Consumer Ethnocentrism Portrayed in the Advertisings and Meanings Actualized By Consumers: a Case of Turkey

ABSTRACT - Nationalistic discourse is often used in advertisings in order to convince consumers to prefer domestic products to foreign products. Since consumer ethnocentrism is contextual upon the product, place, the market and usage and also depends on the intensity of nationalism, patriotism, and propensity to change, success of such advertising message strategies depends on these factors as well as the alignment of actualized meanings of signs and denotations revealed in the advertising with the intentions of advertiser. After analyzing consumer ethnocentrism and related concepts, the actualized meanings of a popular nationalistic ad of a local drink, Cola Turka, are studied.



Citation:

Ayla Ozhan Dedeoglu, Ipek Savasci, and Keti Ventura (2005) ,"Consumer Ethnocentrism Portrayed in the Advertisings and Meanings Actualized By Consumers: a Case of Turkey", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 274-279.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Pages 274-279

CONSUMER ETHNOCENTRISM PORTRAYED IN THE ADVERTISINGS AND MEANINGS ACTUALIZED BY CONSUMERS: A CASE OF TURKEY

Ayla Ozhan Dedeoglu, Ege University, Turkey

Ipek Savasci, Ege University, Turkey

Keti Ventura, Ege University, Turkey

[The authors would like to thank anonymous reviewers for providing valuable comments.]

ABSTRACT -

Nationalistic discourse is often used in advertisings in order to convince consumers to prefer domestic products to foreign products. Since consumer ethnocentrism is contextual upon the product, place, the market and usage and also depends on the intensity of nationalism, patriotism, and propensity to change, success of such advertising message strategies depends on these factors as well as the alignment of actualized meanings of signs and denotations revealed in the advertising with the intentions of advertiser. After analyzing consumer ethnocentrism and related concepts, the actualized meanings of a popular nationalistic ad of a local drink, Cola Turka, are studied.

INTRODUCTION

The concept of "consumer ethnocentrim" derives from the sociological concept "ethnocentrism", which is used to describe a type of in-group favoritism, i.e. the tendency of people within a group to perceive themselves as superior compared to other people, and is described by Shimp (1984) and Shimp and Sharma (1987) so as to capture the cognitions, affections and normative orientations of the consumers about the appropriateness of purchasing and using foreign-made goods. Ethnocentric consumers are believed to prejudice and contempt foreign goods and prefer domestic goods due to their superiority since it is their "own" product and facilitates investment and employment opportunities; i.e. a healthier national economy. They suppose importing foreign products damage economy and national and socio-cultural identity as well. Domestic goods become signs of "pride and attachment" (Shimp 1984).

CONSUMER ETHNOCENTRISM AND COUNTRY-OF-ORIGIN IMAGE

Consumer ethnocentrism (CE) is conceptualized as a part of a constellation of demographic and socio-psychological influences by Sharma, Shimp, and Shin (1995) and measured with Cetscale (Consumer Ethnocentrism Tendencies Scale) which has obtained much popularity in national and cross-national consumer research since its introduction. The concept is widely researched along with the perceived necessity of foreign products (Sharma, Shimp, and Shin 1995), brand equity, differentiated aspects of the product, the level of consumer involvement (Lantz and Loeb 1996), demographic characteristics and lifestyles of the consumers, the strength of national identity, the intensity of nationalism and patriotism (Balabanis et al. 2001; Bruning 1997; Good and Huddleston 1995; Han 1988; Huddleston, Good, and Stoel 2000; Keillor and Hult 1999; Klein 2002; Kucukemiroglu 1999; Lantz et al. 2002; Lee, Hong, and Lee 2003; Supphellen and Gr°nhaug 2003; Vida and Dmitrovic 2001; Witkowski 1998).

As Bilkey and Nes (1982) also noted, in addition to the above cited studies, there are many other studies which revealed that older, female, low-income earning and low-educated people tend to be more ethnocentric in their purchase choices between domestic and foreign. Alternatively, Kucukemiroglu (1999) suggested that demographics lack richness when being involved in predicting CE and often need to be supplemented with additional data such as lifestyle segments. He found out that people who are community conscious and manifest family concern tend to be more ethnocentric.

