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A cross-cultural perspective
Lect. Ph.D. Nicoleta Corbu
National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keywords: brand image, cultural context, individualist/collectivist cultures Abstract: This article presents an empirical research of global brand image in four different cultural contexts: China, Romania, France, and the United States of America. Brand image is investigated considering Geert Hofstede’s individualism scale, for four different global automobile brands and one local (national) brand (one for each country). Research shows that in collectivist cultures opinions are more homogeneous, and therefore brand image should be more prominent and coherently constructed than they are in individualistic cultures. The analysis showed that strong personality images are built rather in individualist cultures than in collectivist ones, and that national popular brand images are more prominent than global ones. Thus, brand image seems to follow an economic logic rather than the rule of dominant individual vs. group opinions.
I. Brand rand image Brand image, as a concept, is built on the broader concept of “brand”, the one element that is most widely studied in advertising research. Although there is no unanimously accepted definition of the brand, there is one common element in all definitions, the need of identification, of unique positioning of a product or a service. In the same time, researchers agree that any definition should include both tangible and intangible attributes of a product, in other words, both functional and emotional characteristics. Nowadays, the term “brand” is used to refer to not only one special line of products, but also to the company that produces them, as well as the social image that the 72
Journal of Media Research, 5/2009 pp. 72-88
as the clusters of associations related to a brand. as well as reducing post-purchasing cognitive dissonance. (Keller 1998: 93) At the same time. on the other hand. brand image can be understood as the perceptions related to the brand. Brand associations are thus a very important aspect of the brand meaning as it appears in the consumer’s mind. It is defined as the “unique set of brand associations that the brand strategist aspires to create and maintain. but having an existence nevertheless. a scope and a meaning to the brand. symbol. Lim 2001: 43) Among many problems of globalization. According to the American Marketing Association. 1996: 68). or design. In a different interpretation. in the case of the brand. As for a person’s identity.” (Aaker D. especially from a qualitative perspective (but not exclusively). These associations represent what the brand stands for and imply a promise to customers from the organization members. associations are part of the brand identity. “a form of immaterial capital”. From this point of view. In this article. brand identity offers a direction. (Keller 1998: 2) Brands are intangible assets with no physical existence and whose value cannot be precisely determined. while non-product-related attributes are outside the core and concern external aspects of the product or service involved in the purchase or consumption of the product/service. a logo. whereas brand identity is related to the way strategists aspire that the brands should be perceived. as an additional value and profit. As a distinct and well shaped brand 73 . These associations are in fact either product-related attributes (generally unique for the type of product or service). without having the tangibility of what is actual. these elements were progressively filled in time with the consumers’ experience. as something that exists as potentiality. or non-product-related attributes (they are related to the user’s imagery and usage in particular situations) (Nandan 2005: 267). (Nandan 2005) In its standard definition. The difference between a new product (with a name. the brand is perceived as an empty concept that is filled with meaning in time. as they are reflected in the brand associations formed in the consumer’s mind. From the consumers’ point of view. Ideas related to the product accumulate and fill these elements with meaning. Thus the brand is born. the need of differentiation and positioning on the market become more and more imperative. At the same time. a brand is “a name. o form of “crystallized knowledge” (Arvidsson 2006). (Holt 2003) Brand is. thus the brand encloses all that consumers do with it in their minds. term. brands allow them to purchase safely in an increasingly complex world. product-related attributes refer to the “core” of the physical composition of a brand. the brand is a “virtual” good. and a design) and a brand is that. A known brand helps reducing perceived risks. we will use a restrained meaning of “brand image”. or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competition”. unless they become subjects of purchase transactions. The main difference between brand image and brand identity is that brand image shows the way consumers perceive brands.company tries to impose upon itself and its products (Danesi 2006). (O’Cass. in the sense proposed by Pierre Lévy (1988). with the repeated experiences of the consumers.
