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“What? I thought Samsung was Japanese”: accurate or not, perceived country of origin matters
Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA
Stanford A. Westjohn
The University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio, USA, and
Bryant University, Smithfield, Rhode Island, USA
Purpose – Extensive research has shown that country-of-origin (COO) information significantly affects product evaluations and buying behavior. Yet recently, a competing perspective has emerged suggesting that COO effects have been inflated in prior research and even that the COO concept has become irrelevant. The purpose of this paper is to reconcile these two competing perspectives by examining the effects of individual brand origin perceptions. Design/methodology/approach – The conceptual framework is grounded in consumers’ learning. Empirically, the authors’ hypotheses are tested using hierarchical linear modeling on a sample of 4,047 brand evaluations by 544 consumers. Findings – The results provide strong evidence that product country image of the consumer’s perceived brand origin strongly affects brand attitudes, and this happens regardless of the perceptions’ objective accuracy. The authors also find evidence that educating consumers about brands’ true COO can contribute to changes in brand attitudes. Practical implications – It is concluded that suggestions that COO has become an irrelevant construct in international marketing may be premature. The study offers meaningful insights for managers in understanding how brands’ country associations affect brand attitudes. Originality/value – This study aims to reconcile tensions in the current COO literature and does so by demonstrating that although consumer knowledge of brand origin is often mis-calibrated, consumers’ perceptions of brand origin still matter. Keywords Consumer behaviour, Brand evaluation, Country of origin, Global marketing, Brand origin recognition accuracy, Global branding, Hierarchical linear modelling Paper type Research paper
International Marketing Review Vol. 28 No. 5, 2011 pp. 454-472 r Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0265-1335 DOI 10.1108/02651331111167589
Country of origin (COO) research has been heralded as one of the most widely researched topics in international marketing (Pharr, 2005). Testifying to the importance of the concept, International Marketing Review recently published two special issues dedicated to the topic, one focussed on the COO phenomenon directly (2008, Vol. 25, No. 4) and a second focussed on nation branding (2010, Vol. 27, No. 4). The vast majority of research from these two special issues as well as the entire COO research history concludes that a product’s COO does affect product evaluations and purchasing behavior (Demirbag et al., 2010; Phau and Chao, 2008; Sharma, 2011; Verlegh and Steenkamp, 1999), and the management of a country’s image has been brought to the forefront (Anholt, 2010; Dinnie et al., 2010; Heslop et al., 2010). Consistent with the research findings, many multinational firms continue to manage their consumers’ COO perception in their promotion campaigns. For example, Volkswagen often uses a German-accented narrator, emphasizes that its cars are “German-designed,” and includes the “Das Auto” slogan in many advertisements
” Accurate or not. p.. Chevrolet’s “Our Country” and Budweiser’s “The Great American Lager” campaigns emphasize the firms’ American roots and their importance as a part of American history. whereas Balabanis and Diamantopoulos (2008) found that a sample of UK consumers were able to correctly identify 27 percent of the brand origins for microwave ovens. Liefeld.” Usunier (2006) added that the COO research field is suffering from a progressively widening relevance gap and Samiee (2010.4 percent of consumers explicitly acquired a product’s COO and only about 6 percent knew the COO prior to the purchase. The furniture retailer IKEA promotes its Swedish heritage by painting its stores blue and yellow like a Swedish flag.” Samiee et al. (2005) found that US respondents were only able to identify the correct origin for 35 percent of the examined brands. we extend previous literature to conceptualize a new construct. Skanka and Forsiktig). Liefeld (2004) found that only 1. we examine the malleability of consumer attitudes based on learning a brand’s true home country. We suggest that consumers’ perceived COO of a brand. they argue that since consumers are oftentimes unfamiliar with brands’ true origin.. Similarly. 88.around the world. Finally. Samiee et al. However. In effect. 444) challenge to design COO research that “does not artificially expose subjects to [country] locations of products and brands included in the study. Consequently. the COO phenomenon has come under increasing scrutiny. This study aims to contribute to the COO body of knowledge by reconciling the current tension. and maintaining a Swedish grocery store and restaurant in all retail outlets. p. 444) concluded that recent research “clearly point to the apparent insignificance of CO as a consideration in purchase decisions in the vast majority of cases. these studies demonstrate that consumers neither possess much accurate knowledge of the origins of brands. two recent studies examining consumers’ brand origin recognition accuracy showed that consumers’ knowledge of brands’ origin is indeed limited. Empirically. a conflicting research stream has emerged. Samiee et al. In contrast. p.8 percent reported that they did not know a product’s origin and suggested they had no interest in finding out. which explicitly emphasizes consumer perceptions of origin. This led Samiee et al. despite abundant evidence of a COO effect and ongoing marketing practices.g. which suggests that most consumers care very little about the origin of products. Singapore Airlines uses “Singapore Girl” to build a brand and country image that is warm. nor actively seek out such information. COO cannot be an important factor affecting consumers’ attitudes and behavior. perceived COO matters 455 . 2004. We argue that the focus in COO research should be shifted away from the objective accuracy of consumers’ brand origin knowledge to the relevance of consumers’ perceived COO associations. product country image (PCI) of the perceived COO. Combined. 2005) which found that consumers’ brand origin knowledge is remarkably poor.g. 2008. (2005. tender. 2008). In effect. This study also responds to Samiee’s (2010. Balabanis and Diamantopoulos. affects brand attitude. and friendly (Chattalas et al. naming all products with traditional Swedish names despite pronunciation difficulties in the local ¨ ¨ language (e. we relate perceived PCI with brand attitude and we demonstrate a significant relationship regardless of brand origin perceptions’ objective accuracy. regardless of accuracy. 379) to conclude that “past research has inflated the influence that country of origin information has on consumers’ product judgments and behavior and its importance in managerial and public policy decisions. (2005) and Samiee (2010) draw their conclusion based on multiple studies (e.
