Marketing Cult or Culture?

An Insight on How Consumers Behave Differently

Kukuruza’s Blue Cheese and Buffalo Popcorn. Max Brenner’s Chocolate Pizza. Rokurinsha’s Tsukemen. These are among the few items I have lined up for in Tokyo. In Manila, I have not even lined up for more than five minutes, even if my subscription to favorite blogs has already alerted me of Tim Ho Wan coming to town, or Onitsuka’s first store opening in the Philippines. 

A stark difference, eh? Is it that my behavior has changed or has the culture I now belong to leads me to behave differently? 

In our Consumer Insight and Branding class, we have identified different “cult brands.” The Japanese culture is a “line-up” culture - we’ve said. While no science has been theorized, we agreed that people line up because of the insight that, “If it’s worth lining up for, it must be good”. 

We can also possibly attribute this to the cultural DNA of the Japanese that seeks “conformity.” For example, job hunters all come in strict black outfit from head-to-toe, during job fairs - no tinge of color or personality. Social acceptance is very important as a form of keeping one’s Tatemae (loosely means “image, public face”). Tatemae, often sets aside Honne (loosely means “real self”), to seek harmony. Tatemae often chooses conformity. 

In the Philippines, I can freely choose my Honne - maybe it’s why I behave differently as a consumer. Tatemae is not as culturally important. Often, the deviant is called brave, the iconoclast - intelligent, and the non-conformist - creative. These cults of people are socially accepted. So I do not line up in the Philippines. 

I am but a random sampling of a consumer that behaves differently depending on the context he or she is in. So, in promoting brands, could creating a “cult following” be the key, or could riding on the prevailing culture be? 

One thing’s for sure - when marketing in different markets, the need for cultural insight is indispensable.

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