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Journal of Consumer Marketing

Dimensions of consumer knowledge and its impacts on country of origin effects among Australian
consumers: a case of fast-consuming product
Ian Phau Vasinee Suntornnond
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Ian Phau Vasinee Suntornnond, (2006),"Dimensions of consumer knowledge and its impacts on country of origin effects among
Australian consumers: a case of fast-consuming product", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 23 Iss 1 pp. 34 - 42
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Anja Schaefer, (1997),"Consumer knowledge and country of origin effects", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 31 Iss 1 pp.
Khalid I. Al-Sulaiti, Michael J. Baker, (1998),"Country of origin effects: a literature review", Marketing Intelligence &
Planning, Vol. 16 Iss 3 pp. 150-199
Alexander Josiassen, A. Assaf, (2010),"Country-of-origin contingencies: their joint influence on consumer behaviour", Asia
Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, Vol. 22 Iss 3 pp. 294-313

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Dimensions of consumer knowledge and
its impacts on country of origin effects
among Australian consumers:
a case of fast-consuming product
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond
Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

Purpose The main purpose of the study is to extend Schaefers paper by investigating how different dimensions of consumer knowledge may affect
country of origin cues with an Australian sample.
Design/methodology/approach A self-administered mail survey was used in this study. The main sample consisted of Australian residents who are
aged 18 and above and may or may not be alcoholic drinkers. The mailing list was purchased from a local council consisting of a suburb of metropolitan
Perth, Western Australia. The total usable response rate was 38.7 per cent.
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Findings The results indicated that country of origin cues affect Australian consumers in beer evaluations despite its weak influences. It suggested
that brand familiarity and objective product knowledge mediate the extent to which consumers relied on country of origin in product evaluation.
However, the study found inconsistent results between different levels of objective knowledge and its effects on country of origin of manufacture.
Originality/value The paper replicates Schaefers with extensions. Despite the inconclusive results, objective product-country knowledge, to some
extent, may distort country of origin influences on consumers. This finding yields some insight for the efficiency in market segmentation. By segmenting
consumers on different levels of knowledge, the marketers will subsequently make a better decision of how brand and country of origin should be

Keywords Country of origin, Consumers, Brands, Australia

Paper type Research paper

An executive summary for managers and executive This study attempts to close this gap. Through extension of
readers can be found at the end of this article. Schaefers (1997) study, the main objectives of this paper are
to investigate how different dimensions of consumer
Introduction knowledge affect country of origin cues and to test the
generalisability with an Australian sample.
Country origin effects on consumer behaviour are considered
one of the most widely researched issues in international
marketing (Peterson and Jolibert, 1995; Tan and Farley, Relevant literature
1987; Al-Sulaiti and Baker, 1998; Bilkey and Nes, 1982). Dimensions of consumer knowledge
Samli (1995) summarised country-of-origin as a concept that Prior literature reflects that country of origin effects is a
is a critical information cue, which plays a major role in complex phenomenon and various moderators can influence
having the product accepted in a different world market. its magnitude. One of these is consumer knowledge
Country of origin effects can also act as an intangible barrier (Maheswaran, 1994; Chiou, 2003). Previous studies failed
to enter new markets in the form of negative consumer bias to distinguish between different dimensions of consumer
toward imported products (Wang and Lamb, 1983). More knowledge and how these may relate to country of origin
recently, Laroche et al. (2005) found that country image is a effects (Scribner and Weun, 2001). Further, the level of
three-dimensional concept comprising of cognitive, affective product knowledge will also affect information use since
and conative components. Among other individual factors, increased familiarity results in better developed knowledge
consumer knowledge (Samiee, 1994; Maheswaran, 1994) is structures or schema about the product (Marks and Olsen
perceived to impact consumers use of country of origin.
cited in Rao and Monroe, 1988, p. 254). Consumer
However, the specific detail regarding consumer knowledge
knowledge certainly plays a role in the acquisition and
and country of origin cues has only received limited attention.
evaluation of extrinsic cues. For instance, Cordell (1997) has
investigated the dimensionality of consumer knowledge and
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at each dimensions moderating effects on consumer use of extrinsic cues. In his study based on a 35 mm camera,
different cues such as products brand name (well-known
versus invented), retailer (full-line department stores versus
Journal of Consumer Marketing discount store), and country of origin (industrialised versus
23/1 (2006) 34 42
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited [ISSN 0736-3761]
industrialising) are all salient in consumer evaluation. As
[DOI 10.1108/07363760610641145] such, there is a need to examine the relationship between