As Lee et al. (2001) also noted, in their theory Shimp and Sharma (1987) did not define the concept as product specific, but as a personality trait governing the individual’s attitude and feeling towards domestic and foreign products.

Lantz et al. (2002) suggest that CE can be regarded as a part of country-of-origin image (COO) which does not directly involve assessment of the product, but is concerned with the consumers’ feelings associated with the home country while the other part is related to product assessment, which is where stereotyping or country image is concerned.

Country-of-origin image embraces CE that focuses on loyalty to domestic products and the morality of purchasing and using foreign products (Shimp and Sharma 1987; Lantz and Loeb 1996; Watson 2000). The country-of-origin image can be defined as the consumer preferences for the products originating from a country and is strictly related to country image. When consumers cannot assess product with intrinsic cues (such as taste, design) extrinsic cues (such as price, brand, country image) may be substituted. Bilkey and Nes (1982) illustrated the findings of several studies which revealed that products originating from developed countries were assessed as having high quality and favorable image when they were compared to the products of less developed countries.

The concept of COO is broadly defined by Askegaard and Ger (1998) and Ger, Askegaard and Christensen (1999) as the contextualized product-place-image (CPPI) concept which is defined in a richer set of connotations. CPPI embraces phenomenon (product), place, market and usage context as important dimensions of its meaning structure. In their model, phenomenon refers to any marketable, tangible or intangible phenomenon and to product specifically, the market context to relative meaning of the phenomenon compared to competitors, and the usage context to the meanings related to the consumption such as specific consumption rituals. They also suggest that COO does not exclusively rely on the place where the product is made, but it also depends on the place where it is invented, designed, produced, etc.

Regarding CE as a part of CPPI, it can also be proposed that CE is a contextualized concept, too; the intensity and magnitude of ethnocentric tendencies change from context to context. Coherent with this suggestion, Balabanis et al. (2001) suggested, CE’s predictive ability of buying intentions varies from country to country. Herche (1992) also found empirical evidence that the predictive validity of the Cetscale was inconsistent across product categories. Witkowski’s study (1998) also revealed that the predictive validity of the Cetscale is not only product specific, but country specific as well. Furthermore, Lee et al. (2003) revealed the importance of the market context; the patriotic and nationalistic attitudes of American consumers have heightened after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, which in turn have raised ethnocentric consumer attitudes. Additionally, Shimp et al. (1995) suggested that the necessity and importance of the product can moderate ethnocentricity.

NATIONALISM, PATRIOTISM AND OPENNESS TO CHANGE

Lantz et al. (2002) suggested that national identity may be the underlying value that motivates a more visible manifestation of nationalism such as an ethnocentric tendency to support a nation economically, through purchase choices. Keillor and Hult (1999) identify national identity as a "set of meanings’’ owned by a given culture which sets it apart from other cultures and recognize four key components of the concept; the belief structure, cultural homogeneity, national heritage and ethnocentrism. The number of sub-cultures, different religions, ethnocentric propensity and the adoption level of national heritage affect national identity. However, contrary to the suggestions of Shimp and Sharma (1987), Keillor and Hult (1999) revealed that groups of individuals across several cultures can be sensitive toward their national heritage and cultural homogeneity, but not be particularly ethnocentric in assessment of foreign products.

Since national identity concept contains too much information, people from other nations who do not have enough information about a country or products of that country, may employ stereotypic knowledge in order to make initial assessments. Stereotypes are oversimplified mental representations about an entire group of people, such as an ethnic group, which omit individual differences. They are used to understand and interpret the actions of individuals or the quality of a product with regard to the shared impressions about the sourcing country’s economic, political, cultural characteristics and specific product images. Although stereotypes are also regarded as prejudices about the superiority/inferiority of a group and subjected to discrimination, they also may assist in taking short-cuts in the interest of cognitive efficiency (Hyatt 1992).

