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How Companies Use Acculturation

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 2883 words Published: 10th May 2017

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Acculturation is a process of exchanging cultural traits between two different cultures, that influences and impacts on consumer buying behaviour, and consequently has to be seen as a very important factor into organizations’ marketing research, strategy, planning and execution. This research attempts to critically analyse how the acculturation process influences and impacts on ethnic minority group and local population. It is based on a comprehensive bibliographical research on marketing management in order to build a consistent theoretical framework to be used as the basement of this studied subject area.

Table of Content

Abstract 2

Introduction 4

Literature Review 5

Main Body 7

Conclusion 12


There are several factors related to each culture around the world and many of those factors are crossed over among many other cultures which creates similarities, however the differences are the predominant aspects and factors that are extremely visible for others and they come out very easily and creates basic knowledge about the people, even though these characteristics are not predominant or not very important for the people who live with it daily.

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These factors are very specific and normally create an idea about what kind of food, behaviour, beliefs, values, language, religion, clothes and so on so forth that someone has typically and they are known as culture traits. Factors such as the ones cited earlier, are very common and well known by the entire population of a country or an area. In other words, this is where a culture is based on and is carried by many and many generations through years and years.

In the United Kingdom for example, English is the official language but because it is formed by four different countries inside the kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), each one still tries to keep their basic culture traits and that is very important to them. For example, in Wales, they still have the Welsh class in school to keep the language alive.

Because of the huge number of people that are going to live or are living already in different countries and areas with different culture traits, normally are facing other kinds of traits such as behaviour, language, believes, values and so on; and for instance those foreign people not only absolve basic traits from the local people, but also the local people will absolve other traits from the foreigners as well. This exchange of culture traits is defined as acculturation process.

Literature Review

Acculturation process has been studied and analyzed through many years, and because of local and foreign influence on people and countries, different perceptions and point of views were developed to explain this process. For example, Blythe (2008) argues that when someone is exposed to different culture traits, it will make this person to assume and incorporate new traits into their on culture, because it is a way of adaptation that human beings create to make life easier.

However, previous studies showed different observation about acculturation process such as Herskovits (1937) who suggests that acculturation is a process among different groups in which the aim is to create the possibility of exchanging and interaction of their culture traits. Moreover, Winthrop (1991) supports that this process is actually a mix of both foreign and local people relationship, the exchange of culture traits occur in a two way process, the foreign will deliver some traits to the local who will accept and vice-versa, creating a better environment for both.

In other words, acculturation process can be described as a dynamic process in which groups of people absolve certain traits from one culture and deliver others traits into other cultural groups, in a sense, this process will not occur immediately but gradually and it is always a two ways process.

Furthermore, acculturation will play an important role into the consumer buying behaviour in many countries where minority groups are located. According to Peñaloza (1994) the association and adaptation of consumer buying behaviour mixed with different culture traits and environment will develop the consumer acculturation.

Thus, looking from a business perspective, consumer acculturation must be sought and understood by companies that are looking for new niches and segments. Otherwise, they will not be able to visualize the relationship between the foreigners’ buyer behaviour and how their buying behaviour are influenced and persuaded by the local culture traits.

A study carried by Liu (2000) shows that acculturation influences consumer behaviour in both consumer re-socialization and acculturating individual’s self-management. Consumer re-socialization indicated how an individual consumes inside the new culture and acculturating individual’s self-management is related to how someone self-indentify to maintain or change his buying behaviour.

Moreover, Liu (2000) came up with other important factors which influences individuals and they are extremely important to determine and impact on the buying behaviour, these factors are classified as the individual characteristics and the environmental factors, which can be a long list formed by groups where people exchange ideas, needs, desires and so on; however, in her model there are only the most two representative and common factors the workplace and the residence.

Figure 1. A Theoretical Model of Acculturation and Consumer Behaviour (Liu, 2000)

In addition, without a marketing plan in which marketing research plays a crucial role, companies will struggle themselves to achieve penetration of those minority groups with products that are relevant for them. In a way that adaptation will not take place and foreigners’ desires will not be fulfilled.

Consequently, companies have to develop the ability to understand and identify how those factors are established over individuals and how culture traits will impact on foreigners’ assimilation about the local culture traits and if it will influence directly their consumer buying behaviour.

Main Body

Nowadays, there are many companies that are not longer looking at profit as the main outcome or dimension and they are not so focused on deliberative as their process dimension, this view is from companies which have understood how minority groups and external influences have been determining and impacting on the local consumers’ buying behaviour.

Companies which have realized this are migrating into what is known as systematic approach, that profit is still the reason why they are running, but they are trying to allocate resources to contribute to development of new perspective into the society, to present to it that they care about what they think, who they are, and what they want. In this perspective, companies are shifting into the pluralistic approach and leaving behind profit as their main outcome dimension.

Consequently, companies are developing new relationships with segments and particular groups of consumers. That is the case of Waitrose for instance; the company are looking after many aspects that their activity impacts on. In the company website, Waitrose provides information about their activity in relation to the environment impact, suppliers and local communities; moreover, their decision to implement on the company’s policy the supply of organic foods and fair trades with producers (Waitrose, 2010).

In this context, companies will start looking at external and internal factors that might influence consumers buying behaviour and how a buying decision process takes place in that situation. To explain this scenario Hawkins et al (1998) have built the model below in which factors, decision process and experience, needs, wants and life-style are entirely connected and all of them play a very important role into the consumer behaviour.

External Influences

– Culture

– Subculture

– Demographics

– Social Status

– Reference Groups

– Family

– Marketing Activities

Internal Influences

– Perception

– Learning

– Memory

– Motives

– Personality

– Emotions

– Attitudes

Consumer Decision Process

Problem Recognition

Information Search

Evaluation & Selection

Outlet Selection & Purchase

Post-Purchase processes




Experiences & Acquisitions

Experiences & Acquisitions



Figure 2. The Consumer Behaviour Model (Hawkins et al., 1998).