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

various dimensions of consumer knowledge and consumers particular brand in the product category, there is a less
use of country of origin. tendency that they will search for more information. Hence, it
There are some inherent gaps in the literature. Previous may be assumed that consumers who are accustomed to a
country of origin studies mostly used durable, complex and particular brand will not use country of origin, or attribute
high financial risk products, such as, automobiles and information, to any large extent in evaluating that brand.
electronic appliances. Very few studies investigated solely Based on the above premise, it can be hypothesised that:
non-durable, low financial risk as fast consuming goods. H1. In a situation where only brand name and country of
Second, for such low risk (or considered low-involvement) origin are available as information cues, consumers are
products, consumers are often not very involved in the more likely to rely on country of origin if the brand
purchase and thus unlikely to engage in lengthy information name is unfamiliar than if it is familiar.
search and processing (Hoyer and MacInnis, 2000). It can be
However, knowledge that consumers obtain through direct
speculated that consumers will rely more on their own
personal experience will be perceived to be more trustworthy
than information from other communications. This results in
more strongly held beliefs (Swaminathan et al., 2001). Direct
Brand familiarity
experience with a particular brand tends to dilute country of
Brand familiarity is one dimension of consumer knowledge
origin effects on consumer because such experience reinforces
that is hypothesised to have an influence on country of origin
consumers reliance on brand attributes. It can be
effects. This is due to the fact that there is a distinction
hypothesised that:
between general product class knowledge and specific brand
H2. Consumers who have personally tried a particular
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familiarity. General product class knowledge relates to

brand will rely to a lesser extent on country of origin
knowledge about the features or attributes of a product,
when evaluating that particular brand than consumers
regardless of whether the consumer uses these features to
who have not personally tried the brand.
make a decision. Specific brand familiarity refers to the
consumer knowledge regarding the brand that exists in a
product category. This knowledge includes how brands
compare on different attributes and which brands own Objective product class knowledge
unique attributes (Baker et al., 2002). Punj and Staelin (1983) If a consumer is familiar with a particular brand in a
noted that consumers brand knowledge pertains to the product category, the consumers level of objective product
quantity of directly relevant brand information held in class knowledge may not have any great impact on the use
memory. In other words, this type of consumer knowledge of the country of origin cue. On the contrary, for an
is concerned with specific information about brands, which unfamiliar brand, objective product class knowledge will
exhibits a negative relationship with external search for probably play a major role in a consumers evaluation and
information. Fiske et al. (1994) commented that this choice processes.
relationship associates with a de-motivating effect. It Under a situation when both intrinsic and extrinsic cues of
signified that the more an individual already knows about product attribute information are available and the search for
the brands in a product category, the less the need for external such information is warranted, consumer with higher levels of
information search because there is less new information that objective product knowledge may base evaluations on intrinsic
is not yet known. attributes rather than extrinsic cues (such as country of
Hence, it can be argued that consumers direct experience origin). This is because highly objective consumers value the
with a particular brand is likely to enhance the use of brand cues that provide diagnostic utility. On the other hand, in a
name specifically as a choice criterion. This will diminish the case that product attribute information is not available in
effects of country of origin cues, whereas, general product choice situations and the search for it is not always warranted,
class knowledge will probably facilitate the use of other consumers may rely more on extrinsic cues for evaluation of
extrinsic product cues including country of origin. Lampert unfamiliar brands. Therefore, it can be expected that such
and Jaffe (1998) posited that differences in country of origin informational extrinsic cues as price, warranty or country of
effects occur over product categories and within categories, origin will play a role in product evaluation.
varying by individual product and brand. Thus, familiarity However, country of origin is a more complicated cue than
and experience with countrys products moderate country of price and warranty and its meaning differs for different
origin effects. In a situation that an individual has tried a product class. In other words, country of origin perception is
specific brand originating from a given country and built a not completely independent of products (Jaffe and
relationship with the brand, the consumer tend to reach Nebenzahl, 2001). For example, Afghanistan is considered
product judgment quickly without much attempts of external as a third world underdeveloped country. When asked about
search. This is because consumer perceived the product based its products, most would evaluate it on a lower scale. Yet,
largely on perceived benefits of that brand. While, country of Afghan rugs are highly valued in the world markets. Hence,
origin plays a minor role, if any, the product image is objective product class knowledge might contain both product
determined largely through the salience of a specific brand. class knowledge and country knowledge, which may to some
On the contrary, Johansson (1989) contended that individuals extent overlap, but they may not be entirely identical.
who consider themselves familiar with brands in a product As a result, when examining the impact of consumer
class are more willing to let country of origin cues enter their knowledge on country of origin effects, it may be particularly
evaluation process. useful to employ a measure that incorporates product class
According to Cordell (1997) among other extrinsic cues, knowledge. This is important, as it is associated to country of
brand name is the most common indicator for consumers to origin or country knowledge linking to products. Hence, in a
assess products. When consumers are familiar with a situation that only limited extrinsic cues are available as the