Nationalism and patriotism are political attitudes which are reported to influence the magnitude of CE (e.g., Balabanis et al. 2001; Han 1988; Lee et al. 2003). According to Balabanis et al.(2001) patriotism refers to strong feelings of attachment an loyalty to one’s own country, whereas nationalism encompasses extreme commitment in addition to exclusion of others and hostility toward other countries. They found that CE in Turkey is fueled by patriotism and in the Czech Republic by nationalism. Han’s study (1988) revealed that patriotic emotions play a significant role in the product choice and the attitudes toward the product, whereas the cognitive attitude toward products made in different countries played a limited role.

Openness or propensity to change can be defined as the willingness of an individual to alter the status quo, more specifically his/her consumption patterns. Erem et al. (2000) suggest that a society’s openness to change influences the consumption patterns of the individual. Sharma et al. (1995) found a negative correlation between cultural openness and CE. Belch and Belch (1993) proposed that innovative proneness may be regarded as an important factor affecting the consumer receptivity toward foreign products besides CE, patriotism, interest in and experience with foreign cultures, and xenophobia.

MEANING-BASED PERSPECTIVE IN ADVERTISING RESEARCH

In addition to contextual differences in findings of previously cited studies there are also several findings that demonstrate inconsistencies with Shimp et al. (1995)’s conceptualization which depends on measurement with Cetscale. For instance, Nijssen, Douglas and Bressers (1999) demonstrated inconsistency of their findings with previous ones; Dutch consumers with strong ethnocentric attitudes are more likely to evaluate German products positively than those with less ethnocentric attitudes. Huddleston et al. (2000) found that ethnocentrism did not influence purchase behavior of Russian consumers, and Good and Huddleston (1995) found that CE was not related to purchase intent of Russian and Polish consumers. Vida and Dmitrovic (2001) also found despite their relatively strong ethnocentric tendencies, less than 10 percent of the Montenegrin respondents deliberately look at product labels with country-of origin information.

These diversities and sometimes inconsistencies of findings may be attributed to diverse contexts, which are the product (phenomenon), place, market and usage contexts as categorized by Askegaard and Ger (1998) and Ger et al. (1999). It can be suggested that diversities and inconsistencies may arise from varying cultural settings. Venkatesh (1995, p. 5) defined the culture as "what defines a human community, its individuals, and social organizations, along with other economic and political systems" and proposed that "it does not make sense to put different cultures in linearly measured scales under the assumption that in every culture the scale measures the same phenomenon (p.20)".

Since CE is contextual upon the product (phenomenon), place, the market, and usage and also depends on the intensity of nationalism, patriotism and openness to change, it can be suggested that the meaning-based approach is more appropriate in understanding and interpreting the consumer behavior. In terms of advertising, the actualized meanings of signs and denotations revealed in the ad by the consumer are other factors that have to be researched.

The meaning-based perspective in advertising research emphasizes that the meaning construction cannot be limited to the advertising. Despite the constraints the text sets, the meaning is constructed through a negotiation process where the consumer actively assigns meanings to advertising cues rather than simply drawing information from the ad (Meline 1996). Mick and Buhl (1992) suggested that many actualized ad meanings are a function of consumer’s salient life projects as conjoined by life themes. They defined life themes as profound existential concerns that the individual consciously or unconsciously deals with in his/her mundane life. Life projects are defined as "meanings related to the self and the extended self Bincluding private self, home and family, community and career and nationality- versus meanings associated with others (Mick and Buhl 1992, p.318)". Furthermore, Meline (1996) proposed that the meanings may also be hared because of common life experiences.

Considering these suggestions and the frequent use of nationalistic cues in advertisings, we aimed to research the actualized meanings of nationalistic ads by means of two very popular ads, the Cola Turka ads. We conducted several focus-group interviews with Turkish consumers of different socio-economic classes, ages and genders so as to examine the actualized meanings of that advertising.

THE STUDY

Cola, a specific type of soft drink, is a very well-known product widely accepted as a symbol of modernity, Western consumer culture, and globalization. As Ger and Belk (1996) stated, Coke is the symbol of the glittering consumer paradise widely imagined to exist in the U.S.

