The Earl of Greystoke would have grown up in an idyllic English manor, sipping tea and munching on clotted cream biscuits, were it not for a rather unfortunate turn of events that left him orphaned in equatorial Africa, being raised by a she-ape. At the heart of Edgar Rice Burroughs' tales of Tarzan, which have captivated audiences for over 100 years, lies an elemental question: what makes us who we are – nature or nurture?

In my last blog post (Marketing's Dirty Little Secret), I discussed the biology of behavior and how we are wired to ride the express-lane for decision making. This is an area of investigation that is gathered much steam, including work done by Forrester (see How People Choose by Shar VanBoskirk). This interest in consumer neuroscience has led us to another intriguing area of inquiry: How do we account for cultural context in the biology of behavior? How does nurture shape the biological nature of our decision making?

The central role of culture and its impact on consumer preference is the focus of my most recent report: We're Not In Kansas Anymore: Building Culturally Relevant Social Brands In Global Growth Markets. In this report, I examine how brands must account for unique preferences in the global growth markets of Brazil, China, India, and Mexico. The full report is available to Forrester clients. For those who do not yet have access, I want to share three key finding from the report, which present themselves as apparent paradoxes that global brands must contend with:

  • Paradox 1: Accessible, Yet Aspirational. Forrester data in global growth markets demonstrate that the burgeoning middle class is highly status conscious, but they drive a hard bargain. Global brands must deliver accessible aspiration – premium ”masstige” brands (like luxury cars) must find accessibility without sacrificing cachet, while accessible brands (like soft drinks) promise an ephemeral alternative reality (see how in my blog post New Rules For Branding In Emerging Markets: Make Aspiration Accessible)
  • Paradox 2: Traditional, Yet Progressive. There are many traditional facets of growth markets: A collectivist mentality, adherence to hierarchy, extended families under one roof, and conservative social mores. Yet these very markets have leapfrogged infrastructure constraints to become mobile and digital hyperadopters. Roadside coffee stands in Shanghai proclaim “scan code, no cash,” even as stores of brands like Coach, Moleskine, Nespresso, and Ray-Ban do not accept Alipay or WeChat. Underestimating and not catering to the hyper-connected urban consumer in growth markets is a recipe for disaster.
  • Paradox 3: Local, Yet Global. Status-craving post-colonial mass markets are often enthralled by Western icons, even while retaining a fiercely nationalistic streak. When a "foreign" brand strikes a local chord (for example, the "Let's Gap Together" campaign with Pharrell Williams and Angelababy) consumers are far more likely to open up their wallets.. Global equity is best consumed with a twist of local relevance.

There’s a lot more in the report, including an analysis of global growth markets along six dimensions of culture, and new Forrester data on consumer preference and social and digital adoption in these markets. Read all about it here: We're Not In Kansas Anymore: Building Culturally Relevant Social Brands In Global Growth Markets