Individualism/Collectivism in Advertising

Many researchers have examined Hofstede’s individualism/collectivism cultural dimension in relation to consumer decision making. In many cases, these two traits are considered to be diametrically opposed – yin and yang, so to speak – rather than being related in meaning at their core.

However, as Oyserman’s points out:

  • Individualism is related to having a “positive sense of self and defining oneself in terms of personal attitudes, traits, and opinions.”
  • Collectivism is related to having “positive sense of group membership and the personal traits that make one a good group member.”

As Osyerman notes, these two views are not contradictory. In fact, they both describe a consumer that seeks a positive self-image through personal traits, albeit for different end goals. Both views require “learning about, feeling good about, and improving oneself, and using self-knowledge to navigate one’s social world.”  Therefore, a marketer that wants to tap into this dynamic through advertising needs to focus on the positive self-image core aspect of this cultural dimension.

In addition, Osyerman found that individualism/collectivism priming (exposing the consumer to a stimulus, such as a previous ad, in order to influence the response to a subsequent ad) in advertising resulted in very specific behavior when consumers viewed advertising:

  • Individualistic priming meant that consumers focused on main points or figures in the ad, not the background or implied relationships.
  • Collectivistic priming meant that consumers focused on contextual or relative information within the ad, not necessarily the headline message or main image.


Oyserman, D. “High power, low power, and equality: culture beyond invidualism and collectivism.” Journal of Consumer Psychology. pp. 352-356.


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