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Effects of Chinese Cultural Values on the Consumption of the Lululemon Clothing Products

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Abstract

The understanding of the vast cultural background in China is one of the fundamental tasks that any commercial researcher needs if he/she has to put a good foundation for any business establishment in this culturally rich environment. In this paper, I sought to establish the effects of cultural values on the consumption of Lululemon cloths products. The knowledge of cultural effects concerning the consumer’s behavior is a major factor in the theoretical framework of this research paper.

The social and anthropological nature of this research led to the adoption of Discourse analysis as the main research method, supported by analysis of official statistics regarding the Chinese population and use of social imagination. Being neither pure quantitative nor pure qualitative research, the use of any of these methods could be applicable in this research.

The analysis of several themes provided a better platform for understanding the impacts of the Chinese religion and culture on the entire livelihood of the Chinese population. This study concludes that Chinese communities are culturally made to appreciate natural ways of keeping healthy. Physical fitness activities and sweaty sports, such as athletics, are valuable practices in the Chinese culture. As such, the Lululemon clothing products find a ready and reliable market in China.

Introduction

Over the years, marketers have tried to understand the behaviour of their targeted consumers. However, little progress has been made in the understanding of the effects of cultural values on the consumers’ behaviour. Casson (2005) notes that entrepreneurial judgement component of the firm theory has been conspicuously missing in all of the theories proposed so far. In this paper, I sought to assess the Chinese cultural values in order to answer the question: “How do the Chinese cultural values affect the consumption patterns of the Lululemon clothing products of the Chinese society?”

The knowledge of cultural effects on the consumers’ behaviour formed the basis for this research. The research sought to establish whether the Chinese cultural embrace of physical fitness practices among its members, love for sports, and the dressing codes could create a viable and wide market base for the Lululemon Clothing products.

Lululemon Athletica is the world’s largest producer of athletics clothing brands founded by Chip Wilson, initially as a yoga studio in 1998. Its specialization in technical athletic apparel has earned it the close association with sweaty activities, such as running, yoga, acrobatics, and dancing (Lululemon, 2012). The initial plan of the Lululemon’s founders was to establish a good platform where people could discuss and learn the secrets of healthy living through the physical fitness practices, such as yoga or cycling.

This healthy background gave the company its rich and deep commercial involvement in athletics and other physical fitness activities. Since the inception of Lululemon Athletica, symbolized by the stylized “A” logo, it has captured a bigger and almost monopolized the global market. However, this market dominance has not been fully achieved since there are other markets, China, for instance, that have not been fully covered. 

Being the most populous and the fastest economically growing country in the world, China would form the most favorable market for the Lululemon products. The People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949 in the East Asia, and currently, its population is approximately 1.4 billion people (Chinatoday, 2012). The communist nature of this country blends with its rich cultural background to favor the single-party state governance.    

In the light the above discussions, the researcher was, therefore, convinced that the study and analysis of the Chinese cultural values would greatly contribute to the understanding and marketing of the Lululemon products in this environment. As mentioned before, the sole purpose of this research was to establish whether the Chinese cultural values would favor successful marketing of the Lululemon clothing products. Many anthropologists and marketing scholars have linked consumer behavior to cultural values of the consumers.

Even though the effect of cultural values on the consumer’s behaviour is an assumption based of intuitive methods rather than empirical evidence, marketing theorists have generally accepted culture as one of the fundamental determinants of the consumers’ behaviour (Bardi & Schwartz, 2003). In his research to determine the relationship between cultural values and consumer behaviour, Corrigan (1998) ascertained that empirical evidence supports the general theory of culture as being a determinant of the certain aspects of the consumers’ behaviour. He developed some value dimensions in his study of the cultural orientations within the American society. The main finding of this research was the correlation between the American cultural values and the ownership of the generic automobile categories.   

Several other researchers have noted that some values that are so implicit in a given culture can affect consumption motives as well dictate the choice criteria to be adopted by individual consumers. In the same breadth, culture has the potential to affect the consumers’ attitude and perception of a given brand of products. It is on this premise that the researcher sought to establish if the athletics culture in China could be a favourable factor in marketing the Lululemon Clothing.

A perfect company’s marketing strategy is one that exhausts all the possible outcomes of its new market in terms of its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) in that new market. As such, the athletics orientation of the Lululemon Clothing Company and the Chinese athletics culture forms the strength of this clothing brand. However, the negating or the inhibiting power of cultural values against choosing some specific brand of products became the threats that this research sought to establish.

A study of the Lululemon literature and website reveals the tight relationship between athletics, physical fitness, and the Lululemon’s yoga outfit. The Lululemon website notes that the sale of athletic apparel to active women has flourished tremendously (Lululemon, 2012). This observation of previous active sales by the Lululemon Athletica, to a relatively similar market segment, pointed to a promising future for the same company in the Chinese market. The certainty of this promising market formed the subject of this research.

