Consumer Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Marketing: an Emerging Market Perspective

Tsang-Sing Chan, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Geng Cui, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
ABSTRACT - The burgeoning consumerism in emerging market economies has significant implications for both multinational corporations and local companies. Based on a survey in four cities of China, this study examines the effect of consumer beliefs and attitudes towards marketing on satisfaction. The results suggest that attitudes towards marketing practices and beliefs about marketing have significant effect on consumer satisfaction, but these effects are not uniform across marketing mix variables. Implications for future research and marketing operations in emerging markets are explored.
[ to cite ]:
Tsang-Sing Chan and Geng Cui (2002) ,"Consumer Beliefs and Attitudes Toward Marketing: an Emerging Market Perspective", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 406-412.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 2002      Pages 406-412

CONSUMER BELIEFS AND ATTITUDES TOWARD MARKETING: AN EMERGING MARKET PERSPECTIVE

Tsang-Sing Chan, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

Geng Cui, Lingnan University, Hong Kong

ABSTRACT -

The burgeoning consumerism in emerging market economies has significant implications for both multinational corporations and local companies. Based on a survey in four cities of China, this study examines the effect of consumer beliefs and attitudes towards marketing on satisfaction. The results suggest that attitudes towards marketing practices and beliefs about marketing have significant effect on consumer satisfaction, but these effects are not uniform across marketing mix variables. Implications for future research and marketing operations in emerging markets are explored.

INTRODUCTION

Marketing researchers and practitioners have long been interested in the genesis of consumer values and beliefs about marketing and how they affect consumers’ experiences in the marketplace (Treise al 1994). Consumer attitudes towards various marketing activities are important knowledge for successful marketing operations. Previous research suggests that consumer attitudes towards marketing vary greatly due to demographic and psychographic factors and may be influenced by their ethical ideologies (Crellin 1998; Treise et al 1994). Although consumer attitudes toward marketing have been studied extensively in developed countries, limited research exists to shed light on this important subject in emerging market economies. Flourishing marketing activities and burgeoning consumerism in these countries have made understanding consumer attitudes toward marketing increasingly important for both businesses and governments there.

In emerging markets, economic reform and development have led to the emergence of a consumer society. Concomitant with the development of a consumer society comes the growing power of consumers in the marketplace, evidenced by consumers’ rising awareness of their rights and increasing readiness to engaging in disapproving behaviors such as protest and law suits against companies they consider unethical (Ho 2001). Although existing studies have found some differences in consumer attitudes toward marketing between developed economies and developing countries, research findings have been inconclusive. Moreover, the role of consumers’ beliefs about marketing has received scanty treatment. It is not clear how these beliefs and attitudes affect consumer satisfaction. China, as one of the Big Emerging Markets (BEMs), provides a useful context for examining these issues. In this study, we focus on the effect of consumer beliefs and attitudes toward marketing on satisfaction, report the findings of a survey of consumers in China, and explore the implications for marketing management and future research.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Consumers’ attitudes towards marketing activities are important from both a theoretical and a managerial standpoint (Gaski and Etzel 1986). As consumer attitudes significantly affect their behavioral responses to marketing activities, knowledge of consumers’ attitudes toward marketing has been used in economic forecast and found to be linked to several key macroeconomic variables (Chopin and Darrat 2000). Such information can also help devising effective strategies for companies as well as developing regulations by government agencies to protect consumers’ interests. Existing research has dealt with consumers’ overall attitudes toward marketing as well as specific marketing activities such as advertising and pricing (Nwachukwu et al 199; Webster 1991). In general, researchers have focused on a central issueCwhat causes the differences in consumers’ attitudes toward marketing activities? Webster (1991), for instance, found significant differences in consumer attitudes toward various marketing practices including product quality, pricing, advertising, and retailing or selling; however, many of the differences remained even after social class and income effects were removed. Therefore, what factors cause the differences in consumers’ attitudes and how they affect consumers’ experience in the marketplace demand clarification.

