European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2003 Pages 128-136
ADVERTISING EFFECTIVENESS IN DIFFERENT CULTURES: RESULTS OF AN EXPERIMENT ANALYZING THE EFFECTS OF INDIVIDUALISTIC AND COLLECTIVISTIC ADVERTISING ON GERMANS AND CHINESE
Sandra Diehl, Saarland University, Germany
Ralf Terlutter, Saarland University, Germany
Peter Weinberg, Saarland University, Germany
The purpose of this study is to obtain further insight into the effective use of advertising in Germany and China. This article attempts to determine whether print advertisements are more successful when they make use of individualistic versus collectivistic values, or whether it is possible to apply the same advertising techniques in both cultures. The authors conducted an experiment in which a print ad focussing on individualistic values was compared to another print ad emphasizing collectivistic values. The subsequent evaluations among German and Chinese subjects of the two ads were then recorded. Results clearly indicate that an individualistic appeal is more effective when communicating with the individualistic German audience. However, the Chinese subjects did not evaluate the collectivistic ad more positively than the individualistic ad. Therefore, when appealing to a collectivistic audience, either a collectivistic or an individualistic appeal can be used. Hence, in both Germany and China, a standardized advertising campaign capitalizing on individualistic values seems plausible.
PROBLEM FORMULATION AND PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Due to the recent opening of China in the late seventies and the initiation of economic reforms, China has become an attractive market with growing demand. Today, the Peoples Republic of China has about 1.2 Billion inhabitants whose average income per capita has raised from about 200 Euro in 1979 to about 1100 Euro in 2001 (Germany 2001: 16 500 Euro).
The Chinese market plays an important role for German companies, in that Germany is Chinas most important European trade partner (German Federal Agency of Foreign Trade, 2002). As China has now become a member of the WTO, it is expected that the Chinese market will further develop (German Federal Agency of Foreign Trade, 2002).
Though it is difficult to obtain detailed information on the Chinese advertising market, the study conducted by Yin (1999) indicates that German companies are involved in a major part of all foreign advertising within China.
Due to the present and prospectively growing importance of the Chinese market, information on the effective use of advertising media in China is essential. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to obtain more insight into the appropriate use of advertising media in China. In conjunction with an experiment, this article attempts to reveal whether it is more effective to differentiate print ads that are used in Germany and China, or whether it is possible to use a more standardized approach.
STANDARDIZATION VERSUS DIFFERENTIATION OF ADVERTISING
Due to the ever increasing international business activities of many companies of the consumer goods industry, the analysis of international advertising continues to gain a growing importance (e.g. Belch/Belch, 2001; Luna/Gupta, 2001). Standardized means of advertising are, according to Dmoch (1999), means of advertising which have in different cultures exactly the same design except for the translation of the text/slogan. Differentiated means of advertising are means of advertising which take cultural particularities of the cultures/countries, in which they are used, into consideration. Therefore they differ in their content or design (e.g. by adaptation of the visual elements, variation of the slogan etc.).
Both strategies have been controversially discussed since the beginning of the fifties and have dominated during different periods of international advertising research (e.g. Agrawal, 1995). The main advantage in using standardized advertising is its financial aspect. Furthermore the standardization of advertising makes it easier to build up an internationally uniform image of a company (e.g. Dmoch, 1999; Levitt, 1983). On the other hand there is also research work emphasizing the heterogeneity of the markets and of the consumer needs, which takes a critical attitude toward the standardization of marketing instruments (e.g. Maxwell, 2001; Rawwas, 2001; Craig/Douglas, 2001; Gurhan-Canli/Maheswaran, 2000; Mesdag, 2000; Huff/Alden, 1998; Douglas/Craig, 1997). Concerning advertising, the studies of e.g. Cho et al. (1999), Taylor et al. (1997), Cheng/Schweitzer (1996), Harris (1994) or Kanso (1992) can be referenced. In the following, culture specific factors are analyzed, which are important for a differentiation of advertising.