Cola wars between Pepsi and Coke have ever been taken place all around the capitalist parts of the world. Both Pepsi and Coke have been conceptualized as symbols of America and as signs of liberal capitalism, modernism, freedom and the creation of the world peace. Despite some poor attempts to launch different initiatives in the Arabic and Islamic world, like Mecca Cola in France, Qibla Cola in Britain, they did not represent a remarkable competition in Muslim countries for the American Cola. The failure was attributed to the negative association of these brands; they refer to religious and nationalistic feelings which were mainly considered, in the modernized western part of the world, as non-privileged. Especially in Turkey, which is a secular state according to its constitutional law but a predominantly Islamic country, such attempts have not gained any remarkable attention. As Sandikci and Ger (2002) proposed, the pluralism and difference that characterize contemporary Turkish consumptionscape cannot be explained as either rejection of capitalism and globalization or resistance to modernity.

TABLE 1

DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PARTICIPANTS

Despite some unsuccessful launches of cola products, Cola market in Turkey witnessed a considerable competition in July 2003. Ulker Holding launched its new cola brand "Cola Turka" and the ads gained profound attention both locally and globally.

In order to find out the actualized meanings of the Cola Turka advertisings, we conducted focus group interviews with four different groups; students, low level workers, medium-level workers and non-working older people. Students are sampled since they are supposed to be heavy-consumers of Cola products. We also sampled older people since they are cultivated in a culture of the early periods of Turkish Republic which can be associated with the exhortation; "use Turkish".

Two of the Cola-Turka advertisings were played before the interview. In the ads U.S. actor Chevy Chase plays an American who witnesses weird changes around him. In the first ad he walks through Times Square while a car full of Americans wrapped in a Turkish flag drive by celebrating the victory of the Turkish national football team. He enters a cafT to have a cup of coffee and a cowboy sitting next to him talks using Turkish words after drinking from a can of Cola Turka. In the second ad, he is seen parking his Griswold-style station wagon at his suburban home, where his wife is preparing a Turkish meal for his parents and children. At the dinner table everyone sings "Take me out to the ball game". After drinking Cola Turka they begin singing a Turkish-language Boy Scout song. At the end of the ad, he sprouts a mustache. In the ads, people who are shown drinking Cola Turka become Turkish; act as Turkish stereotypes, begin using Turkish words and singing Turkish songs. The song includes the lines "Its cola is as we know, Its Turka is our Turka" and "After drinking Cola Turka, the famous American dream has become Turkish".

After seeing the advertisings, four open-ended questions, proposed by Holt and Mulvey (1997) as to cue well-established aspects of ad interpretation, were asked. These were: "What story does the ad tell?", "How does the ad relat to your life?, "What does the ad say about the Cola Turka brand?" and "Do you like the ad? Why or why not?".

Focus-group interviews have been conducted in Izmir, Turkey. Focus group profiles appear in Table 1. All of students and highly educated workers, ten of low-level workers and six of the elder participants reported to have consumed Cola Turka at least once. On the other hand only one of the students and elder participants, two of the low-level workers and six of highly educated workers purchase Cola Turka regularly.

The Findings

Most of the participants considered that the Cola Turka advertisings contain signs of nationalism, whereas others identified signs of patriotism. Furthermore, all of them agreed that these signs and denotations surpass the ones about the product (phenomenon). They observed the extrinsic cue of domestic product image easily. Most of the participants observed only one intrinsic cue which is related to its taste/quality which is denoted being similar to the well-known taste and quality of famous cola drinks. Students, low-level workers and elder people acknowledged the meaning of being an imitation.

Young participants asserted that the utilization of the nationalistic discourse reminds them of the possible competitive disadvantage of the product in terms of quality compared to high-quality global products, Pepsi and Coke.

Most the participants interpreted the ads as to declare a nationalistic orientation and an inclination to diffuse Turkish culture globally. They believe that the date of the launch of the first ad is purposefully selected to encounter the arrest of 11 Turkish soldiers by the U.S. troops across the border in Iraq at the time of Iraq fight, despite the formal denial of the producer. Thus, due to the market context, it is suggested that the ads heighten nationalistic feelings more than patriotic ones. Most of the students, low level workers, elders and some of the higher educated participants suggested that the advertising message incorporates an anti-American ideology. So, they got an impression of Turkey’s being in a race with the U.S. which influenced them in a negative way.

