Toward Development of a Model and Scale For Assessing Consumer Receptivity to Foreign Products and Global Advertising

ABSTRACT - This paper discusses the development of a model and proposed scale for assessing consumer receptivity to foreign products and global advertising messages. Various literatures related to consumers' evaluations of foreign versus domestic products are reviewed and discussed. Attention is given to various measurement issues and the value of the receptivity scale to multinational companies in developing marketing programs is discussed.


George E. Belch and Michael A. Belch (1993) ,"Toward Development of a Model and Scale For Assessing Consumer Receptivity to Foreign Products and Global Advertising", 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: 52-57.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1, 1993      Pages 52-57


George E. Belch, San Diego State University, U.S.A.

Michael A. Belch, San Diego State University, U.S.A.


This paper discusses the development of a model and proposed scale for assessing consumer receptivity to foreign products and global advertising messages. Various literatures related to consumers' evaluations of foreign versus domestic products are reviewed and discussed. Attention is given to various measurement issues and the value of the receptivity scale to multinational companies in developing marketing programs is discussed.


In recent years a great deal of attention has been focused on the concept of global marketing whereby a company utilizes a common marketing plan for all countries in which it operates, thus selling the product in essentially the same way everywhere in the world. The concept of global marketing is not new, as debate over the standardization versus localization of marketing and advertising programs was begun a number of years ago and continues today (Buzzell 1968; Sorenson and Wiechmann 1975; Jain 1989; James and Hill 1991). The idea of global marketing has become popularized in recent years by the theorizing of Levitt (1983;1986), who suggests that the worldwide marketplace has become homogenized and that the basic needs, wants and expectations transcend geographic, national and cultural boundaries. Global influences such as satellite television, films, widespread travel, new telecommunications technology and the computer are seen as important factors which have homogenized the needs, wants, tastes and buying patterns of various countries. Proponents of global marketing argue that the homogenization of the worldwide marketplace allows multinational corporations to market standardized products and services all over the world using identical advertising and promotional strategies, with resultant lower costs and higher margins. Not everyone, however, agrees with the perspective of those proposing a global marketplace which can be reaching through a standardized marketing program. Critics of global marketing argue that products and marketing communications must be designed and/or adapted to meet the differing needs of consumers in various countries (Rutigliano 1986). Many theorists argue that across-the-board standardization of the marketing program is inconceivable and that generally standardization is most feasible in markets where the marketing infrastructure is well developed (Peebles, Ryans and Vernon 1977,1978).

The standardization of international marketing strategy refers to using a common product, price, distribution and promotion program on a worldwide basis. However, advertising and promotion has been the primary focal point in the debate over the use of globalized versus localized marketing. This is probably due to the fact that advertising and promotion is the most visible as well as the most culture bound of the firm's marketing functions. Another important consideration in determining the feasibility of marketing program is the nature of the product or service. For example industrial and high technology products are generally considered most appropriate for global brand strategies. Among consumer goods, durables offer greater opportunity for standardization than nondurables as the latter appeal to tastes, habits, and customs which are unique to each society. However, many marketers of consumer nondurables have been successful in creating global brands which have been positioned similarly all over the world. Examples include Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola, Marlboro cigarettes, Nike running shoes and Chanel perfume.

Considerable attention has been given to the issue of standardization of international marketing strategy and a number of factors that affect the feasibility of standardization have been identified (cf Jain 1989). It has generally been recognized that the standardization decision is situation-specific, requiring reference to a particular target market for a particular product. Some theorists suggest that globalization is feasible in the major world markets of Western Europe, Japan and the United States as consumers in these countries are becoming increasing similar and have greater international mobility (Ohmae 1985). However, opponents of globalization argue that customs and traditions tend to persist even in these advanced countries and that as people in these countries become better educated, their tastes will actually diverge (Fisher 1984).

