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East-West Centre of Business Studies and Cultural Science

The Global Locals Young Chinese Consumers Brand Perceptions towards Global Brands
Janis Salmen

Introduction Over the course of globalization and particular economic developments in recent years, the Chinese consumer market has gained center stage in global brands business endeavors. Consumers have greater disposable income and increasingly spend their money on products beyond basic necessities (Chan et al. 2007). For marketers active in this field, investigations in consumer behavior rank among the most crucial activities to develop adequate marketing strategies. Emphasis on research exploring brand perceptions has been utilized to derive and adopt measures to answer Chinese consumers attitudes towards imported products. And yet, marketers have failed. Despite the collective broad knowledge about Chinese consumers behavior and sentiments towards local and foreign brands, many companies miscarry in their attempts to vend their products. Marketers who are unable to understand young Chinese consumers forfeit the chance to connect with a group that already controls billions of dollars in annual spending (St-Maurice and Wu, 2006). Endeavors in academic research mirror this phenomenon. Whereas in many markets the examination of consumer ethnocentric tendencies (hereinafter referred to as CET) delivers viable insights about consumers attitudes towards domestic versus imported products, the transition of the notion to the Chinese context indicates impediments. Assessing the applicability and predictive power of CET measurement, this essay strives to contribute to a more elaborate understanding of young Chinese consumers. Moreover, the close examination of CET literature proposes to introduce an additional notion to discussion, which is believed to deliver viable and innovative insights into consumer behavior in China: The belief in global products to transmit affiliation to an imagined global culture (Steenkamp et al. 2003) (hereinafter referred to as belief in global citizenship).

Discourse in Academia Examining consumers attitudes towards imported products, research has strongly focused on consumer ethnocentrism discourse since the introduction of a corresponding measure the CETSCALE (Shimp and Sharma, 1987). Induced by an enhancing importance of companies expansion activities in markets around the globe, the CETSCALE has experienced great popularity. The construct has been established in the USA and proven to deliver viable insights into various developed economies (i.e. Ettenson et al. 1988, Olsen et al. 1993, Moon and Jain 2001, Suh and Kwon 2002). In developing and transition markets however, the scales applicability is disputed due to internal function principles. Shimp and Sharma (1987) establish the construct in an environment in which imported products are often perceived to be of inferior quality,
Janis Salmen China Business & Research 2010, N0. 009

East-West Centre of Business Studies and Cultural Science

compared with domestically manufactured ones. The setup in which the CETSCALE finds its initial application is the US-American automotive market. CET are measured to determine consumers attitudes towards locally produced cars versus (especially Japanese) imports. Along with its transition to developing markets, the scale is confronted with local consumers widespread appreciation of imported goods quality over domestic products. Consequently, complementary constructs are introduced to the discussion. Steenkamp et al. (2003) impute the global youth to share perceived belongingness to an imagined global culture. The authors assume these sentiments to have an influence on purchase behavior towards global brands as affiliation may be processed through possession of respective goods. These deliberations are supported by findings from OCass and Lim (2001; 2002) who point out that consumers rely on culture-of-brand-origin (COBO) rather than on country-of-origin (COO) in constructing brand or product associations. Combining both findings, we assume that consumers may connect foreign brands with the same global culture to which they aspire to gain membership and express self-identification. Strizhakova et al. (2008) support this stream of research by constructing and validating measurements to determine consumer belief in branded products as a passport to global citizenship (2008: 58). Along with the examination of COO in CET-literature, a third notion is introduced that demonstrates to be of relevance for the present discussion: glocalism. Kinra (2006) induces deliberations about glocalism and supports the significance of the notion for cross-market consumer behavior research. His work focuses on the influence of stereotyping of COO for brand perceptions applying the CETSCALE. The crucial hint that points towards glocal structures among his sample appears as a sideline when the author finds high CET and preference of local brands coexisting with similarly high evaluations and preferences for global products (2006: 15). Kjelgaard and Askegaard (2006) harmonize Kinras findings. They propose the increasing evolvement of glocal identities amongst the worlds young citizens. The authors adapt the terms from Robertson (1992) and understand glocalism in the context of consumption as a manifestation of a transnational, market-based ideology that is manifested through a dialectic between structures of common difference (Wilk 1995) and the adaptation and objectification of these structures in local contexts (232). Kjelgaard and Askegaard describe the worlds youth to share an affiliation towards a global culture whilst partly sustaining strong national attitudes. The acknowledgement of a glocal mindset enables to understand consumers who are ethnocentric, but equally likely to show their global affinity through global brand possession and preferences (Strizhakova et al. 2008). Supporting the assumption that glocal identities may realize in young Chinese consumers, Fong (2004) observes filial nationalism coexisting with strong affiliation with an imagined global culture in the Chinese youth.