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

evaluative criteria at the point of purchase, it can be consumer knowledge and country of origin effects constructs
hypothesised that: is 0.8800. This suggests that the scale is highly reliable.
H3. Consumers with higher levels of objective product-
country knowledge will be more likely to rely on
country of origin when evaluating low-involvement Analysis and results
products, particularly if these products carry an The majority of respondents are male (56.9 per cent). More
unfamiliar brand name, than consumers with lower than half of the respondents are under 30 years old (52.1 per
levels of product-country knowledge. cent). Majority of the respondents are currently in the tertiary
education (39.3 per cent). For the income categories, the
majority (34.7 per cent) falls into the lowest group, where the
earning is on average between AU$5,000 to AU$15,000.
Nearly half of the respondents are single (46.1 per cent).
Mail survey Lastly, most of the respondents (93.5 per cent) are Australian
A self-administered mail survey was chosen for the study. The citizen, which corresponds to the research objective. The
main sample consisted of Australian residents who are aged remaining are Australian residents who have been in Australia
18 and above and may or may not be an alcoholic drinker. for the last five years.
The mailing list was purchased from a local council consisting A summary of respondents ratings on the product
of a suburb of metropolitan Perth, Western Australia. Names dimensions of overall quality, value for money and
were systemically chosen (every tenth name) from the list and social acceptability is presented in Table I. The results show
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were sent out in three batches one week apart of each other. that respondents evaluation of country image of beer was
In total, 1,275 were mailed out with a covering letter highest for Germany (mean 5.75). This is followed by The
explaining the nature of the study. A total of 316 were rejected Netherlands (5.42), Australia (5.36) and New Zealand
due to invalid addresses or that the respondents were no (4.68). For the dimension of value for money, Australia
longer staying in that address. A total of 371 surveys were (5.54) was ranked first. This is followed by New Zealand
received of which six were incomplete. This makes a final total (4.40), The Netherlands (4.38) and Germany (4.37). For the
useable response rate of 38.7 per cent. dimension of social acceptability, German beer
(mean 5:80) was ranked first followed by The
Survey instrument Netherlands (5.54), Australia (5.19) and New Zealand
The self-administered questionnaire was designed replicating (4.60).
many items from Schaefers (1997) study. Beer was chosen as For familiar brands, Heineken is ranked first for the
the product category as this will also allow comparisons with dimensions of product quality (5.59) and social
Schaefers (1997) study. Some changes were incorporated. acceptability (5.59). This is followed by Becks on
The country of manufacture cues used were Australia, dimension of product quality (mean 5:26) and social
Germany, New Zealand and The Netherlands. These acceptability (mean 5:31). Surprisingly, Steinlager
countries were chosen as it reflects the current market of received a better rating than Victoria Bitter on two
the beer industry. Two brands were included for each country. dimensions. These are namely, product quality means of
The familiar brand was chosen from the most popular brand 4.87 and 4.14 and social acceptability means of 4.85 and
for each country of origin. The unfamiliar brand name was a
fictitious brand name invented by the researchers.
In question 1, respondents were asked to evaluate their self- Table I Summary of statistical ratings of brands and countries
knowledge about beer on a four-point scale. This is to Quality Value Acceptability
measure subjective product class knowledge. In question 2,
Items Mean Std dev. Mean Std dev. Mean Std dev.
respondents were requested to tick the four brands of beer
(real brands) that they have tasted. In question 3, respondents Made in Australia 5.36 1.21 5.54 1.29 5.19 1.26
were presented with all eight brands of familiar and unfamiliar VB 4.14 1.53 4.59 1.48 3.66 1.60
(fictitious) brands of beer. They were required to identify the Johntons 3.89 1.11 3.70 1.00 3.90 1.11
country of origin. Question 4 was designed to determine
respondents product evaluations of the eight brands based on Made in The
three product dimensions namely overall quality, value for Netherlands 5.42 1.12 4.38 1.20 5.54 1.16
money and social acceptability. Seven-point semantic- Heineken 5.59 1.21 4.38 1.44 5.59 1.16
differential scales were used to rate the products. The country Van de Veer 4.21 1.09 3.82 1.07 4.21 1.21
cues were made available to the respondents.
Question 5 measures respondents evaluation of the product Made in Germany 5.75 1.05 4.37 1.25 5.80 1.11
dimensions of overall quality, value for money and
Becks 5.26 1.17 4.33 1.26 5.31 1.27
social acceptability of the country of manufacture of beer.
Schneider 4.49 1.15 3.79 1.14 4.54 1.34
This is also measured on a seven-point semantic scale.
Demographic information was elicited in the last section.
These included gender, age, education attainment, income, Made in New Zealand 4.68 1.34 4.40 1.27 4.60 1.36
marital status, and citizenship. The citizenship question was Steinlager 4.87 1.41 4.16 1.44 4.85 1.33
used as a screening question. As the study aims to investigate Massey 3.94 1.01 3.85 1.02 4.00 1.17
only Australian consumers, non-Australian respondents were Note: Familiar brand shown after country followed by unfamiliar (invented)
automatically excluded from the study. The result shows that brand; Scale range from 1 (very bad) to 7 (very good)
the Cronbachs alpha for the 58 items tapping dimensions of

