Country and Product Perceptions: Measurement Scales and Image Interactions



Citation:

Louise A. Heslop, Nicolas Papadopoulos, and Gary J. Bamossy (1993) ,"Country and Product Perceptions: Measurement Scales and Image Interactions", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, eds. W. Fred Van Raaij and Gary J. Bamossy, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 198-205.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1993      Pages 198-205

COUNTRY AND PRODUCT PERCEPTIONS: MEASUREMENT SCALES AND IMAGE INTERACTIONS

Louise A. Heslop, Carleton University, Ottawa Canada

Nicolas Papadopoulos, Carleton University, Ottawa Canada

Gary J. Bamossy, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

INTRODUCTION

This paper will examine the results of a multi-nation study of perceptions of domestic and imported products and the countries and peoples that produced them.

In the early 1980's when we envisioned the first major multi-country study of perceptions of products from different countries, what was known about this subject was increasing rapidly but was still very rudimentary. There was a small set of existing studies, each based in one or two countries which had usually measured perceptions of products from the home country and a few other countries. They had revealed consistently that consumers would report different perceptions of the quality and characteristics of both products in general and specific products made in different countries. This finding had been demonstrated for consumer (see, for example, Gaedeke 1973, Bannister and Saunders 1978, Darling and Kraft 1977) and industrial (Chasin and Jaffe 1979) buyers, business managers (Nagashima 1970,1977), and retailers (Niffenegger, White and Marmet 1982). It has also been noted that these perceptions can and do change over time (see, e.g., Nagashima's studies).

However, there had been no significant effort to determine the origins of these country-related product perceptions. The beliefs were real, and the first experimental evidence of Bilkey and Nes which followed shortly (1982) indicated that these beliefs had an impact on consumer judgments. For marketers who are interested in affecting or exploiting these perceptions and for consumer behaviorists interested in the phenomenon of country-based product images (country-product images), there was and still is much that needs to be known about the origins and sources of the perceptions.

The study we undertook provided an opportunity to explore some hypotheses about how people form ideas about domestic and imported goods and to test some of these. The questionnaire used in the study included many of the standard scales that had been used by other researchers on images of products from different countries, with some modifications to reflect our thinking about how general attitude theories should be operationalized. In addition, a set of scales was developed to explore the images people had of the countries and the people themselves because we felt that these views might be reflected onto product perceptions. (Han 1989 has subsequently labelled this the halo effect.) We also asked whether people had visited the countries so that the effects of such experiences could be explored.

In this paper we will examine what we learned from this first effort to look in detail at "country images" in the marketing context. (For a look at the relationship of travel experience to perceptions, see Papadopoulos and Heslop 1986.)

STUDY DESIGN

Our international study of country/product images is the largest study of its kind to date. With a team of noted researchers [Professors G. Avlonitis, J. Beracs, F. Bliemel, F. Graby, G. Hampton, and P. Malliaris.] in North America, and Western Europe and Eastern Europe, responses from over 2200 consumers were collected in their national language. The samples were drawn from large cities in Canada, the United States, Great Britain, France, West Germany, the Netherlands, Hungary and Greece. Identical questionnaires were used as translated in all locations. The questionnaires collected information on views of products from five countries, views of the people and the countries, products thought of as coming from these countries, relative preferences for products from the countries, travel experience, and demographic information.

The framework for the study, which was being formed back in 1983-84, built on the descriptive tradition of the time. As a result, the questionnaire relied heavily on lists of bi-polar adjective scales which respondents used to rate products in general from a set of countries. Products from five countries were ratedCthe respondent's own country, and a common set of countries of the United States, Canada, Japan, and Sweden, and Great Britain if the home country had been specified in the common list. These origins were selected to allow for comparison across a representative range of levels of industrialization and international market presence among major exporting nations. The decision was made not to include any newly industrialized nations in this project since research has consistently shown that products from these countries are given lower ratings than domestic products and products from the industrialized countries chosen (Nes 1981). So the study was restricted to major industrialized nations as common target countries (i.e., countries about which respondents were asked).

To evaluate products from each country, respondents were presented with 21 bi-polar adjective scales. The scales were selected with some considerable care. The aim in selecting was not just to replicate earlier research, but rather to assimilate the findings of this research into observable patterns. So an underlying model was posited. Then the model was used to select scales which (1) would measure the dimensions of the model, (2) had been used extensively previously so there was some comparability with other studies, (3) from the results of previous research, appeared to be free of varying cultural interpretations.

