Judgements of Relative Influence in Family Decision-Making Using Observations

DETAILED ABSTRACT - The measurement of relative influence during family decision-making has been debated for the past thirty years. Much of this debate centers around the validity of using self-reports as a measure of relative influence (e.g. Corfman, 1990); and the validity of using self-reports fu°m one partner as a proxy for another (e.g. Menon, Bickart, Sudman and Blair, 1995). The purpose of this paper is not to join in this debate, but to propose the idea of using observations during an interaction to capture additional indicators of influence or influence attempts. This observational approach is judged here against the commonly used self-reported measures of relative influence. If we can ascertain that certain behaviors are better indicators of relative influence (as assessed with self-reports) than others, we can increase the reliability of our measures by using self-reported relative influence along with observational measures of relative influence. Further, these indicators can be utilized during a focus group discussion or a family interview or interaction situation to provide an indication of relative influence among the group members without a questionnaire.


Christina Kwai-Choi Lee and Sharon E. Beatty (2002) ,"Judgements of Relative Influence in Family Decision-Making Using Observations", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, eds. Ramizwick and Tu Ping, Valdosta, GA : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 223.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Pages 232-238


Dong-Il Lee, The Catholic University of Korea, Korea

Ji-Hyun Lee, Seoul National University, Korea

[The authors appreciate the two anonymous ACR reviewers= helpful comments on a previous draft of this paper.]


Consumer behavior is a cultural phenomenon. Most previous research shows an increase in the effectiveness of marketing communication when the congruity of marketing communication and consumer’s cultural values are enhanced. On the contrary, use of foreign models is a prevailing phenomenon in East Asia even in the non-store selling. In this study, the foreign model effect is defined as "the negative effect on the effectiveness of marketing communication when the audience and the models are ethnically different." The purpose of this study is to explore the interaction effect of foreign model use with product type and the moderating role of ethnic identification. As a result of an experiment with a 181-student sample, it is shown that the foreign model effect is not immediate, but emerges when combined with product characteristics. And the moderating role of ethnic identification requires a deeper understanding of the cultural context of the focal society.


Consumer behavior is a cultural phenomenon. Most previous research shows that marketing communication effectiveness increases when the congruity of marketing communication and consumer’s cultural values increases (Brumbaugh 2002; Deshpande, Hoyer, Wayne and Donthu 1986; Forehand and Deshpande 2001). On the contrary, use of foreign models is a prevailing phenomenon in East Asia (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995). This practice is obviously contrary to most of previous research and understanding of general marketing communication strategies. Furthermore use of foreign models in catalog home shopping is almost everywhere in the fashion industry in the East Asian region including Korea, Japan and China. In this context cultural congruity is more important because consumption is a direct expression of the consumer’s self-concept. Comparing Korean catalogs with Japanese ones, the Japanese approach to this problem is rather unique. They use foreign models only when the product is innerwear (i.e. a private product), whereas Korean catalog sellers use the foreign model for almost every product. Thus, the primary purpose of this paper is to compare the effectiveness of the Korean approach (Foreign Models across Almost Every Product) and the Japanese approach (Foreign Models by Product Type).

Our second objective is to explore the logical explanation for the use of foreign models using the ethnic identification concept (Deshpande, Hoyer, Wayne and Donthu 1986). The ethnic identification is defined as "people’s enduring association with their ethnic background."(Stayman and Deshpande 1989) Researches have found that the strength of ethnic identification affects the consumers’ responses to the marketing communication such as the amount of attention to the ethnic information, attitude toward the advertising and product, and purchase intention (Deshpande, Hoyer, Wayne and Donthu 1986; Hirshman 1981). So the consumers’ response such as foreign model effect will be different by the strength of ethnic identification.


The Foreign Model Effect

Most previous research shows that matching the ethnicity of the audience and the model/spokesman enhances the marketing communication effectiveness such as attitude toward the advertising and products, perceived targetedness, overall quality and purchase intention (Forehand and Deshpande 2001; Brumbaugh 2002). In this study, the foreign model effect is defined as "the negative effect on the marketing communication effectiveness when the audience and the model are ethnically different." From these observations, the immediate negative effect of the use of the foreign model is easily predicted. But the wide use of foreign model in catalog home shopping in East Asia is obviously against this prediction.