Several researchers have found a number of other factors that influence consumers’ attitudes towards marketing. Nwachukwu et al (1997) studied the ethical judgments of advertising and marketing and found perceptions of individual autonomy, consumer sovereignty, and the nature of the product played a significant role in terms of the ethical judgments of advertising. Treise et al (1994) examined the perceptions of familiar advertising controversies: targeting practices and message strategies. Their results show that consumers believe advertising often violates broad ethical norms. In addition, the degree to which consumers judge advertising as ethical or unethical varies as a function of their ethical philosophies such as relativism and idealism (Treise et al 1994).

Although consumer attitudes towards various marketing activities have been studied in developed economies (Barksdale et al. 1982; Webster 1991), studies of consumerism in emerging markets have become increasingly important. In emerging market economies, after decades in a seller’s market that was under-supplied, consumers have embraced with enthusiasm many marketing practices new to them, such as television advertising and celebrity endorsement. Although the transition has been mostly beneficial, cases of questionable marketing practices and consumer discontent have become more frequent. Meanwhile, government regulations, public policy and legal infrastructure for protecting consumer interests are under-developed. Consumerism is still at the developing stage, and consumers are less experienced in protecting their rights and interests (Ho 2001).

As a result of the rapid globalization of business in various regions of the world, rigorous measures of consumer sentiment toward marketing for cross-cultural comparison are needed (Chan, Yau and Chan 1990). One of the important research questions is the relationship between the level of economic development and consumer attitudes toward marketing. Some believe that with less experience than those in developed economies, consumers from industrializing markets may have more favorable attitudes toward various marketing activities (Ho 2001). Several studies confirmed such a proposition. Wee and Chan (1989) examined consumer sentiment in Hong Kong toward marketing practices by measuring attitudes toward product, price, advertising, and retailing. The results showed a more favorable consumer sentiment toward marketing than did a previous study in the United States (Gaski and Etzel 1986). Wee and Chan offered two possible reasons as to why marketing was doing better in Hong Kong than in the U.S.: either the US population was basically more skeptical toward marketing, or marketers in Hong Kong were indeed faring better than their counterparts in the US. In another cross-cultural comparative study, Chan, Yau and Chan (1990) found that Australian consumers were unfavorable in their attitudes toward marketing while Hong Kong consumers’ attitudes were more favorable.

However, in a consumer study in India, an industrializing country, Varadarajan and Thirunarayana (1990) examined consumers’ attitudes toward marketing practices, consumerism, and government regulations. They found a high level of consumer skepticism regarding the operating philosophy of businesses, discontent with marketing practices, and support for consumer movement and greater government regulation. To provide additional empirical insights into the validity of the consumerism life cycle concept, Varadarajan and Thirunarayana (1990) compared the responses of consumers in India with those of consumers in the 6 countries surveyed by Barksdale et al. (1982): Australia, Canada, UK, Israel, Norway, and the US. Their findings suggest that consumers in countries in the "crusading" stage of the life cycle such as India seem to be more dissatisfied with the current status and strongly favor more government intervention on behalf of consumers. Thus, Varadarajan and Thirunarayana (1990) conclude that despite wide variations in the volume of advertising and different levels of government regulation of advertising from one country to another, negative views about advertising seem to be a universal phenomenon, and perhaps more so in developing economies.

Studies of consumerism and consumer attitudes toward marketing in another big emerging marketBChinaCalso highlight the need for further investigation. Since the beginning of reforms in the late 1970s, the country has witnessed phenomenal growth in household income and accumulated savings. Many reports highlighted the growing acceptance of the return of marketing to China. Consumers have embraced various marketing activities with great curiosity. Such reports were very frequent in the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s. In two separate surveys in China, Zhao and Shen (1995) measured audience attitudes and behavior regarding commercial advertising. Their results indicated Chinese consumers supported the return of advertising. Their findings also suggest that Chinese consumers paid more attention to the informational content than the entertainment features of the advertisements, suggesting that Chinese consumers looked for cues about product quality and features in advertising.