Attention has generally been focused on the globalization versus customized marketing program issue at a macro level. However, rather viewing countries as being totally homogeneous, it is more reasonable to recognize the existence of intermaket segments within each country which may be more responsive to global brands and advertising messages. Empirical evidence for the idea of segmenting country markets was found by Hill and Still (1984) who found that greater product adaptation was required in rural areas than in urban areas of less developed countries. While intermarket segments might be identified using standard demographic or other descriptive variables, it is also possible that markets within various countries might be segmented on the basis of consumers' receptivity to foreign products and messages. Very little attention has been given to examining consumers based on their potential receptivity to global products and messages. More than two decades have passed since Ryans (1969) suggested that three broad categories of consumers might be identified based on their potential receptivity to a standardized advertising approach. However, little has been done either from either a conceptual or empirical basis on the viability of segmenting consumers on this basis.

The purpose of this paper is to present a model of factors influencing consumers' receptivity to global products and/or advertising messages and to discuss the development of a scale that would measure consumer receptivity. The development of such a scale would be of value to marketers in understanding how current and perspective customers feel regarding the purchase of foreign versus domestic products or the use of global versus local advertising approaches.

Theoretical Background

As noted above, the issue of consumers' receptivity to a global or standardized advertising approach was addressed some years ago by Ryans (1969). He suggested three broad categories of consumers based on their potential receptivity to a common or global advertising appeal. The international sophisticate might include a group of consumers who have a genuine interest and awareness for products, fashions and cultural activities from countries other than their own. Ryans suggested that the international sophisticate would include consumers with higher income and education levels and may have acquired their multinational interest in a variety of ways such as through traveling extensively in various countries, familiarity with international editions of publications, or exposure to mass media from other countries such as television. He notes that "regardless of the ways the multinational interest has been obtained or is expressed, the most important characteristic of this group is their appreciation and "feel" for not only the cultures, but also for their peers in other countries" (p. 74). International sophisticates would be expected to be highly responsive and receptive to foreign brands and global advertising themes.

The second category of consumer discussed by Ryans is what he terms the semi-sophisticate. He described this group as including the burgeoning number of middle and high income individuals in many countries with a growing, but as yet unmotivated awareness of the world around them. He notes that "through limited travel, television or documentary programs, reading or a variety of other ways, these people have begun to become interested in other lands and cultures" (p. 74). Ryans suggests that this increased interest may manifest itself in the curiosity to sample or own products from abroad. This willingness to try foreign products may be due only to the desire for the status these unique products may afford or it may be due to a growing appreciation of other cultures and a willingness to sample products from these areas. Ryans suggests that semi-sophisticates have no hesitancy to purchase certain foreign products and can be made receptive to an international advertising approach. He argues, however, that they probably would be even more receptive to advertising demonstrating the use of this foreign products in their own environs and indirect references to the advantages (mainly status) of having something unique. Ryans notes that this group might miss any subtleties included in a global advertisement and that advertisers would have to make sure that subtleties are not included in their ads.

The third group discussed by Ryans are what he termed provencials. This group has a common characteristic which is a lack of interest, appreciation or "feel" for the nondomestic. He suggests that this may be due to a strong sense of nationalism that affects the way they perceive anything from the outside while others simply may be unaware of things outside their sphere of interest. Ryans notes that provencials may cover a broad socio-economic spectrum and may range from wealthy and well-educated who reject anything foreign or beyond their political boundaries to lowest socio-economic group struggling for survival. He argues that this group may also include many middle-income individual who feel that their own country is self sufficient in all its aspects and simply have no interest in other countries. Ryans speculates that the provencials are a large group and might not be responsive to foreign products or global advertising messages for a variety of reasons. For some, the subtleties would be too great or the message too foreign for their frame of reference while others would simply have no interest in any product unless it was tied closely to their own habitual needs and wants. At the extreme end of the provincial group would be those who are antagonized by imported products and whose nationalistic feelings would build an impenetrable perception barrier to foreign products and global advertising messages.