DIFFERENTIATED ADVERTISING DUE TO CULTURAL DIFFERENCES
When using differentiated advertising, one must analyze which cultural factors between different societies make different approaches in advertising necessary, and on which of these factors this differentiation should be based. In addition, it is important to check how the cultural differences, which have to be taken into consideration, can then be transferred in form and content to the advertisements. Variables which play an important role in the cross-cultural consumer research are the values of a culture. Values are considered to be the core of a culture (Luna/Gupta, 2001; Hofstede, 1980; 2001). Cultural values determine the perception, the predispositions and the behavior of the members of a society (Kroeber-Riel/Weinberg, 1999; Markus/Kitayama, 1991).
By analyzing values which are characteristic for many cultures, approaches have developed which try to depict culture in a holistic way, and which have identified different dimensions (e.g. Hofstede, e.g. 1980, 2001; Schwartz, e.g. 1994, 1999, Triandis, e.g. 1989).
Beyond these basic approaches are numerous studies, selecting single specific dimensions (often based upon the above mentioned approaches) for analysis. These with relevance to advertising are e.g. materialism (Belk/Bryce, 1986), utilitarian vs. hedonistic values (Tse et al., 1989), ethnocentrism (Jo, 1998), time orientation (Cho et al., 1999), relationship with nature (Cho et al., 1999), etc.
One dimension, which has been especially suited for analyzing cultural differences in many areas, is the aspect of collectivism/individualism (see for an overview e.g. Kim et al. 1994b; Triandis/Gelfand, 1998). The dimension of individualism/collectivism has also already been analyzed within the context of international advertising (e.g. Cho et al., 1999; Taylor et al., 1997; Albers-Miller, 1996; Han/Shavitt, 1994; Taylor et al., 1994; Zandpour et al., 1994; McCarty/Hattwick, 1992).
The individualism/collectivism dimension relates to how one values the individual relative to the group (Triandis, 1994; Hofstede, 1980). Cultures are called individualistic, when the interests of the individual are superior to the interests of the group. In these societies it is expected that the individual cares for himself and for his immediate family. The relationships between members of individualistic cultures are less knit than in collectivistic cultures. If personal goals are in conflict with goals of the group, in general the interest of the individual is placed over the interest of the group (Triandis, 2002; Kim et al. 1994a).
Collectivism is a social pattern that consists of individuals closely tied together, who consider themselves as a part of one or several groups (family, tribe, nation) (Triandis, 2002). In collectivistic societies the individual is integrated by birth into strong, closed "we-groups". These "we-groups" protect the individual, but also require loyalty to the group. If personal and collectivistic goals are in conflict, the goals of the individual are subordinated to those of the collective (Triandis, 2002; Kim et al. 1994a).
The dimension individualism/collectivism describes a cultural aspect which is based on aggregated data of the entire culture. On an individual level, this does not exclude the ability of a person to show (depending on the situation) both individualistic and collectivistic characteristics (Triandis 1994; Sinha/Tripathi 1994; Leung/Bond, 1989). Then, when speaking on a cultural level, a collectivistic culture is one in which collectivistic values predominate despite the occasional existence of individualistic tendencies.
Comparing China and Germany on the individualism/collectivism scale, it is obvious that China can be considered a more collectivistic society (e.g. Triandis; 1994; Gannon, 1994) and Germany a more individualistic society (e.g. Gannon, 1994). Hostede (1980) ascertained for Hong Kong (25) and Taiwan (17) low levels of individualism; for the rest of the Peoples Republic of China he did not supply values. For Germany a much higher level for the individualism aspect was found (67). According to the partial re-analysis of Hofstedes study by Fernandez et al. (1997), Germany still proves to be an individualistic nation and China a collectivistic nation.
Research Methods for the Analysis of Cultural Differences in Advertising
In trying to classify the research work dealing with cultural differences in advertising, two research directions can be identified: (1) content analysis, and (2) studies empirically testing the advertising effectiveness.
1. Most of the research work in this field consists of studies which analyze, by content analysis, whether or not varying cultures actually display differences in advertising. In general these studies are based on cultural dimensions agreed on in literature. These studies check the degree of similarity in form and content of the different advertisements with regard to the a priori selected cultural aspects (e.g. Cho et al. 1999; Cheng/Schweitzer, 1996; Bradley et al., 1994; Biswas et al., 1992).