However, public opinion regarding commercial advertising remained quite reserved (Zhao and Shen 1995). China, as a huge potential consumer market, is flooded with an influx of domestic as well as imported goods. For a growing number of consumer products, over-capacity has led to a buyer’s market in China. Meanwhile, the issue of consumer protection is also coming into the limelight, along with the emergent consumer society of the post-reform years (Ho 2001). With the recent efforts to revitalize the country’s economy by encouraging consumer spending, the government has also taken initiatives to protect consumer interests. At the same time, many malpractices on the part of enterprises at the expense of consumers have been exposed, including deceptive advertising, trademark violations, and other unethical business practices. In response to these problems, the China Consumer Council was established in December 1984 (Ho and Sin 1988). Measures have been taken to counter profiteering producers and trade people. Many foreign businesses have also been implicated in cases in which marketing behavior was deemed to be infringing on consumers’ rights, including multinationals such as Toyota, Volkswagen, Sony, Hilton Hotels, McDonalds, and most recently Toshiba. Whether the companies win or lose in the court, much greater is at stake including their reputation. Despite of adverse public attitudes at times, multinationals and local companies used a variety of techniques and media to promote their products to consumers in developing countries without close scrutiny of consumers’ perceptions of such practices (Hill and Boya 1987). Against this backdrop, MNCs doing business in China would benefit from having at their disposal an understanding of consumer attitudes toward marketing (Ho 2001).

While economic development has a tremendous impact on consumer attitudes and sophistication, researchers have studied the effect of other factors that may account for the differences in consumers’ attitudes towards marketing. Chan, Yau and Chan (1990) found that demographic variables significantly affect consumers’ attitudes in the same way across two samples. Crellin (1998) found a significant generational split between those receptive and unreceptive to advertising from an audience study in China. Those under 35 felt positive toward advertising, whereas those over 35 had similar and traditionally hostile attitudes to advertising. Respondents under 35 liked "to try new brands," believed "a famous brand can improve their image," liked "to buy foreign even if it’s more expensive," and generally regarded advertising as part of modern life. In contrast, the attitudes of older consumers were typified by statements such as "I don’t pay attention to outdoor advertising, papers and magazines," "truly good products don’t need advertising" and "don’t pay attention to the brands I buy." The negative disposition towards advertising, the researchers suggested, represent an opportunity for advertisers to change some old preconceptions.

Although existing studies have identified various factors that affect consumers’ attitudes toward marketing such as economic development and demographic factors, their findings based on cross-country comparisons have been inconsistent. Furthermore, their results suggest that the effects of various factors on consumers’ attitudes toward marketing are more complicated than previously anticipated. In addition, how such perceptions affect consumer experiences such as satisfaction with marketing overall and specific marketing mix variables has not been explored. Nonetheless, these studies have raised several research questions. First, previous studies suggest that consumer attitudes toward marketing are not uniform across various marketing mix variables. Thus, the perceived importance of the marketing mix variables may affect their perception and satisfaction and needs to tested empirically.

More importantly, although brand-specific beliefs have been studied intensively and occasionally industry-specific beliefs, the effect of consumers’ general beliefs toward marketing has hardly been investigated (Alpert 1993). Based on their background and experiences, consumers may have positive beliefs about marketing in general or negative beliefs and skepticism about marketing. Several studies found that consumer beliefs about marketing affected their attitudes toward specific marketing activities. For instance, Andrews (1989) found that although consumers agreed strongly that advertising was essential, they were very critical of advertising’s social effects. Until recently, few studies have paid attention to the consumers’ beliefs about marketing in emerging markets and how they may affect consumers’ attitudes toward marketing. Since consumers in emerging markets have relatively a shorter period of exposure to modern marketing practices compared to their counterparts in developed economies, whether they believe marketing is overall a beneficial and responsible practice inevitably affects their attitudes toward marketing activities and their experiences as consumers. Moreover, how consumer attitudes toward marketing activities and their beliefs about marketing affect their satisfaction as consumers would provide the needed insight for companies operating in emerging markets.

