The elements of culture consist of mutually shared operating procedures, unstated assumptions, tools, norms, values, standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, and communicating. Culture is a macro-level perspective of a population whereas cultural reference groups are a micro-level perspective of specific clusters of and individual people within the culture. This is especially important for consumer-oriented marketing because reference groups because they form the lens through which consumers view advertising messages and products.
Cultural characteristics are country dependent and research has shown that consumers within a specific culture tend to interpret and react to marketing information differently from other cultures which means marketers should use culturally matched advertisements to induce consumers to act. For instance, consumers in countries like Japan or China are high in collectivism (Hofstede’s low Masculinity value) and react to advertisements differently than consumers in countries like the U.S. or England where there is a high degree of individualism (Hofstede’s high Individualism value). The cultural problems are compounded when people migrate to a country that has different cultural values because their reference group orientation changes as they are acculturated to the resident country’s culture thereby modifying their purchasing and consumption behaviors to conform more to the resident country rather than to their country of origin.