(Batey 2008: XV) In a recent book on brands. Brand image is composed of associations related to different functional and symbolic attributes of the brand (Burmann. created and attributed by the consumers as a consequence of their own experiences with the brand or of the shared experiences with (or from) other consumers. Romania. In this context. brand loyalty. Implicit meaning consists of the emotional and psychological dimensions of brand attributes. on the other hand. having a higher or lesser degree of intercorrelation. Mark Batey shows that we can talk about primary brand meaning (mostly equivalent to the denotative meaning of a brand). Malony 2008). many marketing activities of modern corporations focus on the construction of a distinct brand image. 2005) From a functional point of view. The goal of this research is to investigate cultural differences. collectivism dimensions of cultures. Brand equity represents in fact the global value of a brand. superior to other brands. created by the brand originator. Brand-related associations have two distinct sources: on the one hand. brands can become mediators of cultural and symbolic meanings. in order to create consumption behaviors based on brand preferences. derived meanings. (ASHE Education Report. is the main reason of investments in advertising. and in this context the distinctions between cultural spaces follow the logic of five fundamental coordinates: 74 . They both are like two distinct lenses through which one can look at a brand. Hofstede argues that culture is the software of the mind. Moreover. especially in early stages of brand development. perceived quality. Primary brand meaning and implicit brand meaning are two distinct concepts that are summed up in the global meaning of a brand. built on associations in consumers’ minds. developing a strong unique brand image. This is the reason why the perception of brand image. as well as implicit brand meaning (in a relative equivalence with the connotative meaning of a brand). and China. Brand Meaning (2008). France. (Batey 2008: 131) II. the construction of brand image is based on the idea of what a brand can do for consumers. placed in different geographical spaces and situated all along the individualism scale as elaborated by Hofstede (1980): the USA. is decoded. Schaefer. Each of them underlines different brand attributes. a combination of brand-related assets. from a symbolic. such as brand awareness. The cultures compared are national cultures. the codified and communicated meanings.image creates a strong brand. Cultural ultural spaces This study is a cross-cultural research on global brands meanings. as an advertising sign. and. particularly from the perspective of the individualism vs. and brand-related associations. economic. sensorial or utilitarian point of view (Hsieh 2002: 62) Brand-related associations are intrinsically related to the culture where the brand. is considered an important part of brand equity (Hsieh 2002: 47). The primary brand is determined by the benefits directly associated with the brand as well as its physical attributes.
The four cultures thus form a progression on the individualism scale. Romania. Hofstede 2005) show that they are situated in the following order: China. is mainly focused on the individualism dimension in defining cultural differences in conceiving brand personality or associations. Trafimow. extremely individualistic. in other words they learn how to build and work with individual opinions. Pederson. gender. score 71. but they are different at the same time by what is unique to each person from a psychological point of view. At the same time. occupying the 46-48 positions. In these cultures direct confrontation with another person is considered rude and undesirable. children learn to share everybody else’s opinions. (Hofstede 1991: 50).collectivism vs. and of individualism in the North-American and West-European ones. all individuals are social beings. and virtue (Hofstede. truth. the predominance of collectivism in Asian and South-American cultures. hierarchy. other variables being more relevant in their cases. on the other hand. even if they do not necessarily encourage disrespect of the social norms. Triandis 1991. Markus. situated on the first place on Hofstede’s scale. the individual is integrated. score 20. score 91. All individuals are similar. (Triandis 1989) The four spaces investigated in this study represent different zones of the individualism scale. individualism. France. being in permanent harmony with the opinion of the group. masculinity. Individual opinion virtually does not exist. since childhood. uncertainty avoidance. long-term vs. which correspond to the five dimensions of cultural spaces. In collectivistic societies. while in the individualistic cultures individual interest is the most prominent. Morris. social distance. Maheswaran 1997. Simonson 2000) In this dichotomy. moderately individualistic. it is predetermined by the group. particularly research related to brand image and personality. children are encouraged to think by themselves. Kitayama 1991. The distribution of individualistic and collectivistic cultures shows. which implies dealing with five fundamental problems: identity. Yet quite a few cultures are close to the middle of the scale. Aaker. situated on the 56-61 positions in the hierarchy of the 87 cultures analyzed. extremely collectivistic. according to Hofstede’s analyses. 75 . In the same time. a weak personality being the one which only reflects someone else’s opinions. The most recent studies (Hofstede. moderately collectivistic. femininity vs. into social groups formed by the enlarged family (ingroups) that continues to protect the individual all his life. (Triandis 1989. situated on the 13-14 places. and USA. in collectivistic families. Hofstede 2002: 39). which will allow comparative relevant results. therefore they learn from childhood how to survive in the social world. Research in the field of advertising. short-term orientation. which reflect their personality. (Hofstede 1991: 59) In collectivistic cultures there is a constant pressure to submission to the norms of the group or to social norms (Lam 2007). collectivistic cultures are those cultures where group interest is more important than individual interest. 2003. score 30. while in individualistic cultures personal goals are privileged. because of the biological constants. Shavitt 1994. asking in return unconditioned loyalty. In individualistic families. Briley. Han.