Ryans was careful to note that "there are undoubtedly other categories and many sub-categories of world consumers in terms of their receptivity to the universal advertising approach" (p. 75). Implicit in his discussion, however, is the notion that there are certain characteristics of consumers that make them more or less receptive to foreign products and global advertising messages. Unfortunately Ryans did not offer any suggestions regarding the measurement of the receptivity construct and the issue has not been directly examined since his original article. However, over the past two decades their has been a considerable amount of empirical research in areas that are relevant to the measurement of consumer receptivity to foreign products and global advertising messages. This includes studies which have examined issues such as consumer ethoncentrism, patriotism and perceptions of foreign products including country of origin biases. Each will be examined here.

Relevant Literature

Consumer Ethnocentrisim - One variable that should be related to consumers' receptivity to foreign products and/or global advertising messages is the degree to which consumers are ethnocentric. The concept of ethnocentrism refers to the tendency for individuals to view their own group as the center of the universe, to interpret other social units from the perspective of their own group and to reject persons who are culturally dissimilar while blindly accepting those who are culturally like themselves (Booth 1979). Shimp and Sharma (1987) adapted the general concept of ethnocentrism to consumer behavior and developed a scale for measuring consumers' ethnocentric tendencies in relation to measuring foreign- versus American-made products. They refer to the term consumer ethnocentrism "to represent beliefs held by American consumers about the appropriateness, indeed morality, of purchasing foreign made products" (p. 280). They argue that from the perspective of ethnocentric consumers, purchasing imported products is wrong because it hurts the domestic economy, causes loss of jobs and is unpatriotic. Nonethnocentric consumers, however, view foreign products as objects to be evaluated on their own merits without consideration of their country of origin. They note that nonethnocentric consumers might evaluate foreign products more favorably because they are made outside of the United States.

Shimp and Sharma developed a 17-item CETSCALE to measure consumer ethnocentrism and performed a series of studies to validate the scale and test its predictability. For example the results of one of their studies showed that general attitudes toward foreign-made products are negatively correlated with ethnocentric tendencies and the stronger one's ethnocentrism, the more likely one is to own a domestic-made automobile and/or intend to purchase a domestic-made automobile. In another study they found that consumer ethnocentric tendencies are especially prominent among individuals whose quality of life and economic livelihood are threatened by foreign products. For example, individuals living in the Detroit, Michigan area, which is a region of the U.S. most threatened by foreign competition due to the decline in American manufacturers' share of the domestic automobile market, scored significantly higher on the CETSCALE than individuals residing in less threatened areas (Denver, Los Angeles, and North and South Carolina). This effect held even after controlling for the effects of demographic and socioeconomic differences across these areas.

Shimp and Sharma noted that consumer ethnocentrism alone may not provide a meaningful basis for market segmentation but could be of value in combination with a other factors such as demographic, psychographic, and other relevant variables. They note that their scale is limited to measuring consumer ethnocentrism in contemporary American society. However, it would seem that consumer ethnocentrism might be an important variable in predicting general consumer receptivity to foreign products and advertising messages and could the scale could be adapted for use in other countries.

Consumer Patriotism - Somewhat closely related to the concept of consumer ethnocentrism is the role of consumer patriotism. Han (1988) has argued that consumer patriotism, which he defined as consumers' emotions toward domestic products and against foreign products, is an important affective factor which should influence consumers choice decisions between domestic and foreign products. Using a four-item scale to measure the construct, Han found that consumer patriotism had a strong influence on purchase intentions for foreign versus domestic products. Moreover, using a causal modeling procedure, Han demonstrated that patriotic tendencies had an influence on consumers' evaluation of quality for automobiles but did not influence their perceptions of quality or serviceability for televisions. He also found that individual patriotic intensity was significantly related to age, race, sex and occupation. Patriotic consumers were older, white and female while blue-collar workers were slightly more patriotic than white-collar workers.