Previous researches on the ethnic model effect have been conducted in the United States, where the dominant cultural consent is based on multiple ethnicities. In this kind of society, one of the competing cultures has the position of the dominant culture and others are positioned as the subculture. This dominant culture/subculture characteristic influences the consumers’ responses depending on the cultural membership of the owner’s position. From this point of view, membership owners of the dominant culture do not show distinctiveness to the model’s ethnicity, whereas the membership owners of the subculture do show favorable responses to the model of their own subculture (Brumbaugh 2002). This fact is supported in areas of southern African, where the size of the race determines the dominant cultural and subcultural memberships (Grier and Deshpand 2001).

The foreign model effect cannot be isolated from the background society, where the individual’s cultural values are embedded. A possible explanation of the wide use of foreign model in East Asian market is based on the unique historical experience of this region. In the 20th century, the concept #foreign culture’ meant #westernization’ (i.e. modernization in East Asia)(Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995; Muller 1992; Wang and Chan 2001; Mindy and McNeal 2001). The use of foreign models in Asia is a communication strategy that aims at the utilization of halo effect in the country-of-origin. A favorable image is transferred to the product through the foreign model (Watson and Wright 2000). Thus, the foreign model effect cannot be considered without understanding the cultural background of the society.

In East Asia, social formation is rather homogenous. In other words, almost every society consists of a single ethnicity and has the strong heritage of single culture. But in the process of modernization of the society, there exists a mixture of diverse cultural components from various cultural backgrounds in East Asia. For example, LaFromboise, Coleman and Gerton(1993) argues that there exists a biculturalism (i.e. Asian and Western) in everyday life in Hong Kong, and the residents of Hong Kong realize their ethnic and cultural membership only when primed by cultural symbols. Moreover, a previous study in the global consumer culture reveals that global consumer culture positioning exists independently from local and foreign positioning (Alden, Jan-Benedict, Steenkamp and Batra 1999). From this point of view, the immediate foreign model effect cannot exist because Asian consumers do not distinguish foreign models from their own culture in everyday life. Recent research on the ethnic model effect has focused on the interaction between foreign model use and the priming condition (ethnic self awareness: Forehand and Deshpande 2001) or social context (Forehand, Deshpande and Reed 2002).

Other research implies that when the product is highly culture-dependent (i.e. food) or the usage situation is social (i.e. tools), the use of foreign model is inappropriate (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995). It is logical that main effect of foreign models does not appear without considering interaction with other variables such as product type.

Interaction Effect of Foreign Model and Product type

We are focusing product type as an interaction factor because there were observations that the probability of the foreign model effect decreases with specific products (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995). Various effects of foreign culture have been studied along with such concrete product types as cosmetics, electronic appliances, tools, and so on (Hong, Muderrisoglu and Zinkhan 1987; Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995; Young 1996; Zhang and Neelankavil, 1997) as well as consumer goods-durable goods (Lin 2001), hedonic product-utilitarian product (Leclerc, Bernd and Dube 1994), products’ culture-of-origin (Gurhan-Canli and Maheswaran 2000; Young 1996) and so on.

A study on the product type and use of foreign models in East Asia suggests that the probability of foreign model use increases in the case of cosmetics to utilize the halo effect of a foreign culture. But this effect does not exist in the case when the product is electronic appliances and tools (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995). Typically, these products have the characteristics that the uses are observed socially. Thus, it is necessary to consider the interaction of foreign model use and the social context of product usage.

In the case of apparel home shopping in Japanese catalogs, foreign models are shown only in the presentation of innerwear (i.e. the product consumed privately), whereas almost all outer garments are presented on the domestic models (i.e. Asian models). It seems that this approach could successfully avoid the foreign model effect in the negative direction, if the interaction effect exists In summary, even though the main effect of foreign model use will not appear, it will be shown in the interaction effect with the products’ private/social dimension.

H1: The foreign model effect will be significant when the focal product is social.

Ethnic Identification as a Moderator of the Foreign Model Effect

In this study, it is argued that the main effect of foreign model use is not immediate. This phenomenon is influenced by the emergence of the global culture. This process is widely supported by acculturation (Seitz 1998) and cultural assimilation (D’Rozario and Choudhury 2000).

