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The Interface of Subcultures and the Use of Cosmetics Research Paper

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Updated: Oct 1st, 2021


There are numerous factors that influence the process a consumer goes through from the time he or she conceptualizes the purchase of the product through to the actual buying of the product. From family to friends, workmates, and peers, all these people influence the final decision of what the consumer actually takes off the shelf or what services he or she uses.

The focus of this paper is specifically on one of these aspects, subculture, and how it plays a role in one area of consumer purchasing behavior, that of cosmetics. The hypotheses for the paper are; the sub-cultural interface plays a major role in what trends consumers follow in the use of cosmetics, and sub-cultural divisions can actually be a marketing tool used to the advantage of the marketers.


Consumer behavior makes an attempt at understanding why people buy what they buy when they buy it so as to determine market trends and manipulate them to the supplier’s advantage.

Consumer behavior further tries to determine the influence of groups and networks on the consumer, such as family, friends, workmates, and peers (Stern and El-Ansary, 1992).

The fundamental questions to ask are how does belonging to a subculture influence the consumer’s use of cosmetics, if at all, and to what degree? And also, do subcultures work to the advantage of the marketer or against him?

Definition of terms

Consumer behavior

According to Perner (2008), consumer behavior can be defined as the study that focuses on the processes individuals, groups, or organizations use to choose, use and dispose of necessities such as products, services, their experiences to cater to their needs and how these choices impact them and the society they live in.


Mooij (2003) defines culture as a complicated process that is inclusive of art, beliefs, morals, belief, and customs that are exercised by any given member of a given society.


Greenberg terms subculture as being a culture within a culture. The individuals within a subculture have certain features peculiar to them, though they do share characteristics with the other individuals in their cultural bracket (Greenberg, 2006).

Deaton and Mullbauer (2007) define the several categories of subcultures, depending on the special characteristic that sets a group apart from within its own cultural concept. Broadly, some of these categorizations are:

  • Ethnic subcultures (minority groups). In the U.S, they can be classified as Blacks, Hispanics, Asian Americans, euro Americans, Native Americans, and others.
  • Religious subcultures, be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism new ageism.
  • Age subcultures
  • Disability subcultures

It must be kept in mind that when discussing subculture, it is difficult not to sound stereotypical or even biased. It also has to be noted that the conclusions drawn about the subculture groups are generalizations about their practices and norms and do not apply to all individuals. It should also be noted that more often than not, ethnic minorities live in low-income areas with few and limited shopping opportunities (Deaton and Mullbauer 2007).


Kollat and Blackwell (1978) give the definition of acculturation as the degree to which consumers in a particular culture have adapted and learned the trends from a different culture.

There is relevant literature that provides deeper information on consumer behavior trends, more so on the role played by culture. By analysis of this literature, we can better comprehend how deeply culture impacts consumer behavior.

The Appearance of Youthful Subculture: A theoretical Perspective of Deviance by Lynne Richards (1988)

Richards (1988) focuses on deviant subcultures. In her abstract, Richards points out that there is a number of reasons that lead to the emergence of deviant subcultures, one of the chief being appearance. She makes a study of the Teddy Boy of the 1950s and the Hippie subculture of the 1960s where she observes that the focus of both subcultures, marked by they being young people, was also that they were identified by how they dressed and what makeup they put on.

She further goes ahead to say that their emphasis on appearance was for four major reasons: to make the deviant role more credible and tangible, to give the deviant role substance and a focal point to which society responds, to be the gauge by which the level of deviance is determined and lastly to provide a sort of template for imitation by the masses, and thus set way for social repair.

Consumer Behavior of Older Adults: A Candid Look at the Age subculture and Health Care Implications of Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Advertising by Alen Vartan

Though Vartan focuses on the misconception of how direct-to-consumer advertising for older people is meant to be done, his article is relevant in this situation because of its focus on advertising. He points out that the mistake made over the years when targeting the older people market group is that this group was very brand loyal; thus, there was no overwhelming need for heavy investment in DTC. But by 2002, this attitude had been proved wrong. His objectives are basically to find out the three main values marketers use when targeting older consumers in DTC, to identify what motivational behavior concepts and identity in relation to the older adult sub-culture, and lastly to pull down the models used in DTC for the elderly and instead work with individualized messages and in all reconstruct the advertising approach used. The relevance of his research to cosmetics marketers is that they could borrow a leaf from his advertising strategies.

It measures ethnic Identity and its Impact on Economic Behavior by Amelie Constant & Klaus F. Zimmerman

The focus of this paper is the call for reassessed measures on the ethnic identity of immigrants, who make up ethnic sub-cultures, to fully explore to what extent that ethnicity influences economic performance. The determination of ethnicity is based on culture, societal interaction, and ethnic self-identification. Empirical behavior is used to conclude on economic behavior such as earnings, housing, and other expenditure.

