The Roles of Consumer Ethnocentricity and Attitude Toward a Foreign Culture in Processing Foreign Country-Of-Origin Advertisements

Byeong-Joon Moon, University of Connecticut
ABSTRACT - This paper focuses on consumers' psychological processing of advertising that pitches a foreign country-of-origin product (brand) in that country's own cultural context, with no tailoring of the advertisement to the country where the brand is being promoted and sold. We refer to this type of advertising as foreign country-of-origin advertising. The purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework for demonstrating the role of two international setting-specific factors C consumer ethnocentricity (with regard to one's "home" country) and the consumer's attitude toward the foreign culture (depicted in the advertisement) C in the psychological processing of foreign country-of-origin advertising. Specifically, this paper builds upon and contributes to existing advertising effects literature and posits that a consumer's Cad, Aad, Cb, Ab, and PI will differ depending on his/her ethnocentric tendency and attitude toward the foreign culture depicted in the foreign country-of-origin advertising.
[ to cite ]:
Byeong-Joon Moon (1996) ,"The Roles of Consumer Ethnocentricity and Attitude Toward a Foreign Culture in Processing Foreign Country-Of-Origin Advertisements", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, eds. Kim P. Corfman and John G. Lynch Jr., Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 436-439.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 23, 1996      Pages 436-439

THE ROLES OF CONSUMER ETHNOCENTRICITY AND ATTITUDE TOWARD A FOREIGN CULTURE IN PROCESSING FOREIGN COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN ADVERTISEMENTS

Byeong-Joon Moon, University of Connecticut

ABSTRACT -

This paper focuses on consumers' psychological processing of advertising that pitches a foreign country-of-origin product (brand) in that country's own cultural context, with no tailoring of the advertisement to the country where the brand is being promoted and sold. We refer to this type of advertising as foreign country-of-origin advertising. The purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework for demonstrating the role of two international setting-specific factors C consumer ethnocentricity (with regard to one's "home" country) and the consumer's attitude toward the foreign culture (depicted in the advertisement) C in the psychological processing of foreign country-of-origin advertising. Specifically, this paper builds upon and contributes to existing advertising effects literature and posits that a consumer's Cad, Aad, Cb, Ab, and PI will differ depending on his/her ethnocentric tendency and attitude toward the foreign culture depicted in the foreign country-of-origin advertising.

INTRODUCTION

An increasing number of firms have created world brands C that are manufactured, packaged and advertised in exactly the same way, regardless of the country in which they are sold. While this unified global marketing strategy is seemingly cost effective because no tailoring of the product or promotion is required, there remains the question as to whether a unified global marketing strategy is the best way of communicating with consumers across borders.

The focus of this paper is on consumers' psychological processing of advertising that pitches a foreign country-of-origin product (brand) in that country's own cultural context, with no tailoring of the advertisement to the country where the brand is being promoted and sold. We refer to this type of advertising as foreign country-of-origin advertising. An example will help to illustrate foreign country-of-origin advertising: Phillip Morris (a U.S. based multinational organization) has advertised their Marlboro cigarettes with the Marlboro Cowboy as the spokesperson around the world. As another example, General Motors, Unilever, and Parker Pen have also used foreign country-of-origin advertising to promote their brands and services (Schiffman and Kanuk 1994 p.481).

Consumers' psychological processing of foreign country-of-origin advertising is not well understood. Although recent studies on consumer's psychological processing have well established the interrelationships among ad-induced emotional and cognitive responses, attitudes toward advertisements (Aad), brand attitudes (Ab), and purchase intentions (PI) (Burke and Edell 1989; Homer and Yoon 1992; MacKenzie, Lutz and Belch 1986; Park and Young 1986), no research has directly investigated these issues in the context of foreign country-of-origin advertising. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework for demonstrating the role of two international setting-specific factors C consumer ethnocentricity (with regard to one's "home" country) and the consumer's attitude toward the foreign culture (depicted in the advertisement) C in the psychological processing of foreign country-of-origin advertising. Specifically, this paper builds upon existing advertising effects literature and posits that a consumer's Cad, Aad, Cb, Ab, and PI will differ depending on his/her ethnocentric tendency and attitude toward the foreign culture depicted in the foreign country-of-origin (FCOO) advertising.