A previous study on ethnic groups’ responses to marketing communication identifies two groups along with the ethnic identification (Deshpande, Hoyer and Donthu 1986). Ethnic identification is an enduring state of membership in which individuals regard themselves as belonging to a specific ethnic group. In the study of Hispanic residents in the United States, it is empirically tested and supported that SEI (Strong Ethnic Identification) group members are different in the way of their responses to marketing communication and more favorable toward the product in the advertisement with a Hispanic spokesman than are the WEI (Weak Ethnic Identification) group members (Deshpande, Hoyer and Donthu 1986). So it is plausible that ethnic identification plays the role of the moderator in the interaction effect of foreign model use and the product types. In other words, SEI group members will show a direct response of foreign model effect (i.e. a negative response toward the foreign model), whereas WEI group members will not show a direct response but an interaction effect.

H2: The foreign model effect is moderated by ethnic identification. In other words, main effect of foreign model use appears when the ethnic identification is strong.


Experiment Design and Pilot Test

In this study, the ethnicity of models (Asian/Caucasian) and product type (social/private) factors are considered as exogenous variables. So, a 2X2 experiment is designed. The clothes are picked for the target product. This is rather natural because the clothes are frequently presented with the model in catalog selling in catalog home shopping. Furthermore, it is easy to validate the cultural effect with the clothes because it is highly culture-dependent (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995) and easy to be operationalized as the private/social dimensions (innerwear/garment).

We designed the stimuli so that 2 different products (clothes for males and females) are presented in a one-page catalog. And we fixed the price by bundling products, the amount of information and country-of-origin (Korea) to control gender, information, price and country-of-origin effect. Each pictorial was collected from actual catalogs and Internet stores and adjusted graphically for the equivalence of the product. The final stimuli for the experiment are shown in Figure 1. Each respondent is exposed to one of four stimuli.

To check the equivalence of the different products, a pilot test was conducted. Five experts in the clothing industry were selected t judge the similarity/dissimilarity in the following dimensions; value for money, quality, stylishness and popularity for four products within the same category (garment and innerwear). To cover the real purpose of the study, stimulus without models in Figure 2 was provided. The results were coded so that similarity is 1 and dissimilarity is 0. We calculate the similarity conformity by averaging all similarity scores along judgment dimensions. The similarity conformity for overall judges was 80%. Because most of the judges agreed on the similarity of the presented products, experiments were conducted.

Procedure and Data Collection

The experiment was conducted for about 15 minutes. During the experiment, participants were randomly assigned one of four stimuli (Caucasian model posing for garment (FS), Caucasian models for innerwear category (FP), Asian models for garments (DS) and Asian models for innerwear (DP)). Each stimulus was followed by a supplementary survey. The purpose of the study was disguised as "the effectiveness comparison of catalog layout," because the ethnicity problem is a highly sensitive issue. Participants were blocked not to notice difference of the stimuli.

First, participants were asked to evaluate the layout, image of the catalog, and model attractiveness to elaborate the information processing with the catalog. And then marketing effectiveness variables and other related variables were measured. Ethnic identification was measured for the last item to minimize the disclosure of the issue, which could influence other measures.

At two Korean Universities, 181 undergraduate and graduate students participated as part of a class requirement. All participants were ethnically Asian, 1 from the United States, 1 from Kyrgyzstan, 12 from China, and the rest were from Korea. The two participants from the United States and Kyrgyzstan were ethnically Korean, and the participants from China had stayed in Korea at least 6 months. Because the topic was dealing with the Asian ethnicity problem, the international students were included in the sample. Male (n=78) and female participants (n=103) were distributed evenly across the experiment conditions to control the gender effect. The number of participants across the stimuli conditions was almost even (n(FS)=45, n(DS)=46, n(FP)=46, n(DP)=44).





Measures and Manipulation Check

For the marketing communication effectives variables, attitude toward the catalog media (Am), attitude toward the product (Ap), targetedness, overall quality of the product (OQ), and purchase intention (PI) were measured referring to similar studies (Forehand and Deshpande 2001; Leclerc, Bernd and Dube 1994). First, five seven-point semantic differential items were used to assess attitude toward the catalog media and attitude toward the product, respectively. These items were anchored with "bad"/"good," "dislike"/"like," "useless"/"useful," "uninformative"/"informative," and "unpleasant"/"pleasant." Each average score across these five measures was calculated to provide an overall rating of each attitude (a(Am)=0.8131, a(Ap)=0.8058). The following measure assessed whether the participants felt targeted by the catalog by asking the participants to rate how much they believed the catalog was "intended for me"(seven-point scale). Overall quality and purchase intention were measured by seven-point semantic differential scales "poor quality"/"excellent quality" and "I will never buy it"/"I will absolutely buy it", respectively.