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

3.66 respectively. However, Victoria Bitter received the When evaluating both familiar and unfamiliar brands from
highest ranking for the dimension of value for money Australia, respondents depended more on country of origin
(4.59). cue in every product dimension (r 0:4101 . 0:136 for
For unfamiliar brands, Schneider is the ranked first for both quality, r 0:377 . 0:167 for value, and r 0:344 .
dimensions of product quality (4.49) and social 20:071 for acceptability). The same pattern appeared in
acceptability (4.54). This is followed by Van de Veer (4.21) other countries and their products in all product dimensions
for both dimensions. Massey received the highest mean for as well. This suggests that respondents seemed to rely more
the dimension of value for money (3.85). on country of origin cue when evaluating familiar brands
rather than unfamiliar brands. Moreover, a Sign test shows
Country of origin effects evidence that correlations between country ratings and ratings of
The evidence for respondents use of country of origin cue in familiar brands are overall significantly stronger (p 0:000)
product evaluations was measured by correlating means for than correlations between country ratings and ratings of
each product dimensions, country of manufacture cues and unfamiliar brands. Therefore, H1 is rejected.
the brand names. This is presented in Table II. The results The finding is similar to the Schaefers (1997) study. The
show positive correlations in most of the cases, which indicate possible explanation is that respondents may not be too
that there is country of origin effects on both familiar and confident to rely solely on country of origin when evaluating a
unfamiliar brands. However, it appears to vary between product with an unknown brand name. This is especially so
countries and product dimensions. For example, for for non-drinker respondents in this study. Second, the image
dimension for product quality, New Zealand has the of a familiar brand may be a strong constituent of product-
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strongest country of origin effect on beer for both familiar and country images and may thus have an impact on country
unfamiliar brands (r 0:528 and 0.351 respectively). ratings (Schaefer, 1997).
Germany has the weakest effect on the acceptability
dimension for familiar brands (r 0:277). Personal brand experience and country of origin effects
It was hypothesised in H2 that consumers with personal
Brand familiarity and country of origin effects experience of a brand would be less likely to rely on country of
In H1, it was hypothesised that in a situation where only origin than consumers without personal experience, when
brand name and country of origin information cues are evaluating that particular brand. In Table III, the correlation
available, country of origin effects would be stronger if the coefficient between country of origin and brands are shown
brand name is unfamiliar than if it is familiar. This is because separately for respondents with and without personal
when the brand name is familiar, consumers would rely on the experience of the brand chosen for the study.
known attributes of the brand rather than country of origin The results show a positive correlation between country and
cues. However, the results shown in Table II seem to reflect brand of consumers with and without brand experience in
the contrary. Despite weak positive correlations, the most of the items. One exception is Victoria Bitter in all three
correlations of country of origin and familiar brands are product dimensions and Heineken for acceptability
stronger than those of unfamiliar brands. dimension for non-experience respondents. The results
show that for these items, correlations were not significant.
Table II Evidence for country of origin effects: Spearmans rho One possible reason is that most of the respondents had
correlation efficient between brand and country rating personally tried this brand (89.97 per cent of the
respondents). Second, since Victoria Bitter is a domestic
Quality Value Acceptability brand, respondents including non-experienced respondents
n n n are likely to be more accustomed to the brand. As a result,
Australia country of origin cue may not be used in the evaluation
Victoria Bitter 365 0.401 * * 360 0.377 * * 360 0.344 * * process. Heineken is a global brand with high brand
Johntons 281 0.136 * 278 0.167 * * 278 2 0.071 familiarity. In addition, the brands positioning and the
active marketing activities of Heineken in Australia may have
lessened the reliance of country of origin when respondents
The Netherlands
assessed the social acceptability dimension of the brand.
Heineken 361 0.435 * * 359 0.420 * * 360 0.298 * *
When comparing correlation between respondents with and
Van de Veer 283 0.222 * * 283 0.217 * * 284 0.144 *
without brand experience, Victoria bitter reflected moderately
strong positive correlations for brand experience group
Germany (r 0:415 for quality dimension; 0.369 for value
Becks 335 0.394 * * 334 0.374 * * 337 0.277 * * dimension; and 0.360). There is no significant correlation
Schneider 288 0.285 * * 289 0.294 * * 294 0.163 * * for those without experience in any product dimension.
Similarly, for Steinlager, the positive correlations of
New Zealand respondents with experience are stronger than those without
Steinlager 339 0.528 * * 342 0.332 * * 341 0.406 * * experience for all dimensions (r 0:532 . 0:480 for
Massey 285 0.351 * * 285 0.261 * * 286 0.254 * * quality; r 0:428 . 0:311 for value; r 0:501 . 0:240
for acceptability).
Notes: *Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed);
* *Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed); Sign test In contrast, for Heineken, the correlations of respondents
comparing correlation involving familiar brands vs unfamiliar brands: with experience are weaker than those of respondents without
correlation between country ratings and ratings of familiar brands are experience for dimensions of overall quality and value for
significant stronger (p 0:000) money dimensions (r 0:377 , 0:576 for quality; r
0:401 , 0:704 for value), The correlation for acceptability