Basically, this model presents how internal and external factors impact on the lifestyle and self-concept which will generate the needs and desires, that finally will be driven to the buying decision process. In order to implement and modify the influenced factors, the experiences and the acquisitions that are being made through all over the consumer decision process will straight impact on that factors and all the process will be in a defined cycle.

Moreover, Jobber and Fahy (2003) argue that customer buying behaviour is an understanding and overview about where, how, who, what and when customers buy. Companies that have that knowledge are able to gain competitive advantage because they will understand in better way what customers want and when and where they want that, and can develop new products to complete fulfil the needs and wants.

KFC (2010) has developed a product line focused on Muslim people, this line was developed after customers’ request, however the way the company is presenting this new line drives for an assumption that actually they have made a marketing research and understand the potential of Muslim segment in the UK, so they had launched the Halal Trial to compare numbers to decide if it will be part of their products of not.

Taking in consideration that Kerbaj (2009) has published a survey in the Times which the Muslim population is growing ten times faster than the rest of the UK population. It means a lot for companies that are dealing with this segment, it represents that this minority group is becoming an important segment and they have to understand their customer buying behaviour and internal and external influences that will contribute to their purchasing behaviour and their purchasing power as well.

Another important factor that can contribute to companies focus on minority group with growth perspective, is once again the UK as example, Rogers (2010) published a survey in the Guardians which shows the rapidly growth of the eastern European community in the UK, nowadays Poland has the second higher birth rate in the UK, behind India only.

What companies are seeing in these days, that focuses on minority groups with potential to growth or with high growth rate, are extremely important. Willetts (2007) shows that Asda supermarket is delivering polish food in their shelves to satisfy not only the polish people, but also other eastern European nationalities such as Bulgarian and Slovakian.

Moreover, in 2007 the Nikkhah and Watts (2007) argued that in one year only exporters has presented that the demand for polish beers and spirits in restaurants, clubs and pubs had increased 200% in the UK. Even supermarkets as Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury’s are selling not only polish food but also drinks, because the demand have been increasing since the products were launched.

The model developed by peñoloza and Gilly (1999) has many of the factors presented in the Hawkins model, however it brings two more modules that includes the persons’ sensitivity over the new culture traits, and the expected results from that sensibility.

Adaptation Strategies


Influential agent




Channel members


Other retailers


Business associations



Negotiate consumers’ resistance

Business enculturation

Multicultural reproduction

Civic development

Social legitimization

Marketer/consumer dialectic



Type of business


Years in business

Cultural rapport

National origin/ethnicity

Language ability




Cultural Market Learning and Translation Processes

Distinctions in cultural consumption behaviours

Formation of cultural market heuristics

Other and self-cultural knowledge


Knowledge of sociocultural relations

Marketer Characteristics:Figure 3. The Marketer Acculturation Process (Peñaloza and Gilly, 1999)

There is a common assumption that Schiffman et al (2008) has risen that argues consumers will purchase products with the most features available with the highest quality and that will deliver the best benefits. Taking this assumption to a minority group perspective, it will buy products which are more likely to be similar from their country. So companies which run business focused on those groups have to acquire the ability to understand what they are looking for to improve quality, taste, features and so on.

Consumer buying behaviour is totally inside the boundaries of companies’ strategy, organizations have to understand how their customers or potential ones behave to define strategies such as price, promotion, distribution and products characteristics.

Understand better customer can generate a very important competitive advantage, once applying what companies have analysed about their customers; they will be able to acquire four main factors according to Schiffman (2008):

1 – Loyalty, will increase the sales

2 – Behaviour, customers will be less price sensitive and competitors’ noise will not easily hit them.

3 – Customer Service will be cheaper because customers well known the company’s culture.

4 – Promotion, customers will spread the positives factors through word-of-mouth.

Thus, organizations which are going to focus on certain segments that is related to a minority group such as the muslin and polish people described earlier, probably they will fail without a properly marketing research to understand all the factors described previously. However, when companies segment, it can create the unawareness in potential customers in an eventually strategy to growth and expand the brand to achieve different segments.

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Furthermore, a completely marketing strategy for a minority group can be seeing as a very good approach, for the present but for the future. Because as one of the theories about acculturation says that people will absolve the local culture and in a long run perhaps that people will change their buying behaviour and product will no longer be interested for them.

Thus, companies have to be aware of this possibilities and always be targeting interesting segments, but not only put their entered effort into one segment only such as a minority group, but work with both to achieve and get the best from the market, and understand how the local culture will influence the foreigners and what have to be done to do not let competitors reach them.


Acculturation presents to firms that there are various ways of people be influenced, and it brings to companies that they have to acquire the right knowledge and understanding about the minority groups’ cultures, otherwise they will struggle themselves to reach a specific segmented targeted as a potential and profitable segment.

Companies must understand that acculturation is a two way process, foreigners will influence local people and the local people will influence the foreigner. It means an exchange of culture traits from both foreigners and locals. In the UK many companies are working to adapt and delivery what some minority groups are looking for to develop a relationship between the company and the customers, in order to create loyalty which will be expressed in profit.

However, those organizations have to beware about the acculturation level of both foreigners and local in order to do not be so focused on and seek for new opportunities and the changing in the buying behaviour of their segments, otherwise they will face difficulties to keep their market share and to growth inside a market very competitive.

Thus, all the acculturation process is very complicated to understand and deal with, however companies can start with adaptation to identify how the segment will behave and analyse if what is happening is profitable, and they have to add into their marketing strategy and planning to growth and achieve corporate objectives.


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