and not through the IBM standardized measurements). China. He 2004: 66). USA. especially for the collectivistic cultures. during the same period of time (August-November 2008). France. We appreciate that. Briley. on the other hand. The subjects are fist year students at different colleges from well known universities in the four countries: University of Georgia (Athens. Romania. 150 students). On the other hand. Nevertheless. Asian cultures in general (not only China. in order not to consider the data presented as infallible. Korea. of the way the data were obtained (through estimations and replications. and individually online for the US). and China. 138 students). emphasizes the need of harmony between man and nature. rather than according to individual desires and individual attributes (Chu 1985. Han. one has to keep in mind a certain relativity of the data. the Western European influence becomes more and more visible especially at the opinion level. the Cultural Revolution (19661976). and Northern Eastern University (Shenyang. China and Romania. although there is still a constant need for approval at the group level. The post-materialism that appeared as a reaction to the extreme materialism (severely attacked during the Socialist Revolution (the 1950s). III Methodology The instrument used in this research was the self-administered questionnaire (collectively for France. individual opinion is encouraged and appreciated in certain environments. because in both cultures the recent history points to tendencies and changes towards some forms of individualism. and the Social Spiritual Civilizing Movement (the 1980s)). modern China still privileges group values. 166 students). NSPSPA and University of Bucharest (Bucharest. some considerations need to be made. Chinese culture has been suffering considerable changes since the 1949 communist revolution. the need for harmony among opinions. and Taiwan also) are still considered collectivistic and traditional cultures. on the one hand. Markus. The questionnaire was pretested on 25 students from each country. Shavitt 1994. Romania.Nevertheless. as opposed to material gratifications specific to the so called “materialistic” period of modern China (Zhu. Simonson 2000. Markus. Aaker. Kitayama 2003). toward a challenge of its collectivistic tradition. and. Benet-Martinez. even though Romanian society is in fact rather a collectivistic culture. (Triandis 1989. because. A total of 608 students completed the questionnaire. even though it is less traditionalist. Garolera 2001. before the final versions were applied 76 . which opened the way to some individualistic influences in Chinese cultural identity. We believe that. but Japan. There is a growing body of literature showing that even among those segments having a very rapid modernization rhythm. Institut Universitaire de Technologie (Toulouse and Tarbes. 154 students). as a result of its Cultural Revolution. there still exists a tendency of acting according to anticipated expectations of the others and to social norms. Morris. Kitayama 1991). At the same time.
with a significant impact in the choice of the brands to be analyzed. Berry. and Ford for the US. However. not very expensive and widely used. while in individualistic cultures. questions related to income. Vijver.in any of the four cultural spaces. Porsche. individual (therefore not homogenous) opinions are valued and encouraged. the only modifications were operated (adapted) in the demographics part. it was built upon American theoretical models. following the same logic of brand salience. The hypotheses related to brand images and tested in this research are: H1: The more individualistic a culture. Johnson. individuals are more pressured by the opinion of the group. H2: The more individualistic a culture. residence. The data obtained from the pretest were used to build the final versions of the questionnaires. in the Romanian culture. Renault for France. and therefore they will tend to judge things in a more homogenous fashion. the brands were chosen so that they should be recognized by potentially all the subjects in the four countries when filling the final questionnaires. Chrysler. subjects will start with the most popular (Miller. Logan for Romania. Developing an instrument in cross-cultural research supposes a few challenges. In collectivistic cultures. 2003). religion etc. Although it can be created in more than one culture. Translations were supervised by native speakers for the English and French versions. the questionnaire was designed. All supervisors and the translator for the Chinese version were professors or PhD students in mass communication filed. Most of the questions were translated ad-literam. One of the most obvious challenges is related to the translation/adaptation of the questionnaire. the less prominent the brand image of local brands. even if. the less prominent the brand image of global brands. Therefore. when asked to order brands that spontaneously come to mind. The fifth brand was chosen for each particular culture. Toyota. such a questionnaire is usually constructed in one culture and then exported for translation and adaptation. both theoretically and practically. and translated entirely for the Chinese one. Four of them were the brands that were the most frequently mentioned spontaneously in the four countries. as a response to a question that tested brand salience. the final versions of the questionnaire were elaborated based on the information obtained from the pretesting phase. for brand personality and brand image questions. 1998. 77 . They are Mercedes. The logic of hypotheses follows the individualistic and collectivistic features related to expressing opinions. the choice of the global brands (the pretest phase) played an important role. In this case. (Harkness. in its main points. All four brands are considered in the four countries as popular brands. as the one that obtained the highest score among local brands mentioned spontaneously by the respondents. which argues that. In this way. 78). The national (local) brands were finally Zhonghua for China.