For the manipulation check, self-model similarity and product characteristics were measured. Participants were asked whether they felt the model is similar to themselves (nine-point scale). And seven-point "disagree"/"agree" scales were used for the statements of "this product is social," and "this roduct is private." A T-test shows that the average self-model similarity score of Asian models (M=3.63) is significantly higher than that of Caucasian models (M=3.03; p=.037). And for the product characteristics score, scores of garment (M(social product)=4.04; M(private product)=4.04) and that of innerwear(M(social product)=3.39; M(private product)=4.58) were significantly different(for social product p=.000, for private product p=.003).



The final question was the measure of the participant’s strength of ethnic identification. The strength of the participant’s ethnic identification was measured on a nine-point scale anchored with "very weakly" and "very strongly" to the question of "How much do you identify yourself as an Asian?" because all the respondents were ethnically Asian (Deshpande, Hoyer and Donthu 1986). The use of a nine-point scale for this measure is helpful because people disproportionately indicate strong as opposed to weak identification with their group (Forehand and Deshpande 2001).


The Foreign Model Effect and its Interaction Effect with Product Type

Our first hypothesis is that the main effect of the foreign model effect will not appear directly because of the existence of biculturalism and that the effect will appear when considered with the product type (private product/social product). Results form the two-way ANOVA shows that this hypothesis is supported. Table 1 shows the results.

As predicted, no main effect of foreign model effect was significant. Among the main effects, only the purchase intention by the product type is significantly different (M(social product)=2.974; M(private product)=2.634). The reason for this result is perhaps because the experiment was conducted in a classroom setting, which could be easily interpreted as public place. So, some of the participants faced the difficulty of decision-making on "private product" in a social setting.

Contrary to the main effect, the interaction effect emerged along attitude toward the product (Ap), targetedness, and purchase intention (PI). Even though the interaction effect was not shown in attitude toward the catalog media and overall quality, the interaction of the model’s ethnicity and the product type made a significant foreign model effect in the attitude toward the product(Ap), targetedness, and finally purchase intention(PI).

Cell means show that the marketing effectiveness increases when the Asian model (domestic model) matched with the garment (social product) compared with the Caucasian model (foreign model) matched with the garment, whereas these effects disappear in the case of innerwear (private product). In summary, these results support the Japanese approach of the catalog industry: a domestic model with the social product and a foreign model with the private product.

Moderating Role of Ethnic Identification on the Foreign Model Effect

If the strength of the ethnic identification plays the moderating role on the foreign model effect discussed above, two groups of significantly different ethnic identification show quite different types of foreign model effect. In our second hypothesis, we proposed that the main effect emerges in the SEI group in the direction of strong foreign model effect based on the results of the previous study on ethnic identification (Deshpande, Hoyer and Donthu 1986).

To validate our hypothesis, the total sample was divided into two groups, the SEI group (n=57) and the WEI group (n=58). Samples with median (7 point) removed to show clear results. The total mean (S.E.) is 6.78(1.58), whereas the mean (S.E.) for the SEI group is 8.42(0.50), and that for the WEI group is 4.98(0.98). Two-way ANOVA results are shown in Table 3.

As expected, the main effects of foreign model use emerged, but in the opposite group. Moreover, respondents in the WEI group show favorable responses toward the domestic model (M(Amdomesic)=5.187,M(Amforeign)=4.679; M(Targetednessdomesic)=5.252, M(Targetednessforeign)=4.894; M(OQdomesic)=3.857, M(OQforeign)=3.324; M(PIdomesic)=3.075, M(PIforeign)=2.348). This result is obviously contrary to the result of the previous study (Deshpande, Hoyer and Donthu 1986), which reports that the SEI group shows more purchase intention toward the product in advertising with same ethnicity and more favorable attitude.