However, other participants asserted that it also acknowledges that cola is a symbol of American lifestyle and the ads aim to mingle this "favorable" symbol with Turkish lifestyle; the messages are interpreted as not to reject modernity and the symbol of the American lifestyle, but integrate the Turkish stereotypic features into American people’s mundane life in a sympathetic way. They suggested that the ads recontextualized western modernity with the localness.

In addition to the domestic product image revealed in the ads, the ads are also interpreted to connote the meaning of being marketed globally; except the students, most of the participants deducted the meaning that Cola Turka is exported or is going to be exported to the U.S. They seemed to be proud of it.

Since there is a general fascination with Western, specifically American, life style and goods in Turkey (Ger et al. 1999), it can be suggested that a message strategy which depends on hybridization and artificial westernization may also succeed.

Nationalistic slogans just like "drink Cola Turka or leave the country" and patriotic slogans just like "drink Cola Turka and support the country" are reported to have appeared in society. Consistent with previous research findings (e.g., Bilkey and Nes 1982; Han 1988; Kucukemiroglu 1999; Shimp 1984; Shimp and Sharma 1987; Sharma et al. 1995; Watson 2000; Witkowski 1998), it is reported to be less common among younger participants. On the other hand, contrary to the findings of those researches, working people with low income and education and older people did not appear to have ethnocentric orientation, whereas higher educated and higher income earning participants appeared to be more ethnocentric.

Despite those contrariness to the previous studies’ findings, our findings about the ethnoentric tendencies of the students, low income and older participants are consistent with studies (Gudum and Kavas 1993; Coskun and Altunisik 2001; Erem et al.2000; Ger et al. 1999; Sandikci and Ger 2002) which revealed that Turkish consumers tend to regard products originated from developed countries (EU, Japan, US) higher in status than domestic products. Ger et al. (1999) suggested that CE does not exist in transitional societies, like Turkey, where social identity, at least partially, clashes with aspirational identity and thus, foreign goods may reign over the local. Erem et al. (2000) also suggested that Turkish people are more open to other cultures, and prone to change and adopt innovations. Supporting these suggestions and Sharma et al. (2001) hypothesis, it can be deduced that due to the transitional nature of Turkish society and the high level of cultural openness, the ethnocentric assessment of domestic versus foreign products tend to be low. Our findings also revealed that, even, older participants, who are cultivated in a patriotic culture, do not reveal ethnocentric attitude within this product, usage and market context.

On the other hand, the findings about ethnocentric tendencies of the highly educated and higher income earning participants are in accordance with Shimp and Sharma’s (1987) hypothesis which is about the perceptions of economic threat from foreign competition. In our study, they seemed to perceive threat to their life and economic livelihood from foreign competition. They are found to be more community oriented as the following interpretation illustrates;

"We encounter the cola drink, which is a symbol of imperialism, with our product. This ad empowers our self-esteem." (Altug, male, 26)

All of the participants stated that visiting a bar to have a drink after job is not common in Turk’s life theme. They interpreted the stereotypical signs and denotations, such as preparing dinner for elders, kissing their hands so as to demonstrate respect, to be deeply founded in the family-oriented and sentiments-driven Turkish culture and common life themes. On the other hand, even though participants from lower socio-economic classes, higher educated working participants and non-working older participants stated that these facts are strictly related to their personal life projects, students denied it.