0% 81. the meaning of brands is constructed in two different ways: there is a primary meaning of the brand.7% 20. “quality”. Table I. there is a relative homogeneity of relevant attributes: 78 . made up of emotional and psychological meanings of brand attributes and other associations.2% 77.8% USA No 11.IV.5% 53. “quality”.3% 21. there are important differences among the four cultures in the way primary meaning is constructed. “comfort”).5% 55.0% China No 50. but intending to show a detailed image of the way brand meaning is constructed in different cultures. Among the attributes that compose the implicit meaning of Mercedes brand. which contains the benefits associated with it. and an implicit meaning. “family”.2% 80.4% France No 24.0% 22.5% 44.3% 37. it seems to be opposed to the hypothesis H1. “snobbism”. “money”. Here is a table with the weights of each attribute in the four cultures (“yes” represents the cases in which the attribute was chosen as associated with the brand.1% 25.0% No 47.8% 23.3% 17.0% 77.3% 79. “no” for the cases where the attribute was not chosen). “style”. “reliability”.5% 46. “tradition”. not necessarily following the logic of the hypotheses.2% If we can talk about a pattern observed in the primary meaning.8% 19. More about these items will be provided in the “limits of the research” section.0% Yes 75. In individualistic cultures.3% 60. although there are significant differences in the weights of the attributes.9% 26.3% 54. Mercedes Mercedes Yes money reliability quality safety comfort 50.7% 46.0% Romania Yes 52. Three attributes are relevant for all four cultures.6% Yes 88. and thus seem to define the Mercedes brand image. and the physical attributes of the brand. With no pretense of exhaustivity in meanings associated with brands. as meanings globally associated with Mercedes brand image.6% 87.0% 46. “comfort”. they are the more prominent in all cultures. In other words. with no intention of cover all the possible attributes related to automobile brands. “power”. “adventure”).9% 74.4% 12.7% 79.7% 82. For the moment we should say that they are conventionally chosen.1% 73.7% 62. For Mercedes.7% 40. and seven attributes for the implicit meaning (“luxury”. Results esults and analysis For brand image.0% 53. Brand Image.0% 18. Primary Meaning. the attributes that respondents associated with the brands are part of two distinct categories: five attributes for the primary meaning (“money”. the consensus about the attributes that construct the brand image is higher (in most cases) than for the collectivistic cultures. “safety”.
0% 40. There is.9% 93. “adventure”).0% 29.1% 32. France.3% 32. For the brand Toyota.7% 46.7% 60.5% 19.2% 65. although. For the other cultures.1% 89.0% 2.5% 58.9% 92.7% France No 95.8% There is a remarkable cohesion of opinions about the attribute “luxury”.5% 96.0% 70.5% 41.0% 93. the only attribute considered the most salient in all cultures is “family”. and a close to 50% score for China also). France.6% 31.9% 99.3% Yes 1.9% 3.4% 48. and about the attribute “style” (for Romania.9% 67.1% 0. in a hierarchy of the most prominent attributes (“style”.7% Yes 4. however.0% 29. “luxury”).6% 20.2% USA No 11.0% 6.0% 63.1% 97.7% China No 80.0% 98.4% 79. Brand Image.7% 76. However.3% 23.6% 17.6% 39.0% 98. Primary Meaning. Table III. and USA.5% 32.6% 51.Table II. as well as relatively significant ones (“power”.6% USA No 98.2% France No 19.9% 63.3% No 94.0% 98. There is no obvious relationship between the degree of individualism and the degree of cohesion of the opinions.3% 14.9% China No 85.7% 66. the most individualistic cultures seem to create more salient (powerful) brand image.4% 82.5% 67.0% No 42.1% 6.0% 30.4% 68. with even lower percentages in the case of the Chinese culture.0% 2. all other four attributes are chosen as representative by a third of the respondents.4% In the American culture only.5% 76.8% Yes 89.3% 34. the primary meaning of the brand is less salient. two of the attributes are chosen in more than 50% of cases.0% Yes 80. perceived as relevant for most of the subjects in three of the four cultures (Romania. with the exception of the attribute “money” which seems not to be at all associated with the brand. Brand Image.7% 70.7% 67.3% 53.9% 11.9% 76. USA).5% 80.1% 23.7% 84.0% 70. “reliability” and “quality”. even in this particular case.3% 29.2% 58.3% Romania Yes 57.1% 36.0% 1. “snobbism”. As for the implicit meaning.1% 7.5% 3.0% 70.0% 37.5% 70.0% 59. if a pattern can be noticed. “tradition”).7% 85. Toyota Toyota Yes money reliability quality safety comfort 14.4% 8. Mercedes Mercedes Yes luxury power snobbism tradition style (class) family adventure 19.5% 29.8% 41.1% Romania Yes 5.7% 94.3% 5.3% 15. a relative homogeneity in the perceived importance of attributes in the four countries: there are totally insignificant attributes (“family”.4% 60. only the American subjects 79 .8% 34.3% 40.6% 92. it follows an opposite direction.5% 23. Implicit Meaning.