Xenophobia C The fear of hatred of strangers or foreignersCor of anything that is strange or foreignCwould obviously seem to be related to receptivity to foreign products. As noted by Kuehnelt-Leddihn (1990), modern transportation has exacerbated the tendency to xenophobia in Europe, by affording the extreme mobility to a far greater range of people than in the past. He goes on to state that xenophobes are more "identitarian", seeking the company of ones own ethnic group race, class, sex, etc. Those at the other end of the continuum seek diversityCthey like to travel, to meet people with different backgrounds, to experience unfamiliar music, art, architecture and food. Kuehnelt-Leddihn notes that the rise in xenophobia is not isolated on the Continent, but is on the increase in other countries as well.

Perceptions of Foreign Products/Country of Origin - Another factor that should be related to receptivity to foreign products and global advertising messages is consumers attitude toward and reactions to foreign products.

One of the more widely researched areas involving consumers' perceptions of foreign products has concerned the effects of country of origin on product/brand evaluations. The country of origin effect is defined as consumers' general perceptions of quality for products made in a given country (Bilkey and Nes 1982). In an extensive review of the early literature on country of origin, Bikey and Nes (1982) argue that many of these studies had serious limitations. In particular they noted that in most of these studies country of origin was the only informational cue provided to respondents on which to base their evaluations. This approach tended to bias results in favor of finding a country of origin effect. In more recent years, numerous articles have appeared in the literature examining methodological perspectives (Johansson, Douglas and Nonaka 1985), Hong and Wyer (1990); competitive contexts and price cues as moderating variable (Hong and Wyer 1989); and the effects of country of origin judgements in multi-cue situations (Wall et al. 1991) among others.

For the most part these studies have focused on country of origin as an attribute considered in the consumers' evaluation of a product. As noted by Hong and Wyer (1990), the country of origin effect might take place (1) as a cue to activate concepts and knowledge that affect the interpretation of other available product attribute information; (2) as a heuristic basis for inferring the quality of the product without considering other attribute information; (3) as a feature of the product used in the same way as other product attributes in the evaluation process; and/or (4) as a factor influencing the attention that is paid to other attribute information, thus affecting the impact of the latter information.

Han (1989), conducted a study to test two alternative views about the role of country image in product evaluations, the halo and summary construct perspectives. According to the halo hypothesis, consumers are perceived as using country image in product evaluations because they are unable to detect the true quality of the country's products prior to purchase. In turn, they may use country image to infer the quality of other unknown products from that country (Huber and McCann 1982). The implications of the halo hypotheses are that consumers will make inferences about product quality based on the country's image and country image will affect consumer ratings of product attributes. This latter implication has been supported in the findings of studies by Erickson, Johansson and Chao (1984) and Johansson, Douglas and Nonaka (1985). According to the summary construct view, country image is perceived as a brand image would be. That is, consumers will recode and abstract individual elements of information into higher order units or "chunks" (Miller 1956; Simon 1974). Han's study provided evidence that the halo effect is most likely to occur when the consumer is not knowledgeable about the product, giving way to a summary construct as familiarity increases.

While the studies cited above have focused on the use of country of origin in the product evaluation process, perhaps of more relevance to the issue of consumer receptivity are those studies that have attempted to analyze consumers in terms of their preference for foreign versus domestic products. For the most part these studies have examined ratings of foreign versus domestic products in relation to demographic characteristics. Schooler (1971) found that age, sex, education and income of the U.S. consumer were related to product evaluations with older, less educated, males rating foreign products as being of lower quality than domestic products. Both Wang (1978) and Schooler (1971) found that higher income consumers had a more favorable acceptance of foreign products. Dornoff, Tankersly and White (1974) discovered similar relationships on age and education, but not gender.

In studies involving foreign consumers outside the U.S., Bannister and Saunders (1978) found that older and male consumers in the U.K. rated domestic products higher than imports, while Barker (1987) found no significant effects for age, gender and income in a survey of New Zealanders' evaluations of imported products. Using Canadian samples, Wall and Heslop (1986, 1988) found that men, individuals with a higher level of education and income, managerial occupations, and older consumers demonstrated more favorable attitudes toward imported products. Hung (1989), in another study of Canadian consumers, also found differences related to age and gender, as well as product category. Finally, Schellinck (1989) found that age, education and travel to foreign countries were all related to the use of country of origin in product evaluations.

