Effects of Global Cultural Positioning Advertisements

ABSTRACT - The present study investigates the effectiveness of global cultural positioning advertisements (GCPAs), in which the brand is associated with the global culture at an individual level. It is argued that a brand’s transnational image as well as its brand personality as established in the GCPA activates self-concepts in terms of cosmopolitanism as well as individual personality traits. It is hypothesized that consumers’ responsiveness to the GCPA depends on self-concept congruity. Findings indicate that the congruency between the brand personality established in the GCPA and the consumers’ relevant personality traits influences brand attitudes.



Citation:

Sunkyu Jun, Haksik Lee, and James W. Gentry (2005) ,"Effects of Global Cultural Positioning Advertisements", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Yong-Uon Ha and Youjae Yi, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 364-368.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2005      Pages 364-368

EFFECTS OF GLOBAL CULTURAL POSITIONING ADVERTISEMENTS

Sunkyu Jun, Hongik University, Korea

Haksik Lee, Hongik University, Korea

James W. Gentry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S.A.

ABSTRACT -

The present study investigates the effectiveness of global cultural positioning advertisements (GCPAs), in which the brand is associated with the global culture at an individual level. It is argued that a brand’s transnational image as well as its brand personality as established in the GCPA activates self-concepts in terms of cosmopolitanism as well as individual personality traits. It is hypothesized that consumers’ responsiveness to the GCPA depends on self-concept congruity. Findings indicate that the congruency between the brand personality established in the GCPA and the consumers’ relevant personality traits influences brand attitudes.

INTRODUCTION

As cultural globalization accelerates in various domains of life including consumption, local culture is not free from interactions with other cultures. Consumption patterns evolve as consumers are open to new cultures due to the development of diffusion technologies such as the Internet (Dickson 2000). We witness global consumer segments around the world whose values and practices are converging across territorial boundaries while less influenced by their national cultures (Keillor, D’Amico, and Horton 2001). Given the growth of global consumer segments, marketers are faced with a choice of brand positioning strategies regarding whether to position their brands to be associated with global culture, referred to as global cultural positioning, or to position them to be associated with local culture, referred to as local cultural positioning.

Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra (1999) distinguished the global consumer cultural positioning strategy from the local consumer cultural positioning strategy. They showed that a significant portion (over 20%) of advertisements in a variety of countries, including Korea (the context of this study), employed the global consumer cultural positioning strategy while a greater portion of advertisements employed the local consumer cultural positioning strategy. Their study suggests that certain cues of advertisements may be effective tools to build a global image of the brand. However, the key to this marketing strategy is to identify consumers who are more responsive to a global image being associated with the brand.

The present study investigates the effectiveness of a global cultural positioning strategy in advertising. This issue is distinct from the traditional controversy over the effects of standardized advertising. A standardized advertisement has a domestic origin and is designed for a specific country before being repeated elsewhere, whereas a global cultural positioning advertisement (GCPA) is designed to associate the brand with the global culture instead of the local culture and may or may not be employed in a standardized advertising campaign (Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra 1999; Onkvisit and Shaw 1999).

The effectiveness of GCPAs may be investigated at a country level as well as at an individual level. As an instance of country-level variance in the effectiveness of GCPAs, people in a country at a low level of economic growth may desire to be affiliated with the consumption culture of more advanced countries, which are mostly in the West. This anecdotal reasoning is consistent with the premise that global culture is an extension or a transformation of the cultures of Western Europe and North America. However, global culture is in essence a transnational culture encapsulated from territorial cultures, and is an outcome of the interconnection and the hybridization of the existing local cultures (Hannerz 1990; Hermans and Kempen 1998).

The process of cultural hybridization results in increased complexity in ideas and modes of thought and in their externalization into practices in a society, and this cultural complexity leads to a multicultural identity or hybrid identity, combining local culture and elements of the global culture (Arnett 2002; Hermans and Kempen 1998). As a psychological consequence of cultural globalization, the self is subject to multiple cultural identities, which are manifested in different ways across social contexts. In that sense, the responsiveness to the values and practices rooted in the global culture depends on the interaction between the self and cultural cues in a specific context. Empirical evidence indicates that self-concept mediates the influence of national culture on the consumption practices of an individual. For instance, Wang et al. (2000) found that, in the context of advertising appeals using the connectedness-separateness dimension, a connected appeal resulted in more favorable brand attitudes among Chinese consumers and a separateness appeal resulted in more favorable brand attitudes among U.S. consumers. However, the cultural-level persuasion effect was mediated by individual differences in self-concepts in terms of connectedness-separateness.

