Country Image in National Umbrella Brandingbeffects of Country Associations on Similarity Judgments

ABSTRACT - The aim of the paper is twofold. Firstly we intend to identify some success criteria of core values in umbrella brands. Secondly we intend to clarify whether associations in a country image have any special characteristics that would make them particularly suitable as core values of umbrella brands. A conceptual framework is presented in an attempt to identify the characteristics that influence transcendence of core brand values. We claim that transcendence is closely related to the extendability of associations. Since extendability depends on similarity judgments, the starting point in umbrella branding is to identify similarities between the umbrella brand partners. A study was conduced to show whether or not associations in a country image are able to unite dissimilar umbrella brand partners. The findings verify that country associations can influence perceived product similarity, and that certain associations influence perceived similarity more than others.



Citation:

Nina M. Iversen and Leif E. Hem (2001) ,"Country Image in National Umbrella Brandingbeffects of Country Associations on Similarity Judgments", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, eds. Paula M. Tidwell and Thomas E. Muller, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 140-149.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4, 2001      Pages 140-149

COUNTRY IMAGE IN NATIONAL UMBRELLA BRANDINGBEFFECTS OF COUNTRY ASSOCIATIONS ON SIMILARITY JUDGMENTS

Nina M. Iversen, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Norway

Leif E. Hem, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Norway

ABSTRACT -

The aim of the paper is twofold. Firstly we intend to identify some success criteria of core values in umbrella brands. Secondly we intend to clarify whether associations in a country image have any special characteristics that would make them particularly suitable as core values of umbrella brands. A conceptual framework is presented in an attempt to identify the characteristics that influence transcendence of core brand values. We claim that transcendence is closely related to the extendability of associations. Since extendability depends on similarity judgments, the starting point in umbrella branding is to identify similarities between the umbrella brand partners. A study was conduced to show whether or not associations in a country image are able to unite dissimilar umbrella brand partners. The findings verify that country associations can influence perceived product similarity, and that certain associations influence perceived similarity more than others.

INTRODUCTION

Many ountries have national cooperative marketing programs to promote the country as an exporter of goods and services. [Examples of National Boards committed to conduct programs of generic marketing within and across industries; "The New Zealand Way" (NZW), "Amazing Thailand", BRAVO Spain, INNOVALUE-a symbol of excellence of Taiwan, Norwegian Seafood Export Council-"Seafood from Norway".] Such national promotion is conducted to market a country on a vide variety of qualities in order to create a strong country image. Several countries try to establish one (or a few) national umbrella brands to achieve unified national promotion. The idea behind national umbrella branding is to create synergies for the partners utilizing the umbrella brand logo by branding some qualities embedded in the product provenance. An excellent example is the successful national umbrella brand "The New Zealand Way". The key objective of this brand campaign was to build a strong national umbrella brand that added value to the marketing of New Zealand origin products and services (Keller 1998). By coordinating their marketing efforts The New Zealand Tourism Board and Tradenz (a trade development board in New Zealand) have established a strong "country umbrella brand" that differentiate New Zealand branded products in international markets. The brand is built on some carefully selected core brand values that are grounded in the country’s natural, cultural and human resources (Keller 1998: 281). [The core brand values of "The New Zealand Way" brand are; quality excellence, environmental responsibility, innovation, contemporary values, honesty, integrity and openness of the people, and achievements of New Zealanders (Keller 1998).] These brand values provide some unique country qualities to the products carrying the NZW logo.

Umbrella brands are meant to serve as overall endorsers providing additional brand equity (Aaker 1991) to every single product under the umbrella. The unique aspect of national umbrella brands is that they must be transcendent across a variety of product categories in order to be sufficiently inclusive. Consequently, core umbrella brand values should be exceptionally extendable. Our aim is; 1) to identify some success criteria of core values in umbrella brands and, 2) to illuminate whether or not country associations (CA) are particularly useful for this purpose. The answers to the raised research questions should be of particular importance to generic marketers who strive to brand some selected country qualities. They should focus on strengthening country associations that are particularly inclusive in the sense that they "fit" a variety of products.

The objective of this research is to develop some guidelines for evaluating country associations in relation to umbrella branding. To do so we combine literature on country image with marketing theories in branding. First we clarify fundamental dimensions of a country image. Then we discuss concepts such as umbrella branding, brand image transfer and similarity in a country image context. Finally we illustrate empirically how associations in a country image can influence similarity judgments of products.

