by sixth grade, i.e., probably the age when newcomers interact most easily and the most in a new cultural context, and when the importance of peers become most important (Coleman, 1961).
4. Cultural Values
An important aspect of any culture are the values held by the individuals embedded in the actual culture. Values are learned in cultural contexts; they are considered to be more stable than are attitudes and meanings. They can be changed, but only slowly. The individual holds several (many) values, all of which are not equally important to her or him, and they guide behavior (cf. Assael, 1984). Moreover, a considerable amount of research has demonstrated that values differ across cultures. Consumptions values are mirrored in consumption activities. For example, in a study on societal consumption, Fuat and Dholakia (1982) characterized the consumption values in developed Western countries as "passive, individualistic, private and alienated" (p. 12), contrasted with consumer values in other cultures emphasizing "activity, collectivity and togetherness". In returning to our point of departure, i.e. differences between the culture of origin and the new culture encountered, we propose that:
P9: (a) The more different are the consumption values in the culture of origin and the new culture, the lower the probability that changes in consumer values will take place, and
(b) the more important the value(s) aquired in the culture of origin is(are) to the newcomer, the lower the probability that consumer acculturation implying change of values will occur.
The strongly held value among groups of immigrants, "not to eat meat," apparently leads to the consequence that the majority of immigrants holding this value does not line up for a "Big Mac". In a similar vain consumption related values to fast at specific times, and not to drink alcohol strongly direct the consumption behavior of Muslims even in cultures where alcoholic beverages are flooding, socially accepted, and used in an almost ritualistic manner in a variety of social settings.
5. The Social Context
Values and norms are transmitted in social-cultural context. Extensive research has demonstrated the tremendous importance of family and peers in the socializing of individuals. Closeness and tightness of social relationships are important for social learning, enforcement and internalization of norms. The family has been noted to be the key agent of influence for Hispanics (cf. Guernica, 1982; Hoyer and Despande, 1982) and Japanese (Shigaki, 1983) living in the United States. The importance of family influences is probably higher in these cultures (Hispanic and Japaneses) than are the family influences in the American culture, indicating that traditional norms and values are more firmly held among Mexican and Japanese than among Americans. The importance of social relationships for consumer acculturation can be stated as follows:
P10: (a) The tighter the social structure in the country of origin, the more the learned values, norms, expectations and behavior will exert influence on the individual, leading to deterrence of acculturation being in conflict with prior learned consumption values, norms, expectations and behavior.
Often the newcomer (the immigrant) will meet members of his/her culture of origin in the new culture. For example, inspection of statistics of immigration shows that more than 18% of the 61,000 legal Mexican immigrants that came to the U.S. in 1985 settled in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Diego, while only .7% of these immigrants went to New York. In contrast, almost 49% of the Jamaican immigrants settled in the New York area (Bureau of Census 1987, table 32). Meeting people from one's own culture will probably make immigration less stressful, but may influence consumer acculturation as well. Existence of a "critical mass" of members from the culture of origin in the new setting, implies that much of the previous learned values, norms and behavior are still valid, thus:
(b) Existence of a "critical mass" of members from the culture of origin in the new culture context decreases the probability of consumer acculturation to take place (for consumption activities different from those in the culture of origin where these are still held among the "critical mass" in the new culture).
The existence of immigrant communities in the U.S., such as Chinatown (in several cities) and Little Italy, where the languages of the immigrants are spoken and life is lived very much as it is in their homelands, clearly support this proposition. The following excerpt illustrates this point:
"Many of the Latino children tend to speak to each other in Spanish, while the Asian children speak English among themselves as often as their native language. That's because all the Hispanic children, whether they are from Mexico, Peru, Honduras or anywhere, can speak that one language, Spanish,' Blazey explained. `But the Asian children may come from Vietnam, or Cambodia, or another country, and every one of those countries has a different language. They have to speak English to communicate with one another. (Los Angeles Times, July 17, 1989, p.7)
6. Roles and Situations
a) The individual plays a variety of roles in everyday life (cf. Goffman, 1959). Role-playing (as on stage) is related to expectations and performance of activities. When moving into a new culture, new roles have to be learned, and the individual may meet new demands to prior learned roles as well. The learning of new roles and role demands will often have implications for consumer acculturation. For instance, getting a job in the new culture may require a new way of dressing, eating at different times and so on. We propose that:
P11: (a) New roles and role demands involving consumption activities will enforce consumer acculturation (related to these roles); and
(b) the more central this(these) role(s) is(are) to the newcomer, the more rapidly will the acculturation of role relevant consumption activities take place.