Theoretical Consequences The examination of literature brings about three main arguments that are to be subjected to an empirical study using a sample of young Chinese. First, the substance and predictive power of CET measurements is doubted for this cohort. Applying the CETSCALE in a transition market, scores are expected to be moderate (cf. Klein et al., 1998; Wang and Chen, 2004). This mitigation is further intensified by the finding that average levels of CET are low in especially young samples (cf. Nijssen & Douglas 2004; OCass and Lim 2002; Suh and Kwon 2002). Furthermore, in a sample of students, CETSCALE scores are likely to be low

Janis Salmen

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East-West Centre of Business Studies and Cultural Science

according to the findings of Sharma et al. (1995) who recognize educational level to be negatively correlated with CET. Possible outcomes of the assessment of this argument aim at clarifying the adequacy and potential for quatificability of CET measuring among the discussed cohort. Second, based on deliberations by Steenkamp et al. (2003) and Strizhakova et al. (2008) the affiliation towards an imagined global culture may realize among young Chinese. This effect is examined for its influence on local and global purchase probabilities. The approach is an attempt to detect alternative cultural structures that impose an effect on consumer behavior in the present context. Third, Fongs (2004) observation of glocalism is important to the preceding argumentation in two ways. On the one hand her observation of young Chineses affiliation towards an imagined global culture supports the argument, that the notion proposed by Steenkamp et al. (2003) is evident in the examined sample. On the other hand her simultaneous finding of filial nationalism suggests a harmonization of CET and belief in global citizenship by taking glocal structures as interpreted by Kjelgaard and Askegaard (2006) into account. As a result, the third argument is established: CET and belief in global citizenship may be equally evident in their scores and their effects on purchase probabilities for local and foreign products. The examination of glocal cultures obtrudes itself due to the preceding argumentation. Along with the examination of belief in global citizenship, it constitutes a novel approach towards the elucidation of the discussed consumer group.

Data Collection and Evaluation Conducting a pencil-and-paper questionnaire, data is collected among undergraduate students in Guangzhou, China. The survey incorporates Likert-type scales of varying length to assess CET, cultural openness, belief in global citizenship, purchase probabilities for Chinese and non-Chinese products and consumption cues such as price, availability and desirability. Furthermore, demographic information is inquired and a social desirability test is attached to foster validity of processed observations. After data preparation, the remaining sample size amounts to N = 168. In order to detect clues to the above discussed arguments, descriptive statistics are examined in a first step. Subsequently, correlation analyses are applied. Kolmogorov-Smirnov and Shapiro-Wilk tests reject normal distribution of examined observations. Therefore Kendalls tau tests are conducted, as they are found to be the most adequate non-parametric method for the present scenario. In cases of items producing categorical data with two independent samples (i.e. gender, overseas experience, etc.), MannWhitney U tests are incorporated. Relevant results are examined more closely by creating subsamples and analyzing resulting descriptive statistics. To assess the influence of single independent variables on the correlation of variables that are subjects of above mentioned arguments, partial correlations incorporating Spearmans r are processed. This approach is selected conscious of the incongruousness of a Spearmans r test for not normally distributed data. The method is applied as it is found to produce the most expressive results of all available test procedures. Yet, outcomes are interpreted under constraints.