Given the above problems, we introduce two factors to study consumer attitudes toward marketing: perceived importance of the marketing mix variable, and consumer beliefs about marketing. Here, perceived importance is the level of significance of a marketing mix variable perceived by consumers to them as consumers. Consumer beliefs about marketing are their ideological beliefs about marketing, i.e., whether marketing is beneficial for consumers or it may be detrimental due to the perceived characteristics of marketers. Furthermore, we adopt consumer satisfaction with specific marketing mix variables as the dependent variables. Early research suggests that generalized beliefs and attitudes may, as moderating variables, have significant impact on purchase behavior and postpurchase evaluation (Anderson, Engledow and Becker 1979; Webster 1991). Therefore, this study will explore the relationship between consumer attitudes toward marketing and beliefs about marketing, and their effect on consumer satisfaction.

First, consumer attitudes toward marketing mix variables have a significant effect on their satisfaction as consumers (Webster 1991). Meanwhile, the perceived importance of the marketing mix variables moderates the effect of consumer attitudes on satisfaction, as there may be great variations in terms of the level of importance consumers attach to the marketing mix variables. In addition, variations in consumer perceptions of marketing may occur as a result of their beliefs about marketing or sentiment toward business (Treise et al 1994). Therefore, consumer beliefs about marketing in general may affect their attitudes toward marketing and satisfaction. Furthermore, consumer beliefs about marketing moderate the effect of consumer attitudes on satisfaction. The relationships among these variables are summarized in the following research hypotheses:

Hypothesis 1. Consumer attitudes toward the marketing mix variables have a significant effect their satisfaction.

Hypothesis 2. The effects of consumer attitudes on satisfaction are moderated by the perceived importance of the marketing mix variable.

Hypothesis 3. Consumer beliefs about marketing have a significant effect on satisfaction.

Hypothesis 4. The effects of consumer attitudes on satisfaction are moderated by consumer beliefs about marketing.

METHOD

First, we developed a questionnaire to measure consumer attitudes towards various marketing activities including each of the marketing mix variableCproduct quality, retailing service, advertising and promotion, and price. The measurements were adapted from the Index of Consumer Sentiment toward Marketing developed and validated by Gaski and Etzel (1986) and subsequently adopted in a number of studies (Wee and Chan 1989; Chan, Yau and Chan 1990). The respondents were asked to respond to statements about their sentiments regarding the marketing mix variables, such as "I am satisfied with the quality of products that I have purchased;" "I am pleased with the services provided by the retailers;" "Most of the advertising that I have seen is truthful and informative;" and "I believe that most products are priced fairly." Likert scale was used for statements measuring consumer attitudes, ranging from (1) strongly agree to (5) strongly disagree with a point of neutrality in the middle. In addition, we measured satisfaction with each of the marketing mix variables and their beliefs about marketing. Consumer beliefs about marketing were measured by several statements, including "Most businesses believe customers are always right," "Most business do not avoid responsibilities to the consumers," "'Buyer be Aware’ is the principle of most businesses," and "Most businesses are more interested in making profit than serving the customers." Various demographic and lifestyle variables were also included in the questionnaire.

Research assistants competent in both Chinese and English were selected to validate the questionnaire language using back translation method. The questionnaire was first developed in English by the investigators, then translated to Chinese by one research assistant, and then back translated into English by another to ensure conceptual correspondence. The Chinese version of the questionnaire was used for data collection. Since the consumer revolution has been largely an urban phenomenon in China, we conducted a survey in four major cities of China including Beijing, Hangzhou, Guangzhou and Xi’an. These cities are intended to represent different regions of China: north, east, south and west. First, research assistants were recruited among graduate students enrolled at local universities. These assistants were then trained to conduct personal interviews using the structured questionnaire. Then, a mall intercept survey was conducted in each city at a major shopping center at different times of day and different days during a 10-day period to interview every fifth person until the 200th interview was completed. Finally, 200 usable questionnaires were collected from Beijing, Hangzhou and Xi’an. Several cases from Guangzhou had a significant number of missing values, resulting in 197 usable questionnaires from that city.

