Culture and Change

Culture is not monolithic and fixed. Culture is due to change and adapt. Well, then why do we experience cultural differences in the era of global culture? With the technology of communication and transportation, we get closer and closer. With the language we use, tendencies we share or boundaries we exceed, we seem to be like members of a single culture. Still, we are “us and them”, and it is not just invented cultures (popular culture, adhocracy culture, vegan culture, etc.) that make us differentiate.

Most of us still, identify themselves with their nationalities, ethnicities, belief systems all of which stand for their culture. Some of them may be living and behaving differently from the previous generations of their cultures. They may even be the citizens of different nations as well. It is clear that they have changed and adapted to the challenging environment. However, they still define themselves with fixed cultural identities.

Change is real on the surface, but how deep is it? Hofstede’s “layers of culture”(1) approach provides us a tool to deal with this contradiction. Practices, as the visible part and the outer layer of culture, may change. Your symbols may adapt to the new political environment, your rituals may fade away, your heroes may be questioned. However, the core, the inner part, the values of culture will still resist to change.

(1) Hofstede, & Hofstede, & Minkov (2010). Cultures and Organizations, Software of the Mind Intercultural Cooperation and Its Importance for Survival. McGraw Hill

What about the consumer culture?

As we agreed that the definitions are essential for establishing the base for strategies, let’s focus on another definition of culture this time to approach this question. Concerning the communal form, culture is defined as

the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group1

In consideration of this definition, we may tend to assume that they do, however, groups do not have boundaries. Individual members manipulate group boundaries with preferences in diverse fields. Similarly, consumers do not have fixed identities to be included in particular groups. In other words, we can not assume that a consistent and fixed idealization of a particular group will help us to define our “target group” unless we are fine with moving targets.

That is why the procedure for uncovering the actual perspective of the people we aim at is crucial. We should not underestimate human thinking. Cost and time effectiveness in a sample of a larger population should not be our only goal. The surface we scan by surveys will surely provide us an overall understanding. However, if we do not go in deep, we can be sure that we take the risk of the data gathered being temporary. Besides, with the lack of actual human interaction or the cognitive disonance caused by surveys2 our way to reliable data will be blocked.

As Puhu we believe that to listen with insight is the basic procedure to understand. Let us help you listen…



Questioning the Definition of Culture

Culture is a concept that is borrowed and adapted to quite a few fields. Organizational culture, company culture, urban culture, underground culture, and so on… Defining these particular concepts may be viewed as the simple phase of dealing with the phenomena since the main task is approved to be developing strategies. However, defining and tracking the origins of the concepts and especially the components of the concepts is crucial for sustainable strategies.

Therefore, the concept of culture should be defined in the first place. For sure this very first task is not for a textual achievement. It is for establishing the base for strategies. Concerning the institutional form, culture is defined as

the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization. [1]

In consideration of this definition, we may tend to assume that they are, however organizations are not super-organic structures. They are not independent of the individual members of them. What is said to be shared is (if so) shared by actual people. These actual people may have particular attitudes, values, goals, and practices. They may be docile as well as challenging. Besides, these actual people may be temporary cultivators for the organizations. That is why a top-down model should be at stake.

The other implication of the definition is the disposition to believe that culture is monolithic and fixed. Is it? In a changing world, surrounded by a challenging and manipulating environment, with circulating actual individual members, can it be? Culture is due to change and adapt. However, adaptation should not be a temporary strategy, it should be a feature of the structure. Ultimately, the organizations should listen to their people to understand and establish a grounded but adaptive culture.


What is culture, anyway?

When we borrow and adapt concepts from (other) disciplines, we usually lose track of the origins of them. We may contribute to defining and redefining these concepts regarding our domain. Then all of a sudden we may find ourselves in the middle of a chaotic mass of uses, definitions, and explanations. Let’s assume we succeeded to delimit the definition. Still, adapting and redefining concepts will surely have consequences on our decisions and strategies that follow.

In fact, the origins and the evolution of ideas surrounding the concepts may provide us a significant insight. In a changing world, we do not expect concepts to be monolithic and fixed. Still, even the concepts that are the subjects of ongoing controversies within the fields may shed some light on our understanding. If we trace the phases they have passed, we will surely be donated by the methods suggested to deal with them.

Besides we live in a world of interdisciplinary studies. Boundaries are blurred both within academia and between academia and business world. Technology and technology driven human interactions compell us to bring together scientific approaches and business requirements surrounding the concepts. Enough of vague talk. What Puhu wants to deal with is the concept and the notion of culture.

Cultural Contexts and Technology

It is not the only way to understand human behavior to given communication and human interactivity with products and services. Our progressive thought about more humanization of technology for the good of people and also effecting on the data with people oriented concerns rooted from cultural and social dimensions. Thus, will redefine a market where classical recommendation engines with more artificially evolved machine intelligence into cultural and social evolution in its way of thinking. Also, any predefined segmentation models or approaches will be combined with more detailed cultural aspects of people in order to get better responses from this communication. Briefly, these differentiation points will bring new opportunities and also redefine the market that is already in growth stage. Puhu can enable the semantic component in this solvent.

Human side of technology is needed more

It is not only the exponentially increasing amount of data that is needed to understand the human behavior and preparation of intimate responses back as marketing communication but also the design of messages based on relevant cultural background, complex attitude sets of targeted audience and more appropriate technology to reach them are needed. This can be more complete with the non-technical side of the story rooted in both social sciences and information technology.

To make this work, our approach is taking the challenge of developing new analysis models for the marketing message delivery under various cultural constraints as an addition to big data analytics, adding on top of it. Using stochastic methods or implementation of AI techniques will only help if the cultural context is properly drawn. But, for a more effective result this context shall be studied with the glasses of social scientists, which in most cases do not receive required attention in the design.

Technology plays an important role in changing life of consumers with an unexpected speed of innovative developments for the last several decades. Most of them were disruptive and shaped not only behavior of consumers but also empowered them for searching for better products and services. These changes took place in media, communication, information management of socialization and collaboration. The digitization revolution is a continuum until when people and machines will embrace a common ground while improving life of consumer. Today, new marketing tools are developing on the basis of integrated machine learning, such as analysis of customer conciseness, prediction of behavior and perceptive marketing, which will be used extensively through digital platforms, new media, social web and in everyday devices for targeted marketing.

Engagement with customer for facilitation of innovation by developing collaborative knowledge about products and services gains importance. This is also a significant marketing competence of successful companies which can be characterized as innovation oriented organization. Machine learning methods such as classification, regression, clustering, and cross-validation are powerful tools which are used with big data mining for large databases and give researchers opportunities to gain new insights into consumer behavior. There are many practitioners in this domain both from the academia, the business world, and increasing number of initiatives and many research companies trying to solve more problems, which are becoming epidemic, in giving meaning to all forms of unstructured data flooding from e-commerce pipelines, social media, mobile applications, gamification platforms and overloaded content generation.

This huge volume of data, new generations of customers and their evolved capabilities, competition aware firms and service based focus in business are expanding the canvas for the future. Management, marketing and technology are in intersection and merging with more advancements coming from all axes to reach customer, to act with partners, to stand tall in the market, to manage resources more effectively.

But, the human side of the story is still up there to be understood better and more “humanistic”, don’t you think?