So, we checked the differences in model attractiveness and self-model similarity between two different EI groups. But there were no significant differences between two groups in the model factors. For model attractiveness, the mean for the SEI group was 4.28(S.E.=1.41) and mean for the WEI group was 3.96(S.E.=1.61) (p=.267), and for self-model similarity, the mean for the SEI group was 3.54(S.E.=2.04) and the mean for WEI group was 3.59(S.E.=1.69) (p=.903). Thus, we concluded that this result is not due to the model manipulation failure, but from the difference in cultural background of this study from the previous study.







Role of Ethnic Identification in a Ethnically Identical Society

Recent research shows that the member of the dominant culture is insensitive to the cultural source and non-source cues whereas the member of subculture is significantly sensitive to the ethnically matching cues (Brumbaugh 2002). And it is shown that the SEI group shows strong foreign model effects. Deshpande, Hoyer and Donthu(1986) studied the Hispanic residents in the cultural context of the United States. It should be noted that the United States is a fundamentally multiple ethnicity society whereas most East Asian countries are not. So the minority ethnic groups in the United States regard the multiple cultural context (or dominant Caucasian cultural context) as the dominant one whereas the most Asians in the East Asian countries regard a relatively single unified cultural context as their cultural consent. So the SEI group in the United States has strong membership in the subculture whereas the SEI group in East Asian countries has the status of cultural consent. As a result, contrary to the cases in the United States, the WEI group in East Asia is loosely connected with the society’s cultural consent.

Our conjecture is that members of loose connection with the society’s cultural consent consistently perceive the cultural conflict with the dominant cultural background and, as a result, elaborate their positions of ethnic identity. In this situation they are highly likely to be ethnically primed when exposed to a spokesman or model of their own ethnicity. It is reported that ethnic self-awareness, the momentary state of felt ethnicity leads to the immediate ethnic responses such as the foreign model effect (Forehand and Deshpande 2001; LaFromboise, Coleman and Gerton 1993). As a result both the SEI group in the United States and the WEI group in East Asian country like Korea shows an immediate foreign model effect. So when applied to the ethnically identical societies of East Asia, it is important to consider the referent cultural context of the society.


This study demonstrates that use of a foreign model in a specific situation could be a risky means of influencing consumers’ perceptions and attitudes. First, we have shown that the foreign model effect does not appear in an immediate fashion. Second, when combined with the context the focal product is used (especially when the product characteristic is social), the interaction effect of foreign model use and the product type emerges. Third, the emergence of the immediate foreign model effect is associated with the consumer’s ethnic identification. But it is noted that contrary to the observations in a multiple ethnicity society such as the United States, the WEI group in ethnically identical societies such as in the East Asia region could show an immediate foreign model effect.

In the context of non-store selling, the content of catalog shows everything. It should be noted that choosing to use foreign culture could result in marketing communication effectiveness. In fact, it is plausible that when the consumer needs information about the social consequences of the consumption, providing relevant cues could help the consumer process the purchase-related information easily. As a result, marketing communication effectiveness increases.

It is necessary to mention the internal limitations of this study. Because of the cost constraints, we could not use the same model for each product type. So model factor could impose a limitation on internal validity. And although we used one kind of layout (model in product left, product right up, product information right down), this factor could reduce the internal validity of the focal experiment variable. This problem could be overcome by using multiple stimuli in experimental design. For example Leclerc, Bernd and Dube(1994) employed this kind of remedy. And it is noted that the referent cultural background should be considered in following study. So for the generalization of the results of our study, it is necessary to conduct international comparative study across the East Asian countries.

Research on foreign model use should explore further how the foreign model is integrated with other product information such as foreign language or foreign branding. It is noted that use of the foreign languages is prevalent in printed advertising and catalog in East Asia (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995). But the interaction effect combining both factors has not been empirically researched. The previous research fails to show the empirical relationship between the two factors (Neelankavil, Mummalaneni and Sessions 1995). In this study clothing is chosen for empirical research. But in other product areas, the foreign model effect has not been explored yet.

With deeper understanding of foreign cultural cues and their effective usage, it is possible to manage non-store selling techniques, including recently emerging Internet stores.


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Christina Kwai-Choi Lee, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong
Sharon E. Beatty, University of Alabama, U.S.A.


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5 | 2002

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