There are total 391 females and 402 males. In terms of age distribution, 40.2% of the interviewees were between 17 and 25 years old, 24.8% for the 26-35 group, 15.7% for 36-45, 15.9% for 46-66, and 3.4% for 56-69. Thus, both genders and all generational groups are well represented. Furthermore, education is coded into two categories: high school education or lower, and college education and higher. Occupation is collapsed into three categories including white-collar professions, blue-collar professions, and personal services and others.

RESULTS

Table 1 suggests that consumer attitudes toward all four marketing mix variables indicate a neutral centrality (Table 1). Only satisfaction with product quality is lower, 2.34 closer to the point of agreement. As for their beliefs about marketing overall, consumer beliefs tend to be neutral. Consumers on average feel neutral about the statement "Most businesses believe customers are always right" (mean=3.12). As for the statement "Buyer be Aware" is the principle of most businesses," more consumers tend to agree (mean=2.68). When asked about whether "Most businesses do not avoid responsibilitiesto the consumers," the response is largely neutral (mean=3.22). However, consumers overall agree that "Most businesses are more interested in making profit than serving the customers" (mean=1.89).

To develop the attitude scales, factor analysis was used to develop measurements. The principal component method was used for factor extraction. Since we are more interested in specific consumer attitudes than their overall sentiment, we adopt a two-factor solution with varimax rotation (eigen value>1). Basically, one factor is positive, and the other is negative. Reliability tests were conducted to ensure internal consistency of all measures. The reliability test for attitudes toward the marketing mix variables are all above 0.70, demonstrating satisfactory reliability. Factor analyses about consumer beliefs generate two reliable measures. "Most businesses believe customers are always right" and "Most business do not avoid responsibilities to the consumers" make up the positive belief. The negative belief consists of the following two statements "'Buyer be Aware’ is the principle of most businesses" and "Most business are more interested in making profit than serving the customers." Factor scores of these concepts were obtained for subsequent analyses.

TABLE 1

SATISFACTION AND CONSUMER BELIEFS

Then, we performed multiple regression on consumer satisfaction with each of the marketing mix variables (Table 2). The results suggest that positive attitudes toward the marketing mix variable have a significant and strong effect on satisfaction, including for product (?=.492), retail service (?=.544), and price (?=.455), but not for promotion (?=-.033). However, negative attitudes have a significant negative effect on satisfaction with retail service (?=-.159) and promotion (?=-.530). The perceived importance of the marketing mix variables by consumers does not have any significant effect on their satisfaction, except for promotion (?=.167).

As for the effect of consumers beliefs about marketing, the results suggest while positive beliefs about marketing invariably have a significant positive effect on consumer satisfaction (?=.205 for product, ?=.109 for service, ?=.175 for promotion, and ?=.123 for pricing), negative beliefs about marketing have a significant negative effect on satisfaction with product quality (?=-.099) and retail service (?=-.101). However, negative beliefs about marketing have no significant effect on satisfaction with promotion or price.

The results on the interactions show that perceived importance of the marketing mix variables does not have a significant moderating effect on consumer satisfaction. However, the only exception is that given the perceived importance of product quality, negative evaluation of product quality negatively affects consumer satisfaction to a significant degree (?=-.205), suggesting that consumers are particularly concerned with product quality while more tolerant on other dimensions. Thus, perception of product quality is an important factor in determining consumer satisfaction for those who place a premium on product quality.