9% 7.9% 82.0% 82. “snobbism”. Table IV. Toyota Toyota Yes luxury power snobbism tradition style (class) family adventure 8.6% Romania Yes 6.5% 47.0% 68.0% in the case of China. Brand Image.3% 32.0% 87.0% 1.7% 26.8% 88.0% 94.3% No 46.0% 77. the attribute “family” receives the highest scores.1% France No 96.5% USA No 97. and relevant attributes if compared to the other items (for example.1% 89.7% 67.7% No 94.7% 6.5% 3. However.6% 3. not for the primary brand meaning.8% 92. Brand Image.9% Yes 87.0% 1. one can remark a homogeneity of the hierarchy in the four cultures. the most salient attribute is “money”. “luxury”.0% 98.2% 11.0% 85.4% 100.0% 11. although in none of the cases the attribute is chosen by more than 50% of the respondents.1% 15. where there are totally irrelevant attributes (“luxury”.0% 31.7% 91.2% 7. with the exception of China.1% 17.associated the attribute to the brand in more than 50% of the cases. even if they are distributed along a wide range of percentages.0% 6.3% 8.4% 41.5% 97.1% France No 10.5% There is no proportionality (nor a reversed proportionality) for the homogeneity of opinions and the degree of collectivism of cultures.3% 8.7% 26. only 80 .1% 92.9% 18.3% 93. Primary Meaning.3% Yes 3.3% of the subjects associating the attribute to the brand Toyota.9% 27.0% 12.3% 76.9% 84.2% USA No 13.5% 67. For the primary meaning.1% for the USA).9% 10.6% 11.4% China No 91.5% 79.4% Romania Yes 54.2% 57.5% 52. nor for the implicit meaning.5% 2.5% 32. Table V.4% 87.0% 18.0% 88. with more than 50% of the options of respondents in three cultures.1% 72.4% 96. A relatively homogenous value in the four cultures has the attribute “quality”. “style”.4% 89.6% 13.8% For the implicit meaning.6% 0.0% 10. especially for the attributes that compose the implicit meaning. “snobbism”).0% 14.8% 43.0% 22.6% China No 64. Porsche seems to have the strongest brand image among the four global brands.9% Yes 2.7% 91.0% 74.0% 98.3% 73. with 47.0% 26.0% 89. Porsche Porsche Yes money reliability quality safety comfort 35.5% 21. The French culture is situated close to the 50%.6% 58.7% 23. “power”.3% 73.1% 9. However.5% 96. Implicit Meaning.7% Yes 89. from 21.0% 0.1% 81. four attributes are clearly prominent in the individualistic cultures (France and USA).9% 90.0% 100.0% 0.0% 100. to 72.
if compared to Porsche. without totally insignificant qualities.3% 2.5% 41. As for the other three global brands. with no prominent qualities.7% 92. Primary Meaning.1% 12.9% 88.7% Romania Yes 59.5% 26.3% 79.8% 86.3% 12.0% 3.9% 51. Porsche Porsche Yes luxury power snobbism tradition style (class) family adventure 41.3% France No 9. the Chinese culture seems to build a weak brand image for all attributes. “adventure”).4% 87. and “luxury”.7% 30.0% 96. that there is a general homogeneity of the hierarchies of the prominence of the attributes.7% 28.2% 13.3% 79.3% 88.0% 64.7% 20.4% 1. and relatively significant ones (“luxury”. It presents the fuzziest brand image.5% 73. “style”). the attributes are more prominent in the individualistic cultures.8% 64.3% 71.7% 55. very few attributes are related to the brand in more than 30% of cases (“luxury” and “style” for China.2% 35.7% No 53.3% 69. We must remark.7% Romania Yes 46.0% 24. For the collectivistic cultures. and “style” for Romania). The case of Chrysler seems to be at the opposite pole.3% 8.7% 97.5% 26.7% Yes 81. with totally irrelevant attributes in all cultures (for instance “family”). relatively insignificant ones (“tradition”.7% 12.7% 22. Table VI.0% 13.0% 75.6% 77. though.3% 65.5% 0.0% USA No 92.7% 71. with only one attribute having more than 50% 81 .6% USA No 18.7% 25.3% China No 58.9% 76.1% 11. Table VII. Chrysler Chrysler Yes money reliability quality safety comfort 31.3% Yes 34.one is highlighted with more than 50% of the responses in one collectivistic culture (Romania).0% 86.1% 48. Implicit Meaning.3% China No 68.5% 74.4% 78.3% 28.6% 12.7% 60.7% 42. with the exception of USA.4% As a general trend.3% 88.4% 83.2% France No 65. Brand Image.7% 87.7% 34.3% 39.7% 20.9% 87.2% 35.5% 100.6% 21.3% 77.6% 16. the only relatively relevant attribute seems to be “money”.3% 80.8% 94.7% 20. The implicit meaning is constructed much less homogenously if compared with the other brands.2% 5.4% 68.8% Yes 7. Brand Image. “power”.2% 11. even if not observed for each and every attribute.8% 88.5% 58.3% 44.3% 57.7% 11.0% For the primary meaning. in the four cultures.3% 74.1% 23.8% 64.7% Yes 90.6% 98. both for the primary meaning and the implicit meaning.0% 35.6% 31.3% No 40.4% 22.
