Part of my job as a marketing professional is to understand consumer behavior. Part of my job as a professor of marketing is to teach my students to understand consumer behavior as well. Basically this means that they must be able to identify the influences and the lifestyle dimensions that impact an individual’s purchase decision. The goal is that through this understanding, organizations can help provide potential customers with better information, thereby improving the likelihood that they’ll be satisfied with their selection.
Not surprisingly, culture is one of the influences that has a profound impact on consumer behavior. Culture – the sum total of norms, behaviors, and values that guide a society’s conduct – is often an elusive quantity to define. Yet, its impact is relentless. Even with all the studies that have been conducted, we still don’t completely understand how it shapes who a person becomes.
To make sense of this difficult concept that is culture, researchers have formulated strategies for comparing cultures to one another. One such way that cultures are compared is based on where they fall along certain value dimensions. For example, one might compare how individualistic vs. collective a culture is. Or one might examine the role of youth and age in cultural interactions. Another aspect that is considered is whether a culture is more likely to value immediate gratification vs. delayed gratification. It would probably not surprise readers to learn that America ranks high on the immediate gratification scale (For more information see Hawkins & Mothersbaugh, Consumer Behavior, 2009). Delaying fulfillment of our desires is not one of our strong suits.
However, while this may be the American way, it certainly isn’t the biblical one. Proverbs 25:16-28 makes this clear. This series of verses extols the abandonment of excess. And it isn’t just in the physical realm that overindulgence should be avoided. As verse 27 shares, we shouldn’t be seeking excess praise, any more than we should be seeking an abundant feast. In fact, these verses not only preach the dreadful consequences of prideful indulgence, they share the antidote as well. For, when we aren’t concerned with consumption, we share. When we are focused on the present, we seek to acquire; when we are focused on eternity’s future, we seek to give. When we cease to live in the moment, we realize that even our enemies can be the benefactors of our good.
The reason for this is simple yet complicated. It’s only through recognizing that life is not made up of possessions, but of moments that we realize what we need to do is not live in the moment for today, but make the moment count for eternity.