WHAT IS A COUNTRY IMAGE?

Martin and Eroglu (1993) have defined country image as "the total of all descriptive, inferential and informational beliefs one has about a particular country". Hence, a country images is a structure of knowledge comprising associations of varying complexity, strength, valence and uniqueness (Thakor & Katsanis 1997). These associations can include country stereotypes, which are broad, consensually shared beliefs and judgements of the country in general, its citizens, and their culture (Peabody 1985). Such stereotypes have been shown to influence the perceptions and judgements of products from a country (Janda & Rao 1997).

In the more recent literature two new concepts have been introduced as parts of a country image. These are; 1) country equity and 2) country related intangible assets. The term country equity was introduced by Shimp et al. (1993) to describe "that portion of consumer affect toward a brand or a product that is derived purely from the product’s associations with a particular country. [Country equity is analogous with brand value commonly referred to as brand equity (Aaker 1991).] In this sense it refers to a commercial value that a country possess due to positive or negative product related associations and affect in a given target market. A country’s intanible assets (Kim & Chung 1997) are country associations reflecting valuable quality dimensions that a country has earned through export of goods and services.

A country’s intangible assets could be consumers’ perceptions of country qualities such as technical advancement, workmanship, prestige, innovation, design and service (Han & Terpstra 1988). [Past research on country image has treated the term country-of-origin as a one-dimensional quality construct rather than as a defined set of dimensions from which quality is inferred. In current research country image is better understood as a summary construct of which perceived quality may be only one dimension (Martin and Eroglu, 1993).] They arise from consumer beliefs that there is something "special" about, e.g. the labor, technology, or manufacturing processes within a particular country. Such country associations are developed through advertising or product experience, and they can have a substantial impact on judgments of product qualities (Bilkey & Nes 1982; Han 1988).

FIGURE

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN COUNTRY IMAGE, COUNTRY EQUITY, BRANDS, COUNTRY SPECIFIC BRANDS (CSB) AND DESTINATION BRANDS (DB)1

Han (1989) identifies two major functions of a country image. The halo effect occurs when consumers are unable to detect the true quality of a country’s products before purchase. In such situations the country image can serve as a halo that indirectly affects product attitudes through inferential beliefs. When this effect occurs the consumers link country associations to products, independent of the products’ implicit product attributes. The second function, the summary effect, represents country associations based on accumulated experience with products or brands from a country.

Through this effect a country image directly affects consumers’ product attitudes rather than indirectly through product attribute ratings (Mittal and Tsiros 1995). The halo and the summary effect are two interdependent mechanisms both reinforcing each other as a continuing process. The concepts involved in country image building are depicted in Figure 1.

One country’s products and brands play an important role in shaping country associations. Certain brands even promote their national or regional origin to benefit from some established country perceptions. They are "country specific brands" utilizing origin symbols to shape the image. Papadopolus et al. (1993) defined the image of such brands as product country images, which are "the total of all descriptive, inferential and informational beliefs one has about products or services from a particular country". Visits to a country also contribute to forming country perceptions. According to Crompton (1992) a destination image is derived from attitudes towards the total of the destination’s tourism attributes, which can be considered a "destination brand". All these types of brands contribute to establish country associations and to gradually develop more country equity. Eventually one hopes that consumers accumulate their experience with all products and brands from a country converting it into increased country equity.

COUNTRY ASSOCIATIONS AS CORE VALUES IN NATIONAL UMBRELLA BRANDS

Research in umbrella branding suggests that it is possible to market a "bundle of products and services" under a shared brand identity that works as a "bond" for quality (Wernerfelt 1988). The umbrella brand serves as a guarantee of consistent quality among the umbrella brand partners (Laforet and Saunders, 1994). [The aim of umbrella brands is to; 1) reduce perceived risk when introducing new products under the umbrella, and 2) improve the quality perceptions of new products (Laforet and Saunders 1994).] It is, thus, thinkable that a portfolio of export products from a country can be united under a shared national umbrella brand image. Our main question is whether country associations can serve as core umbrella brand values for such an alliance.

The idea behind umbrella branding is that the brand partners will benefit from "transferred" equity of an established umbrella brand. Research on brand extensions supports this assumption by suggesting that the success of a brand extension depends on the degree of transfer of parent brand awareness and associations to a new product (Aaker 1991; Aaker & Keller 1990; Sheinen and Smith 1994; Dacin and Smith 1994).