9% 44.6% 86.7% No 51. and therefore a more prominent image was to be expected. Primary Meaning.8% 83. with the exception of the attribute “family”.9% 15.3% 88.2% 17.6% 83.3% 95.4% 43.3% 81. a few attributes are prominent.3% 59.8% Romania Yes 2.0% France No 77.5% 49.2% No 90.8% 99.9% 65.3% No 97. “safety”.6% 31. National popular brands had relatively weak brand images. 82 . Table IX.4% 16.7% 50. For the primary meaning.5% There is a clearly more prominent image in the individualistic cultures.7% 23.1% 34.7% 13. the percentages show a lack of consensus over essential qualities of an automobile brand.2% 8.6% 94.3% 23.2% 88.1% 84.7% Yes 3.5% 30. As far as the implicit meaning is concerned. “family”.7% 76.7% 4.8% 83.3% 93.0% 85. Brand Image. and different “most salient” attributes.7% 6.7% 18.6% 87. National Brands National brand money reliability quality safety comfort China Yes 9. with less than 50% for the other cultures.2% 17.5% 69.0% 14.4% 13. It has to be mentioned that the USA are the country of origin of the brand.0% 82.5% USA No 97.1% 15.2% 0.3% A possible explanation of the fuzzy brand image for the brand Chrysler can be found in the difficult financial situation of the producing company. Implicit Meaning.of the responses. Table VIII.7% 98. Chrysler Chrysler Yes luxury power snobbism tradition style (class) family adventure 26.3% Yes 22.7% 11.0% 61.9% 95.0% 38.1% 4. A lack of cross-cultural homogeneity in the hierarchies of the attributes can be noticed also.6% 46.8% 42.7% 6.7% 40.3% 76.8% 91.8% Yes 2.7% USA No 89. for the French brand Renault.6% 34.3% 49. only “tradition” receives a moderate score.9% 7. However. with few exceptions.4% China No 73.4% 68.4% 53.3% 12.3% 81.0% 17.5% 50. received more than 50% of the respondents’ favorable opinions.1% 55. For USA and France. for which.8% 11.9% 84. at least for the primary meaning.2% 84. if compared with the collectivistic ones.6% 87.7% 87.0% Yes 10.4% 13.1% 92.3% 86. the brand image is weakly constructed in the American culture.4% 65.2% France No 96.8% 15. only one attribute. the implicit meaning seems to be strongly supported by two attributes.3% 1. Brand Image.4% 12. for all other attributes.4% 5.2% 57.3% 94. which has started to be discussed in the media in the same period of time when the questionnaire was completed.6% Romania Yes 48. for USA.6% 56.7% 18.