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

Table III Correlation between brand and country ratings by respondent with and without brand experience
Brand experience No brand experience
Quality Value Acceptability Quality Value Acceptability
No. of No. of No. of No. of No. of No. of
respondents respondents respondents respondents respondents respondents
Victoria Bitter
Australia 332 0.415 * 332 0.369 * 332 0.360 * 28 0.108 28 20.056 28 0.217
The Netherlands 320 0.377 * 318 0.401 * 318 0.267 * 41 0.576 * 41 0.704 * 42 0.048
Germany 208 0.343 * 207 0.391 * 209 0.302 * 127 0.419 * 127 0.377 * 128 0.269 *
New Zealand 186 0.532 * 190 0.428 * 188 0.501 * 153 0.480 * 152 0.311 * 153 0.240 *
Note: *Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed); Sign test comparing strength of correlation of brand experience vs no brand experience:
no significant differences (p 0:146)
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of experienced respondents is greater (r 0:267 . 0:048). are stronger than those with low knowledge in all brands
The correlations of respondents who have personally tasted (r 0:788, 0.738, 0.664, and 0.592 for VB, Heineken, Becks
Becks are stronger than those who have not for the dimension and Steinlager respectively).
of overall quality but not for value for money and social For familiar brands, the results revealed that the
acceptability dimensions (r 0:343 , 0:480 for quality; correlations of high knowledge respondents are stronger
r 0:319 . 0:377 for value; and r 0:302 . 0:269). than medium knowledge subgroup only for the dimension of
However, a further analysis of the entire items by a Sign value for money in all items. Only the brand Becks reflects
test suggests that there is no significant difference in the that high knowledge group has stronger correlation than
strength of the correlations based on personal experience with medium knowledge subgroup for the dimension for social
a brand of beer (p 0:146). Therefore, H2 is rejected. acceptability (r 0:476 . 0:173).
For unfamiliar brands, results showed that medium
Objective product-country knowledge and country of knowledge sub group has stronger correlations than low
origin effects knowledge sub groups in most cases. These are r 0:220 .
H3 speculated that consumers with higher levels of objective 0:189 for value; r 0:232 . 0:191 for the dimension of
product-country knowledge would rely more on country of social acceptability for Van de Veer brand, r 0:290 .
origin than consumers with lower level of product-country 0:219 for quality of Schneider, and r 0:448 . 0:309 for
knowledge when evaluating products with an unfamiliar quality; r 0:448 . 0:342 for value for money of
brand name. Hence, stronger correlations between country Massey.
and brand ratings are expected with higher levels of product The correlation differences between low and high
knowledge. In the data analysis, respondents were divided knowledge groups are that high knowledge group reflects
into three sub-samples according to a number of right several stronger correlations. These include r 0:775 .
identifications of country of origin of the brand names of beer 0:189 for value of Van de Veer, r 0:693 . 0:219 for
in the questionnaire. The sub-samples consist of low (0-2 quality and r 0:622 . 0:246 for value for money of
right answers), medium (3-5 right answers), and high (5-8 Schneider, r 0:836 . 0:342 for value for money for
right answers). Massey.
As reflected in Table IV, the correlation between country When comparing correlation between medium and high
and brand ratings is shown separately for respondents with knowledge subgroups, the results demonstrated that high
different levels of knowledge and different product knowledge respondents have stronger correlations than
dimensions. For familiar brands, the results indicated that medium knowledge respondents for several product
in most of the cases, the correlations of low knowledge dimensions of several brands. They are r 0:775 . 0:220
respondents are stronger than those of medium knowledge for value of Van de Veer, r 0:693 . 0:219 for quality
respondents in all product dimensions. Only for the brand and r 0:622 . 0:246 for value of Schneider, r 0:836 .
Steinlager, that medium knowledge sub-group has stronger 0:342 for value of Massey.
correlations for the dimensions of overall quality and In summary, a Sign test comparing the correlation between
social acceptability than low knowledge respondents rating by the different sub-samples in Table IV shows that
(r 0:578 . 0:510 for quality; and r 0:592 . 0:163 for there are no significant differences in strength of correlations
acceptability). between country ratings and ratings of familiar brands by
When comparing correlations between low and high respondents with different levels of objective product-country
categories towards familiar brands the results for the knowledge. The comparisons between low versus
dimension of overall quality is contrary to expectation. In medium groups was p 0:146; medium versus high
all cases, high knowledge respondents have weaker groups was p 0:388; and low versus high was
correlations than low knowledge sub-group. In contrast, for p 1:000.
value knowledge, the results appeared to support the On the contrary, a Sign tests shows that there is a significant
hypothesis. The positive correlations of high knowledge group difference in strength of correlations between country ratings