We propose that country associations can be transferred across export products in the same way as brand assciations. Research done by Mittal and Tsiros (1995) show that the origin of a reference brand can serve as an anchor along which the overall evaluation of a target brand is adjusted. Another question is whether transfer of country equity happens on an attribute level. Empirical evidence verifies that such effects have occurred. [Aaker & Keller (1990) and Broniarczyk & Alba (1994) demonstrated that brand image can transfer along several product dimensions and attributes.] It is clear that many American products are associated with a youth lifestyle (Coca-Cola, Levi’s and MTV), and that many Italian products are associated with style, elegance and good design (Anholt 1998). These examples show that country associations can be transferred across products both on an overall as well as on an attribute level.

SIMILARITY DETERMINES SPILLOVER OF COUNTRY EQUITY

" national umbrella brand should support coherent brand building across a portfolio of products and brands from one country. Hence, a major challenge in umbrella branding is to define some core brand values that can be transferred to many products. In national umbrella branding the main task is to establish a brand concept that works across various export products. This brand concept should stimulate spillover effects of the marketing mix strategies from one product category to another (Erdem 1998).

Similarity has been a key explanatory construct of spillover effects in brand extensions. This stream of research suggests that consumer quality perceptions can be transferred between brands if the parent brand and the extension are perceived to "fit" ["Fit" is defined as subjectively perceived similarities between products or brands (Keller and Aaker 1992; Dacin and Smith 1994). Increasing similarity both stimulates the transfer of brand equity and improves the reminding of product features (Gentner, Rattermann, and Forbus 1993).] along certain similarity dimensions (Aaker and Keller 1990; Loken and Roedder-John 1993). Thus, it is usually assumed that the transfer of beliefs and affect from an established brand to a proposed extension is contingent on the degree of similarity between them (Aaker and Keller, 1990; Smith and Park, 1992). This mechanism has been supported empirically, which indicates that similarity partly determines the spillover of brand equity between brands. It is therefore reason to believe that dimensions of similarity also will determine the transfer of country equity.

In accordance with the findings of Roth and Romeo (1992) we believe that spillover effects from a country image will occur when country associations "match" (fit) some perceived product or brand characteristics. The question is whether national umbrella brands are able to create "matches" between country associations and important features of exported goods. A critical factor to succeed is to identify some "matching dimensions" (similarities) grounded in perceptions of the origin country. These similarity dimensions could e.g. be cultural and natural resources, or skills and competencies in the population. Figure 2 illustrates three levels of umbrella branding and how these are linked across products in various industries.

Marketers can achieve economics of scale and message consistency trough the use of global umbrella branding programs. To succeed, the branded country feature should be outlined as one coordinated message in favor of all the umbrella brand partners. The more one-dimensional the commercial message is, the more salient and distinct country associations will develop.

Link 1Bvertical coordination: Coordinated national umbrella branding requires identification of one or several core values that capture the complexity of the nation’s range of products. The role of umbrella branding is to make consumers see links between many disunited products. These links should serve as a starting point for building a transcending umbrella brand image. To identify such links represents a serious challenge, as one concurrently has to emphasize some shared qualities of many incompatible products, but also grasp their complexity. Our claim is, however, that the unifying capacity of country associations, which represent unique country qualities, may be stronger than the capacity of many other brand values.

Link 2Bhorizontal coordination: The identity of a national umbrella brand is the profile induced by the marketer, while the image refers to how the various brands are perceived by the consumer. The marketer tries to create a match between a national umbrella brand concept (core values) and associations in the established country image. Their device is the design of all the marketing mix components.

A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR ANALYZING CORE VALUES IN UMBRELLA BRANDS

A country image can be interpreted as a function of many country associations with varying characteristics. The combination of characteristics of these diversified associations will determine how extendable they are. According to Keller (1993) brand associations must be strong, positive, and unique to represent brand equity that can be transferred. When evaluating country associations we add important, abstract, and holistic [Keller (1993) has discussed all these brand characteristics but the latter three were not emphasized as essential parts of brand equity. These characteristics seem more important in relation to umbrella brands as such brands should be able to unite many different product categories.] as characteristics influencing their extendability. To what extent country associations vary along these characteristics is determined by the structure of knowledge in an individual’s country image. Our view is that the six characteristics largely determine the extendability of country associations, and accordingly their potential as core values of umbrella brands. This is shown in Figure 3 below.