We propose that the effectiveness of GCPAs varies across individual consumers depending on the congruence between the brand association established by th global cultural positioning and consumers’ self-concepts. The conceptual background is developed from the perspective of self-concept congruity theory. Hypotheses will be tested in the context of Korean advertising.

CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESES

Activation of Self-Concept

Whereas the rigid structural argument tends to assume culture as a unitary and internally coherent structure constraining the way that individuals think and act, culture also consists of schemata or rules and resources enabling individuals to organize a life within which culturally shaped skills and habits are useful (Sewell 1992; Swidler 1986). As individuals experience culture as disparate bits of information and internalize them in the form of domain-specific knowledge, culture is so fragmented across individuals that they selectively perceive information germane to their existing schemata and process schematically embedded information more quickly (DiMaggio 1997; Hong et al. 2000). Among the representations of cultural knowledge, self-concept or self-schema accounts for important cultural variations in cognition, emotional expression, and behavioral motivation as a response to situational influences (DiMaggio 1997; Markus and Kitayama 1991).

As was discussed earlier, the self consists of different cultural positions and even conflicting cultural traits. This implies that a number of self-concepts may be accessible at a given moment and any of these self-concepts can be activated depending on the cultural cues relevant to a specific aspect of self-concept. In the advertising context, since the discourse of advertising has been vital to the construction of self-identity, certain aspects of self-concepts are automatically activated by advertising cues that are highly internalized and associated with self-identity (Brumbaugh 2002).

The GCPA attempts to relate the brand’s transnational image to consumer self-identity. Cues used in the GCPAs are likely to activate self-concepts related to the transnational image discoursed in those advertisements. For example, the use of English in advertisements in a country where English is not the first language could serve as global rhetoric and activate self-concepts regarding global orientations (Piller 2001).

We propose that cosmopolitanism is an aspect of self-concept that may be activated by cues used in GCPAs. Cosmopolitanism is a self-orientation toward cultural diversity itself and toward divergent cultural experiences, and is a cluster of schematic knowledge and sets of skills enabling individuals to organize a life beyond parochial ways of life (Cannon and Yaprak 2002; Hannerz 1990; Holt 1998; Thompson and Tambyah 1999). Cosmopolitanism is an accessible aspect of self-concepts like ethnocentrism or introversion and may be activated by relevant cues in advertisements such as bilingual advertisements activating global identity (Piller 2001). As a tactic of global consumer cultural positioning strategy, Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra (1999) suggest that language, aesthetic styles, and story themes are cultural symbols that may identify the brand with cosmopolitan consumers.

We also propose that personality traits are other aspects of self-concept to be activated by the advertising cues in the GCPA. The transnational image of the brand in the GCPA is likely to develop brand associations in terms of certain dimensions of brand personality as brand associations are established through brand positioning strategy (Aaker 1997; Punj and Moon 2002). In turn, the associated dimensions of brand personality are likely to activate relevant aspects of personality traits that constitute the self-concept. Categorization theory in the context of the connectionist model suggests that each feature of the object that is encountered becomes part of an input node of a network in memory and that the input node is connected to a set of output nodes (Shanks 1991). In the context of cultural positioning advertising, advertising cues are connected to a set of cultural categories and, once a cultural category is activated, existing nodes linked to the cultural category are associated with the advertised brand.

Self-Concept Congruity

Research on motivation indicates that self-expressive needs are important motivations for preferences for, and the choice of, goods and consumption practices (Belk 1988; Hirschman and Holbrook 1982; MacInnis and Jaworski 1989; Park and Young 1986). Self-congruity theory posits that individuals have a motive to behave consistently with their views of themselves and that consumers prefer brands associated with personality traits congruent with their self-concepts (Sirgy 1982). The strength of this motive for self-concept congruity is dependent upon the magnitude of the discrepancy between the emotional consequences of self-congruency versus self-incongruency. Given the motive to express one’s self-concept, for which valence is positive in general, the ability to express one’s self-concept is associated with positive affect whereas the inability to express self-concept is likely to produce negative affect (Aaker 1999; Buunk et al. 1990; Higgins 1987).