There are some attributes that are associated with the brands by the majority of the respondents in all four cultures.3% 1. There are some constants related to the cultures themselves. Implicit Meaning. in the case of China. in general.7% 17.3% 98.7% 36. All other attributes are totally insignificant.3% No 100. Table X.2% 12.1% Overall.0% 0.4% 63. V. “tradition” and “family”. We can also discuss a general trend.6% 98.0% 73.7% 21.7% Yes 1. D Discussion iscussion and Conclusions A few remarks about brand images are generally valid.4% 99. the brand images are more powerful. but not a strict rule. “adventure” and “power”.2% 33.3% 68.8% 0.8% 84.7% 99. American and French brands being considered more powerful brands than Romanian and Chinese ones. at a moderate level.3% 83.3% 0.2% 7. that inverse the direction of the first hypothesis: in general.2% 99.3% 63.0% 10. The Romanian respondents privilege the attribute “family”. Brand Image.0% 26.4% 89.4% 36.7% 31. the meanings are not very prominent. National Brands National brand luxury power snobbism tradition style (class) family adventure China Yes 7. other two attributes build an important part of the brand image.6% 63.8% 66. no other attribute (except for the two already mentioned) received a significant score. with more than 50% of respondents’ opinion associating them with the national brand.7% 1.7% 1.2% 42. there are two relatively significant attributes (although with low scores). For the USA. especially in collectivistic cultures.6% 36.0% 100.0% 100.4% No 92.7%).9% USA No 99.“tradition” and “family”. The explanation is probably indirectly related to the degree 83 . national brands seem not to have a strong brand image.8% 57.2% 15. attributes constantly presented in the brand images of all brands for the Chinese culture.6% 10.2% 28. For example. they draw common brand images for the global brands. individuals of individualistic cultures are more likely to agree on brand associations and to create brand meaning than individuals in collectivistic cultures. In the case of France. and show that global brands preserve a core meaning across cultures. The attribute “family” is also associated by the Romanian respondents with the Romanian brand.0% 0. A possible explanation is related to the economic development level of the automobile industry in the four countries. For the individualistic cultures. possibly related to the socio-economic situation as well.3% 98.0% 89.1% Yes 0. Nevertheless there are important differences. the only other attribute with a relatively significant score is “tradition” (26. a fuzzy image of the brands in general.4% 1.8% 71.8% 92.6% Romania Yes 0.7% 98. the low percentages of brand associations in general seem to be a general cultural characteristic. In the case of China.6% 0.8% 87. They are situated in the common decoding zone.9% France No 98.3% 78.
then the economic factor is dominant in imposing brand images and determines a better cohesion of opinions in the more economically developed countries. 20% of the Romanian (30 of 150).7% have a Logan for Romania (another 10% chose “Dacia”1. none possesses the national brand for China. the most important factor is rather indirectly related to the individualism scale. in favor of the latter. a coherent migration of meanings from the country of origin of the brand toward other cultural spaces in the context of globalization can be inferred.9% of the Americans (120 of 154). From this point of view. two for France and USA). which is explainable by the fact that they dissociate 84 . brand image of national brands seem to be more homogenous and powerful than for global brands. with no other explanation. Only 0. The first hypothesis has not been confirmed. Therefore. regardless of the brand. As far as national brands are concerned. and the brand Logan is the first in a hierarchy of 1 Although for the Romanian culture the brand analyzed in this research is Logan and not Dacia (Logan being a type of Dacia). not only through advertising or media. So. with stronger brand images in individualistic cultures. with the exception of China. economically speaking. but we can argue that it has been in fact reversed. a possible (if not probable) explanation is that in economically developed countries (usually individualistic countries). but also by the fact that they are integrated in purchase decisions to a higher extent than in less economically developed countries. the results of the research seem to confirm this economic logic. This is also true for the national brands. brand meaning is built on a strong brand image in general.of collectivism of the analyzed cultures. for individualistic cultures. Out of these. there is homogeneity in the choice of related attributes in the four countries for the global brands. Hypotheses H2 is also infirmed. However. In other words. and 77. through the fact that global brands are more present in everyday life of individuals. The respondents made the distinction between Dacia and Logan. both for the primary brand meaning and for the implicit meaning. Hofstede 2005: 114). by the presence of national brands among the real purchase options of the respondents.9% of the French students (112 of 165). the direction of the strongest brand meanings (and associations) goes from collectivistic cultures toward individualistic ones. This economic logic is also supported by an analysis of the number and type of cars owned by the respondents. Moreover. global brand images are more clearly defined in individualistic cultures. of automobiles in particular. as long as one can talk about a correlation between economic wealth and the degree of individualism of cultures in general. mainly because of their cost. 16. If we can agree that there is proportionality between the individualism degree and the economic level of a country (Hofstede. national brands tend to behave just as the global brands. due to the more prominent penetration of brands into individual choices of purchase of goods on the market in general. the brand image is concentrated on very few attributes (one for Romania. which could be explained. As a general important finding. 67. very prominent in the implicit meaning.37% of the Chinese students have a car (one subject of 138).
