The bicultural value system: Undertaking research among ethnic audiences

Yasmin Kaur Sekhon

Bournemouth Univerity

Isabelle Szmigin

University of Birmingham


Marketing to ethnic communities is fraught with problems of understanding the cultural contexts and value systems of others (Nwankwo & Lindridge 1998; Carrie & Wei-Na 2005). Within Britain, this is exacerbated by the prevalence of a multicultural society that spans generations. There is an inevitability that the migrants who settled in Britain in the 1950s or 1960s have different values and motivations to those of their children reaching adulthood in the 21st century. Second-generation ethnic consumers live in the world of their parents and their community, but often work and socialise in a very different cultural and social context. As one might expect, these influences impact upon their decision making. In this study we seek to unravel some of the factors that impact upon ethnic decision making, with a particular focus on one group: second-generation Punjabi Indians. We examine research that has sought to identify factors that impact upon their consumption behaviour, in particular acculturation, identity and ethnicity. We then present research findings that reveal some of the key issues that need to be considered in developing a research approach to understanding ethnic communities. In particular we raise issues of ambiguity and paradox that impact upon these people’s lives, and the importance of key cultural norms that influence choice and behaviour. According to the 2001 UK Census, British Asians constituted just over 4% of the UK population, while black British constituted just over 2% (see Table 1). The census showed that South Asians represented 3% of the UK population, which is approximately 1.6 million people. This segment consists of first, second and third generations, in the main highly educated, professional or business-owning individuals, but with a wide range in age and disposable income.