The model shows how characteristics of country associations influence their ability to reveal perceived similarities between products. Country associations that are strong, favorable, unique, important, abstract, and holistic, are more able to illumine such similarities. Increased similarity will lead to increased transfer of country equity. The characteristics of country associations are outlined below.

FIGURE 2

COMPONENTS IN NATIONAL UMBRELLA BRANDING ACROSS PRODUCTS AND BRANDS IN VARIOUS INDUSTRIES

Strength

According to Boush and Loken (1991), a brand image becomes strong when it involves many products in a portfolio of brands. The reason is that many separate brands, under a shared umbrella, increase the probability of exposure to umbrella brand information. Such exposure will inevitably increase brand knowledge and awareness. As brand strength refers to the strength of associations in a brand image, it depends on 1) the degree of complexity and 2) the accessibility (salience) [Ease of access refers to the ability and ease with which a certain input can be acquired by the consumer, either externally or from memory (Hillyer and Tikoo, 1995-in Keller 1993). Accessibility of associations depends on their salience.] of brand knowledge (Keller 1993). The degree of complexity refers to the factual amount of brand knowledge and the sum of connections between associations in a brand image. Accessibility refers to how immediately the brand associations come to mind (Keller 1993). The strength of country associations will also be positively related to their complexity and ease of access. Thakor and Katsanis (1997) propose that complexity and strength of a country image positively affect the extendability of country associations. [Keller (1993) also argues that strong brand associations are more easily transferred (given perceived similarity to an extension).] This view makes sense as a complex country image may contain a variety of associations of relevance for many products, while a simplex country image is less flexible. The country equity of a complex country image should therefore be easier to transfer.

Rq 1: Country associations should be strong to be extendable as core values in national umbrella branding.

FIGURE 3

CHARACTERISTICS OF COUNTRY ASSOCIATIONS DETERMINING TRANSFER OF COUNTRY EQUITY

Favorability

Associations differ according to how favorable they are (Keller, 1993). A strong country image is built on a heterogeneous structure of associations, which might be both favorable and unfavorable. The relative amount of positive versus negative affect in a country image will determine its ability to influence product evaluations in a beneficial way. Reserch shows that e.g. Japan is associated with advanced technology, which is a very beneficial country association for many products (Nebenzahl, Jaffe and Lambert, 1997). It is also evident that some country associations can obstruct national export, which is a problem for many developing countries. Negative effects of patriotism (Bilkey and Nes 1982), consumer ethnocentrism (Shimp and Sharma 1987), and animosity (Klein et al. 1998), are found to be stronger for developing countries. Such negative heuristics can influence product evaluations negatively. Moreover, such negative perceptions might be hard to overcome by commercial marketing. Countries with negative country associations should therefore be reluctant to use their country image in national umbrella branding.

Rq 2: Country associations should be favorable to be extended as core values in national umbrella branding

Uniqueness

The essence of brand positioning is that the brand has a "unique selling proposition" (USP), that gives consumers a compelling reason for buying that particular brand (Aaker 1991). For umbrella brands this unique advantage must provide added value to all the partners in the brand portfolio. The differentiating core values may be product-related as well as non-product-related attributes. An analogous reasoning is appropriate when country associations are used as USPs in national umbrella branding. Then the country associations must be capable of differentiating the export products. A country specific USPs may be a unique resource rooted in a natural or cultural heritage. These resources should be exclusively held by the country and be difficult to overtake or imitate. Still, to be extendable across products the unique country associations should reveal some shared qualities among the umbrella brand partners.

Rq 3: Country associations should be perceptions of a unique national feature, and should be able to reveal shared product qualities, to be extended as core values in national umbrella branding.

Importance

As a country image may embody a range of perceptions, not all country associations are important in product evaluations. [Though an associations may facilitate recognition and awareness, or even lead to inferences about quality, it may not always be considered a meaningful factor for purchase and consumption (Keller, 1993).] To be of relevance, country associations must be diagnostic in the sense that they are appropriate to the judgment task. [A diagnostic input provides information that can be utilized to further evaluate an alternative or discriminate among alternatives (Keller, 1993).] Country associations must add an extra dimension that is meaningful and important to all the umbrella brand partners. Roth and Romeo (1992) have examined the effects of matching associations in a country image with important product features. They found that evaluation of a product from a particular country is higher when the country association is perceived to be an important characteristic for the product category. Accordingly, the extendability of country associations depends on how important the country associations are in relation to the products under the umbrella brand. When favorable matches exist, promoting the provenance as umbrella brand core values can enhance product evaluations, and vice versa (Roth and Romeo, 1992).