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

Table IV Correlation between brand and country ratings by objective product country knowledge
Low knowledge Medium knowledge High knowledge
Quality Value Acceptability Quality Value Acceptability Quality Value Acceptability
Sample size Sample size Sample size Sample size Sample size Sample size Sample size Sample size Sample size
Australia 196 0.454 * * 194 0.080 195 0.419 * * 146 0.301 * * 148 0.227 * * 147 0.279 * * 18 0.409 18 0.788 * * 18 0.000
Australia 149 2 0.047 149 0.134 149 2 0.086 113 0.318 * * 113 0.208 * 113 0.141 16 20.011 16 0.495 16 20.543 *
The Netherlands 193 0.501 * * 192 0.453 * * 194 0.285 * * 150 0.372 * * 149 0.330 * * 148 0.241 * * 18 0.129 18 0.738 * * 18 0.242
The Netherlands 150 0.219 * * 150 0.189 * 152 0.191 * 118 0.185 * 118 0.220 * 117 0.232 * 15 0.470 15 0.775 * * 15 0.148
Germany 172 0.410 * * 173 0.364 * * 173 0.334 * * 145 0.354 * * 143 0.349 * * 146 0.173 * 18 0.229 18 0.664 * * 18 0.476 *
Germany 154 0.219 * * 154 0.246 * * 159 0.143 118 0.290 * * 119 0.326 * * 119 0.275 * * 16 0.693 * * 16 0.622 * 16 20.172
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NZ 181 0.510 * * 180 0.405 * * 182 0.163 * 142 0.578 * * 146 0.353 * * 144 0.195 * 16 0.501 * 16 0.592 * 16 0.313
NZ 152 0.309 * 152 0.342 * * 152 0.263 * * 117 0.448 * * 117 0.182 * 118 0.334 * * 16 0.381 16 0.836 * * 16 20.047
Notes: *Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (two-tailed); * *Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (two-tailed); Sign test comparing correlation:
Familiar brands: low vs medium no significant difference (p 0:146); Medium vs high no significant difference (p 0:388); Low vs high no significant
difference (p 1:000); Unfamiliar brands: Low vs medium medium significantly stronger correlation (p 0:039); Medium vs high no significant difference
(p 1:000); Low vs high no significant difference (p 0:388)

and unfamiliar brands ratings by respondents with low Similarly, many respondents may not be adequately confident
versus medium objective knowledge level (p 0:039, to rely solely on country of origin cue when judging a product
medium significantly stronger correlations). Nevertheless, with an unfamiliar brand name (Schaefer, 1997).
this pattern did not apply to the comparisons of other sub- Further, the image of a familiar brand may be a strong
groups. Evidently, there are no significant differences between constituent of product-country images and may thus have an
respondents with medium objective knowledge versus impact on country image ratings. In other words, many
high objective knowledge level (p 1:000), as well as, international brands have a basic credibility or reputation
low versus high objective knowledge level (p 0:388). based on their country of origin image (Rugimbana and
The results suggested that only respondents with medium Nwankwo, 2003). Therefore, the consumers may find it
objective knowledge tend to rely on country of origin when difficult to link the unknown brand name to a country image,
evaluating unfamiliar brands, whereas, the highest objective which resulted in less dependency of country of origin cues.
knowledge group did not rely on country of origin as This finding is also contradictory to Han and Qualls
expected. H3, therefore, is partially supported. (1985), who posits that customers with lower levels of brand
familiarity are expected to pay closer attention to country
origin image. It was found that consumer perceptions of
Discussion and managerial implications product quality of Grundig television sets (a brand with which
The empirical findings indicate that while country of origin respondents were unfamiliar) were favourably influenced by
effects have an influence on Australian consumers, there are their country of origin, Germany. Consumers inferred the
only weak associations between product dimensions and German superiority image of German technology and
country of origin cues particularly for evaluations of transferred this attribute to an unfamiliar brand name of
unfamiliar brands. The descriptive data showed that, at the German origin.
country level, Germany is perceived by Australian consumers There are many managerial implications that can be drawn
as the best in product quality and social acceptability. from the findings. Since consumers do not rely on country of
These positive perceptions are subsequently transferred to the origin for unfamiliar brands evaluations, beer producers of
evaluation of the fictitious brand from Germany, which international brands or importers may not need to focus on
gained highest score for each of the similar product country of origin in promotion strategy when introducing new
dimensions. brand to the market. Rather, they should emphasise other
The finding suggests that consumers did not rely on uniqueness of the new brands, such as, product attributes,
country of origin when they evaluate an unknown brand e.g. distinguish package, or, other elements of marketing
name. According to Blackwell et al. (2001), consumers are strategies. However, the foreign brands available in the market
unlikely to purchase a product when they lack sufficient such as Heineken and Becks can make use of their country of
information. Hence, it can be implied that consumers hesitate origin images by emphasising their superiority in product
to evaluate unknown brand names simply because they may quality and social acceptability. The results of country ratings
feel that inadequate information is made available to them. suggest that consumers perceived New Zealands image better