2004). brand equity. color. By definition. brand name.g. Pharr. retail outlet. 1993) and drive product judgments. p. Kardes et al. 1991. 2009). Veale and Quester (2009) provide a recent example of the importance of extrinsic cues by finding that product evaluations of wine were affected more by extrinsic cues. than an intrinsic taste cue. extrinsic cues provide a cognitive shortcut when intrinsic cues are difficult to obtain. Peterson and Jolibert. Recent research has indicated that consumers’ interest (or ability) to consciously process the COO cue may not be as extensive as prior research has assumed (e. consumers face inherent difficulties in gaining access to intrinsic information prior to purchasing. information cues also come from aspects external to the product. taste. 2004).IMR 28.. price. technical specifications. 2005. including material. COO effects have since been examined with a variety of methodologies.. a product consists of a collection of information cues. COO and price. product categories. outline the theoretical hypotheses. Has the COO cue become irrelevant? Although our understanding of the COO phenomenon and its underlying psychological drivers have benefited from decades of research.5 456 In addition to a contribution to the research literature. and COO (Liefeld. such as reputation. For the remainder of the paper. which have traditionally been referred to as intrinsic cues. The theoretical explanation for why COO affects product evaluations and purchase behavior has primarily viewed consumer decision making as a cognitive process (Bloemer et al. . According to this perspective. this study has important implications for international marketing practice.. 1995. 2004). and COO. despite recent studies concluding that COO effects have been inflated (Samiee et al. 2004). theoretical explanations and empirical examinations have assumed that some sort of COO cue is available and processed by the consumer when making purchase decisions. e. and design. as consistent and credible predictors of value and quality (Dodds. or the consumer seeks to expedite the decision process (Bredahl. Verlegh and Steenkamp. such as the physical make-up of the product. Extrinsic cues serve as stimuli. 1993). price. However. this study offers some guidance on whether marketing efforts to associate a product with a specific country or culture is worthwhile. which automatically activate internally stored schemas (Shimp et al. Specifically. 2006). texture. Research has shown that consumers view extrinsic cues. Literature review and hypotheses development COO as an influential extrinsic cue The COO cue has long been of great interest to both international marketing managers and researchers. and source countries and the broad conclusion emerging from almost 50 years of research on this topic is that COO does affect product evaluations (Bilkey and Nes. the motivation to understand intrinsic cues is lacking. 116) originally suggested “the little phrase ‘Made in [y]’ can have a tremendous influence on the acceptance and success of products” with the first empirical tests conducted by Schooler in 1965. we first review the relevant COO literature. 2005) and that the concept has become irrelevant (Usunier. Dichter (1962..g. performance. 1982. and follow it with a presentation of the empirical results. brand name. We conclude by discussing the implications of our study for international marketing research and practice. 1999). In other words. which means that consumers are often forced to rely heavily on extrinsic cues when forming a product judgment (Bredahl. Liefeld.
