Cultural meanings of brands and consumption: A window into the cultural psychology of globalization

Carlos Torelli, Shirley Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


With globalization, the number of individuals with knowledge about multiple cultures is on the rise. This article illustrates how studying consumer reactions to brands that are loaded with cultural meanings can contribute to developing a cultural psychology of globalization. Our review demonstrates that brands can be considered cultural 'products'- they are tangible, public representations of meanings and ideas shared in a culture. As such, incidental exposure to culturally symbolic brands can spontaneously evoke its attendant cultural meanings and trigger culturally appropriate behavioral decisions. Because globalization makes these brands readily available in diverse cultural contexts, consumer reactions to culturally symbolic brands often reflect people's views about the cultural effects of globalization. Consumers would respond favorably to these brands when the associated cultural meanings reinforce the consumers' cultural identity. In contrast, consumers would react negatively toward these brands when they are perceived to be a threat to the local culture. We identify the factors that promote one type of reaction over the other, and discuss how this line of research can further contribute to building a cultural psychology of globalization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-262
Number of pages12
JournalSocial and Personality Psychology Compass
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


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