It is apparent that consumers attitudes toward products from specific countries is an important variable in assessing their receptivity towards foreign products or brands and global messages. Moreover, it is likely that attitudes toward products or brands from specific countries will change over time. Empirical evidence of this comes from a study by Darling and Arnold (1988) who conducted a longitudinal analysis of Finnish consumers attitudes toward products imported from the United States, Japan, England, France and Germany. Data for this study was collected from consumers in various parts of Finland during 1975, 1980 and 1985. The results showed that over this period, consumer attitudes became more positive with regard to products from the United States and Japan. Attitudes toward the products of West Germany and France were mixed, and they became less positive toward products from England.

In addition to attitudes, this study also measured perceptions of Finnish consumers regarding how important they considered products from these countries to be to them. In 1975 the Finnish consumers were more oriented toward European products. However, from 1975 to 1985 consumer attitudes regarding the importance of products from the United States and Japan increased appreciably, the importance of products from Germany and France increased slightly, while the ratings of products from England declined.

The various studies reviewed here are relevant to the measuement of consumer receptivity to foreign products and global advertising messages in several respects. First they demonstrate that consumers will use a products' country of origin as an attribute which can influence their attitudes toward that product, particularly when they have little familiarity with the product or brand. The study by Darling and Arnold demonstrates that consumers attitudes toward products from foreign countries can change over time. Finally, the results of these studies show that there is a relationship between demographic characteristics of consumers and their perceptions of foreign versus domestic products and the use of country of origin as a product evaluation cue.

Innovative Proneness - There are a number of other factors that should be relevant in determining consumers' receptivity to foreign products and/or global advertising messages. For example consumer innovativeness might be related to receptivity as innovators might be more willing to adopt new products or brands from foreign countries than would those individuals who are less accepting of new products. While much of the research on innovators has shown that innovativeness may vary by product category, some studies have revealed general characteristics of this consumer type. Innovative persons tend to have higher incomes, higher levels of education, possess greater social mobility, and have more favorable attitudes toward risk (Gatignon and Robertson 1985). Also personality characteristics such as dogmatism, which reflects rigid thinking and an intolerance for new ideas, might be negatively correlated with receptivity to foreign products. Several studies have shown that consumers low in dogmatism tend to be more prone to innovativeness, and that open mindedness and risk taking is positively related to willingness to innovate (Kassarjian and Sheffet 1991). A relationship between dogmatism and consumer attitudes toward foreign products was found in a study by Tongberg (1972).

Interest in Foreign Countries/Cultures and International Issues - Also of importance in assessing consumer receptivity to foreign products are factors relating to their interest in other countries and cultures and their experiences regarding foreign countries. As noted above, Schellinck (1989) found that the amount of travel to foreign countries was related to the use of country of origin as a cue in product evaluations. Consumers with high levels of interest in foreign countries including their lifestyles and cultures should be more receptive of foreign products and global advertising messages than those with little interest in areas outside of their own countries. For example, studies in the United States on the blue collar or "working class" have generally found these individuals to have very parochial and narrow perspectives socially psychologically and geographically. The narrowness of their perspectives has been found to be exhibited in diverse ways such sports heroes, television news interest, vacation patterns, and automobile purchases (Coleman 1983).

One might expect consumers who are receptive to foreign products and global advertising messages to have more of an international perspective in some of these areas. For example they might be more likely to follow sports with more of a global interest such as tennis or golf and their sports heroes might be more likely to come from foreign countries than from local teams. They also might have a greater interest in national and international news and issues and have more of an interest in interacting with foreigners or traveling to or living in foreign countries.