The combined conclusions of these studies are that consumers do not know where brands are from. 2005) and that the traditional experimental approach has produced “artificial” effects sizes that have exaggerated the effects of COO (Samiee. Based on two separate samples. The relationship between perceived COO and brand attitude can be attributed in part to how consumers respond to complex environments. To reconcile these competing perspectives. 2010). recent research has found that consumers’ actual knowledge of COO information is often miscalibrated (Balabanis and Diamantopoulos. and argue that correct brand origin classification is irrelevant. In the coming sections.COO skeptics have argued that COO matters little to the consumer. most traditional experimental COO research has made COO information readily available (through experimental stimuli) and “forced” respondents to evaluate products based on a COO cue. 2008. or use COO information as part of the buying process. p. 2004). In contrast. Conceptual framework . 2006. Cialdini (2001. 2004. in part due to changing labeling requirements. they found that consumers are only able to correctly identity brands’ COO about one-third of the time. traditional COO research has assumed that COO information is readily available (memorized from advertisements or other channels of information or at point of sale) and that consumers use the information to make product judgments and purchase decisions. which takes into account advances from both the traditional COO literature as well as the more recent competing perspective. Empirical evidence suggests that consumers are neither interested in finding out products’ origin nor care about using COO information in the buying process (Arndt. Liefeld. 2008). (2005) and Balabanis and Diamantopoulos (2008) set out to examine the extent of consumers’ knowledge about the national origin of brands. Samiee et al.. Usunier (2006) argues that COO is no longer relevant because COO information has become increasingly difficult for consumers to ascertain. 7) describes such consumer responses as follows: “To deal with Accurate or not. A graphical illustration of our proposed framework is presented in Figure 1. perceived COO matters 457 Initial perceived COO Learned actual COO Product country image H1a (+) of perceived COO H1b (ns) Brand origin perception accuracy Brand attitude Consumer learns actual COO Product country image of actual COO relative to prior perceived COO H2 (+) Change in brand attitude Figure 1. we develop a hypothesis which shifts the focus away from consumers’ assumed knowledge to consumers’ brand origin perceptions. care where brands are from. Consequently. Perceived COO COO and brand attitude. Samiee et al. and “global” companies prefer to de-emphasize origin. Usunier and Cestre. global sourcing and globalization of the supply chain have made assigning COO to a product a subjective exercise. Accordingly. Building on these findings. one of US consumers and one of UK consumers. consumers view COO information as unimportant and non-salient (Usunier. In sum. we present an explanation.
Instead. if not explicitly and accurately stated in advertisements or on brand packaging. 2008. 2008). Further complicating the learning of accurate origin information is that such information is obtained in a manner that is often incidental rather than intentional (Hutchinson and Alba. our rules of thumb. perceived language of the brand name. The Chinese Haier brand switched from Qingdao Refrigerator Company to its current German-sounding brand name in 1992. but Haagen-Dazs is an American brand employing a foreign branding strategy. misperceptions may result from a lack of salience of origin information for a particular brand. product price points often serve as a proxy for quality. 2003). marketers may employ a foreign branding strategy and deliberately attempt to obfuscate a brand’s actual origin and instead replace it with another more favorable association. Samiee et al. i. In other words. and situation we encounter in even one day. consumers can actively seek to memorize product information. Samiee et al. Over time. 1994). 2004).5 458 [environmental complexity]. Given the vast amount of information and diversity of sources of information about brands. energy. Finally. Second. at the . or learn about a product unintentionally as a by-product of interactions with the product category. incidental learning (Markman and Ross. i. For example. and low-priced products are often associated with emerging markets (Brouthers and Xu. This is consistent with broader consumer research that shows that the vast majority of product-related experiences are incidental (Hutchinson and Alba. We can’t be expected to recognize and analyze all the aspects in each person. 1995). Eastcom. Several other factors contribute to consumers’ challenge in learning brands’ origin. brand origin information is a place association reflecting the personal meaning about a brand stored in the consumer’s memory (Keller. ice cream aficionados may be drawn ¨ ¨ to Haagen-Dazs thanks to its Scandinavian-sounding brand name. and perhaps most importantly. Thus. Similarly.. (2005) and Samiee (2010) use consumers’ low correct identification rates to conclude that COO must not matter. consumers may rely on cues from other sources to determine brand origin. mundane tasks without conscious thought to intermediate steps or sequence. which are not always consistent with the brand’s home country (Balabanis and Diamantopoulos. As a cue-based cognitive short-cut. and deploy heuristic cue-based cognitive short-cuts (Chaiken. Challenge of learning the correct origin. Third. it is easy to understand how consumers develop inaccurate brand origin perceptions. and Draft are all examples of other Chinese brands that have adopted a foreign branding strategy (Zhuang et al. 2005).IMR 28.g. we need shortcuts. First. event. resort to peripheral information processes (Petty and Cacioppo. 2003). it should not be surprising that brand origin perceptions are frequently miscalibrated (Balabanis and Diamantopoulos. Seagull. 1986). 2008). to classify things according to a few key features and then to respond without thinking when one or another of these trigger features is present. the majority of consumers do not.” Hence. automaticity is the human cognitive ability to complete effortlessly. consumers seek to minimize elaboration. Jasonwood. 2002). In effect. intentional learning. Although some consumers actively seek out and memorize COO information (Liefeld. 1991). or capacity for it. these judgments take place automatically as a “thoughtless” response in the cognitive repository in a manner introspectively unavailable to the actor (Greenwald and Banaji. origin perceptions are shaped through features such as the spelling or pronunciation of the brand name (Leclerc et al.e. Bird. Accuracy and brand attitude. 1987). e.e. 1991). However.. For example. We haven’t the time. we must very often use our stereotypes..