Further, the study took a direction which had not been explored by the existing studies of the time, and indeed has not as yet been widely researched. This area involves trying to understand the link between views of countries and their people with views of products that are produced in those countries. The model that had been developed postulated some relationships between the two sets of attitudes. So, scales to measure country and people attitude components were developed and included in the questionnaire.

So, the resulting data set includes observations from over 2200 consumers in eight different countries. Knowledge, preference for and attitudes towards the products produced in five countries, attitudes to the countries and their people, and direct experience with the country (through travel), as well as demographic information, were measured in light of a model of effects that had been developed to guide the study.

The consumer samples in each country were usually slightly upscale in terms of education and income from the average populations of the countries. (A more detailed description of sample characteristics can be found in Papadopoulos, Heslop and Bamossy 1990.)

ATTITUDES TO COUNTRIES AND PEOPLE

Attitudes to the countries and peoples producing the products have rarely been included in research on country-product image (CPI) in the past. A notable exception case is the study by Wang and Lamb (1983) which found that willingness to buy foreign products was related to the economic, political and cultural environment of the origin country.

In this eight-country study, one goal was to more thoroughly investigate the linkages between views of countries and their people with views of products. To do this the questionnaire included a list of bi-polar adjective scales dealing with country and people to investigate these as possible explanatory variables for product attitudes.

To develop the scales to measure country images, it was necessary to examine literature bases in sociology and political science that deal with international images. At the time of the study, one excellent source in the area at the time was a book edited by Kelman (1965) which reflected the views of various prominent researchers (e.g., de Sola Pool 1965 and Scott 1965). This work summarized the research on the effects of a number of variables on nation images, including social, psychological and cultural correlates, the effects of international events, and the effects of contacts with the people and country through travel. In addition, a few studies in the social psychology literature had examined the dimensions used by people in comparing, evaluating, and cognitively representing nations. These dimensions have varied slightly depending upon the sample countries studied. However, the following dimensions have been found with some consistency: politics, economic development, cultural development, geographic location, race or ethnicity (see, for example, Jones and Ashmore, 1973; Robinson and Hefner, 1967; Wish, Deutsch and Biener, 1970).

In determining the individual items to include in a measure of country-people, a measure on each of these dimensions revealed in the earlier studies was included with two exceptions. Geography and race were not included since all the common, target countries included were westernized nations in Western Europe or North America, except for Japan. The political dimension was not dichotomized into communist/ capitalist again because of the similarity of the countries on this aspect of political orientation. Rather, perceptions of their role in world politics was addressed. The economic development dimension was operationalized by focussing on the industriousness of the people, on the economic management of the country, and on its technological advancement, agricultural vs.industrial orientation, and industrial vs. consumer goods manufacturing base. The cultural dimension was examined through a scale dealing with refined taste, again because of the similarity of shared culture among the target countries.

These scales discussed above can all be considered to be measuring the belief components of a country-people attitude. Further, we were interested in measuring the affective and conative components of the attitude. The former was measured by including a scale dealing with overall liking and trustworthiness of the people. The behavioral aspect was measured through two scales regarding interest in more investment from the target country and closer ties with it. Of course, these last two scales were not used to measure attitudes towards one's home country.

Overall then, there were 11 country-people scales for each foreign country and 9 for the home country.

ANALYSIS OF COUNTRY-PEOPLE IMAGES

The analysis began with a simple compilation of means for each of the eight rating countries and each of the five target countries on the 9 (if assessing home country) or 11 scales. These are reported in Table 1. (Due to its size, Table 1 is presented at the end of the paper.) This table contains a great deal of information about how different countries are viewed and about the perceptions held by different populations. Any specific country can be examined for how others see it or how it sees different others. Each of the nine or eleven scales can be examined individually. For example, Japan is generally rated very highly on almost all of the 7-point scales by all respondent nations except on the scales of admirable in world politics and likeability. Canada and Sweden are often given the highest scores for trustworthiness and desiring closer ties. The United States is almost never given the top score on any of these scales. Perhaps, most surprising is that the home country is generally also not most highly rated. For each country, the domestic ratings were highest on only one or two (with the exception of Canada with three) country-people image scales. This is in contrast to findings of many studies where highest scores were often given to domestic products on rating scales.