Towards A Model of Consumer Receptivity for Foreign Products

The development of a scale to measure consumer receptivity to foreign products and global advertising messages must take a variety of factors into account. It is our position that receptivity to global products and messages is a function of a number of variables which are in turn influenced by other factors. Figure 1 shows a proposed model delineating a number of variables that would influence consumers receptivity to foreign products and/or advertising messages. As can be seen in this model, it is hypothesized that factors such as consumer patriotism, ethoncentrism and interest in and experience with foreign countries and cultures would impact receptivity both directly and indirectly. Some of the studies cited above provide support for a direct link between these variables and receptivity. In terms of indirect effects, it is hypothesized that these variables would influence consumer attitudes toward specific countries and/or attitudes toward products from these countries, both of which in turn would influence receptivity.

Figure 1 also shows that there are other factors which might have a direct relationship to receptivity. For example innovativeness refers to the tendency for a person to buy new and/or different products. Innovators are often prepared to try a new product early in its diffusion and without personal or social influences or support (Midgley and Dowling 1978). The innovative proneness of these individual may in and of itself predispose them to be receptive toward foreign products and global messages, particularly when they are new and/or different from domestic product offerings. This figure also shows that a extreme personality trait such as xenophobia might directly inhibit receptivity to foreign products.

Also shown in Figure 1 are various factors that might serve as exogenous variables such as demographics, lifestyle, social class, and social mobility. As was noted earlier, these factors have been shown to be related to the various endogenous variables in the proposed model. It should be noted that a link is not proposed between the various exogenous variables and xenophobia since this relationship has not been established in the psychological or sociological literature.

Measurement Issues

As can be seen in Figure 1, there are a number of variables that could be included in determining consumers' receptivity to foreign products. Of particular relevance in making a general assessment of receptivity to foreign products are constructs such as consumer ethnocentrism, consumer patriotism, and measures relating to interest in foreign countries and international issues as well as experience with foreign countries or cultures. Also important in assessing general receptivity to foreign products would be measures of consumer innovative proneness and xenophobia. For some of these constructs scales have been developed and validated. For example Shimp and Sharma's CETSCALE can be used for measuring consumer ethnocentrism. There are also scales available for measuring innovative proneness (Jacoby 1971; Summers 1973). Consumer patriotism was measured in the study by Han (1988) although he did not propose a specific scale and the four items he used are very similar to items included in Shimp and Sharma's CETSCALE. For variables such as xenophobia, interest in foreign countries and international issues, and experience with foreign countries or cultures specific items would have to be identified and tested.

While the variables and constructs discussed above would be important in assessing general receptivity to foreign products, it is important to recognize that receptivity is likely to be country and product or brand specific. For example, a consumer might hold positive or negative opinions or perceptions of products from one country but not another. Similarly, a consumer may hold positive or negative opinions regarding certain types of products from a particular country. To make a more thorough assessment of consumer receptivity a scale should include items regarding attitudes toward specific countries and/or attitudes toward and images of products from these countries.



Inclusion of the country and product specific measures will be important to marketers in adapting the receptivity scale to measure consumer orientations toward particular types of products or from specific countries. There are numerous scales available for measuring attitudes towards countries or the image of products from a particular country. Most studies have used semantic differential or Likert-type scales for the purposes of measuring attitudes toward countries or country image. Issues regarding the measurement of country image has been discussed by Jaffe and Nebenzahl (1984).


The purpose of this paper has been to present a model of factors influencing consumers' receptivity to foreign products and to discuss issues relevant to the development of a scale for measuring the receptivity construct. The proposed model should be of value in integrating some of the diverse research in this area and suggesting specific relationships that might be the focus of future empirical studies. The development of a multifactor scale for assessing consumer receptivity to foreign products might offer a richer way of measuring this important construct. The ability to identify consumers' level of receptivity to foreign products would be of value to marketers for segmentation purposes as markets could be targeted on the basis of the likelihood of their purchasing products or brands from foreign countries. The receptivity measure might also be of value as a moderating variable that would help understand consumers' reactions to and evaluations of global advertising messages. In summary, the development of a valid and reliable measure of consumer receptivity towards foreign products would be valuable in helping to identify the worldwide customer segments that can be reached through a global marketing strategy and program.


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George E. Belch, San Diego State University, U.S.A.
Michael A. Belch, San Diego State University, U.S.A.


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 1 | 1993

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