By comparison, the moderating effect of consumer beliefs about marketing is stronger. The interactions of positive beliefs with negative attitudes have a significant negative effect on satisfaction for product (?=-.075), service (?=-.09), and promotion (?=-.129), suggesting that among those who hold positive beliefs about marketing, negative attitudes towards these marketing mix variables reduce consumer satisfaction. The slight effect of positive reinforcement is evident for price (?=.075). In addition, the results show that when consumers have negative beliefs about marketing, their attitudes toward marketing activities do not have any significant effect on satisfaction. One exceptional finding is the positive effect of the interaction between negative belief and negative attitude on satisfaction with retail service (?=.094). This is difficult to explain except that double negatives lead to a positive. Although consumers differ in terms of marketing beliefs and attitudes, demographic variables do not have a significant effect on consumer satisfaction. Only one variable, age has a positive effect on satisfaction with product quality (?=.076), suggesting that older consumers are generally more satisfied with product quality than younger people.

DISCUSSION

Findings

Results of the study suggest that consumer attitudes toward marketing in China largely remain neutral, and perhaps a little more positive for product quality than other marketing mix variables. In addition, consumer attitudes toward these marketing mix variables significantly affect their satisfaction as consumers. However, such effects vary across the marketing mix variables. Positive attitudes lead to satisfaction with product quality, retail service, and pricing, but not for promotion. In the mean time, negative attitudes toward promotion have a significant negative effect on consumer satisfaction, suggesting that consumers are the most critical of advertising and promotion, which pose special challenges for marketers. This is hardly surprising in an emerging market given the widespread skepticism about advertising in many countries (Andrews 1989; Calfee and Ringold 1994).

In addition, perceived importance of the marketing mix variable does not affect consumer satisfaction except for a positive effect on promotion, suggesting that consumers attach great importance to the role of advertising and promotion and treat them as an essential element of modern life. Furthermore, the findings show that consumer beliefs about marketing play a great role in affecting their satisfaction. Positive beliefs about marketing enhance consumer satisfaction across the marketing mix. Negative beliefs about marketing significant damper their satisfaction with product quality and retail service, but not promotion or pricing. These findings suggest that consumer attitudes, perceived importance, and beliefs about marketing do not have uniform effect on satisfaction across the marketing mix variables, and the relationships between these perceptual measures are rather complex.

TABLE 2

CONSUMER BELIEFS, ATTITUDES AND SATISFACTION

Furthermore, several significant interactions between perceived importance and consumer attitudes and between beliefs about marketing and consumer attitudes significantly affect consumer satisfaction. Specifically, given the attached importance to product quality, negative attitudes significant reduce consumer satisfaction. Positive beliefs and positive attitudes can greatly enhance consumer satisfaction. Meanwhile, positive beliefs in combination with negative attitudes severely damper satisfaction with retail service and pricing. These findings suggest that the difference between consumer expectations and their experiences plays a critical role in consumer satisfaction. Depending on the nature of such interactions, the effect may be positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement. A puzzling exception is the positive effect on consumer satisfaction from the interaction of negative belief and negative attitudes toward promotion. While controlling for the perceptual variables, consumer demographics have little impact on consumer satisfaction.

Implications

Given the growing consumerism in emerging markets and increasing number of incidents in which consumers take actions against marketers, knowledge of consumers’ attitudes towards marketing have become critical for both local operators as well as multinational players. In emerging market economies such as China, the two types of consumerismCthe increasing consumption by people and the organized movements to protect the sovereignty of consumersCgo hand in hand. After decades of scarcity, continuous economic development has led to flourishing products and brands. Consumers increasingly demand higher quality products, better customer services, truthful advertising and promotion, and fair pricing.

Results of the study suggest that consumer attitudes toward and beliefs about marketing are overall far from being positive, and such attitudes and beliefs significantly their experience in the marketplace. Thus, consumers in an emerging market are not quite convinced that marketers have their best interest in mind. These findings should sensitize marketers to consumer attitudes toward marketing and their beliefs so that marketers can better develop and implement strategies to target the emerging middle class consumers in those countries. While positive attitudes and beliefs can enhance consumer satisfaction, negative attitudes and beliefs about marketing may damper consumer satisfaction. When consumers’ expectations are negatively disconfirmed, they are less satisfied, and in some cases, may resort to disapproving behavior. Therefore, marketers in emerging markets have much room for improvement in terms of both communicating to consumers about the benefits of marketing and the integrity of marketers