The major problem in examining this table is simply the large amount of data in it. Specific observations can be made as required, but there is a general need to reduce the data to a more manageable set for further analysis. To do this, the general approach taken was to look for patterns of inter-item correlations or interrelationships, as described in the following section.

Dimensions of Country-People Images

To examine for an underlying structure of interrelationships among the scales, principal components analysis and Cronbach's alpha tests were used. Principal components analysis was carried out for all 40 (8 samples x 5 countries rated) country images. In the principal components analysis, a minimum eigenvalue of 1 was set for determination of meaningful dimensions and varimax rotation was used as an aid to interpretation of components or factors. Minimum loadings for scales on facors was set at .4.

The similarity in the principal components across target countries and rating countries was studied. Various combinations of the scales based on general attitude structure research and the country image literature cited above were examined using Cronbach's alpha for comparison purposes.

The conclusion from this analysis was that there appeared to be three rather consistent dimensions. Two of the scales did not load well with the other scales - the agricultural/manufacturing and the industrial/consumer goods scales. Of the remaining scales, four were most frequently associated together and formed into one dimension which we have termed "Affect". These were the refined taste, trustworthy, role in world politics and liking. I would appear from this that people like and trust those whom they see as of agreeable culture and political views. The three scales on industriousness of people, on the management of their economy, and on technological advancement of the economic base loaded together and were called "Beliefs" about industrial development. Finally the two conative scales did load together very consistently and the dimension was called "link". (See Table 2 for a summary of factor loadings of scales on each dimension.) Using this newly defined set of three dimensions, summary scores on the scales in each dimension were calculated and will be used in the subsequent discussion of country images.

Relationships Among the Dimensions of Country Image

A brief look at the intercorrelations among the three country dimensions indicates that the three dimensions are strongly associated among themselves. (See Table 3.) This should be expected from general attitude consistency theory. The average correlation (across the forty country-rater combinations) of the belief and affect dimensions is .44, with Japan notably lower at .31. The average correlation of the link dimension (across the 32 country-rater combinations) is .31 with the belief dimension and .40 with the affect dimension. Again positive views about Japan's industrial and economic capabilities are less closely associated with desire for closer affiliations with the country itself. So, the interest in linkages with other countries is somewhat more closely associated with emotional reactions to the country, i.e., how much it is liked, than to how economically and industrially advanced it is seen to be.

TABLE 1

MENA VIEWS OF COUNTRIES AND PEOPLE SCALES

Association Between Product Images and Country Images

To examine the association between the attitudes towards country and people and the attitudes towards products from these countries, correlation coefficients were generated for all combinations of the three country dimensions and the four product dimensions that had similarly been uncovered through principle components analysis of those 21 product scales. (For a more thorough discussion of the derivation of the product dimensions, see Papadopoulos, Heslop and Bamossy 1990.) The means of these coefficients across all the 40 country-rater combinations are shown in Table 4.

Statistically significant and high correlations were found for all three country-product dimensions with views on the product integrity dimension and the product response dimension. Also, the market presence dimension correlations with the belief dimension just manage to reach significance. All other correlations are not statistically significant. That is, views of the country and its people are not related to assessments of the price and value of products or generally their market presence. However, they are strongly associated with judgments about the performance of the products and with willingness to buy, satisfaction, and pride of ownership. The highest associations are found between beliefs about the country, especially its industrial development, its economic performance, and the industriousness of its people, and the performance of its products. So, good products are seen to come from well managed, technologically advanced nations with hard working people. (Perhaps not a surprising finding, but intuitively appealing.) However, they are also produced by people who are likeable, have refined taste, are trustworthy, and are admirable in world politics. So, good products also come from countries we like and admire. Finally, there is a desire for closer links with the countries producing good products.

TABLE 2

FACTOR LOADING PATTERN OF SUMMARY SCALES

TABLE 3

MEAN INTERCORRELATIONS OF THE COUNTRY DIMENSIONS

TABLE 4

MEAN CORRELATIONS OF COUNTRY-PEOPLE ATTITUDES AND PRODUCT ATTITUDES

It is interesting to note that the association of affect and product integrity is particularly strong for Canada (average of .39) and much weaker for Japan (average of .26). Those who like Canada and Canadians will rate their products positively. However, Japanese product ratings are less tied to the liking of Japan and the Japanese.

