Review: The Culture Code


Dr. Clotaire Rapaille is a culture anthropologist and marketing specialist who specializes in advising advertisers and politicians how to connect with others through unconscious “codes” that shape how we think, live, vote, and purchase.  The Culture Code examines American culture – with a few examples from other cultures – in areas of beauty, health, love and sex, home, work and money, food, quality, perfection, and many others.  Rapaille assigns a word or very short phrase culture code to each of the areas listed above.

For example, Rapaille explains in Chapter Three that the culture code for “fat” in America is “checking out.”  Rapaille says that in America, when we hear, see, or think of the concept “fat,” we immediately associate “fat” with “checking out” of life.  Knowing these culture codes, the text argues, allows us to market products and ideas more effectively because we are able to appeal to both the conscious and unconscious thoughts and desires of our audience.

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Creating a compelling argument always utilizes Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.  Knowing the American culture codes can help marketers, politicians, and other hopeful persuaders to more effectively convince an audience to buy or to buy into a product or concept.  The Culture Code also ties into an amazing NPR piece I heard earlier this year: the Frank Luntz interview about his own book.  Click here to learn more about the Republican strategist and how to “win” with smart messaging.

Of course, we need to take into consideration the difference between “persuasion” and “manipulation.”  We want to be persuaded; we resent being manipulated.  Advertisers and marketers manipulate the minds of audiences to persuade them to buy something. My contention is that if we study our own culture codes and if we are more aware of our unconscious desires, we can more clearly navigate this manipulative world we live in.

Click here to listen to an interesting interview with Rapaille.


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