A MODEL FOR UNDERSTANDING CONSUMER PROCESSING OF FCOO ADVERTISEMENTS

Recent studies on consumer processing of advertisements have documented a general model of the relationships among cognition about the ad and brand, Aad, Ab, and PI (Burke and Edell 1989; Homer and Yoon 1992; MacKenzie, Lutz and Belch 1986; Park and Young 1986). Specifically, Burke and Edell (1989) provide evidence that

! Emotional responses influence Aad directly and indirectly via Cad.

! Emotional responses influence Cb directly and indirectly via Cad.

! Emotional responses have a direct effect on Ab and an indirect effect via the CadC>Aad path.

This research provides the starting point from which to introduce our model for understanding consumer processing of foreign country-of-origin advertising.

Our model (Figure 1) builds upon the advertising effects model by integrating two international setting-specific variablesCconsumer ethnocentricity and consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture. Consumer ethnocentricity and consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture/country are posited as antecedent constructs to foreign country-of-origin ad based cognitive and affective elements.

Because consumer ethnocentricity and a consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture can be considered individual factors such as personality, we believe that they can impact how an individual "sees" and evaluates advertising. With regard to ethnocentrism, patriotic, even xenophobic sentiments wax and wane among Americans and people of other countries. Thus, their personal attitudes and behaviors regarding domestic and foreign products may vary. Similarly, we believe that a consumer's level of ethnocentricity is likely to affect his/her perceptions of a foreign country-of-origin ad.

History and literature indicate that individuals have certain opinions of foreign cultures and/or countries. For example, due to World War II hostilities, some older Americans may have negative attitudes toward Japan and/or Germany. We believe that consumer attitude toward a foreign culture or country may trigger overall affections when they view a foreign country-of-origin ad. We proceed by further defining consumer ethnocentrism and attitude toward a foreign culture and then develop hypotheses about their effects on the ad effects model.

The Role of Consumer Ethnocentricity in Processing FCOO Ad

Ethnocentrism is broadly defined as "the view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it. Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities and looks with contempt on outsiders (Sumner 1906)." Shimp and Sharma (1987) focused on consumer ethnocentricity, defining it as "the beliefs held by consumers about the appropriateness, indeed morality, of purchasing foreign-made products" (p. 280).

Sharma et al. (1995) argued that consumer ethnocentricity has the following characteristics (p. 27): "First, consumer ethnocentricity results from the love and concern for one's own country and the fear of losing control of one's own economic interests as the result of the harmful effects that imports may bring to oneself and countrymen. Second, it contains the intention or willingness not to purchase foreign products. For highly ethnocentric consumers, buying foreign products is not only an economic issue but also a moral problem. This involvement of morality causes consumers to purchase domestic products even though, in extreme cases, the quality is below that of imports. In the eyes of ethnocentric consumers, not buying foreign imports is good, appropriate, desirable, and patriotic; buying them is bad, inappropriate, undesirable, and irresponsible. Third, it refers to a personal level of prejudice against imports, although it may be assumed that the overall level of consumer ethnocentricity in a social system is the aggregation of individual tendencies."

FIGURE 1

A MODEL FOR CONSUMER PROCESSING OF FOREIGN COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN ADVERTISEMENTS

We argue that the effects of consumer ethnocentricity are stronger on Cb and Ab than Cad and Aad. Because consumer ethnocentricity is conceptualized as consumers' embedded bias to imported products and consumers' beliefs about the morality or appropriateness of purchasing foreign-made products, consumers who have high ethnocentric tendencies will have negative thoughts about and unfavorable attitudes toward foreign-made brands, so consumer ethnocentricity is proposed primarily to affect Cb and Ab in processing foreign country-of-origin ads.

Consumer ethnocentricity is proposed secondarily to affect the perception of the buying proposal of foreign country-of-origin ads. Killough (1978 p.105) argues that "advertising propositions for international transfer consist of two elements which must be considered separately because the reaction to them is different in different countries. The first elementCthe 'buying proposal' represents the sales points, or those elements of the seller's product judged by the seller to be most persuasive and most relevant to the prospective customer. It is what one says. It is the content, not the form. Everything that is not part of the buying proposal is part of how one says it. The advertising message is formed when that proposal is developed into a 'creative presentation.' It includes all the visual and verbal elements."