Japan. the ¨ consumer who perceives Haagen-Dazs to be a US brand will have completely different country associations. perceived COO matters 459 . Zhuang et al. The preceding arguments can be illustrated with the following examples. For instance. fine pastries. and South Korea (Anholt. 28). It is important to note that while the preceding examples may reflect common stereotypes about Denmark. low price. the little mermaid. and below-average quality” (Anholt. which may include images of jovial people. we posit that specific country associations affect brand attitude. For example. If a ¨ ¨ consumer believes Haagen-Dazs is a Danish ice cream brand. (2000). The importance of brand origin perception over “reality” is supported by Thakor and Kohli (1996. Thus. Batra et al. Such a consumer is expected to have a favorable attitude toward Samsung if he or she associates Samsung with South Korea. p.. For example. Similarly.” Indeed. p. how can the association of a brand with Germany be any less influential for a consumer who incorrectly perceives Volvo to be German than for the same consumer who correctly perceives Mercedes to be German? Would the stereotypical association of high-quality German engineering have a stronger positive influence on an individual consumer’s brand attitude toward Mercedes than Volvo simply because of objective accuracy? Josiassen and Harzing (2008) corroborate our argument by suggesting that examples of foreign branding where firms deliberately create an inaccurate brand origin perception serve as evidence that country associations matter. We extend this construct by making the perceptual Accurate or not.” Related empirical evidence also supports our argument. who suggest that “the actual place that the brand originates from is almost irrelevant. someone who perceives Samsung as a Japanese brand may have a favorable attitude toward Samsung based on images of Japan as the place for high-technology innovation and high quality (Anholt.. and Zhou et al. we reject the implication that inaccurate brand origin knowledge renders COO information irrelevant. 2010). (2008). 2009). any individual consumer may have different country images. (2010). 2005). In addition to the dichotomous local or foreign distinction examined by Batra et al.individual brand evaluation level. 2010). In contrast. (2000) found that Indian consumers have more favorable attitudes toward brands perceived as non-local compared with local brands. irrespective of where it is actually manufactured. rather than arguing that consumers must know a brand’s correct origin in order for COO effects to exist. 2010). and other desserts. Traditional COO research has viewed PCI as the place-related images of a brand’s home country (Baldauf et al. the consumer who associates Samsung with South Korea may still have a less favorable image toward the brand based on associations of South Korea with images such as “emerging market. Zhuang et al. 2007. 62) acknowledges that “COO is increasingly considered as that country which consumers typically associate with a product or brand. Pharr. not as indication that COO information has become irrelevant. Usunier (2006. (2010) found that Chinese consumers rated Chinese brands perceived (incorrectly) as foreign brands more favorably compared with Chinese brands perceived (correctly) as domestic brands. Haagen-Dazs is associated with the consumer’s attitude toward Denmark. (2008) and Zhou et al. someone might view South Korea as a newly industrialized country with a highly educated work force and advanced engineering capabilities and consequently have a very favorable PCI of South Korean high-tech electronics. Research has shown that consumers’ overall country image is closely related with specific PCIs (Pappu et al. Alternatively. we posit that perceived brand origin does influence brand attitude regardless of the degree of accuracy of the perception.
Then. are all categorized as peripheral processing. we posit this relationship holds true regardless of the objective accuracy of consumers’ perceived brand origin. e. More importantly. Petty and Cacioppo’s (1986) elaboration likelihood model. The remaining three effects. resort to peripheral information processes. the attitude toward .e. the high rate of brand-country misperceptions (e. the accuracy of brand origin perceptions will not moderate the relationship between the PCI of the perceived COO and brand attitude. if attitude toward a brand’s perceived home country affects brand attitude. 2005) may serve as an indication of a more peripheral processing. 2008). Balabanis and Diamantopoulos. and default heuristic-effect. 2005.e. we offer the following hypotheses: H1a.5 460 aspect of “place-related associations” explicit. we define PCI of perceived COO as the place-related images of the brand’s perceived home country. For example.g. only the summary construct-effect is considered central processing. PCI of perceived COO is positively related with brand attitude. Thus. 2008. While there is no empirical evidence indicating the frequency of central vs peripheral processing in the context of COO effects. this represents an important shift in the conceptualization and subsequent operationalization of PCI.g. Samiee et al. halo-effect. how is brand attitude affected when the consumer’s knowledge is correctly calibrated following a misperception? The malleability of attitudes has been linked with the process under which the attitude was developed.IMR 28. i. we investigate the malleability of consumers’ brand attitudes in response to shifting country associations. In addition to investigating the COO effect in accurate vs inaccurate contexts.g.. i. While seemingly minor. we emulate traditional COO research methods by making a brand’s actual home country explicitly known to respondents. are less persistent and less resistant to change than attitudes developed as a result of greater elaboration of the arguments central to the merits of the attitude object (e. To investigate the malleability of brand attitudes. we expect a positive relationship between PCI of perceived COO and brand attitude. Balabanis and Diamantopoulos. Presumably. Samiee et al. Attitudes developed through the peripheral route. but not until after they have already evaluated the brand and indicated its perceived COO. then upon learning the actual COO. Furthermore. we examine whether informing consumers of a brand’s actual home country leads to a change in brand attitude. Thus. (2009) suggest that of the four different cognitive COO effects. and deploy heuristic cue-based cognitive short-cuts. we examine the effect on the consumer’s brand attitude upon learning the true brand origin. Petty et al. The relationship between PCI of perceived COO and brand attitude is significant regardless of brand origin perception accuracy. Bloemer et al. attitude toward the brand will logically change according to the relative favorability of the actual COO compared to the incorrectly perceived COO.. Thus. if a consumer perceives Samsung to be a Japanese brand. Petty and Cacioppo (1986) and Chaiken (1987) suggest that consumers seek to minimize elaboration. H1b. such as heuristic-based or simple association-based processing.. Given the documented high degree of miscalibrated brandcountry perceptions (e. Attitudes developed using the peripheral route should be subject to greater malleability. product attribute-effect. Related consumer research also suggests that limited cognitive capacity often forces consumers to rely on peripheral processing.g. 1991).