The Global Market Place by Lars Perner

Perner does a thorough analysis of what the global marketplace has to offer for marketers who venture beyond their national borders. He offers ideas based on Hofstede’s model on how these marketers can relate to totally new cultures and capture markets with minimal difficulties.

Culture and subculture by Lars Perner

In his article, Perner has a subtopic on culture. Under this topic, he clarifies what culture is, the difficulties that marketers face when marketing to new cultures, such as ethnocentrism, language barrier, and stereotyping, with advice on how best to handle each difficulty.

Consumer Behavior and Culture by Marieke.K. de Mooij

Mooij, in this piece of work, aims at pulling apart the misconception that the American cultures and attitudes are the same abroad. On the other hand, there is a greater discrepancy in consumer behavior between countries. Keeping in mind that all consumer behavior is bound by certain cultures, in a clear and concise text, she tells of the importance of marketers to be keen on the differences in cultural attitudes in a rapidly globalizing world.

Global Marketing and Advertising, second edition by Marieke.K. de Mooij

Mooij works from her knowledge of the differences and similarities between cultures, building on how this knowledge can be used in global marketing and branding. It has both practical applications, carries out a classification of models of culture, and the how culture affects the different facets of marketing, advertising, and communications.

Consumer Behavior by Michael R Solomon

This book focuses on how, without even our noticing it, marketers play a vital role in our lifestyles that are beyond our shopping habits. It outlines how their effort in determining what products we buy, what services we use has an influence that overflows to our social world.

The Psychology of Consumer Behavior by Brian Mullen & Craig Johnson

The focus of this book is to answer the paradoxical question of which an attempt has been made over the years: what drives consumers to do buy what they buy when they buy it? By use of current research in the field of the psychology of consumer behavior, the book hypothesizes that a better grasp on consumer behavior could be used to provide greater value in services and products to the consumer.

Shop until You Drop by Arthur Asa Berger

The primary interest of Berger is a critical analysis of America’s shopping culture and the role it plays in day-to-day living. By analyzing current demographics on consumption together with the theories that exist on competing cultures, he provides useful insight into America’s shopping culture.

Marketing Strategy by David Mercer

Mercer’s book on marketing strategy breaks away from the traditional mindset of environmental analysis, building on the approach to marketing that can keep pace with the more dynamic business world. The shortfall of the environmental strategy is that it is short-term, while today’s business world calls for long-term planning. The book is in two parts, with the first part delving on environmental forecasting and long-term forecasting, while the second half shows how these methods can be applied.

International Marketing Strategy, fourth edition by Frank Bradley

Bradley’s book revolves around the five-stage model for the making of an international firm, based on the most recent research. It examines how culture, values, life cycle considerations, pricing, brand strategy, international strategy, and several other factors play a role in the making of a successful firm. His book is garnished with real-life examples that authenticate the reading experience.

Consumer Behavior by John C Mowen & Michael Minor

What the authors aim to achieve with this book is to give an all-around and ample analysis of the field of consumer behavior and to scrutinize the factors that influence consumer behavior and how each can be worked around a marketing strategy. The book is written with deep insight into consumer behavior and lays out applicable strategies that can work in understanding the consumer mind.

Economics and Consumer Behavior by Angus Deaton & John Muellbauer

Deaton and Muellbauer work towards working the theory of consumer behavior from the economic angle. Their primary focus is how the theory of welfare applies to the economics of consumer behavior. By looking at how people prioritize their spending, depending on their values, income, the influence of cultures and subcultures, they make a thorough analysis that ties up how consumer behavior interrelates with the economy and what the implications of this are.

Consumer Behavior: Theoretical Sources by Scott Ward & Thomas S. Robertson

Ward and Robertson work at tallying the theoretical aspect and factual facet of consumer behavior by basing their work on the theories that have been suggested about consumer behavior, analyzing theories such as scaling, diffusion, Nicosia, gamma distribution, etc., to reaffirm their accuracy and relevance in the study of consumer behavior.

Consumer behavior, 10th edition by Roger D. Blackwell & Paul W

The book uses a practical approach that can assist an individual in understanding consumer behavior principles that apply in the business world, more so in marketing. Since consumer behavior is multi-disciplinary, Blackwell ensures that the reader’s attention remains on the fundamental principles of consumer behavior needed to have a good understanding of general business practices when dealing with the consumer. He focuses almost exclusively on the consumer, what motivates them, what they find captivating, what holds their interest. Blackwell underscores that the most important figure in marketing is the consumer.