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East-West Centre of Business Studies and Cultural Science

Results Findings confirm a low effectiveness of CETSCALE scores to predict domestic and foreign product purchase probabilities. Significant relations could not be found for purchase probabilities for neither local nor global goods. Even though the inability to confirm the null hypothesis does not imply its existence, an effect can be assumed to be small or non-existent. Therefore we conclude that either the CETSCALE does not measure what it is designed to measure, or that moderating effects influence its functionality. Complementing this assumption and approving above deliberations, observed CETSCALE scores are found to be low when compared to findings from other scholars (cf. Shimp and Sharma 1987, Sharma et al. 1995, Strizhakova et al. 2008, Hsu and Nien 2008). The proposed argument about an effect of belief in global citizenship on purchase probabilities results in a notable outcome. Whereas the notions relation with purchase probabilities for global products was suspected to be strongly positive, it turns out to be negative. The simultaneous observation of positive relations between purchase probabilities for global products and cultural openness and between cultural openness and belief in global citizenship intensifies the daze as it constitutes an obvious logical error. To clear this contradictory triad, we explain the observation through a separation of passport to global citizenship into two groups, a and b. The classification is based on variable c that decides over belongingness of a respondent to subgroup a or b. The answers of group a are responsible for the negative relationship to purchase probabilities for global brands, the structure of b for the positive one with cultural openness. In other words, the adverse relations are based on findings in two different areas of belief in global citizenship. In this scenario, variable c is the focal point. Whereas an observation and inclusion of c in the applied survey is highly unlikely, the interpretation of partial correlations still reveals the enhanced importance of the consumption cue affordability. Intruding is the conclusion, that consumers who believe in global citizenship are those who cannot afford the respective products that would gain them access to the desired global culture. The paper has proposed that one reason for a limited functionality of the CETSCALE in terms of quantifiable consequences might well be a glocal socio-cultural structure of young Chinese. A corresponding hypothesis cannot be confirmed for the examined sample as the findings do not deliver any indicator of glocalism. Nevertheless, it might be the case, that existent glocal attitudes have mitigated negative effects of CET on purchase probabilities for global brands. This alternative however, cannot be proven with current data. Assuming that the importance of the Chinese market keeps increasing in coming years, scholars and marketers will sustain their efforts to understand domestic consumers. This papers goal was to contribute to this understanding and prevent marketers from falling into conceivable traps. In parts these endeavors were successful; in others, findings leave theoretical deliberations in uncertainty and open to ensuing discussions.

List of References Chan, W.-C.; R. C. Cheung & A. Tse 2007, Emerging Market Consumers, 2007, The McKinsey Quarterly, vol. 4, pp. 70-79.

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Steenkamp, J.-B. E. M.; R. Batra & D. L. Alden 2003, How Perceived Brand Globalness Creates Brand Value, Journal of International Business Studies, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 53 65. Strizhakova, Y.; R. A. Coulter & L. L. Price 2008, Branded Products as a Passport to Global Citizenship: Perspectives from Developed and Developing Markets, Journal of International Marketing, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 57-85. Suh, T. & I.-W. G. Kwon 2002 Globalization and Reluctant Buyers, International Marketing Review, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 663-680. Wang, C. L. & Z. X. Chen 2004, Consumer Ethnocentrism and Willingness to Buy Domestic Products in a Developing Country Setting: Testing Moderating Effects, Journal of Consumer Marketing, vol. 21, no. 6, pp. 391400. Wilk, R. 1995, Learning to Be Local in Belize: Global Systems of Common Difference, in Worlds Apart: Modernity through the Prism of the Local, ed. Daniel Miller, London: Routledge, 11033.

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