Rq 4: Country associations should be important to each umbrella brand partner, to be extendable as core values in national umbrella branding.

Level of abstraction

The level of abstraction of country associations affects their capability as umbrella brand core values. This is partly due to their embedded meaning and partly because abstract attributes tend to be more durable and accessible in memory (Keller, 1993). An example of the former is that image-related attributes such as user types or usage situatio, more easily transcend across product classes (Keller, 1993). As a consequence, abstract attributes are more appropriate for comparison between non-comparable products that share no concrete attributes (Johnson 1984). This is due to the logic of "means end chains", where abstract utility is inferred from concrete product attributes and then connected to idiosyncratic values. [A "means-end chain" is a knowledge structure that links consumer knowledge about product attributes with knowledge about consequenses and values.] The level of abstraction is central as abstract attributes normally are more inclusive and multi-dimensional than concrete ones (Keller, 1993). Because a national umbrella brand comprises many different products, the umbrella brand core values are more easily transferred if they are of an abstract nature. Taiwan illustrates how abstract country attributes can be used across export products when they promote "Taiwan as the source of INNOVALUE". This message indicates that Taiwanese products are innovative and represent value-for money, both being abstract qualities. As abstract qualities are more able to grasp similarities among products and brands, abstract country associations are more extendable as core values in umbrella branding.

Rq 5: Country associations should be on a high level of abstraction to be extendable as core values in national umbrella branding.

FIGURE 4

A FUNCTION DETERMINING THE EXTENDABILITY OF COUNTRY ASSOCIATIONS

Holistic (congruency)

In research on categorization, Rosch (1978) has introduced the term generic attributes. Rosh describes such generic attributes as aggregated and congruent schemas that are able to grasp some shared meaning across products and brands. [According to Keller (1993), the validity of a brand association depends on the extent to which it shares content and meaning with another brand association.] Accumulated country associations can be seen as such generic origin attributes. Their capabilities are related to the congruence among the pieces of information they are built upon. This congruence or cohesiveness may again determine consumers’ more holistic or gestalt reactions to a cluster of national products (Keller, 1993). Incongruent information results in less cohesive and more diffuse generic origin attributes. These are built on disunited information to which new information can not be related. [When a brand image is not cohesive and consistent, the danger is that only some of the potentially retrievable associations are recalled. A more holistic image ensures that consumers do not discount or overlook some potentially relevant brand associations (Keller, 1993).] Because the structure of knowledge in congruent country images is highly united such images may contain more holistic country associations. Such holistic associations will be more unifying and therefore more extendable.

Rq 6: Country associations should be holistic to be extendable as core values in national umbrella branding.

It can be argued that the extendability of country associations will vary according to the outcome of a function, where the contribution of each characteristic is summed up as in the additive rule in figure 4 below:

The function is not meant to illustrate any cognitive rule of consumers evaluating an umbrella brand. It should rather be considered a preliminary illustration of how some important characteristics of core umbrella brand values can be brought together. It should be noted that the characteristics might be interdependent and that they might reinforce each other’s effects. Thus, it can be argued that some (or all) of the characteristics will interact and therefore should be multiplied. To date we have limited understanding of the fundamental aspects of the function and will not get into further details on this point.

We have claimed that the unifying capacity of associations in a country image may be more powerful than other brand associations. A country’s unique qualities may be particularly useful as USPs for umbrella brands, as they are unattainable for competitors, and might represent a unique competitive advantage. However, the challenge for a marketer is to develop a consistent umbrella brand image that serves all products and brands equally well. The starting point is to identify some similarities or "fit" between the umbrella brand partners. Our proposition is tha a country image built on strong, positive, unique, important, abstract, and holistic country associations can reveal more similarities.

METHODOLOGY

In order to test some aspects of the research questions raised in the paper we have conducted a preliminary study. The study is designed to test some of the factors stimulating perceived similarity of products utilizing a national umbrella brand logo. The research variables were; 1) overall country knowledge, 2) overall country affect (attitude), 3) overall similarity, and 4) decomposed dimensions of similarity.