b) The importance of situational influences on consumer behavior has for long been recognized in consumer research (e.g., Belk, 1975). Consumption situations are multiple and can be classified in a variety of ways. Important situational aspects for consumer acculturation are related to the extent to which they occur in the presence of members of the new culture, and the social pressure to behave as expected in these situations (cf. Asch, 1953). From this follows:
P12: (a) Situations involving consumption activities in the presence of members of the new culture, will enforce the adoption (acculturation) of consumption activities in such situations, and
(b) such situational consumer acculturation will be positively related to the perceived importance of the situation and the perceived importance to conform.
The following excerpt from an interview with a Japanese manager illustrates elements of the above propositions:
". . . He quickly learned how to span the uncomfortable gap between Japanese and American society. . . . Katashiba goes by Ken and decorates his home Western-style. At home, his family speaks only Japanese and eats primarily rice and fish. . ." (USA Today, July 15, 1988, p. 2B).
7. Some Personal Correlates
Several personal factors have been examined in prior research on acculturation (cf. Padilla, 1980; Berry, 1980) and consumer socialization (see Moschis, 1986 for an overview of findings). Here we will focus on motivation, learning (stock of knowledge), education, age and sex.
a) Motivation refers to the process of factors (motives) that influence people to act. There are several theories of motivation. McClelland's (1970) theory of social learned needs for achievement suggests, for instance;
P13: The higher the needs for achievement and affiliation, the higher the probability that acculturation of consumption activities will occur in new cultural contexts, and the more rapidly such acculturation will take place.
This proposition is consistent with the observation that immigrants with specific goals in mind, e.g., getting an education or making a business career, more quickly acquire relevant skills, such as language and business manners than do others.
b) The individual's learning capacity is of importance for consumer acculturation. An important aspect of learning is the stock of knowledge possessed by the individual. Previous research has demonstrated that immigrants' stock of knowledge and cultural learned behaviors from prior socialization, affect consumer acculturation, e.g. which goods and in what priority they are adopted, as reflected in their expenditures patterns (Reid, 1986). One explanation is that prior knowledge serves as a benchmark according to which the new consumption environment is compared, and that changes (i.e., acculturation) will occur according to perceived barriers (cost of change) and incentives to change as emphasized above (cf. Figure 1).
c) Education has been found to be a prime determinant of acculturation in prior research (cf. Padilla, 1980; Berry, 1980). O'Guinn and Meyer (1983/84) also noted that Hispanic immigrants preferring Spanish language radio and TV, and speaking Spanish at home were lower in education compared to those (Hispanics) preferring English media and language. Education, per se, implies formal training emphasizing symbolic representation and problem solving. The educational process itself also represents an important source of socialization emphasizing openness, new concepts and change. Thus educational training makes the individual more capable and motivated for change, as repeatedly has been demonstrated in the literature on adoption of innovations (see Rogers, 1983). Thus we suggest that:
P14: Amount and speed of consumer acculturation will be positively correlated with level of formal education.
d) Prior studies on acculturation has shown that youngsters more rapidly adapt to new cultural environments (cf. Padilla, 1980; Berry, 1980). Why this is the case may be explained in a variety of ways. Chronological age is related to the amount and content of prior learning. In many societies, age is negatively related to education (when considering larger population segments, due to increasing rate of education the last decades), but may also be negatively related to opportunities to learn new cultures, and positively related to amount of contact with members of culture of origin. Age can thus be conceived as an indicator of several factors which may be related to acculturation to take place in new cultural settings.
e) Sex as a factor in the process of acculturation has to some extent been focused upon in prior research (see Padilla, 1980). A huge body of research has demonstrated that women and men are socialized into different roles; and that sex role expectations and learning of such roles vary across cultures (and social classes). Thus prior role expectations and learning, (which also may include formal education, as education is considered less appropriate for women than men in many cultures) and thus expectations and opportunities in the new culture, may attribute to differences in cultural acculturation across sexes.
