Cultural Effects on Consumer Behavior

Consumer behavior is largely dependent on cultural factors consisting of mutually shared operating procedures, unstated assumptions, tools, norms, values, standards for perceiving, believing, evaluating, and communicating.  Cultural factors vary by country but become increasingly complex when people immigrate to foreign countries that have different cultural dimensions. In these situations, people are subjected to a wide variety of cultural reference groups that ultimately affect their purchase behavior. In addition, reference groups may consist of familial groups or external peer groups with each group providing specific and often conflicting information that affects purchase and consumption behavior.  In response, marketers must develop marketing communication that addresses cultural and reference group factors from both a domestic and global perspective.  To this end, marketers use market segmentation and micromarketing to develop customer-centric marketing messages with the goal of providing precisely defined marketing messages that satisfy consumer’s need for personal information regarding products and services so that consumers should be adequately stimulated to purchase the product or service being advertised.

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Influence of Cultural Reference Groups on Consumers.


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.


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The Electronic Commerce Life Cycle

     Electronic Commerce is the use of the Internet or non-traditional forms of electronic marketing between a company and its customers, suppliers, or other business partners.   Electronic Commerce is also known as e-commerce or e-business but for the purpose of this discussion it will be referred to as e-commerce or EC. Through e-commerce we can use a PC or smartphone to connect to the Internet and conduct business, manage email, purchase a plethora of products, and acquire research information virtually anywhere in the world.  This powerful capability is ubiquitous and dependable but has had a problem-plagued growth that was overcome in only about the last five years.  E-commerce, however, has gained consumer trust and global usage, and businesses are investing heavily in its future.

    Throughout the history of the United States, innovations in business and commerce have had a temporarily disruptive effect on the economy starting with the introduction of mass retail purchasing in the post-Civil War era, to mail-order shopping, big-box discount stores, to e-commerce.  From its Pre-Internet stage to the present, the Electronic Commerce Life Cycle has had a startling effect on worldwide commerce. Despite its fitful start and tumultuous growth, EC has opened new avenues of product acquisition and information retrieval that are efficient, convenient, and cost effective.  Bruce McDougall declared, “Electronic technology has changed the way we think about money and monetary value.  It’s changing the way companies organize themselves and do business. . .”

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Human-Computer Communication in Electronic Commerce

An important consideration for creating effective electronic commerce applications is for developers to be fully cognizant of the nature of human-computer communication relative to customer service.  Humans, by nature, need to interact with other people especially when we are experiencing stress or trying to resolve a purchase-related problem; leaving a message with a computerized messaging system or working solely with an automated system can exacerbate the stress. 

In the 1990s I worked for an IBM business partner selling and installing banking telephony-based interactive voice response (IVR) systems.  Typically, we would place the IVR systems in front of the human-manned call center.  The plan was to have the IVRs handle the mundane calls thereby allowing the call center reps to devote their time to more complex issues.  Customers, however, disliked the arrangement, so many banks placed the computers behind the call center in order to handle call overflow.  Now here is where it becomes interesting: The bank’s customers loved having a human rep answer the initial call but quickly wanted to be transferred to “the machine” to transact their banking business. The net result was that the IVR’s were doing exactly what we had originally planned for them to do but the only difference was that customers wanted to talk to a human first.

I frequently remind my colleagues that the reason we have computers and electronic commerce is because of people. In order to develop more effective applications we must focus on people first and info systems second. 

There are times, however, that I feel like a voice in the darkness.