A content analysis is suited to analyze which forms and contents are used in the advertisements (what is offered to the recipients), and allows, above all, for conclusions about the advertising practice. However, a content analysis does not supply information about the forms and contents recipients would prefer, nor how effective the different advertising campaigns are (see also Taylor et al., 1997).
2. The second form of research consists of studies that empirically analyze the effectiveness of differentiated advertisements in diverse cultures. This kind of study enables the researcher to draw conclusions on consumer preferences for certain kinds of advertisements. Our study can be categorized within this research field.
We measured the advertising effectiveness by the attitude toward the ad which is a primarily affective response to the ad (MacKenzie et al., 1986) and by the ad believability which refers to the perceived truthfulness of the ad and is a more cognitive response (Grewal et al., 1997).
Literature Review of Empirical Results of the Analysis of Cultural Differences in the Dimension Individualism/Collectivism within Advertising
The influence of the dimension individualism/collectivism can be found in the form and content of advertisements. Advertising in individualistic countries emphasizes values such as non-conformity, uniqueness, achievement, recognition and benefit for the individual and his/her personal goals. Advertising in collectivistic countries emphasizes values such as the position of the individual in the group, family security, conformity to social norms, responsibility, benefit for the group and group goals (Cho et al., 1999; Cheng/Schweitzer, 1996, Han/Shavitt, 1994; Mueller, 1987; Belk/Bryce, 1986).
The following presents selected results for the analysis and effectiveness of intercultural advertising regarding the dimension individualism/collectivism. The results of the previous studies dealing with advertising in collectivistic and individualistic countries are ambiguous.
1. Results of content analyses. Han (1990) cited by Triandis (1994, p. 42) compared advertising in Korea, which can be considered a collectivistic country, and in the U.S., which can be considered an individualistic country (Hofstede, 1980). He found that Korean advertising utilizes more collectivistic themes and American advertising more individualistic themes.
Cho et al. (1999) analyzed TV commercials in the U.S. and Korea. They found that in American commercials a greater amount of individualistic themes were present (e.g. featuring a person enjoying being unique, addressing benefits to oneself, featuring a person doing something by oneself) than in the Korean commercials. Against the expectations of Cho et al. (1999) however, the Korean commercials did not contain a greater number of collectivistic elements (e.g. a conversation among people in harmony with each other, featuring people working together) than the American commercials. According to Cho et al. (1999) these results indicate, that East Asian advertising is becoming similar in form and content to the Western style of advertising.
Cheng/Schweitzer (1996) found between the U.S. and China similar results as Cho et al. (1999). They analyzed 1,105 Chinese and American TV commercials, which they classified into 32 value groups. In the Chinese commercials they identified modernity, youth, family, technology and tradition as dominating values. In the American commercials they identified above all enjoyment, modernity, individualism, economy and youth. The value collectivism, which was defined by Cheng/Schweitzer (1996) as being an ad in which individuals are depicted as integral parts of the group" did not occur more often in the content analysis of Chinese advertising than in the U.S. advertising.
2. Studies analyzing the advertising effectiveness. Zhang/Gelb (1996) found, by empirically comparing the effectiveness of advertisements in China and the U.S., that the attitudes toward the ad and the brand were more positive when the advertising message emphasized individualistic values. In China they were both higher, when collectivistic values were used in the advertising.
Han/Shavitt (1994) proved that in the U.S. advertisements emphasizing individualistic values were more persuasive, whereas in Korea ads emphasizing family or in-group benefits were more persuasive.
In a study of Gregory and Munch (1997) in Mexico (a collectivistic country, Hofstede, 1980) it was proven, that advertisements representing norms and roles that are consistent with the collectivistic (family) orientation of the collectivistic country, are more persuasive.
In summary, the results found in individualistic countries are clear: different content analyses displayed that individualistic appeals predominate in advertising, and the studies on advertising effectiveness showed that individualistic appeals are more effective than collectivistic appeals. For subjects of an individualistic culture it can be assumed that advertising which addresses individualistic values is preferred over advertising which emphasizes collectivistic values. Furthermore, it can be assumed that subjects of these cultures rate the individualistic advertising better than subjects of a collectivistic country do. Hence the following hypotheses can be deduced:
H1: German consumers like individualistic advertising more than collectivistic advertising.
