Culture , according to the text book, is defined as the complex whole that includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, customs, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by humans as members of society. It sets the framework for individual behavior. It functions by setting loose boundaries for individual behavior. These boundaries are called norms. Simply put, they are rules that prohibit certain behaviors in specific situations. But what happens when someone breaks one of their cultural norms? I went to Walter last week and observed three people doing Just that.
The first person I saw breaking a cultural norm was a younger girl around 15 years old or so. She was shopping around Walter wearing a t-shirt and pajama bottoms. This is not a normal thing to do. In general, the cultural norm is pajamas are for home, not for wearing out in public. This young girl, however, did not adhere to that norm. Sanctions are penalties ranging from mild social disapproval to banishment from a group that result from breaking cultural norms. This girl suffered the sanction of social disapproval. While observing her I noticed several people taking second looks t her as well as staring in disapproval.
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It also seemed as if people were attempting to keep their distance from her when she would walk down an aisle. It seemed that no one wanted to be associated with her. I also saw some people give her some looks that, to me, appeared like they felt sorry for her. Others seemed to look down on her. A few of my friends were with me and I asked them what they thought of her, without telling them it was for research. They responded with saying that it made her appear somewhat trashy, immature, as well as not-well-off. This girl seemed to value her individualism, one of the defining characteristics of American society.
These people don’t conform to the group and do their own thing. I think that because she had this value she didn’t care what others thought of her, even though she was breaking a cultural norm. The other two people I saw breaking a cultural norm were two guys, who were obviously a gay couple, holding hands. This was a very interesting thing to observe because although this has traditionally not been a cultural norm, it is currently in the progress of transitioning into becoming one. While homosexuality is much more accepted than it used to be in the past, I wouldn’t say that it is considered a cultural norm Just yet.
So, in general, this couple was still breaking the cultural norm. When observing people’s reaction to them I saw a mix of responses. Some people seemed to be taken back. Almost as if this break in the cultural norm caught them figured. They didn’t seem to know how to react. Others seemed offended. They had looks of anger, some disgust, and also disapproval. These people tended to keep their distance and head a different direction from the couple. Other people seemed completely oblivious. As if nothing was out of the ordinary and it was completely acceptable to see a homosexual couple.
This, no doubt, has to do with the current transition that is taking place. Denton is a fairly liberal town so, overall, I saw more acceptable responses than I did disapproving ones. However, this may not be the case in other towns. This also goes to show how culture can slightly vary throughout valuing diversity more than uniformity. Cultural values contribute to norms and sanctions which in turn influence consumption patterns. Marketing managers need to understand the existing cultural aloes as well as the emerging values in order to effectively market their products.
But how should businesses handle norm breakers such as the ones I observed? For people like the first girl I observed, it would be a good idea for marketers to focus on the fact that she most likely values her individualism. This could be used to their advantage. Advertising their products as something unique and one-of-a-kind would most likely appeal to people like the girl. The gay market is increasingly growing in the United States as the gay and lesbian community becomes more accepted. According to the textbook, the gay market is absentia in both size and purchase power.
It is estimated to be seven percent of the adult U. S. Population, which is roughly around 16 million people. Their purchase power is estimated to be between $750 and $900 billion. These factors make the gay market a very attractive segment to pursue. Reaching out to gay and lesbian consumers online or with gay-themed ads are good ways to connect with this segment. Another important factor is making sure your company gets the loyalty of the gay community is making sure you have internal policies that do not discriminate against gay employees and that your company is gay friendly.
Understanding the gay community and their specific interests, such as movies and TV shows, will help as well. Understanding these things will help businesses when attempting to market to gay and lesbian consumers. Understanding and adhering to cultural norms comes easily for most people, however there will always be people that do not. Businesses need to remember that and understand how to market to those people as well to be more successful. Being able to recognize cultural norms being broken and understanding why people break them are key in being able to successfully market to them.