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

than Australia only for social acceptability. Therefore, if the different levels of knowledge, the marketers will
company wants to address the country of origin related subsequently make a better decision of how brand and
message in the promotion strategy, they should accentuate country of origin should be managed. For example, when the
trendiness of the product rather than its quality. marketers target moderately knowledgeable consumers, they
The findings indicated that consumers without personal can make use of a favourable product-country image to
experience of a brand did not rely on country of origin. In position a new product. On the other hand, an unfavourable
contrast, consumer with brand experience relied more on product-country image may hinder the success of a new brand
country of origin cues. The possible reasons may be similar to targeted at this segment. For low or high knowledgeable
those suggested earlier. Further, since all the brands chosen in consumers, marketers do not need to be too concerned about
the study (Victoria Bitter, Heineken, Becks and Steinlager) product-country images.
have been actively marketed in Australia, the consumers
without experience may base their judgment on what they
have heard or seen all communication campaigns rather than Limitations and future research directions
only informational cue provided in the survey.
As consumers with personal brand experience depended on The homogeneity of countries chosen for the study may be a
country of origin cue, the marketers may address the positive caveat. According to Jaffe and Nebenzahl (2001), country
images of country of brand origin. For instance, the country image is influenced by exogenous factors such as a countrys
image means showed the most positive perceptions towards economic development, national identity and its cultural
quality and social acceptability are for German beer. Becks environment. Since all countries used in the study, as stimuli
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can also emphasise these messages through its promotion are highly developed countries, it leads to the question if
campaign. Further, the company can also charge premium results may differ for consumers in developing or less
prices to stress brands country of origin superior image. developed countries. Future research should focus on
On the other hand, other strategies can be used for the countries with different economical levels, different political
segment of inexperienced consumers. Instead of emphasising backgrounds and different cultures as stimuli.
country of origin messages, sales promotions, such as, price In this study, respondents were not motivated by real
deals, coupons, a free sample, or premiums may be a more purchase situation. As a consequence, some were reluctant to
efficient way to get these consumers to try the products. evaluate unfamiliar brands, which may affect the study
The findings indicate some support for consumers with outcomes. However, it can be argued that if a real
higher levels of objective knowledge rely more frequently on environment setting is used, it will be very difficult to
country of origin cues especially when evaluating unfamiliar control availability of informational cues. This is because in
brands. However, this pattern only applies between low and real-life situations, the respondents may process other
medium levels of objective knowledge groups and not extrinsic cues, such as, price, packaging, or even liquor stores.
between medium versus high levels nor low versus The validity of objective product-country knowledge
high levels of objective knowledge groups. Moreover, in a measurement may also be questionable. By asking
case of familiar brands, the results suggest that consumers respondents to identify country of origin of both real and
with higher levels of objective knowledge relied more fictitious brand, highly knowledgeable respondents may
frequently on objective product country knowledge than recognise that the unfamiliar brands were invented and
those with lower levels of knowledge when evaluating different decide not to provide answers to those questions. On the
brands of beer. other hand, the respondents who verified themselves as
Unlike the previous research, which found consistent pertaining low knowledge about beers tended to answer all of
patterns along every level of objective knowledge, this study the questions without realising which brands were real or
only found a weak evidence of an objective knowledge- fictitious. As a result, the former group received lower scores
country of origin relationship. Hence, the mediating effect of than the latter. This needs to be addressed in future studies.
this knowledge dimension on country of origin magnitude is This study should be extended to other product in the same
inconclusive. This questions the generalisability of the category and to other product categories. If there are
previous studys results, as well as the validity of the supported by the subsequent research, they will contribute
measurement used. The inconsistency of the findings may to our understanding of consumer knowledge on country of
be due to the lack of external validity of current country of origin effects by enriching the profile that can be drawn from
origin studies (dAstous and Ahmed, 1999). In reality, consumers in other countries.
consumers may not generally seek country of origin
information and consequently may not think it is important
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Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
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effects and their impact upon consumers perception of

quality, in Tan, C.T. and Sheth, J. (Eds), Historical About the authors
Perspectives in Consumer Research, School of Management,
University of Singapore, Singapore. Ian Phau is a senior lecturer at Curtin Business School of
Hoyer, W.D. and MacInnis, D.J. (2000), Consumer Behavior, Marketing in Western Australia. His research interests lie in
2nd ed., Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA. country image, luxury branding and brand piracy. His
Jaffe, E.D. and Nebenzahl, I.D. (2001), National Image and teaching specialisations are in consumer behaviour and
Competitive Advantage: The Theory and Practice of Country- market research. He is also active in consulting work in the
of-Origin Effect, Copenhagen Business School Press, luxury industry. Ian Phau is the corresponding author and can
Copenhagen. be contacted at:
Johansson, J.K. (1989), Determinants and effects of the use Vasinee Suntornnond has just completed her Masters study
of made in labels, International Marketing Review, Vol. 6 at Curtin Business School of Marketing in Western Australia.
No. 1, pp. 47-58. She is currently working in the service industry.
Johansson, J.K. (1993), Missing a strategic opportunity:
managers denial of country-of-origin effect, in Executive summary and implications for
Papadopoulos, N. and Heslop, L.A. (Eds), Product managers and executives
Country Images: Impact and Role in International Marketing,
International Business Press, New York, NY, pp. 77-86. This summary has been provided to allow managers and executives
Lampert, S.I. and Jaffe, E.D. (1998), A dynamic approach to a rapid appreciation of the content of this article. Those with a
country-of-origin effect, European Journal of Marketing, particular interest in the topic covered may then read the article in
Vol. 32 Nos 1/2, p. 61. toto to take advantage of the more comprehensive description of the
Laroche, M., Papadopoulos, N., Heslop, L. and Mourali, M. research undertaken and its results to get the full benefits of the
(2005), The influence of country image structure on material present.
consumer evaluations of foreign products, International
Marketing Review, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 96-115. Dimensions of consumer knowledge and its impacts on
Maheswaran, D. (1994), Country of origin as a stereotype: country of origin effects among Australian consumers:
effects of consumer expertise and attribute strength on a case of fast-consuming product
product evaluations, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 21 Knowledge about a products country of origin (COO) can
No. 2, pp. 354-65. significantly influence consumer perceptions of a brand.
Peterson, R.A. and Jolibert, A.J. (1995), A meta-analysis of Whether these impressions are positive or negative will
country-of-origin effects, Journal of International Business invariably go some way to enhancing or inhibiting the success
Studies, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 883-96. of products in foreign markets. Of course, COO prompts will
Punj, G.N. and Staelin, R. (1983), A model of consumer not be the only knowledge to influence consumer perception
information search behavior for new automobiles, Journal and, ultimately, purchase intentions. The value for marketers
of Consumer Research, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 366-80. is obviously to identify those situations when COO cues can
Rao, A.R. and Monroe, K.B. (1988), The moderating effect be most effective and target the consumer appropriately.
of prior knowledge on cue utilization in product To this end, Phau conducted a mail survey of Australian
evaluations, Journal of Consumer Research, Vol. 15, residents over 18 years of age. Respondents were asked to
September, pp. 253-64. complete a questionnaire relating to eight brands of beer from
Rugimbana, R. and Nwankwo, S. (2003), Cross Cultural four different countries. From each country, one leading
Marketing, Thomson Nelson, Hampton. brand and one fictitious brand were included. Part of the
Samiee, S. (1994), Customer evaluation of products in a motivation for selecting these stimuli was the scarcity of
global market, Journal of International Business Studies, previous studies concerning fast-consuming products. The
Vol. 25 No. 3, pp. 579-604. authors primary aim was to investigate how difference aspects