in comparison with Japan. 194 for automobiles. 544 usable responses remained. In total. More (less) favorable PCI toward the actual brand home country (compared with the perceived brand home country) leads to more (less) favorable brand attitude. these arguments suggest that this is an appropriate context to explore the proposed theoretical framework. whereas a more favorable image of South Korea is expected to lead to a more favorable image of Samsung. Combined. respondents are expected to have a broad familiarity with the product categories. it was possible to minimize response bias by the ordering of the items on the questionnaire. and fashion brands) were gathered in three separate samples of US consumers. and fashion industry as appropriate contexts for this study for multiple reasons. Each student completed the survey and recruited a maximum of five other non-student respondents. We deemed the LCD TV. with no opportunity to skip between pages of the survey. 35 of the largest brands from diverse country origins were selected for inclusion in the study (see Table I). perceived COO matters 461 . leads to a less favorable attitude toward Samsung. Accurate or not. the consumer’s attitude toward Samsung is expected to improve or deteriorate in accordance with the relative difference between his or her PCI of South Korea and Japan. automobiles.047 brand evaluations by 544 respondents remained. Method Sample Data regarding three diverse product categories (LCD TVs. Questionnaire design The online format forces respondents to answer each question in a predetermined order. a favorable image of Japan leads to a favorable attitude toward Samsung. the demographic characteristics exhibited broad representation in the categories of income and education levels with equal gender representation and a mean age of 36. Each respondent evaluated brands from only one category and following the elimination of incomplete evaluations of individual brands. No problems were detected. in which undergraduate business students from three separate universities trained in recruitment and data collection procedures identified and contacted potential respondents. automobile. and these product categories have been commonly examined in past COO research. which allows for comparison across the literature. 10 percent of the respondents were randomly contacted to verify their participation in the research project. Following the elimination of incomplete surveys and surveys taken by non-US citizens. a sample of 4. To verify the integrity of the data. That is. Thus. (1990). Although the sample was not randomly collected. The respondents were surveyed via an online questionnaire administered through Questionpro and we adopted the technique suggested by Bitner et al. each respondent was asked to provide an email address. a less favorable image of South Korea. The preceding arguments are summarized in the following hypothesis: H2. That is. 210 for the LCD TVs.Samsung is influenced by the PCI of the brand’s perceived COO ( Japan). and 140 for the fashion brands. These industries are global in nature with prominent brands originating in multiple countries of varying degrees of economic development. When the consumer learns that Samsung is actually a South Korean brand. One week after the close of the surveys.
. the brand name was accompanied with the brand’s actual home country.68 47.06 5.95 65.18 85.34 66.IMR 28.36 4.35 5. List of brands Specifically.46 64.71 53.23 4.44 80.65 95.08 5.98 3.64 4. At this time.93 4.38 49.89 4.26 49.5 Brand LCD TV brands Haier LG ¨ Olevia Philips Polaroid Samsung Sanyo Sharp Sony Toshiba Vizio Westinghouse Automobile brands Audi Buick Dodge Hyundai Kia Land Rover Mazda Mini Nissan Saab Volvo Volkswagen Fashion brands Burberry Christian Dior Calvin Klein Gucci H&M Hugo Boss Louis Vuitton Prada Ralph Lauren Shiseido Tag Brand origin Accuracy rate (%) Mean brand attitude 462 China South Korea USA The Netherlands USA South Korea Japan Japan Japan Japan USA USA Germany USA USA South Korea South Korea UK Japan UK Japan Sweden Sweden Germany UK France USA Italy Sweden Germany France Italy USA Japan Switzerland 24. The respondents had not yet been prompted to recall any country associations related to that brand.95 5.83 71.78 15. which means the relationship between perceived PCI and brand attitude should not be an artifact of the research design.22 3. but this time.95 25.42 79.22 76.31 30.41 5.65 41.63 2.51 68.89 Table I. we asked respondents to indicate each brands’ COO.02 3.72 4. the first page asked respondents to rate their attitude toward the different brands.95 8.72 51.05 3.27 5. On the following pages of the questionnaire.16 5. In this questionnaire. been informed about the correct home country.90 4.25 97.34 55.78 5.08 80. it was impossible for the respondent to return to the set of brand attitude items once country-related associations had been primed.58 71. The change in brand attitude item was limited to the LCD TV questionnaire.87 4.94 5.06 4.96 4.60 18.16 4.38 47.08 43.33 54.53 82.57 3.73 5.55 4.46 5.15 15.65 59.91 4.51 4.08 97.73 4.96 4. or even been instructed that the research study was interested in country-related information.41 25.63 18. a final page of items asked respondents to once again evaluate each brand.99 4.16 3.