H2: German consumers like individualistic advertising more than Chinese consumers like it.
H3: German consumers believe individualistic advertising more than collectivistic advertising.
H4: German consumers believe individualistic advertising more than Chinese consumers do.
The results for collectivistic societies are less clear than the results for individualistic cultures. Different content analyses revealed that in collectivistic nations a collectivistic appeal does not predominate. Studies on advertising effectiveness, however, usually showed that a collectivistic appeal is more effective than an individualistic appeal. In this aspect advertising practice does not reflect the scientific results on advertising effectiveness.
When analyzing advertising effectiveness, it can be assumed that advertisements in collectivistic countries which depict collectivistic values are more positively evaluated than advertising that shows individualistic values. Furthermore, it can be expected that collectivistic advertising is preferred by subjects from a collectivistic nation as opposed to subjects from an individualistic country. Hence the following hypotheses can be derived:
H5: Chinese consumers like collectivistic advertising more than individualistic advertising.
H6: Chinese consumers like collectivistic advertising more than German consumers like it.
H7: Chinese consumers believe collectivistic advertising more than individualistic advertising.
H8: Chinese consumers believe collectivistic advertising more than German consumers do.
DESIGN OF THE STUDY
A total of 80 subjects (40 Chinese and 40 Germans) took part in an experiment that was conducted in spring 2002. Of the initial 80, one German and three Chinese subjects had to be taken out of the analysis due to incomplete or contradicting answers, resulting in 76 subjects altogether.
The subjects were students at two different universities of a mid-size town in Germany, studying in a variety of different fields. The Chinese subjects were all born and raised in the Peoples Republic of China and came to Germany for the first time in order to study, in which it was ensured that the subjects were socialized in China. Subjects ranged from 19 to 32 years old, at an average of 24 years of age. 55% were male, 45% female. The Chinese subjects had been in Germany for an average of 2.2 years (minimum 0.7 and maximum 8 years). Only five subjects had been in Germany for more than 3 years.
The use of a student sample is often criticized (Wells, 1993; Winer, 1999). However, following Lynch (1999, p.370), a student sample should not be rejected per se. It is rather a question of whether the student sample is atypical on the constructs in question (compared to "real" people).
In our experiment, the results of the manipulation check (see below) using the Cultural Orientation Scale indicate that the students are true representatives of their specific cultures. Consequently, the intended manipulation of the independent variable was successful. However, it has to be kept in mind that there might be an influence of the student sample with regard to the fact that a clothing ad was chosen, as students are said to have a stronger need for peer approval (Sears, 1986, p.521). We do not expect important differences between the student sample and a "real" people sample in other external variables that might influence the experiment (such as advertising experience). Stevenson/Bruner/Kumar (2000) and Bruner/Kumar (2000) recently compared a student sample with a nonstudent sample in their research on web commercials and received mostly consistent results (the differences they found were attributable to web experience, students were more used to the web).
Summarizing, in our experiment, we do not expect the student sample to be atypical compared to a nonstudent sample with regard to the constructs used in the experiment. Therefore, we consider the results to be valid. However, further research should replicate the experiment with a nonstudent sample.
For the experiment, two different advertisements for a particular business suit wer created. A print ad for clothing was chosen for several reasons. First of all clothing is considered a culture-bound good, unlike e.g. electronic devices, household appliances, etc. (Holzmueller/Schuh, 1995). It has a role-defining function in society and is often used to communicate specific values and specific lifestyles (Manrai et al., 2001). Therefore, throughout the world, clothing is typically of great importance for the individual. Hence, clothing is an appropriate product area to analyze, in order to determine whether there are differences in advertising effectiveness in Germany and China.