A quasi-experimental research design was chosen and the study involved three equivalent product categories of established export products from both Norway and Scotland. The pairs of product categories were "Norwegian Salmon" vs. "Scottish Salmon", "Norwegian Aquavite" vs. "Scottish Whiskey, and "Destination Norway" vs. "Destination Scotland". The three products from each country were presented together as an advertisement under the umbrella brand logos "A Taste of Norway" and "A Taste of Scotland". In contrast to traditional studies of brand extensions, which usually study product categories of high similarity (Sheinin and Schmitt 1994), the selected product categories were highly dissimilar. [Dissimilarity means that the selected product concepts are incongruent with each other=s category schemata. They are not naturally linked in the same way as e.g. fluoride with breath mint (Sheinin and Smith (1994).] Therefore, it was unlikely that the identified similarities would be based on functional attributes of a concrete nature. One should rather expect that the similarities would be abstract features such as imagery or cultural traditions. [Abstract attributes are more appropriate for comparison between non-comparable products that share no concrete attributes (Johnson 1984).]

A sample of Norwegian college students was chosen to test the research questions (N=49). The sample was divided into two groups where group one (N=22) evaluated the products from Scotland and group two evaluated the products from Norway (N=27). The advertisement was displayed as an experimental stimulus before the other research variables were measured. After the exposure to the stimulus the respondents completed a structured questionnaire containing measures of overall country knowledge, overall country attitude and overall as well as decomposed similarity.

Country knowledge was measured using a two-item scale developed by Brucks (1985). All the respondents in the two groups were Norwegians. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that the respondents in the group evaluating the Norwegian products were experts on the origin country. The group evaluating Scottish products could then be regarded as novices (on country knowledge) as Scotland was not their home country.

Overall country attitude was measured using a one-item scale of positive or negative affect related to the country. The question was "to what extent do you get positive emotions when you think about country x". It was measured on a 6-point Likert scale with the ending points "to a little degree" and "to a large degree".

Overall similarity between the various product categories was measured on a 6-point Likert scale ranging from "not at all similar" to "highly similar" (see Bousch and Loken, 1991). The products from each country were compared pairwise, [The combinations were Norwegian Salmon vs. Norwegian Linie Aquavite, Norwegian Salmon vs. Destination Norway, Destination Norway vs. Norwegian Linie Aquavite, and for the Scottish products Scottish Salmon vs. Scottish Whiskey, Scottish Salmon vs. Destination Scotland and Destination Scotland vs. Scottish Whiskey.] and the wording of the questions was: "how similar is product a (e.g. Norwegian Salmon) and product b (e.g. Norwegian Linie Aquavite)"

Dimensions of similarity. To explore the underlying dimensions of the similarity judgments we measured perceived similarity on 10 decomposed items. These were; 1) physical product attributes, 2) the cultural origin, 3) natural resources in the origin country, 4) product prestige, 5) symbolic values, 6) the usage context, 7) characteristics of typical users, 8) product problem solving, 9) sensory perceptions and 10) the competence required to make the products. The questions were stated as follows; "how similar is product a and product b with respect to similarity dimension x". Most of tese measures are based on Keller’s (1993) dimensions of brand identity. In addition to Keller’s brand identity dimensions we included the country qualities (cultural resources, natural resources and competencies in the population) to illuminate whether or not country characteristics caused the perceived similarity. Finally we included usage context and perceptions of typical users based on previous theorizing about mechanisms underlying evaluations of brand extensions (Aaker and Keller 1990). Although these two dimensions normally are considered brand values, they could also be thought of as country qualities (e.g. if the usage context was "a Norwegian holiday setting" or the typical user was a "Scotch man"). The measures were; "how similar is product a and product b with respect to the situation in which you would use the products" and "how similar is product a and product b with respect to the typical user of the products". The scale was the same as for overall similarity.

The study variables only cover some of the characteristics of country association as they were discussed in the theoretical framework. These characteristics are strength (delineated by overall country knowledge) and favorability (delineated by overall country attitude). Therefore we are just able to infer how the other identified characteristics will influence similarity judgments.

RESULTS

In order to test the assumptions about similarity a series of one-way-ANNOVAs were run. We compared the responses on country knowledge, country attitude, overall similarity and decomposed dimensions of similarity between the two groups. Due to the preliminary nature of the test, and to the relatively small sample, one should be cautious to generalize the findings beyond this research setting. The results of the analyses are presented in Table 1.