Data Description

The successful design and presentation of this research was entirely based on the existing data drawn from literatures of various disciplines. However, the backbone of this research was laid by the previous studies on sociology of consumption. Henry’s study on the effects of cultural values on the consumers’ behaviour gave the research its theoretical framework, which is supported by Corrigan’s concept of clothing as a means of expressing social and cultural standing of the wearer (Corrigan, 1998).

Morton & Lewis (2005) define culture as a system of knowledge that is shared by a large group of people and is composed of a system of shared beliefs, values, symbols, and behaviours. According to the above definition, culture has the ability to influence people’s verbal behaviour, perception, cognition patterns, and nonverbal behaviours.

More importantly, this study has included data about the Lululemon Athletica’s products and their specialised features. These features form the research variables that determine their suitability for the Chinese market. The data drawn the company’s website and other related sources of information are the focus for this study. 

In order to put this study in the Chinese context, I have focused on the data describing both the traditional and modern traditional cultures. Most of these data relate to the value that the Chinese community and government have put on athletics and physical fitness activities. It is in line with the Lululemon Athletica’s products specialization.

Methodology and Theoretic Focus

As opposed to other scientific researches that require either qualitative or quantitative inquiry methods, the nature of this social and anthropological research makes the use of such methods inappropriate. The complexity of this research calls for the use of sociological imagination to investigate the Chinese cultural values through the analysis of the relevant literature and statistics. Among the established social research methods, discourse analysis is more appropriate in understanding the available cultural texts and their contexts (Fairclough, 2003). This research was supported by the physical visit in China. 

Discourse Analysis

Fairclough (2003) defines discourse analysis as a way of understanding social interactions not only through mere linguistic analysis of texts but also focusing on fundamental elements of structuring and networking of social practices captured in these texts. As a research method, discourse analysis tries to uncover the way in which the social reality is produced.

Fairclough (2003) associates discourse with not only language and its practice, but also he also attributes the controlled production of knowledge through language to give both material objects and social practices their meanings in the society. The scholar adds that discourse is a tool that the societies use to regulate what to be said on specific social and cultural conditions. In other words, discourse can be defined as the controlled use of language to express the beliefs and other aspects of a given society. The beliefs and cultural values are usually reflected in the discourse, which can be treated as the bigger mirror.

The main tool that shapes the ideologies in a given society is the study of discourse analysis and reality of language (Fairclough, 2003). Analysis of discourse, whose main component is language, provides a social researcher with a sound foundation to base the social and cultural constructions of a given society. The argument is that if language is a cultural and social variable, then, the society’s sense of reality must be constructed socially and culturally.

Theoretically, all the discourses in a given society, whether written or verbal, are the true reflections of the societal values and patterns. Therefore, in order to understand the cultural values of the Chinese community and their effects on the society’s consumption patterns, it was important to analyze the recorded discourse surrounding such cultural values and practices. 

As such, I believe that discourse analysis of various literatures relevant to the Chinese culture provided the most effective and authentic base to ascertain Chinese cultural values. For the sake of getting the factual and numerical aspects of the Chinese sports culture, I examined official statistics retrieved from both the Chinese websites and other printed reports.

Research Limitations

Given the social and anthropological nature of this research, its main findings were limited to the observations by the researcher, analysis of discourse, and examination of statistics drawn from the secondary sources of information. The quantitative methods of inquiry could not be fully employed, thereby making it void of clearly measurable variables that are fundamental in the scientific researches. This research methodology was informed by Hasnas’ (2006) assertion that some business rules are very effective even though they might not be verified empirically.

The shorter duration which this research was conducted in also restricted the range of sources that were analysed. As noted by Hasnas (2006), no researcher is able to study everything; limitations of time, bulk of literature and data to be collected, as well as financial implications are some of the challenges that were faced during this study. The preliminary study on the research question revealed a lot of information about the Chinese culture and trends in the sociological study of marketing.

In the light of the above constraints, the study reviewed just a portion of the available literatures that were extremely relevant to the research question. Some of the literatures and data that were not very relevant are not covered in this research. This might have been a case of negligible subjectivity by the researcher.  

Outline of the Research Structure

Based on the analysis of discourse as the core research method, the body of this research is divided into three major sections. The section is devoted to the analysis of four major themes that are addressing the Chinese cultural background, Chinese values for athletics and other physical fitness activities, the fundamental features of the Lululemon cloths products, effects of cultural values on the consumers’ behaviour, and the Chinese population. This first section is meant to provide data and illustrate the research findings.

As mentioned above, research findings are deduced with the themes analyses. This section is informed by the data gathered in the themes analyses. Additionally, the official statistical data gathered during the study are presented in this section to give a clear representation of the research variable. The main purpose of this section is to answer the research question, through the data gathered in the study.

The last section of this study is the conclusion of the entire study. Depending on the findings of the research, the section explains why there is a ready and favourable market for the Lululemon cloths products in China. However, the study also advocates for the further empirical research on this field of the cultural effects on the consumption patterns.

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