PRINT AD 1 (INDIVIDUALISTIC)
To avoid the influence of a well-known brand name that can have a major influence on the evaluation of print ads (Yin, 1999), the brand name was artificial ("Franco"). A pre-test showed that the brand name was neutral in the clothing trade in Germany as well as in China. The two different print ads had the following design:
(1) Individualistic ad version: In the first advertisement individualistic values predominated. The ad showed one single male person, and communicated the benefit of the suit for the individual. Following Cheng/Schweitzers definition (1996, p.29), individualism in advertising means that "the emphasis here is on the self-sufficiency and self-reliance of an individual, or on the individual as being distinct and unlike others". In the ad, a slogan was integrated that emphasized distinction from others and thereby fostered individualism: To feel like a king in a suit by Franco". The print ad was created in both a German and a Chinese version, differing only in the translation of the brand name and the slogan. As defined at the beginning of this article, this can be considered a standardized print ad. In order to ensure the validity of the translation, several native Chinese speakers with strong German language abilities were asked to translate the slogan into Chinese. To further validate the correct translation, two other native Chinese speakers then re-translated the slogan into German.
(2) Collectivistic ad version: In the second advertisement, collectivistic values predominated, in which a man wearing a "Franco" suit was shown standing among members of his reference group (2 persons: 1 male, 1 female). Following Cheng/Schweitzer (1996, p.29) "the emphasis here is on the individual in relation to others typically in his/her reference group. Individuals are depicted as integral parts of the group". As a business suit was the focus product, the reference group consisted of colleagues. The collectivistic character of the ad was emphasized by the slogan "Friends and family are enthusiastic when you wear a suit by Franco". Family is one of the most important values in China (Redding/Wong, 1993) and is often addressed directly in Chinese advertising (Cheng/Schweitzer, 1996). Like the first advertisement, a German and a Chinese version were created, differing only by the translation of the brand name and the slogan.
Western models were selected for the ads as one of the main goals of the study was to test whether or not German ads can be used in a standardized manner in China. As there are quite a large number of western models in Asia, it can be assumed that Chinese subjects are used to western models in advertising. A closer look at the overall average evaluation of all ads (collectivistic and individualistic ads) showed that German and Chinese subjects did not show significant differences in the attitude toward the ad (F=1.245; p=.266) and believability (F=.007; p=.935). If western models were not acceptable to Chinese people, the occurrence of a less favorable evaluation among the Chinese subjects would have been expected. Therefore, these arguments justify the selection of western models. Figure 1 shows the first ad (individualistic). Figure 2 shows the second ad (collectivistic).
Manipulation checks: A pre-test validated the manipulation of the two ads: A different sample of n=25 students were asked to decide which of the two ads communicates individualism and which one communicates collectivism 24 students (96%) classified the two ads as was expected.
To make sure, that the subjects were true representatives of their respective cultures, the German and Chinese subjects were tested that they differed in their individualistic and collectivistic values using the Cultural Orientation Scale (Bierbrauer et al., 1994). Results showed that the Chinese subjects were significantly more collectivistic than the German subjects (F=13,197; p=.001; Note: The 13 normative and the 13 evaluative aspects of the scale were each reduced using Principal Component Analysis. First, the factor means were calculated using the weighted factor loadings of each factor. The resulting factor means were added to the total mean.).
The questionnaire was standardized and the subjects evaluated the two different ads (individualistic vs. collectivistic) in a rotating sequence. The subjects from China were shown the Chinese versions, the subjects from Germany evaluated the German versions.
Studies have shown that consumers usually pay attention to a print ad for only about two seconds on average (Kroeber-Riel/Esch, 2000, p.13). For this reason, the subjects were only allowed to view the ads for two seconds. Between the evaluation periods of the two different ads, the subjects were asked to answer several questions, which lasted on average about 3 to 5 minutes.
The attitude toward the ad was measured with two specific questions (How much did you like the ad?; How pleasant did you find the ad?). Subjects answered on a 5 point rating scale, ranging from 1="not at all" to 5="very much". Exploratory principal component analysis revealed that both items loaded on one factor (criterion: eigenvalue>1). The attitude toward the ad was calculated as the mean of both items, weighted by the factor loadings. Believability was measured by a single item (How believable do you evaluate the ad?, 5 point rating scale).