a BMW. because only one student owns a car. Ronald Inglehart and Wayne Baker (2000) argue that there is empirical evidence that even though values could and do change. from other (not yet investigated) categories. The takeover of the Dacia Company by Renault led to a repositioning of the brand. being thus representative from this point of view. associated with less reliable models. Although the four cultures cover almost the whole range of degrees of individualismcollectivism and of geographical space. The first category concerns two aspects: on the one hand the choice of cultural spaces. and influence each other. though. They can be clustered in three main categories: limits associated with the samples. the degree of economic development and cultural values are closely related to each other. In other words. Using the data from three successive research waves called World Values Surveys. Limits imits of the Research There are a few limits of this research that need to be discussed and explained. What is now missing and would bring additional clarifications is a Southern-American culture. although previous spontaneously Logan from the brand Dacia that is rather associated with the old models. on the other hand the choice of the samples inside the cultural spaces.7% for USA (and also the first in the same type of hierarchy). and could not afford a personal car yet or did not even have a driving license yet. 85 .owned cars). for the other three cultures. but also an extreme point on the collectivism scale. Although the results are not significant in what concerns the proportions of respondents having a personal car. limits related to the construction of the questionnaire. it is clear that the national brand is on the top of personal choices or possibilities by the fact that. social. V. The case of China has its particularity. and limits related to the logic of research. results with higher degree of generalization could be obtained with a higher number of cultures. The economic logic should also be related to the modernization and the persistence of traditional values. 36. This is the reason why we believe that economic. Therefore. historical characteristics do play an important part in the cultural dimensions of different nations. which is now dissociated in people’s mind from “the old brand”. they continue to reflect the cultural heritage of a society. even though they do not have a personal car yet. Most of them are due to the lack of resources.6% for France (and also the first in a hierarchy of owned cars). which would have represented not only a new geographic area. and 10. there is a clear preference for the national brand. as the favorite choice for the personal car. offering data for 65 nations worldwide (representing about 75% of the cultures of the world). As far as the samples are concerned. Little is known also about African cultures from the point of view of brand positioning. because the respondents were all freshmen. it is most probably that the students could afford the national brand before the global ones. we believe that the comparisons remain relevant.
a preliminary research can investigate the salience of brands through the brand associations themselves. after a comparative analysis of the items. 27-37. Batey. Mark. 2001: 492-508. In this context. However. The Journal of Consumer Research. 2008. Aaker. Jordi. Simonson. 27(2). there are two issues to be mentioned. Durairaj. As far as the instrument is concerned. It is obvious that an exhaustive list of brands in a certain industry cannot be analyzed. Aaker. 1997: 347-356. primary brand meaning and implicit brand meaning. 2006. Journal of Marketing Research. but rather to offer a first image of the way the meaning of global brands is constructed in different cultures. 2000: 157-178. Michael W. Jennifer L. “Using Culture to Build Brand Equity”. following the logic of distribution according to the latest available literature in brand meaning research. Preliminary research should analyze spontaneous associations grouped into factors and items through factorial analysis for each culture and. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. which led to inconclusive results for this particular brand. David A. With more resources. 31(2). the logic of research questions or hypotheses should include also economic factors. a more representative list of attributes can be build. 34(3). Donnel A. The ambition of this research was not to propose an exhaustive research of the brands. Lim 2001). Moreover. Briley. Jennifer L.research argued that there were insignificant differences between students samples and representative samples at national level (O’Cass. 2005. This research showed that the relevant brand meanings are developed for powerful brand images. Another issue related to the construction of the questionnaire concerns the choice of brands. Benet-Martinez. 86 . Building Strong Brands. Itamar. Morris. New York: Routledge. 81(3). Brands. Therefore the pretesting phase should exclusively focus on strong brand images. Adam. Veronica. The Journal of Consumer Research. a common set of representative attributes for all studied cultures can be obtained. Jennifer L. “The Effect of Cultural Orientation on Persuasion”. 1996.. References ***. ASHE Education Report. 1997: 315-328. “Dimensions of Brand Personality”.. Arvidsson. Aaker. the generalization degree is reduced because of the convenience character of the samples investigated. Brand Meaning. Garolera. “Reasons as Carriers of Culture: Dynamic versus Dispositional Models of Cultural Influence on Decision Making”. New York: The Free Press. Maheswaran. which proved to be prominent in the respondents’ mind in the pretesting phase because of the media attention it received as a consequence of the financial situation of the company. 24(3). the choice of attributes of what we called brand image was conventional. Aaker. Meaning and value in media culture. “Consumption Symbols as Carriers of Culture: A Study of Japanese and Spanish Brand Personality Constructs”. A special case of this research was the brand Chrysler. New York: Routledge.
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