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On becoming a culturally plural consumer

Sankaran, Kizhekepat and Demangeot, Catherine (2011) On becoming a culturally plural consumer. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 28 (7). pp. 540-549.

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Abstract

We examined consumption behavior to understand how individuals become culturally plural consumers through exploratory research conducted in one of the world’s most urban multi-cultural environments, the UAE. As a starting point consumption was deemed as “consummatory” in accord with Holbrook (1987). The data were collected through twenty interviews with UAE residents. This included men and women, ages ranging from 20s to 50s, representing eleven countries from five continents. Broadly a hermeneutic approach was followed in eliciting how culturally plural consumption behaviors emerged and interpreting how the process unfolded. The study examined multicultural habits pertaining to products or services chosen by the respondents. These covered food, cuisine, books, beverages, music, dance, clothes, TV, health treatments among others. Patterns of consumption acts create a consumption behavior that may be described as extemporaneous, expedient and emergent. The nature of the consumption process depends on a host of triggers that includes culturally diverse predisposition of the consumer, multi-cultural identities, social cues, contextual factors and individuals’ proclivity towards experimentalism. Taken together we found that the praxis of becoming a culturally plural consumer is a learning process that has an emergent quality. In culturally plural markets consumers have to be approached with a fine brush. Many of the current taken-for-granted ideals of marketing will be questioned by the approach we are suggesting. As Stewart (2009) aptly said, understanding of praxis “would allow for practical action, based on edifying philosophy.” This study is exploratory and qualitative in nature with no firm conclusions. While Holbrook’s idea of consummation is a metaphor for consumption that is well-known, it is not adequately understood nor followed up with research. Our inquiry into consumption praxis is a contribution to that end with significant implications for 21st century marketing.