THE CULTURE CODE by Clotaire Rapaille


An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Buy and Live as They Do
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The application of psychology and cultural anthropology to the world of marketing produces some pat answers.

Rapaille, a French psychologist who has become an American citizen and is a marketing consultant to major U.S. corporations, asserts that in addition to the Freudian individual unconscious and the Jungian collective unconscious, there is a third cultural unconscious that guides us. “Culture Code” is his term for the unconscious meaning that people raised in a given culture give to objects, persons, places, actions and relationships. He describes, and illustrates with numerous quotations, the technique he uses with focus groups to get past what people say to what they really feel, a process that he calls a “discovery.” By uncovering the true meanings of, say, cheese, or car, or dinner, he is able to advise companies on how best to market their products in a particular country. For example, learning from Rapaille that the Culture Code for Jeep in the United States is Horse, while in France and Germany it is Liberator, led Chrysler to formulate different advertising campaigns. Rapaille follows this example with a host of others demonstrating the importance of connecting with the Culture Code when launching a product in Europe or Japan. Presumably marketing managers profit from knowing that in the United States the Culture Code for food is Fuel, for sex it is Violence and for love it is False Expectation. Rapaille then extends his analysis of Culture Codes past marketing to domestic politics and foreign relations. Our Culture Code for the presidency, he reports, is Moses, i.e., a rebellious leader with a strong vision and the will to get his people out of trouble. Our Culture Code for America is Dream; however, to the Germans, our country is John Wayne; to the English it is Unashamedly Abundant; and to the French it is Space Traveler. Just how this knowledge can be used to win an election or improve international relations is not entirely clear.

Some amusing anecdotes about national differences, but on the whole way too simplistic.

Pub Date: June 6th, 2006
ISBN: 0-7679-2056-2
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2006