Dimensions of consumer knowledge Journal of Consumer Marketing
Ian Phau and Vasinee Suntornnond Volume 23 Number 1 2006 34 42

of consumer knowledge affect COO prompts. Respondents The results of this investigation suggest that marketers
were asked to identify country of origin of the beers and would not benefit from using COO cues when introducing a
evaluate each brand and COO in respect of overall quality, product to a market where the brand was unfamiliar. A more
value for money and social acceptability. productive strategy would be to instead concentrate on other
In line with a majority of earlier studies, the author assumed attributes that might differentiate the brand. And, while COO
that brand familiarity would be a highly influential factor. use is clearly more appropriate to customers with experience
Personal experience with a particular brand would lessen the of a brand, care is needed to strike the right chord. For
need to seek other cues, such as COO. Consumers would example, respondents in this study rated New Zealand higher
instead make judgments based on brand features or attributes than Australia with regard to social acceptability. As the
known to them. The brand name itself will thus influence author rightly points out, the scope for COO to make a
decisions made. positive impact would only occur if strategies to market a
However, the findings proved contrary to expectation. brand originating from New Zealand emphasized the
There were closer links between COO and familiar brands products trendiness rather than its quality or price.
than with unfamiliar brands, although the evidence itself was Similarly, it is possible that German organizations will be
insubstantial. Speculation was that consumers might not be able to exploit the countrys reputation for quality in order to
sufficiently confident to rely solely on COO when faced with justify charging higher prices. For consumers without
the task of evaluating an unfamiliar brand. The lack of other personal brand experience, COO would be wasted. Sales
information was assumed to be especially significant to non- promotions, discounts or free samples are a few of the more
drinking respondents in this survey. effective strategies for getting such consumers to try the
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Likewise, it is also noted that brand image and product- product.

country image are often inextricably linked. When this However, the inconclusive nature of the study is
relationship is especially close, any reference to the brand also
emphasized by its contradiction to earlier research in which
activates COO associations. A prime example of this is
participants used COO cues to positively evaluate an
German goods reputation for quality a common
unfamiliar German brand of television. If nothing else, the
assumption that even applied to the fictitious brand
discrepancy suggests that strength of COO cue is also an
included within this study. That this link would not usually
important factor to take into account. This further supports
be apparent where unfamiliar brands are concerned obviously
the need to emphasize the right aspects if COO is employed as
suggests that COO cues are likely to be less influential.
part of a marketing strategy.
Some consumers may be unfamiliar with a specific brand,
The evidence also suggests that marketers should segment
yet possess high levels of knowledge about products in the
same category. The author suggests that these consumers are consumers based on their levels of objective product-country
less likely to use extrinsic cues such as price, warranty or knowledge and employ COO prompts only to target those
COO on occasions when intrinsic product attribute cues are with moderate levels.
also available. But, in the absence of such information, COO While there are useful implications to draw from this study,
may have a more prominent role to play. It is also believed the author concedes that the lack of a real life situation
that COO is potentially most important when few extrinsic possibly removed other extrinsic cues from the equation.
clues are available to the consumer. This argument is Likewise, he points out that different results may be obtained
particularly relevant on occasions when knowledge about a using products from less developed countries for which the
product comes packaged with knowledge relating to its COO effect might differ considerably. Expanding the study in
country of origin. this direction and into other product categories may further
The author had predicted that product-country links would understanding of the issue.
make consumers with high objective product-country
knowledge more likely to be influenced by COO when (A precis of the article Dimensions of consumer knowledge and its
evaluating unfamiliar brands. However, the findings indicated impacts on country of origin effects among Australian consumers: a
that this only applied to consumers with medium levels of case of fast-consuming product. Supplied by Marketing
objective product-country knowledge. Consultants for Emerald.)

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