The measurement of PCI of perceived COO is created by matching each respondent’s brand origin perception with the associated product-category country image. any individual consumer may rate Japanese automobiles poorly. 2009). Japan had the highest average PCI for automobiles. Doubly concrete constructs are constructs for which both the object of measurement and the attribute of measurement are clear and unambiguous for those rating the object on the attribute. ensuring that the respondents had at least a minimum level of familiarity to provide an attitude rating. 2001. Presumably. For instance. 2007. this is due to the fact that we studied popular product categories with relatively large.Variables Brand attitude. Then.0 percent for the fashion brands. To measure consumers’ brand origin perception. 2001) and that multiple-item scales may actually increase the threat of common methods bias (Bergkvist and Rossiter. Furthermore.” Although it was impossible for us to anticipate all countries with which the respondents would associate the various brands. respectively.047/4. one respondent associates Volvo with Germany. my attitude toward oproduct category4 products from ocountry4 is” on a seven-point scale anchored by “highly unfavorable” and “highly favorable. several of which are recognized by Business Week as the world’s “Top Global Brands” (BusinessWeek. evidence shows that single-item measures can perform equally well for doubly concrete constructs (Bergkvist and Rossiter. PCI of perceived COO. 2007). each respondent’s brand origin perception was matched with the appropriate PCI to assign PCI of perceived COO rating. For example. it has been suggested that increasing the number of items of a doubly concrete construct potentially decreases its validity (Drolet and Morrison. Rossiter. The dependent variable in our study is consumers’ attitude toward the brand. and 45. The PCI question was similar to the brand attitude question in that it asked a single question: “In general. At the product category level. we asked the respondents to rate the PCI for several countries in the relevant product category. The second dependent variable is change in brand attitude.1 percent for the TV brands. we measured attitude toward the brand with a single item asking the respondent to rate their overall attitude toward each brand on a scale from 1 to 7 anchored by “dislike very much” to “like very much. familiar brands. such as brand attitude (Drolet and Morrison. In order to reduce respondent fatigue due to the number of brands evaluated. Accordingly. but rather measured at the individual consumer level. which was only tested in the LCD TV sample. perceived COO matters 463 . Correct brand origin classification rates at the brand level are presented in Table I. Brand origin perception. PCI of perceived COO is based on the respondent’s attitude toward German automobiles.1 percent for the automobile brands.750) of all brands’ origins were assigned to one of the available countries. correct classification rates were 71. 52. Change in brand attitude. 2002). It should be noted that PCI is not averaged across consumers. The last item of the questionnaire asked the respondents to evaluate all brands yet again with one Accurate or not. Although multiple-item measures are commonly used. each respondent was asked to write each brand’s home country in an open-ended question. yet. more than 85 percent (4. This is slightly higher compared with Balabanis and Diamantopoulos (2008) and Samiee et al. 2009). We split the sample into two groups based on whether the brand’s origin was perceived correctly or not. (2005) whose respondents provided correct classification rates of 27 percent and 35 percent.” An option of “not familiar with this brand” was also available. Finally.
The results for H1 are presented in Table II. the framework is evaluated with hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). This time. Samsung – Japan).001). PCI of actual COO relative to prior perceived COO. Hence.05). For the control variables.13.61.92). To add robustness to the analysis.IMR 28. po0. the deviance statistic examines the presented model with a model that excludes PCI of perceived COO. At the firm level. we also include several individual-level and firm-level control variables. income. all brand names were accompanied by the brand’s actual home country (e. which did not include a country cue. in the automobile category (b ¼ 0. Model fit statistics also support the inclusion of the “difference” variable with a significant w2 statistic (w2 ¼ 12.001). and an increase in pseudo r2 from 10 to 12 percent. and in the fashion category (b ¼ 0. gender. where lower-level units (brand-level) are cross-classified by two higher-level units: (1) (2) individual-level variables. we control for brand age (years since founding) and brand size (total brand sales). which was measured with a previously validated (Steenkamp et al. Change in brand attitude is measured as the difference between the second value of brand attitude and the initial value of brand attitude. po0. and firm-level variables (Raudenbush and Bryk.16. Individual demographic control variables include age. In terms of control variables. As predicted.g. As predicted in H1a.001).18. po0. and consequently less prone to change based on new information. This seems reasonable since consumers are more familiar with larger firms and these firms’ brand equity may be based on multiple facets. larger and older brands are expected to be more familiar and also be viewed more favorably. H1b predicts that this relationship will hold regardless of whether perceived brand origin is accurate or not.g. We also controlled for consumer ethnocentrism.16.21. Results Although all of the hypothesized variables of interest are measured at the brand level. there is strong support across all models that PCI of perceived COO is significantly related with brand attitude. brand size and age are positively related with brand attitude. We calculated the change in PCI as the difference between the respondent’s PCI of the brand’s actual home country (e.001). 1999) four-item abbreviated version of Shimp and Sharma’s (1987) original CET scale (a ¼ 0. po0. providing support for H1b across all models.5 464 important difference. . Therefore. The chi-square test is significant for all models. we find a significant relationship between the difference between the PCI of a brand’s actual home country and the PCI of the prior perceived COO and change in brand attitude (b ¼ 0. suggesting that adding PCI of perceived COO to the model improves data fit. which is consistent with the luxury brand concept.. po0. po0. For the samples with incorrect perceptions.01. Furthermore.001). Control variables. as expected. Samsung – South Korea) and the PCI of the brand’s prior perceived home country (e. 2002). PCI of perceived COO is significant in the combined sample (b ¼ 0. po0. Philips – The Netherlands). combined and separated by product category. brand stereotypes may be more central.g. The results testing H2 are presented in Table III. and education. The model is a twolevel cross-classified model.01). larger brands are less subject to changes in brand attitude (b ¼ À0. the individual and firm-level control variables are higher-level variables. in the TV category (b ¼ 0. More importantly. except in the fashion category.