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The Importance of Emotional Intelligence for a Leader

       Emotional intelligence appears to be a distinguishing feature of successful leaders. We hear of leaders who defy conventional wisdom and logic and are successful anyway because they went with their feelings rather than pure logic.
       Jacques (1996) pointed out that industrial era thinking marginalized the entire domain of relational practice including emotions, nurturing, and empathy. Furthermore, in the 21st century, relational skill will be increasingly important for effectively organizing but these skills are not typically found in an industrial workplace.   To relate and nurture implies an emotional connection to another person. It implies that we acknowledge and value their feelings. Cooper and Sawaf (1996) state, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection, and influence” (p.xiii).
        In addition, Bass (1990, p. 111) cites research that confirms that emotional expresivity, emotional sensitivity, and emotional control are important social skills for a modern leader. Factor this in with Jacques (1996) and Cooper and Sawaf (1996) and it becomes obvious that emotional intelligence is important to success in the 21st century.


Bass, B. M., & Stogdill, R. M. (1990). Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership : Theory, research, and managerial applications ( 3rd ed.). New York: Free Press.

Cooper, R., & Sawaf, A. (1996). Executive EQ: Emotional intelligence in leadership and organizations. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group.

Jacques, R. (1996). Manufacturing the employee: Management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries. London: Sage Publications.


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Newt’s Statement of the Proposed Mosque Near Ground Zero

In my opinion, Newt Gingrich is an articulate, insightful political commentator and professor of American history. He has made an astute statement regarding proposed mosque near “ground zero” in New York City and it deserves repitition. You may find it fruitful to visit Gingrich’s website at .

Statement on the Proposed “Cordoba House” Mosque near Ground Zero

By: Newt Gingrich

July 21, 2010 6:00 pm

There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is  over.

The proposed “Cordoba House” overlooking the World Trade Center site where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our  most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity  and historic ignorance of American elites. For example, most of them don’t understand that “Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.

Today, some of the Mosque’s  backers insist this term is being used to “symbolize interfaith cooperation” when, in fact, every Islamist in the  world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult  us this way. Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for “religious toleration” are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.  And they lecture us about  tolerance. If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the  Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead
such a campaign.

We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built  within a year overlooking the site of the m ost devastating surprise attack in American history.

Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources. America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.

No mosque.

No self deception.

No surrender.

The time to take a stand is now – at this site on this issue.

Click here to download a copy of Gingrich’s statement.

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Our Relationship with an Employer

The characteristics of the Federalist citizen are fairly descriptive of my work relationship.  In order to elaborate as to why, I will look at the essence of the Federalist citizen  as presented by Jacques (1996):  The Federalist citizen was a master craftsman that entered wage work as a means to another end, that considered dependence on the organization a debased state, that believed sub-ordination to be un-American, that made complete products and was paid for outcomes, that believed in the omni-competence of the average person, that considered it a perquisite and basic criterion of adult participation in society to speak one’s truth knowledgeably, and that unified the roles of business person and politician, domestic and paid worker, and producer and consumer.

 Jacques (1996) states that the modern professional has “…roots stretching back to the middle ages,” and “whose authority is grounded in specific occupational knowledge” (p. 89). As an industry certified information systems professional, I satisfy Jacques’ definition.  While I am not omni-competent, I am multi-competent in my field and am expected to speak truth knowledgably.  Like most professionals I know, I find it difficult to accept low level sub-ordination and am more loyal to my profession than to any particular company.  This is in stark contrast to the industrial employee who is characterized as being the good, permanent employee, resigned to a specific task at a fixed wage, the sub-ordinate, the ignorant, childlike, encoded self.  As a result, my work relationship clearly has more in common with the Federalist citizen than the industrial employee.


Jacques, R. (1996). Manufacturing the employee: Management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries. London: Sage Publications.

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The Federalist Reality and the Industrial Reality

I was reading Roy Jacques’, Manufacturing the employee: Management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries, a fascinating and intellectually stimulating discussion of the evolution of the modern “employee” and the realities of a Federalist reality verses an Industrial reality.  Each reality was a product of its time; they were manifestations of the nation’s political, economic, and social condition. Consider the Federalist reality era of 1790 to 1870. America was emancipated from Great Britain, began its individual economic existence as a sovereign nation. In the initial stage of this era, the country had no significant manufacturing capacity. Consequently, it seems important that the Federalist be self-sufficient and operates in their autonomous sphere. Jacques points out that the Federalist was omni-competent and “…had the knowledge to effectively deal with the problems of society” (p.39). The Federalist citizen was a “highly unified self’ (p.29); he was the right person for the times.

