One of my favourite books I have read over the last few years is The Culture Code, An Ingenious Way To Understand Why People Around The World Live And Buy As They Do – Coltaire Rapaille.
Coltaire Rapaille has spent decades studying cultures and consumer behaviour as a cultural anthropologist and marketing expert. The author shares some phenomenal insights about familiar products and how they got so familiar. Coltaire’s insights have been massively beneficial to companies around the world. But, this glimpse into what happens behind the marketing and sales scenes has profoundly affected me as an individual.
You May Get Angry
I highlighted something significant on just about every other page in the first chapter. By the second chapter, I realized that I should read the book or colour in all the pages. I found myself vacillating between shock, outrage and some profound “aha” moments. We all know that companies invest greatly in understanding the human psyche. They leverage this knowledge for profit and gain. When you begin to comprehend the intensity behind these studies, you cannot help at first feeling a little manipulated and outraged, which is exactly how I felt at the beginning of the book.
Look Past The Words
Once I moved past my anger and applied a more pragmatic mindset, I appreciated the life lessons. What makes Coltaire Rapaille so successful is his ability to move past the façade of words and hear what we really mean. He calls this the code or, more specifically, The Culture Code. He defines this code as: “the unconscious meaning we apply to any given thing” (pg. 5). An example of this is his study into the American culture around toilet paper, which he sums up to be: INDEPENDENCE. He then illustrates how this was used as a very effective marketing tool.
Awareness is Key
Coltaire Rapaille very adeptly takes you through his process to these conclusions. Especially for some of our favourite products (and imprints) like cars, makeup, cheese, love, alcohol, being overweight or pretty and many more. Some of the codes are astonishing at first and, in some instances, seem too primal to be real. However, once you have that awareness, you begin looking objectively at yourself and those around you. You notice that he is, in fact, scarily accurate in his assessments.
Knowledge is Power
I think how this translates into personal revelations and understandings will differ from person to person. It won’t be easy to read this book and not have a new perspective on the world around you. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone. My only advice would be to set aside your emotive reactions and focus on the reality of the information. Commerce is commerce, and people are people. As groups, we tend to follow the crowd and often don’t see the need to disrupt the status quo. However, as an individual, you have the choice to empower yourself with knowledge and awareness. Armed with newfound information, you then have a choice as to how much and how the world and people around you influence you.
Personal Belief System
As a result of this book, I took some time to reassess my choices. Here in South Africa, there are some very dominant brands. As my quest for finding healthy, reliable and earth-friendly products grew, so did my scrutiny into brands. It changed my shopping habits considerably, but I couldn’t help but wonder how their marketing strategies influenced me.
This was when I realised that this book also speaks to our personal belief systems. We all have them and use them to filter our daily experiences, whether we are conscious of this or not. In my blog – Why You Should Have a Personal Philosophy, I speak about this in more depth. Understanding self goes a long way in helping us make better choices.
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