The findings show that the attitude toward Norway is significantly more favorable than the attitude toward Scotland (p=0.05 level). This implies that a patriotic tendency may influence the results. Furthermore, the overall country knowledge of Norway is significantly higher than the overall country knowledge of Scotland (p=0.01 level). This confirms our assumption that the sample evaluating the Norwegian products should be considered experts, and the sample evaluating the Scottish products should be considered novices on country knowledge.

When comparing the overall similarity measures by countries, only one of the three measures of overall similarity shows a significant result. This is the measure of overall similarity between "Norwegian Salmon" and "Destination Norway", which is perceived as significantly more similar than "Scottish Salmon" versus "Destination Scotland". Thus, the overall similarity between the product categoriesBfish and destinationsBis significantly higher for the sample that evaluated the Norwegian products. This indicates that Norway’s country image considerably has influenced the similarity judgments of the respondents in this group. We do not find any significant differences on overall similarity for the two other pair of products (fish vs. alcohol and alcohol vs. destinations). This lack of findings confirms that the country image effect has been weaker in relation to these product categories.

Yet, when looking at the effect of the decomposed similarity dimensions a more precise picture comes into view. The measures of decomposed similarity shows that eight out of ten similarity dimensions significantly influence the similarity judgements of fish vs. destinations from Norway. These results show that "Norwegian Salmon" vs. "Destination Norway" is perceived as significantly more similar on the similarity dimension 2.1, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, and 2.9. (see Table 1), compared to "Scottish Salmon" vs. "Destination Scotland".

For the two additional pair of products only some ofthe decomposed dimensions influence the similarity judgements. For fish vs. alcohol the similarity dimensions 1.3 (natural resources in the origin country) significantly influences the perceived similarity of the Scottish products. This means that the dimension natural resources in the origin country has made "Scottish Salmon" vs. "Scottish Whiskey" significantly more similar than "Norwegian Salmon" vs. "Norwegian Aquavite". Likewise, for alcohol vs. destinations the similarity dimensions 3.5 (symbolic values), 3.8 (need satisfaction), and 3.10 (required competence) influence the similarity of "Scottish Whiskey" vs. "Destination Scotland" significantly more than "Norwegian Aquavite" vs. "Destination Norway". This confirms that Scotland’s country image has had a certain effect even though it only has revealed a few similarities.

TABLE 1

ONE WAY ANOVA EFFECTS OF COUNTRY KNOWLEDGE, COUNTRY ATTITUDE AND DECOMPOSED SIMILARITIES ON OVERALL SIMILARITY JUDGEMENTS OF PRODUCTS FROM NORWAY AND SCOTLAND

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS

We can infer from the findings that country knowledge and country attitude will influence perceptions of overall similarity between pairs of product categories. The findings show that the sample evaluating the Norwegian products (experts) can see more similarities between the product categoriesBfish vs. destinationsBthan the sample evaluating the Scottish products (novices). The natural link that may have united these products could be a strong connection between "Norway as a nation of fisheries" and "Norway as a coastal tourist resort". Such a connection may have caused high similarity between "Norwegian Salmon" and "Destination Norway". One could expect the same effect for the other two pairs of products, but this was not found. The explanation may be that these product categories (fish vs. alcohol and alcohol vs. destinations) lacked some natural links, and therefore were not unified by the country images.

Even though the overall similarity was not significant for Scottish products, we found that one of the country similarity dimensions (natural resources) led to high similarity between "Scottish Salmon" and "Scottish Whiskey". Furthermore, we found that the country similarity dimensions (competencies in the population) led to high similarity between "Scottish Whiskey" and "Destination Scotland". In addition to this we found that two brand similarity dimensions (symbolic values and need satisfaction) led to high similarity between "Scottish Whiskey" and "Destination Scotland". Therefore, it can not be concluded that country dimensions stimulates more "fit" compared to other brand dimensions.

To conclude, our findings show that country image can influence similarity perceptions even between dissimilar product categories. It is equally clear that some country associations, when measured as decomposed dimensions of similarity, can influence perceived "fit" between products. However, the strength of country attitudes and the degree of country knowledge, are both factors moderating the way a country image influences similarity. Relating these findings to research on transfer of brand equity, it is evident that a country image can highlight product similarities, and thereby increase the chance of spillover of country equity.

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----------------------------------------

Authors

Nina M. Iversen, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Norway
Leif E. Hem, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Norway



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 4 | 2001



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