Let's assume an example in which a Japanese consumer who has a high ethnocentric tendency views a foreign country-of-origin ad pitching a U.S. originated brand in an American cultural context. Because s/he has high consumer ethnocentric tendencies, s/he may worry about losing control of his or her economic interests as the result of the harmful effects that imports may bring to oneself and countrymen. As a result, s/he may show a negative cognitive response and an unfavorable attitude toward the brand itself and the buying proposal of the foreign country-of-origin ad. But the consumer's response to the creative presentation of the ad may be different from that of the buying proposal. S/he may show a positive response and a favorable attitude toward the ad itself independent of Cb and Ab.

Based on previous research on the impact of attitudes on behavior (Chaiken and Eagly 1992; Ajzen 1987; Homer and Yoon 1992), we propose also that Ab influences PI.

Hypothesis 1: Consumer ethnocentricity directly affects Cb and indirectly affects Cb via Cad.

Hypothesis 2: Consumer ethnocentricity directly affects Ab and indirectly affects Ab via Aad or Cb.

Hypothesis 3: Consumer ethnocentricity influences Aad directly and indirectly via Cad.

Hypothesis 4: The impact of consumer ethnocentricity is stronger on Cb and Ab than on Cad and Aad.

The Role of Attitude Toward a Foreign Culture in Processing FCOO Ad

Attitude is defined as "a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating a particular entity with some degree of favor or disfavor (Eagly and Chaiken 1993)." A psychological tendency is posited as a state that is internal to the person, and evaluating is cited as all classes of evaluative responding, whether overt or covert, cognitive, affective, or behavioral. Eagly and Chaiken (1993 p.2) proposed "Attitude can be regarded as a type of bias that predisposes the individual toward evaluative responses that are positive or negative. A mental representation of the attitude may be stored in memory and thus can be activated by the presence of the attitude object or cues related to it."

We define consumer attitude toward a foreign culture/country as "a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating the life-styles, values, and customs of a specific foreign culture/country in consumption behavior." It is an individual factor in consumer behavior such as consumer ethnocentricity, personality, self-efficacy, and susceptibility to interpersonal influence.

Consumers form attitudes toward a foreign culture through face-to-face activities such as travel, trade, education and, for example, by watching movies or paying attention to world events. Telecommunications has also increased access to the global community. In general, the globalization of the world is accelerating and the peoples of different nations and different cultural zones are becoming more familiar with one another. As a consequence, we can expect people's attitudes about other cultural, ethnic, and religious groups to evolve. We proceed by further discussing a cultural systems perspective of advertising and the rationale of why consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture affects thoughts about and attitude toward foreign country-of-origin ads.

Advertising as a Cultural System. Much of the postmodern research into consumer behavior has focussed on the cultural significance of advertising. Sherry (1991 p.557-563) has reviewed this perspective well: "Sherry (1987) has employed a cultural systems perspective to interpret advertising as a way of knowing, a way of discerning, and a way of creating meaning that structures experience semiotically and semiologically into distinct patterns. McCracken (1986) has advocated a cultural perspective capable of viewing advertising as one conduit in the transfer of meaning from the cultural world to consumer goods. Belk and Pollay (1985) have presented a historical analysis of the ways in which advertising reflects and influences values in the United States, while Sherry and Camargo (1987) have explored the way in which linguistic borrowing creates a promotional patois by which Japanese consumers are able to negotiate cultural continuity and change. Leymore (1975, 1987, 1988) has usefully interpreted advertising as the mythology of consumer culture, and has detailed the rules by which the codes of advertising can be transformed to reveal their culturally significant meanings. Leiss et al. (1986) emphasized the 'real' importance of contemporary advertising as 'the privileged discourse for the circulation of messages and social cues about the interplay between persons and objects.' Carey's (1988 a, b) volumes on the multistranded relationship of culture and communication reveals the dense interpretation of scholarly traditions that has culminated in the recent desire of some consumer researchers to move beyond 'the narrow concern for empirically measuring media effects' to the study of the cultural significance of communication."

This stream of research on advertising suggests that a culture is embedded in an advertisement as a core element. We can infer from this that consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture may affect the thoughts about and attitude toward a foreign country-of-origin ad in that country's own cultural context. So if a consumer has a positive attitude toward the culture of "A" country, s/he may have a favorable attitude toward the advertisement that has the cultural context of "A" country. But if a consumer has a negative attitude toward the culture of "A" country, s/he may have an unfavorable attitude toward the advertisement that has the cultural context of "A" country.

We propose that consumer attitude toward a foreign culture contributes to explaining the variance in advertising effects primarily through the direct route to Cad and Aad or indirectly via the CadC>Aad path. We propose also that a consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture influences (albeit weaker) Cb and Ab directly or indirectly through CadC>Cb and AadC>Ab path.