Self-concept congruency effects have been demonstrated in the context of consumer behavior. Advertising appeals that present the brand in ways that are consistent with consumer’ self-concepts have resulted in more favorable brand attitudes (Chang 2002; Wang et al. 2000). Aaker (1999) suggests that consumers form favorable brand attitudes when the brand personality is congruent with their personality traits.

We propose that consumers are more responsive to global cultural positioning strategy in advertising when the transnational image as well as its associated brand personality is congruent with their self-concepts in terms of cosmopolitanism and personality traits.

H1: Consumers who are more schematic for cosmopolitanism evaluate the brand advertised in the GCPA more favorably than those who are less schematic for cosmopolitanism.

H2: Consumers evaluate the brand advertised in the GCPA more favorably when the brand personality developed in the advertisement and their personality traits are congruent than when those two are incongruent.

METHODS

Overview

Two types of print advertisements were created for a fictitious cosmetics brand: one is presumably a GCPA and the other one is presumably a local cultural positioning advertisement (LCPA) as a control advertisement. Fifty-six adult women (age ranged from 21 to 59; median age of 40) participated in the experiment and were randomly split into either the GCPA group or LCPA group. The cosmetic product class was selected as a stimulus since the subjects were expected to have a reasonable level of personal relevance with cosmetics and their advertisements. Another rationale for the choice of cosmetics is that a significant portion of cosmetics advertising employs a global positioning strategy in the context of Korean advertising.

The Korean advertising industry has been increasingly influenced by foreign ad agencies. Only two of the top ten ad agencies are owned by Koreans, and foreign-based ad agencies account for about half of the total advertising market in Korea (Maeil Economic Daily 2003). Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra (1999) noted that about 22% of Korean advertisements employed a global consumer cultural positioning strategy, which is about the average percentage for the seven countries included in their study.

The participating subjects are enrolled in a public academy providing diverse short-term courses, mostly for housewives. As most of them reside in the same suburban area of Seoul, their socio-economic backgrounds are expected to be similar. The participating subjects were presented with three advertisements, of which two are filler advertisements of different products. They were asked to prepare to give their opinions on those products. After viewing advertisements, they completed a questionnaire including independent and dependent variables. The experiment took about twenty minutes, and the subjects were paid (approximately US$8) as compensation.

Stimulus Advertisements

A GCPA and a LCPA were created to differ in the semiotic meanings of their ad cues. The same brand name, which has the English pronunciation of "Andante Whitening Lotion," is used in both advertisements, but the brand name is written only in Korean in the LCPA while it is written both in Korean and English in the GCPA. Both advertisements include the same attribute information: some words of the copy were written in English in the GCPA (e.g., "Vitamin-C") while all words were in Korean in the LCPA. The GCPA differs from the LCPA in title and illustration. The title in the LCPA is written in Korean: "Andante Whitening Lotion, Glittering more than snow with a triple whitening effect." The title in the GCPA is written in both Korean and English: "Andante Whitening Lotion (italic in English), My skin is always clean, even in the downtown. Glittering more than snow with triple whitening (italic in English) effect." The illustration in the LCPA includes buildings that are recognized with ease by people living in Seoul, while the illustration in the GCPA includes buildings in a downtown that the subjects are expected to recognize as an area in a foreign country.

Measures

For the measure of cosmopolitanism, we used items that have been tested with Korean consumers by Yoon, Cannon, and Yaprak (1996). In a separate study using Korean women, we initially used the 24 items and found that six items loaded on the first factor that was interpreted to correspond to the concept of cosmopolitanism. Thus, those six items were used as a measure of cosmopolitanism in the present study (Appendix 1). The Cronbach’s coefficient alpha in the main study is .77.

For the test of hypothesis two, concerning the effects of congruency between brand personality and subjects’ personality traits, there is a need to know the dimensions of brand personality that distinguish the GCPAs from the LCPAs. In a separate study, 60 Korean print advertisements including 36 filler ads, 12 GCPAs, and 12 LCPAs were evaluated in terms of brand personality. The classification of GCPAs or LCPAs was based on a coding scheme modified from that used in the study of Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra (1999). The 60 advertisements were evaluated in terms of brand personality using Aaker’s (1997) 42 brand personality scales. Among those scales, 21 were retained after a series of exploratory factor analyses, resulting in three factors. The 12 LCPAs and 12 GCPAs were compared with respect to the three factors of brand personality. The brand personality of the GCPAs differed significantly from that of the LCPAs with respect to a factor composed of 11 items; this factor was labeled "sophisticated" ("young," "imaginative," "up-to-date," "contemporary," "intelligent," "successful," "upper class," "glamorous," "good looking," "charming," and "Western").