05 À0.01** À0.All product categories Model 1 Model 2 Model 3 Full Incorrect Correct sample BO BO Model 4 Full sample Model 7 Full sample LCD TVs Model 5 Model 6 Incorrect Correct BO BO Automobiles Model 8 Model 9 Incorrect Correct BO BO Fashion Model 10 Model 11 Model 12 Full Incorrect Correct sample BO BO 4.00 0.01 0.18 0.37** À0.06 5.00 0.02 À0.18*** Variables Constant Age Gender (F ¼ 1) Education Income Ethnocentrism Brand size Brand age PCI of perceived COO Model fit Explained variance (pseudo r2) Deviance statistic (w2-difference)a Level 1 sample size 21.01w 0.12* 566 85.07 40.52*** 4.02** 0.01 0.04 À0.33*** 0.00 0.11 0.16*** 0.01 0.07 À0. HLM results: the effect of brand origin perception on brand attitude (H1a and H1b) .01w 0.04 0.04 À0.281 2.00 À0.07 0.18*** 0.01w 0.05 0.03 0.02** 0.26* 1.03 0.04 5.01* 0.61*** 1.86*** 4.23 0.28 0.01 0.00 5.00 0.14 À0.001 Accurate or not.21*** 0.10w À0.54*** 4.047 Notes: aComparison with a model that does not include brand origin perception.22*** 322.00 0.01 À0.01 0.18 À0.01* 0.766 16.00 w 0.06 0.09* À0.05.477 0.08 10.02** 0.07 À0.97*** 1.91*** 4.07 0.06 0.01 0.13** 0. perceived COO matters 465 Table II. *po0.02 À0.00 À0.08 À0.03 À0.42*** 1.11 0. wpo0.00 À0.07 À0.13 À0.34*** 0.01w 0.74*** 4.31*** À0.05 À0.89*** À0.07 À0.917 0.39*** 4.48*** 0.00 À0.01 0.55*** À0.05 0. **po0.01 0.04 0.01w 0.01.13* 0.09 0.16* 0.33*** 289.11** 0. ***po0.00 0.01w 0.07* 338 4.13 0.28*** 4.01 À0.07 50.09 0.02 À0.00 0.25 À0.17* 0.57*** 0.09* À0.13*** 0.00 0.00 0.18*** 0.09w À0.069 13.43*** 440 1.00 4.01 0.02 0.10.00 4.13 À0.07 0.29*** 503 6.061 0.03 À0.00 À0.57*** 4.08w À0.59** 723 0.01 0.01** À0.00 À0.00 À0.