Hypothesis 5: Consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture contributes to explaining the variance in foreign country-of-origin ad effects primarily through the direct route to Cad and Aad and indirectly via the CadC>Aad path.

Hypothesis 6: Consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture influences Cb directly and indirectly via the CadC>Cb path.

Hypothesis 7: Consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture influences Ab directly and indirectly via AadC>Ab path and CbC>Ab path.

Relationship Between Consumer Ethnocentricity and Attitude Toward a Foreign Culture

Consumer ethnocentricity and a consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture have significant communalities in that each is comprised of cultural and individual factors that influence consumer processing of foreign country-of-origin advertisements. They are, however, distinct constructs. Consumer ethnocentricity has an inward focus toward one's own country; a consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture is a predisposition toward a specific foreign culture.

Now we are confronted with a question. Are the two constructsCconsumer ethnocentricity and attitude toward a foreign cultureCdistinguishable? How do these two constructs interact? What happens when a consumer has a high ethnocentric tendency, can s/he still have a favorable attitude toward a foreign culture/country?

Sharma et al. (1995) found a negative correlation between cultural openness and consumer ethnocentrism. Even though consumers who are not familiar with and open to foreign cultures may show a high consumer ethnocentric tendency, they may not necessarily show unfavorable attitudes toward a specific foreign culture. For example, a Japanese woman who has little experience with the people, values, and artifacts of other cultures may have an unfavorable attitude toward importing products. Even though, she has a high ethnocentric tendency in consumption, she may have a favorable attitude toward U.S. or American culture or American life-style. Because consumer ethnocentricity, according to Sharma et al.(1995), is determined not only by openness to foreign culture but also by other social-psychological factors such as the degree of patriotism, conservatism, collectivism/individualism, and demographic factors such as gender, education, and income.

CONCLUSION AND DISCUSSION

This study proposes a conceptual framework permitting the consideration of international setting-specific factorsCconsumer ethnocentricity and consumer's attitude toward a foreign cultureCin consumer processing of foreign country-of-origin advertisements. Both consumer ethnocentricity and consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture are posited as individual factors such as personality, self-efficacy, and susceptibility to interpersonal influences that evoke unique feelings when the consumers view foreign country-of-origin advertisements. But consumer ethnocentricity and attitude toward a foreign culture are different in several perspectives such as the direction (inward vs. outward of one's own country) and nature, so their impacts on consumer processing of foreign country-of-origin advertisements are different.

We suggest that consumer ethnocentricity has a strong effect on Cb and Ab whereas consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture has a strong effect on Cad and Aad because consumer ethnocentricity is believed primarily to evoke negative thoughts about and attitudes toward imported brands but consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture is considered primarily to affect the perception of cultural elements or the creative presentation of the advertising. This argument can be justified by the nature of the two constructs. Consumer ethnocentricity is a consumer's beliefs about the appropriateness or morality of purchasing foreign-made products and a consumer's embedded bias to imported products, so it is argued primarily to evoke thoughts about and attitude toward foreign-made brands. Consumer attitude toward a foreign culture/country is a psychological tendency that is expressed by evaluating the life-styles, values, and customs of a specific foreign culture/country in consumption behavior. Culture is embedded in advertising as a core element. We can infer from this that consumer's attitude toward a foreign culture primarily affects the thoughts about and attitude toward a foreign country-of-origin ad in that country's own cultural context.

Understanding consumers' responses to foreign country-of-origin advertisements is important from a variety of perspectives. First, consumer ethnocentricity can activate certain attributes (e.g. beliefs on country-of-origin) in consumers when they view the foreign country-of-origin advertisements, and this may guide their interpretations of product information (e.g. quality) in the ad and thus affect their attitude toward the brand. When consumers view the ads that pitch foreign products, consumer ethnocentricity may arouse negative cognitions or emotions and they may have an unfavorable attitude toward the ad which will affect their brand evaluations. Second, consumers are likely to vary in their attitude toward a specific foreign culture/country and consumers' attitudes may trigger overall affections when they watch a specific foreign culture contextual ad. These overall effects generated by consumers' attitudes toward a culture/country may be transferred to one's attitudes toward the ad, which can subsequently influence brand evaluations and purchase intentions. Also consumer attitudes toward a culture/country may influence Ab directly.

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