The perspective, and the identified factors influencing consumer acculturation emphasized above, deserve some further comments. Till now, consumer acculturation has only received scant attention in consumer research in spite of the apparent importance of this phenomenon. Moreover, no effort to capture this phenomenon in a systematic way has been proposed. The present perspective explicitly draws on present knowledge on acculturation, consumer behavior, and cultural-environmental elements as emphasized in most marketing and consumer behavior textbooks. A prime virtue of the present approach is that it identifies and relates cultural-environmental factors (macro) to the individual (micro) in his or her acculturation, which can be subsumed under one of the four fundamental explanda of marketing, i.e. "What is the impact of culture on marketing"?, as noted by Lusch (1987) in his discussion of Hunt¦s (1983) contribution "General Theories and the Fundamental Explanda of Marketing". This paper focuses on the linkage between the cultural environment and the individual actor which has been a step-child in contemporary marketing and consumer behavior research. In spite of the tremendous importance of such factors, few attempts have been made to suggest why and how such factors influence marketing and consumer behavior (for notable exceptions see Achrol et al., 1983; Zaltman and Wallendorf, 1983).
The focus here is on cultural related factors influencing consumer acculturation, not on the individual consumer acculturation process, which has been the prime focus in prior acculturation research (e.g., Berry, 1980). The present perspective thus deviates from the dominant approach in contemporary consumer research emphasizing the individual and her or his processes when coping with purchase decisions. The major reason for deviating from the dominant perspective is due to the stated purpose of this paper, i.e., to bring in the cultural influences causing the phenomenon of consumer acculturation. This does not mean that we consider the individual acculturation processes to be irrelevant or being of minor interest. The opposite is the case, as consumer acculturation is mediated through individuals. However, to grasp the central aspect of the actual problem, i.e. acculturation of consumption activities, we have focused on cultural-environmental factors and how such factors are linked to the pehnomenon under scrutiny, i.e. consumer acculturation (Zaltman et al. 1983).
Several propositions are suggested. To the best of our knowledge, fewBif any of the proposed propositions have been tested empiricallyBeven though everyday life observations (and reasoning by analogy logic) seemingly attribute to considerable "face validity" to our stated propositions. As marketers (and other constituencies, see below) increasingly are encountering opportunities and challenges related to consumer acculturation, valid knowledge is needed. Systematic empirical testing of the suggested proposition will add to our knowledge.
Several managerial implications can be derived from the proposed perspective: The mere existence of and growth in cultural minorities indicates that specific, cultural segmented markets are present, of which many are expected to grow (e.g., the Hispanic). Moreover, as segments originating from the same culture, identical cultural segments may be identified worldwide, which can be reached with the same product offerings and by using the same marketing communication approaches. This may as well indicate that the "converging commonalty" of global markets as proposed by Levitt (1983) in many instances will not be the case. Existence of cultures in contrast suggests globally cultural market segmentation.
For marketers who conceive cultural segments as market opportunities, the present perspective suggests important factors to be considered and researchedBbefore entering such markets (e.g., consumption values and activities). For marketers who want to enter cultural segments with their domestic products, the proposed perspective also suggests that the newcomers' role requirements, consumption situations encountered, potential barriers to and/or incentives for adopting their offerings should be emphasized. In a similar vain, identification of cultural barriers can be a useful point of departure for tailoring adequate marketing strategies to create changes. Moreover, by noting that specific characteristics are associated with individuals most prone to adapt to new cultural environments (i.e, high motivation, relevant skills and educational level), such characteristics can be useful in identifying innovators and early adaptors among the newcomers to the culture (see Rogers, 1983), allowing for more focused marketing strategies.
The proposed perspective has implications for other constituencies as well. For consumer educators, the perspective suggests that identification of consumption activities of cultural minorities and what they (the minorities) perceive as barriers will be of importance for tailoring consumer education programs. The present barriers and incentive perspective can as well be extended to cover other aspects of acculturation, such as well-being and schooling of importance for social work, educators and educational institutions and for policy making related to such issues.
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Kjell Gronhaug, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Bergen, Norway
Mary Gilly, University of California, U.S.A.
Lisa Penazola, University of Colorado, U.S.A.
E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1993
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