PRINT AD 2 (COLLECTIVISTIC)
RESULTS OF THE ANOVA WITH THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE ATTITUDE TOWARD THE AD: MAIN EFFECTS AND INTERACTION EFFECT
In order to test the hypotheses, ANOVAs were conducted. The independent variables were the ad version (individualistic vs. collectivistic) and the subjects nationality (Chinese vs. German). Dependent variables were the attitude toward the ad and the believability of the ad.
Table 1 shows the results of the ANOVA containing the factors ad version and nationality and the dependent variable attitude toward the ad.
Table 1 exhibits, that neither the ad version (individualistic vs. collectivistic) nor the nationality (Chinese vs. German) alone had a significant influence on the attitude toward the ads. The interaction effect (ad version x nationality), however, was significant (F=5.297; p=.023). This means that only the ad version and the nationality together had a significant influence on the attitude toward the ads. A closer look at the interaction effect revealed (Table 2) that German subjects liked the individualistic ad significantly more than the collectivistic ad (F=5.947; p=.017). Therefore, H 1 was confirmed by the data. The data also confirmed H 2 as the German subjects liked the individualistic ad significantly more than the Chinese subjects did (F=5.135; p=.026).
However, the results did not support H 5 and H 6. The Chinese subjects did not like the collectivistic ad more than the individualistic ad (F=1.038; p=.312), and they did not like the collectivistic ad more than the Germans did (F=.690; p=.409).
Table 3 shows the results of the ANOVA analyzing the main effects and the interaction effect of the factors ad version and nationality on the dependent variable believability. Neither the ad version nor the nationality alone influenced the ad believability significantly. However, the interaction effect (print ad version x nationality) was again highly significant (F=11.441; p=.001).
Table 4 reveals that the German subjects rated the believability of the individualistic ad significantly higher than that of the collectivistic ad (F=10.430; p=.002). Therefore, H 3 was supported by the data. Furthermore, the German subjects found the individualistic ad to be significantly more believable than the Chinese subjects did (F=5.681; p=.020), thereby confirming H 4.
The results also showed that the subjects from China did not rate the collectivistic ad significantly higher than the individualistic ad (F=1.921; p=.170), which consequently resulted in a rejection of H 7. However, the Chinese subjects rated the collectivistic ad higher than the Germans did (F=5.773; p=.019). Thus, H 8 was confirmed by the data.
MEAN VALUES OF THE VARIABLE ATTITUDE TOWARD THE AD DEPENDENT ON THE FACTORS PRINT AD VERSION AND NATIONALITY
RESULTS OF THE ANOVA WITH THE DEPENDENT VARIABLE BELIEVABILITY: MAIN EFFECTS AND INTERACTION EFFECT
The purpose of this study was to get more insight in the adequate use of advertising in Germany and China. It was tested whether it is more effective to localize print ads on the dimension individualism/collectivism, which is considered as a core cultural dimension in inter-cultural research, or whether it is possible to use a standardized approach. It was of special interest as to whether German companies can make use of a standardized communication approach when communicating to both German and Chinese people, especially whether they can use the same ad both in Germany and in China (with only the text being translated).
With regard to the variables attitude toward the ad and believability, Germans prefer the individualistic ad to the collectivistic ad. Consequently, an ad that is used in the individualistic country of Germany should address individualistic values rather than collectivistic values.
With regard to Chinese people, the results are not as clear as they are for German people. No significant differences in the variables attitude toward the ad and believability were found between individualistic ads and collectivistic ads. This implies that, when communicating to a Chinese audience, ads can be used that address either individualistic or collectivistic values. According to the results of this study, it is highly possible to capitalize on individualistic values in China for advertising purposes.
Summarizing: In Germany, one should use an advertisement emphasizing individualistic values. In China, the same ad can be marketed. This means for a German company that a standardization strategy using individualistic values seems to be possible. Table 5 summarizes the results and implications.
MEAN VALUES OF THE VARIABLE BELIEVABILITY DEPENDENT ON THE FACTORS PRINT AD VERSION AND NATIONALITY
SUMMARY OF THE RESULTS ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF INDIVIDUALISTIC VERSUS COLLECTIVISTIC PRINT ADS FOR GERMAN AND CHINESE PEOPLE AND IMPLICATIONS
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