As the nation gained political and economic stature the population and manufacturing capacity increased. The Civil War appears to be a major turning point for the nation, which marked the end of Federalism and the beginning of the Industrial reality of 1870 to 1920. Increased industrialization of the North due to the Civil War created an economy that could mass-produce consumer goods. This, in turn, diminished the need of individual self-sufficiency. It also marked the beginning of a strong centralized Federal government, the incarnation of the United States as a major world government, and a melding of capital and labor.

Jacques states, “The staple roles of the Federalist work – owner-operators and workers – were disappearing. New roles appeared – managers, employees and capitalists – which could not be understood in Federalist terms’ (p.63). The Federalists liked to leave things alone but Industrialists were people of action and wanted to make things happen. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that the nation could not sustain its rapid economic growth and consumer sophistication in a Federalist reality. The ethos of the nation changed and with it came the Industrial reality.

I personally prefer the Industrial reality because provided a firm foundation on which the American Dream was established. While I like the idea of omni-competence, it simply does not provide an adequate framework for maximizing human resources or supporting sophisticated manufacturing endeavors.


Jacques, R. (1996). Manufacturing the employee: Management knowledge from the 19th to 21st centuries. London: Sage Publications.

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Globalization is “Nice” – or is it?

Recently I was asked to comment on a quote made by Jimmy Carter regarding globalization. Carter stated, “Globalization, as defined by rich people like us, is a very nice thing…you are talking about the Internet, you are talking about cell phones, you are talking about computers.This doesn’t affect two-thirds of the people of the world.”

My initial reaction to Carter’s quote is to regard it as a fallacious statement largely based on his parochial perspective. When I deconstruct the statement I need to point out that globalization per se is not necessarily considered to be a “very nice thing” for many people both rich and poor. Mr. Carter makes a bold sweeping statement that has no basis in fact. Furthermore, insinuating that the Internet, cell phones, and computers are a product of globalization is patently false. Having the privilege of being involved in the technologies that made these products possible enable me to distinctly remember that the retail consumer versions of these products were largely created in the United States after which they rapidly spread into what was then identified as an “international market.” Carter’s statement is ambiguous in that it insinuates that these high-tech products are a manifestation of globalization. The ubiquitousness of computers, cell phones, and the Internet may be influenced by globalization but we should not infer that they are a result of it.

Carter states that globalization does not affect two-thirds of the people in the world is another ambiguous statement that implies that the majority of the people in the world either are unaffected by or cannot participate in fruits of globalization. I admit that there is some probability that many people in the world may not directly enjoy the benefits of globalization but I am unaware of many, if any, countries that are unaffected by it.
Lewis (1999) states, “As the globalization of business brings executives more frequently together, there is a growing realization that if we examine concepts and values, we can take almost nothing for granted” (p.11). In a global economy, we cannot take for granted concepts as fundamental as a contract, business ethics, trust, fiduciary responsibility, and leadership skills. Addressing these concepts on an international basis is intriguing but I doubt if many people would say it was “nice.” The inexpensive retail consumer electronic products and services may seem nice but we should not use that as a basis to infer that globalization in and of itself in nice.

Globalization is a marvelously complex interactive process melding economies, people, and cultures into a phenomenon that I believe we have yet to fully understand.

Lewis, R.D. (1999).When Cultures Collide: Managing successfully across cultures. Nicholas Brealy Publishing Co., London

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Importance of Educating Yourself

The more you know, the more you will grow. Information is the greatest resource you have as you work toward creating a better life. Facts help to increase your confidence, break down fear, and inspire you to action. Learn all there is to know about what you want and you will never be without the drive and energy you need to make it happen.
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