It should also be mentioned that averages of associations between country-people images and the product dimensions of product integrity and response are somewhat higher for the foreign countries than are the averages of these associations for the home country. So, for example, it is more likely that people will report that they buy, are satisfied and are proud to own products of their own country, regardless of how what they believe about the industriousness of the people of their own country or their feelings about their likeability. The greater presence of domestic products in home markets and perhaps nationalistic attitudes may generate such findings.

Also the correlations between country-people images and the product integrity dimension for Japan was relatively low compared to the other countries (average of .29), suggesting that beliefs about Japanese products are more independent of the views of the country and the people, i.e, they stand more on their own. Japan also stands out when the market presence and belief dimensions are examined. The overall mean correlation across all rated countries is barely significant (at the alpha<.01 level). The mean correlation is not significant for any of the target countries individually except for Japan (.26), perhaps suggesting that knowledge of Japan and the Japanese is more closely tied to the presence of its products in foreign markets. People are learning about Japan from the products they now find at their stores. Their views of Japan are being formed from their product experiences. This conclusion is in line with Han's (1989) "summary construct" hypothesis. In contrast, views of the product integrity of Canadian products is much more strongly correlated to views of Canada and its people and liking of them. Given the likely low levels of familiarity of respondents in most of the countries surveyed with Canadian goods, these associations fit more closely with Han's "halo effect" view in which country images affect assessments of products when the latter is less well known than the former.

FIGURE 1

TENTATIVE MODEL OF NATION-PRODUCT IMAGE INTERACTIONS

Finally, the association between the overall response to products from foreign countries and the affective response to countries and their people is somewhat stronger than is the linkage of this response to beliefs about their economy and industrial system. This suggests that liking a country and its people may be more important to ultimate choice than knowing how productive and technologically advanced it is. Of course, the reverse direction of effects would suggest that buying and being satisfied with and proud of products will lead to greater appreciation of the people and the country, with somewhat less impact on changing views of its industry and economy.

Studying the Pattern of the Linkages

In order to examine the direction of association between the country images and the product images, more sophisticated data analysis procedures were called for. The structural modelling method of LISREL analysis seemed most appropriate. Based on the study of the intercorrelations described above and on findings of previous research, a causal model was developed. (See Figure 1) Initially the model was tested using the rating of Japan and the United States by respondents in West Germany, France, Canada, and Great Britain (total of eight tests). Details of the procedures used and the results are reported elsewhere (Papadopoulos, Marshall, and Heslop 1988) and are noted here only for completeness of presentation of the research approach used.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the specific country perceptions examined were those which have been identified as the "belief" dimension. As would have been expected from the principal components analysis results, the measurement model results of the LISREL analysis for the latent construct of "Beliefs About Country and People" were very positive and strongly supported across all eight tests.

The findings of the causal modelling approach of relevance here concern the associations between beliefs about the country and people and product quality beliefs. This structural path, as with all other structural paths in the model, was consistently found to be significant and positive across all eight combinations of rating and rater countries. Gammas ranged from .19 to .84 indicating a moderate to strong linkage in the predicted direction.

Although results for the exactness of fit of the overall model were far from ideal, the predicted model was judged to be a useful starting point for examining the more complex issues of where country-linked product images come from and how they affect ultimate choices.

CONCLUSION

Overall, then, country images can be useful as predictors of product images, especially regarding assessments of product performance and overall response to the products from the countries. The direction of effects is, of course, not clear, or whether or not intervening third factors are involved. Undoubtedly, the direction of effects is not one-way, although for certain countries at certain times, one direction may dominate.

For researchers, the directions to follow should include the determination of the circumstances under which the balance of effects points one way or the other and which perceptions and feelings about countries and their people might affect or be affected by product images. Such study will be of particular practical interest for newly emerging industrialized nations who are anxious to determine the best strategies to open export markets. It is also of interest to newly emerging nations and new democracies who are struggling for their own place in the new global marketplace. Their histories and events surrounding their emergence as independent nations may greatly affect how others view them and their people and the products they wish to export. [We have been working recently to study such issues with Eastern European nation and product images, and initial findings are reported separately in Papadopoulos, Heslop and Bennett 1992.]

REFERENCES

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Authors

Louise A. Heslop, Carleton University, Ottawa Canada
Nicolas Papadopoulos, Carleton University, Ottawa Canada
Gary J. Bamossy, Free University, Amsterdam, The Netherlands



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1993



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