The consumer movement in China was a latecomer. In the pre-reform period, China’s centralized economic planning resulted in basically a seller’s market. "Let the buyer beware" was the rule in those days. Consumer sovereignty or satisfaction as an ultimate goal of economic activities, and for that matter consumer protection were non-existent (Ho 2001). Recent, consumer rights have steadily taken root in China. The once prevalent scenario of Chinese consumers facing a paucity of goods and services and suffering in silence while mistreated by the unscrupulous sellers is gradually becoming something of the past (Ho 2001). Today, stores trying to attract the emerging affluent class are frequently reminded by the consumer interest groups that they have rights of their own. Increasingly, disgruntled consumers are willing to stand up for their rights and take actions against businesses. Such cases have become more common in recent years, reflecting the growing power of the consumers in China.

For multinationals in China, the notion that "Anything foreign sells " is perhaps outdated. Years ago, foreign brand names alone seemed to guarantee strong sales. In the course of the rapid development of China’s economy, a combination of shoddy foreign goods and improved local brands has led to increasingly discriminating consumers, particularly in the urban and coastal areas. Consumers are rejecting foreign cast-offs that have failed to sell elsewhere and are demanding authenticity and quality. Several cases have been well publicized, in which consumers have won millions of yuan in damage and compensation. In a recent case, Wal-Mart was sued for selling locally assembled products as "Made in USA." Although it was not entirely Wal-Mart’s problems, it did teach them a good lesson about the rising consumerism in an emerging market (China Economic Review 1997).

As the Chinese legal system continues to develop, it will inevitably emphasize the consumers’ interests. For instance, Chinese government banned all "direct sales" activities in late 1997 and inevitably hurt companies such as Amway and Avon because their downstream business developers pitched it as an opportunity to strike it rich, sold their products at high prices, and used deceptive techniques. Representatives from foreign companies viewed themselves as innocent victims of some overzealous peddlers trying to take advantage of the unsuspecting. As the Chinese government tends to be reactive to such incidents and sometimes over-reactive, it is perhaps in the best of interest of foreign firms in China to join forces in terms of self-regulation and monitoring.

As consumers in emerging markets have been exposed to many forms of marketing, they have become less gullible and responsive to marketing activities, and sometimes suspicious. Rising consumer awareness has prompted multinationals to rethink about their approach to marketing in these countries. Sony, for instance, after receiving many complaints about the lack of availability for its parts, decided to establish a customer service center in China. Many others have followed suit. Leading companies believe that customer satisfaction is important andhave devoted more effort to managing the interface with consumers. Because efforts to increase current customers’ satisfaction primarily affect their future purchasing behavior (Anderson, Fornell and Lehmann 1994), companies need to take a long-term perspective when improving quality and customer satisfaction. Businesses with high customer satisfaction usually enjoy superior economic returns.

Suggestions

This study focuses on one of the emerging markets. The cross-cultural generalizability of the findings of consumer attitudes toward marketing needs to be tested with consumers in other country markets undergoing similar transitions. Comparative studies would help separating the effects of the level of economic development, cultural beliefs, and other market and consumer characteristics. Whether consumer beliefs and attitudes toward marketing change over time is an important research question. In light of rapid development of various marketing practices, government regulations, and consumerism movement in emerging markets such as China, the evolution of consumer beliefs and attitudes and their implications for marketing management warrant investigation.

This study examines consumer attitudes toward the four marketing mix variables. Studies of specific issues including attitudes toward media and advertising responses would help improve operational effectiveness in areas such as product positioning and promotional effectiveness. Consumers’ perceptions of many specific marketing practices such as sales promotions are virtually unknown in emerging markets (Huff and Alden 1998). Models of consumers’ attitudes toward marketing practices developed and tested in developed economies may not translate into success in emerging markets. Further research needs to investigate whether differences in attitudes toward marketing practices are grounded in cultural values and beliefs. Likewise, multinational corporations should consider cultural and economic differences when planning marketing strategies in emerging markets.

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