Impact of Culture on Consumer Behavior
Holiday market is one of the most dynamic and, at the same time, restricted by its maturity in any given country. The impact of the cultural element on consumer behavior is specifically intense as the preferences of individuals in terms of geographical location, length of the vacation and a type of planning are determined by a set of norms, values and beliefs. These dimensions differ not only on national level, but on sub-social and individual layers, which makes the marketing analysis of consumer behavior especially complex. Given the complexity of the issues that surround the topic, there are two critical constructs that should be considered in view of an effective marketing mix strategy for each of the consumer groups. First of all, internal, or cultural, construct that involves personality attributes on individual and group levels. Secondly, the impact of external force, such as the economic landscape, that restricts and outlines the common country profile of a consumer group.
An analysis of internal holiday market customer segments outlines the variety, based on personal preferences and ‘desires’ of the consumers (Meyer and Bernier, 2010). Indeed, it is extremely interesting to look at the diversity of consumer profiles in general and one of the first steps should be a top down approach to understanding the market through national cultural identity. The objective of this small research is to compare and contrast the consumer behavior, based on cultural differences between the UK and Brazil and create a specific marketing mix strategy for each of the consumer portfolios (Doole and Lowe, 2008). With the above considerations on the complexity of the consumer profiling, the essay will look at the two elements: economic profile and tourism statistics for each of the two countries and, primarily focus on cultural background under the Hofstede´s Cultural Dimensions framework, which is considered by the writer as one of the most effective tools to summarize the cultural traits on a country level. The argument of this essay is that the difference in social structure and cultural identity of Brazilian and British traveler force the development of totally different marketing strategies.
Before looking at the specific constructs, it is important to outline the general characteristics of the markets that this essay will analyze. To ensure more in-depth analysis, we will focus only on leisure tourism, which represents the largest share in the total tourism activities for both countries. Total population of the UK, based on the 2012 census is just over 63 million people, while Brazil accommodates over 195 million people. This statistic is interesting, especially when we compare it with the number of international departures, which accounts for 37 million and 6.3 million per year for the UK and Brazil respectively (World Bank, 2012). The question that one should ask at this point is what drives this severe gap in the population and tourism data? The answer can, probably, be found in the information related to social inequality and poverty levels. Population living below the poverty line is estimated at 21,4% and 14% for Brazil and the UK respectively. The reality of the latest economic crisis reflects reduction in international travel expenditure by 2,5% in the UK and by 3,7% in Brazil, along with the growth of the total consumer spending in both countries by 11% and 17,6% respectively (Package vs Independent Holidays - UK - Mintel, 2014; Trading Economics, 2014). The Mintel report (2014) forecast for the UK, however, illustrates forecasted recovery in international tourism departures from current 37 million to 44,6 million people by 2018. The same statistics for Brazil, however, demonstrates much less optimistic forecast of only 4-5% growth in international departures by 2018, generated by mostly the growth in international travel among middle class population (MDT, 2013).
There is a common trend between two countries on switching from the traditional package to independent tourism options. The UK statistics for the period between 2003 and 2008 demonstrates 8% reduction in package tourism, while the amount of independent Brazilian tourists account for 6% of total outbound tourism. The difference in the profile of outbound travelers is in geographical spread of destination. While the United States and Argentina account for over 21% and 18% of the total outbound tourism in Brazil respectively, the UK outbound holiday visits are relatively disperse across top ten North American and European destinations (Package vs Independent Holidays - UK - Mintel, 2014; ETOA, 2013). The question that we should consider at this stage is: “What determines the choices and statistics of the tourism from the cultural perspective?
