A person's culture is represented by a large group of people with a similar heritage. The American culture, which is a subset of the Western culture, is of primary interest here. Traditional American culture values include hard work, thrift, achievement, security, and the like. Marketing strategies targeted to those with such a cultural heritage should show the product or service as reinforcing these traditional values. The three components of culture—beliefs, values, and customs—are each somewhat different. A belief is a proposition that reflects a person's particular knowledge and assessment of something (that is, "I believe that ..."). Values are general statements that guide behavior and influence beliefs. The function of a value system is to help a person choose between alternatives in everyday life.
Customs are overt modes of behavior that constitute culturally approved ways of behaving in specific situations. For example, taking one's mother out for dinner and buying her presents for Mother's Day is an American custom that Hallmark and other card companies support enthusiastically.
The American culture with its social values can be divided into various subcultures. For example, African-Americans constitute a significant American subculture in most US cities. A consumer's racial heritage can exert an influence on media usage and various other aspects of the purchase decision process.