and often flawed.13*** 0.IMR 28. it is perceived brand origin.19 À0.17 0.05. 2008. . this study serves as a bridge reconciling traditional COO research with the emerging competing perspective. Balabanis and Diamantopoulos.5 Variables Constant Age Gender (F ¼ 1) Education Income Brand size Brand age PCI of actual COO relative to prior perceived COO Model fit Explained variance ( pseudo r2) Deviance statistic (w2-difference) Level 1 sample size Notes: *po0.01 0. consequently. To accomplish our objective. global and foreign branding strategies.01. Samiee. More importantly. 2010) and. As a result.e. Brand origin information has become more ambiguous and difficult to ascertain.01 0. Usunier (2006) points to globalization with its accompanying global sourcing. the findings suggest that the PCI of the brand’s perceived origin significantly affects brand attitude regardless of the objective accuracy of brand origin perceptions. Usunier and Cestre. PCI of perceived COO explicitly captures the perceptual. this study demonstrates that the PCI of the brand’s perceived origin is positively related with brand attitude.01** 0. ***po0. 2006. Consistent with previous studies. a number of contemporary studies have begun to question the importance of COO information and argue that traditional COO research has inflated the influence of COO on consumer attitudes and behavior (Samiee et al.61*** Table III. 2005.22 0. the evidence from this research points to a different conclusion.10 À0. Consequently.10 503 À0. HLM results: the effect of changed brand origin perception on change in brand attitude (H2) Discussion Following nearly five decades of COO research. Those advancing this perspective convincingly argue that traditional experimental COO research poorly reflects actual consumer product evaluations and buying behavior. we demonstrate that accurate COO knowledge is not a prerequisite for COO to affect brand attitude. 2005. 2007). that the field of COO research has become irrelevant for marketing practice (Usunier. this research reveals only relatively modest levels of accurate brand origin perceptions.09 À0.. Usunier (2006) concludes that COO has become an irrelevant construct in international marketing..00 0. nature of consumers’ brand origin perceptions. While we do not dispute the confounding effects of globalization on assigning brand origins. Usunier.03 À0.001 B B 466 À0.00 0. i. 2006) raise interesting questions. we have conceptualized a new construct that extends prior literature. Research supporting this point of view (e.12 12. Samiee et al. regardless of accuracy.g. this study empirically refutes the notion that brands’ country associations do not affect brand attitudes and consumer behavior.21 À0. Hence.05 À0. **po0.01** 0. Empirically. that matters. and advancements in international trade regulations as main contributors to the confusion over brand origins. yet.
These factors suggest that replicating this study in additional product categories as well as Accurate or not.g. this study offers evidence that an implicit perception about a brand’s COO influences attitude toward the brand.g. Samiee. brand attitude became less favorable.g. 1985). Managerial implications While the importance of COO information has come under scrutiny in the academic arena. International marketers need to be keenly aware of the country associations consumers draw with their brand. may rely more on heuristic decision-making processes by relying on simple cues such as COO information (e.. their attitude toward the brand became more favorable. consumers identify the correct home country less than half the time. while the extent to which consumers actively seek COO information remains debatable. and Toyota). the results of this study offer some justification for their actions. Pillsbury. Acknowledging that consumers make implicit associations between a brand and a particular country can help reconcile recent skepticism about the relevancy of COO effects (Samiee et al. Rolex. we found significant changes in brand attitude. After informing respondents of a brand’s actual home country. it becomes imperative for brand managers to assure that brand-country associations. General Motors. Sujan. Conagra). This inaccurate identification of Philips as a domestic firm (by US consumers) potentially benefits Philips depending upon the relative difference between the perceptions of electronics firms of US vs Dutch origin.g. novices. furniture companies (e. i. less than 10 percent of the respondents in this study were able to identify Philips as a Dutch firm. 2010. Usunier. one can still find many marketers incorporating COO image management as part of their marketing strategy. 2005. Hence. This study’s findings provide further guidance as it relates to branding and promotion.Although objective evaluations of the origin of a brand can be difficult.g. Philips perceived as American by American consumers) benefits Philips. food companies (e. add to (or at least not detract from) brand value. Volkswagen. Despite assertions questioning the relevance of COO image.g.e. whether accurate or inaccurate. For example. electronics companies (e. This serves as evidence that brand-country associations can be managed and that they may have significant positive effects on associated brand evaluations. Our findings indeed show that being misperceived as a domestic (US) brand (e. as well as luxury fashion companies (e. Consequently. Thus. consumers with low productcategory knowledge. yet. The evidence suggests that for most brands. Alternatively. 2006). It may be worthwhile to extend this study and tease apart any moderating effects. the majority of respondents believed that Philips is a US firm (75 percent). whereas when consumers had a more favorable attitude toward a brand’s actual home country. the use of COO image marketing is still a common marketing practice. perceived COO matters 467 . For respondents with a more negative attitude toward a brand’s actual home country. Vizio). For example. the findings suggest education efforts that inform consumers of the correct COO can result in a corresponding change in attitude. consumers still associate a brand with a particular country and these associations drive consumers’ attitudes toward the brand. Gucci).g. examples of companies employing some facet of COO marketing stretch the gamut of industries including automobile companies (e. Limitations and future research Our study is subject to several limitations which offer several fruitful avenues to contribute to the research on COO effects. IKEA).
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Journal of International Business Studies.5 Verlegh. A. Zeugner-Roth. “Home country bias in product evaluation: the complementary roles of economic and socio-psychological motives”. Corresponding author Peter Magnusson can be contacted at: magnusson@niu. K. 577-602. (2008). P.edu 472 To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.. “Home country image.emeraldinsight. Diamantopoulos. pp. Management International Review. 38 No. and Montesinos. 48 No. Vol. A.com Or visit our web site for further details: www. pp.com/reprints . 361-73.IMR 28. 3. 5. Vol.P. (2007).J.W. country brand equity and consumers’ product preferences: an empirical study”.
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