Hofstede (2001) argues that all the nationalities have a common set of cultural traits that can be grouped in six major cultural dimensions. First dimention is the power distance. Based on the evaluation conducted in his research, Brazil index is ‘69’, as opposed to ‘35’, given to the UK. This indicates higher tendency of British people to minimize the role of inequality on social and cultural levels. This cultural dimension allows understanding the role of categorization and segmentation of the tourim offer, based on the social classes and cultural preference. Second element of the framework, is the individualism that evaluates the level of social independence of individual members. The index of ‘89’ and ‘38’ for Brazil and the UK respectively outlines strong tendency of Brazilian tourist for remaining in its “comfort zone”, which explains low diversity of tourism destinations and higher preference for package tourism. Robbins (2007) provides evidence for the growing trend of independent travel planning, as opposed to package holidays. Indeed, it is possible to observe that more and more travellers, especially, in the age between 20 and 35 years old, start feeling comfortable with individual planning of their tourism activitirs. Third dimension is masculinity, where the UK score is ‘66’, relative to ‘49’ of Brazil. The UK and Brazil demonstrate moderate balance between “liking what you do and feeling comfortable (femininity)” and “challenging yourself and competing for the best (masculinity).” The UK still demonstrates more tendencies for masculinity. Another important dimension is the uncertainty avoidance , where Brazil´s score of ‘76’ demonstrates clear preference for familiar routes and destinations as well as higher demand for financial stability (The Hofstede Center, 2013). This cultural element can be explained by the educational levels, comfort with the foreign language and proximity to other countries (Keohane e Olmsted, 2007). It is difficult to argue that average a UK tourist´s “comfort zone” from language perspective, is higher than the one of a Portuguese speaking traveller. Finally, Pragmatism outlines inconclusive character of both cultures, where it is difficult to explain the preference of British and Brazilian tourism for either one of extrinsic or intrinsic motivational factors. Final element is the indulgence, which outlines the overall ability and willingness to control the impulses and desires as a cultural trait. Both countries demonstrate indulgence, which explains willingness for enjoying life and spending money for leisure. The UK score of ‘69’, however, is higher than ‘59’ given to Brazil (The Hofstede Center, 2013; MSI, 1999).
The above overview of the general cultural characteristics of the countries tourism allows building personalized marketing mix portfolio for each group, based on 4P´s: product, price, promotion and place (Ritcher, 2012). The UK marketing mix should be focused on independent tourism offers and online sales through medium pricing strategies. Priority product is an individual element, such as airline tickets and hotel booking. This will allow capturing growing youth consumer segment that like to personalize their travel with a high level of flexibility. Pricing strategy, given slow recovery after the economic crisis should focus on the medium range offers that will embrace middle and high middle class traveler. This will allow maintaining the demand of high class traveler that has preference for package tours and diversify to newly emerge independent travel category. Promotion of tourism should be done mainly through social media and online advertisement with the distribution (place) through physical agencies and a strong focus on online travel agencies and websites.
Relevant marketing mix for Brazilian tourist is different. Product focus should remain on the package tourism due to lower acceptance of independent packages and preference for comfort in the choice of destinations. From a geographical perspective, more focus should be given to European destinations to leverage the extreme preference for the US among the middle class. Pricing strategy should target middle class segment that contributes to the major part of the forecasted growth in outbound tourism. Luxury travel will continue remaining a niche market, served by several tourist agencies in the country. Promotion is the key for Brazil consumer and visual advertisement on TV as well as in the external environment, such as street banners and transport advertisement are critical to develop on “travel abroad culture” among Brazilians. One of the interesting promotional techniques could be the application of the hi-tech tools, such as an analog of an existing YouTube Brand Channel Website for Brazil (Travel and Tourism - Brazil - Mintel, 2013). Place, as a construct of the marketing mix, will remain physical, as the impact of online advertisement is not as strong on package as it is on independent travel options. The role of social media, like Twitter and Facebook, however, will play a significant role in the development of tourism in the country.
An analysis of the cultural and economic aspects of two cultures, the UK and Brazil, demonstrate the role that values, norms, practices and other elements play in the development of economic activities and tourism industry specifically. While the research, conducted on Hofstede´s dimension only provides a helicopter view on the subject, it allows seeing the diversity of marketing approaches that can and should be adapted based on consumer behavior, built on cultural background. The knowledge of this intangible element of consumer preferences along with a solid economic data can equip the companies in the industry with robust tools for effective sales strategies and market growth.
Excellent references. Try to show your personal view on what you are quoting as well/describe or analyse in your own words. Generally very well constructed. Try not to exceed 1650 words.
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