International Advertising: Realities and Myths by John Philip Jones

The outstanding feature of Jones’s book is that it does not treat advertising as an isolated subject but interrelates it to other trends in the globalization of business by incorporating the voices of other professionals and academics from ten countries. He covers a wide base for international advertising, be it giving a general overview or detailed accounts of the techniques used in advertising abroad.

Understanding Consumer Decision Making: The Means-end Approach to Marketing by Thomas J Reynolds & Jerry Corrie

This book advocates for a more aggressive approach to marketing, justified by the fact that as long as in the long run, both the consumer and the marketer get what they want. The authors work on the basis that marketers must be very observant of consumer behavior trends and their practices so as not to miss the cues they may send when they lose interest in a product or are ready for a new product. Furthermore, the marketer should be able to anticipate the consumers’ needs, hence giving him an edge.

Consumer Behavior by Del I. Hawkins & David F. Hawkins

This text’s aim is to furnish the vital knowledge that is needed to carry out a comprehensive consumer analysis so as to subsequently understand the market and lay down the appropriate marketing strategies. The topics that are covered are such as ethics, sub-cultures, demographics, technology, and global market trends.

Consumer behavior by J. Paul Peter & Jerry C. Olson

The book is a tactical study of consumer behavior, which is meant to equip the reader with the ability to carry out successful marketing. Its four parts focus on consumer affect and cognition, consumer behavior, consumer environment, and marketing strategy.

Consumer Behavior by David L. Loudon & Albert J. Della

The text offers a precise analysis of consumer behavior, expounding on concepts such as brand loyalty, the role of memory on consumer behavior, marketing research, and strategies.

Consumer Behavior by C Glenn Walters & Blaise J. Bergiel

The book centers on how students can use the decision-making process to predict what choice of products they will oft to buy, side by side with the strategies that can be implemented so that businesses can explore new marketing opportunities.

Emotion and Reason in Consumer behavior by Arjun Chaudhuri

The text explores the avenue of what role emotions and reason play in consumer behavior that is based on solid academic research. The research is at a level that can be understood easily by students.

Consumer Behavior by Robert J. Holloway, Robert A

The text examines all the myriad factors that influence consumer behavior, such as culture and subculture, social class, mass media, and advertising. It also looks at the different methods of research that are used in the study of consumer behavior.

Justification of hypothesis

I shall let the literature speak for itself. If culture and subculture played an insignificant role in consumer behavior, then there would be no need to invest such a great amount of resources in research and publishing for this particular avenue.

From the collected works above, it can be concluded that the sub-cultural interface plays a role in the consumer’s attitude, buying, and use of cosmetics. Since most of these sub-cultures have norms that they adhere to that tend to be more stringent even than cultural norms, they are an easy target group for marketers.

However, the most crucial mistake that marketers make when working with sub-cultural groups is that of casting them into stereotypes. If, for example, a particular sub-culture is strongly associated with a certain ethnic look, it might be a mistake to model all their products along the same lines. This is because, within any sub-culture, there are still individuals with disparate needs, not necessarily modeled along with that of the stereotypical outlook. Thus, there should be an attempt made at originality, uniqueness, and appeal on a personal level.

It can be concluded that sub-cultures, to a great degree, work to the advantage of cosmetics marketers. As has been said by Mooij (2005), Hispanics and Asian-Americans tend to be brand loyal. This means that if a cosmetics company markets its products with the right approach by tying them up with family values, it will establish a solid market.

There are, however, factors that work against cosmetics companies where sub-cultures are concerned. Deaton and Mullbauer (2007) tell us that more often than not, ethnic minorities live in low-income areas with few and limited shopping opportunities. This almost automatically means that the percentage of their income allocated to frivolities like cosmetics is minimal since they have to cater to their basic needs first. Secondly, since they tend to shop within the locale of their communities which, as has been mentioned, may not have good shopping facilities, they may have limited access to these cosmetics.

Some sub-cultures discourage the use of cosmetics, and this applies to religious sub-cultures. Muslims expect their women to cover themselves completely in public since a display of body parts is considered immoral. They also tend to stick with their own traditional makeup, such as kohl and henna. They are very stringent on the observances of their ascetic religious practices that completely discourage the use of cosmetics.

The elderly also fall into the category of a sub-culture that might not be overly receptive to cosmetics. Simply put, they are past their prime and on their value system; cosmetics do not fall very high.

There is also the language barrier that may be experienced. Most Hispanics and Asian-Americans, secure within their own communities, often neglect to learn other languages separate from their first language, with a rudimentary mastery of English. When it comes to advertising, this is a huddle because the marketer has to do it in a language that is best understood by his potential customer. There may be subtle cues in language that the marketer may miss altogether, leading to unexpected social blunders.

Thus, it is essential for cosmetics marketers to understand the targeted sub-cultural group to be able to capitalize on their eccentricities and to avoid potential pitfalls.


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