Social organisation refers to the ways in which people relate to one another, form groups and organise their activities, teach acceptable behaviour and govern themselves. It thus comprises the social, educational and political systems of a society.

The exporter’s ability to communicate depends to some extent, on the educational level of the foreign market. If the consumers are largely illiterate, advertising materials or package labels may have to be adapted to the needs of the market. In this regard, however, a company marketing baby food in a certain African country put the picture of a smiling child on the outside of the jar. The local resident assuming there were preserved babies inside, avoided the product! In addition, there are unspoken signals which identify cultural differences, from certain taboos to less obvious practices like the time taken to answer a letter. In some societies, for instance, an important issue is dealt with immediately; in others, promptness is taken as a sign that the matter is regarded as unimportant, the time taken corresponding with the gravity of the issue.

In a culture where great importance is attached to the family unit, promotional efforts should be directed at the family rather than the individual. The size of the family unit differs from one culture to another. It can range from the nuclear family, i.e. mother, father, and children, to the extended family which includes many relatives and whose role is to provide protection, support and economic security to its members. In the extended family, characteristic of developing countries, consumption decision-making takes place in a larger unit and purchasing power patterns may be different from those evident in western cultures.

In any society, certain occupations carry more prestige, social status and monetary reward than others. In India, for example, there is a strong reluctance amongst people with university education to perform ‘menial’ tasks using their hands, even answering the telephone. In many countries, including France, Italy and Singapore, financial independence is considered essential for occupation-related prestige. In Japan, however, the majority of university-educated professionals tend to prefer working for large multinational firms than for themselves.

Social organisation is also evidenced in the operation of the class system, e.g. the Hindu caste system and the grouping of society members according to age, sex, political orientation, etc.