Most of the students stated that neither they nor "modern" families and youth in metropolitan areas live this way. Thus, those stereotypic denotations of the ads are connoted as being superficial regarding their life themes and disdained. Consider, for instance, the following comments;

"I did not like the ad. The message of the ads does not seem to convince the consumer to purchase the product. It is, as if, to fight via slogans. The ads reinforce nationalism. There are signs related to common Turkish culture but not to my life theme." (Oguz, male, 21)

"I suppose that the usage of stereotypic signs, such as sprouting a mustache, kissing American elder’s hand, is too exaggerated. These habits and values have largely shattered in westernized parts of Turkey." (Yigit, male, 22)

Despite the family-oriented usage contexts portrayed in the ads, especially students suggested that the humorous approach targets the young audience. They proposed that the audience should consist of middle or elder aged, consumers from low and medium level socio-economic groups whom they regard as more patriotic and nationalistic. They also asserted that the humorous approach is suggestive of the impossibility of moving away from "American" towards "Turk". They also emphasized the phenomenon that audience laughs at the way the actors speak (they mix Turkish words with English); since Turkish youth often pronounce English words when they talk in Turkish, the ads are suggested to connote the irony of mixing a foreign language with mother-tongue.

Most of the participants also referred to the company image of Ulker Holding as an important factor that affects their purchase decision. They defined Ulker Holding as a representative of "Islamic-oriented capital". Due to the company image, they, especially low-level workers and older participants, informed a propensity not to buy any of Ulker products. So, they proposed that the nationalistic cues of the ads cannot be interpreted without considering this fact. Although there are not any religious cues revealed in the ads, the nationalistic discourse is supposed to embrace a religious dimension. On the other hand, although highly educated workers appeared to know the company image of Ulker Holding, they seemed to be influenced mostly by nationalistic cues.

Even though we did not design focus-groups to include respondents from different religious communities, one can observe amount of newspaper articles, as exemplified by Kologlu (2003), where a favorable inclination of Islamic-oriented and nationalistic communities toward the Cola Turka consumption can be observed noticeably.

All of the participants asserted that they liked the ads. Although the ads are reported to convince the audience to try the product, it does not steer students, low-level workers and older people to prefer that domestic product to foreign ones. The reason may lie within the context of the product (phenomenon). Cola is regarded not as a traditional product of Turkey such as ayran (a traditional drink which is made of yogurt and water), but global one and as a symbol of Western consumer culture. So it is not aligned with national identity. They also interpreted the denotations of Cola Turka being similar to the well-known taste and quality of cola drinks as to imitate Pepsi and Coke and suggested preferring original goods rather than imitations.

CONCLUSION

Miller (1997, p.196) suggested that it is advertising, often regarded as a major source of global homogenization, that turns out to be a fierce proponent of localization. In order to imply the meaning of "localness" and convince consumers to prefer their products, nationalistic discourse is often used by local and global companies. Our findings reveal that it might be misleading to base advertising solely on nationalistic cues, especially in transitional societies where social identity is not always positive and desirable. Nationalistic discourse in the ads might remind the audience of the possible competitive disadvantage of the product in terms of quality compared to high-quality global products.

On the other hand, in transitional societies, where aspirational identity is constructed on westernization, a message strategy which incorporates hybridization and artificial westernization may also succeed depending on the contextual factors of product-place image.

Our findings revealed that, in the market of Cola products, the product (phenomenon) appeared to be most important contextual dimension among others; place, the market and the usage contexts. Although Cola Turka’s nationalistic ads has lead to the empowerment of self-esteem and pride, Cola is regarded as a global product and as a symbol of Western consumer culture. So it is not aligned with national identity. Despite the heightened anti-Americanism at that time, in this product context, the nationalistic signs and denotations in the advertising messages do not seem to be actualized by consumers in the direction of advertiser’s intentions.

Our findings also contribute to the literature of consumer ethnocentrism. Contrary to the findings of previous studies, we found that elders and low income earning consumers did not appear to have an ethnocentric orientation, whereas higher educated consumers appeared to be more ethnocentric. Thus, it can be suggested that demographic variables might be misleading in explaining the variance of consumer ethnocentrism. The perceptions of economic threat from foreign competition, propensity to change, cultural openness and other cultural and contextual factors (product, place, market and usage contexts) are found to be more related with consumer ethnocentrism.

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Authors

Ayla Ozhan Dedeoglu, Ege University, Turkey
Ipek Savasci, Ege University, Turkey
Keti Ventura, Ege University, Turkey



Volume

AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2005



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