Thus, we used these 11 items to measure subjects’ personality traits in the sense that Aaker’s (1997) measures of brand personality were generated from human personality and were in turn used to measure personality traits in her study of self-concept congruity effects (Aaker 1999). The Cronbach’s coefficient alpha in the main study is .93. In testing hypothesis two, we expect that subjects will form more favorable brand attitudes for the GCPA as they report higher scores on the "sophisticated" factor.

Brand attitude was measured with three seven-point semantic scales: "attractive-unattractive," "favorable-unfavorable," and "better-worse" (than other brands). The Cronbach’s coefficient alpha in the main study is .83.

RESULTS

The GCPA and the LCPA were evaluated regarding subjects’ perceptions of transnational image, using two seven-point scales: "looking exotic" and "looking global" (a=.88). The average score of transnational image of the GCPA was significantly greater than that of the LCPA (4.17 vs. 3.11, t=2.51, p<.05). The two advertisements were also evaluated regarding subjects’ perceptions on the "sophisticated" dimension of brand personality, using the 11 seven-point items selected earlier (a=.93). The average "sophisticated" score of the GCPA was significantly greater than that of the LCPA (4.70 vs. 3.93, t=2.65, p<.05). Thus, the global positioning advertisement was successful in creating transnational image as well as creating the "sophisticated" dimension of brand personality.

Analysis of covariance (age was used as a covariate) was conducted to test the interaction effect of cosmopolitanism and ad type (GCPA or LCPA) and the interaction effect of the "sophisticated" personality trait and ad type. The main effects were not significant (p>.05). The interaction of cosmopolitanism and ad type is not significant (F(1,48)=.11), indicating that H1 is not supported. Thus, the more simplistic relationship between a broader awareness and preference for global ads was not found. On the other hand, the interaction effect of the "sophisticated" personality trait and ad type was significant (F(1,48)=4.71, p<.05), supporting H2. Further analysis shows support for the predicted direction: subjects who are schematic for the "sophisticated" trait formed more favorable brand attitudes for the GCPA as opposed to the LCPA (4.12 vs. 3.62); subjects who are less schematic for the "sophisticated" trait formed more favorable brand attitudes for the LCPA as opposed to the GCPA (3.98 vs. 3.85).

DISCUSSION

Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra (1999) demonstrated that the global consumer cultural positioning strategy was employed in advertising with varying degrees across product categories, but its effectiveness remained open to further research. They suggested that the global cultural positioning strategy might work better than the local cultural positioning strategy in countries of lower levels of economic development as well as that global cosmopolitan consumers might be more responsive to the global cultural positioning strategy (pp. 84-85). While the effectiveness of the global cultural positioning strategy may vary across countries as well as across consumers within a country, the present study provides insight into the varying effects across individuals.

The present study shows that individual responsiveness to the global cultural positioning strategy in advertising depends on whether the brand personality established through the cultural positioning strategy is congruent with one’s personality traits. This finding is in line with past studies addressing the role of individuals’ self-concepts in the persuasion process of advertising (Aaker 1999; Chang 2002; Wang et al. 2000). From a psychological perspective, as consumers experience different bits of cultural information and internalize them as schematic knowledge, the interpretation and process of cultural meanings discoursed in advertisements are idiosyncratic across consumers. The present study extends the psychological consequence of cultural globalization to the context of arguments for the global versus local cultural positioning strategy in advertising.

While the self-concept congruity effect was found in the domain of GCPAs, the contextual influences that could strengthen or eliminate the effect should be clarified further. While the present study was conducted for cosmetics as the focal product, Alden, Steenkamp, and Batra (1999) found different usages of global versus local consumer cultural positionings across product categories, indicating that advertisers believe that global cultural positioning strategy should vary across product concepts. It may be that the self-concept congruity effect may be strengthened or weakened depending on the congruency between product concepts and the cultural meanings of transnationality developed in the GCPA.

While the present study did not consider involvement issues, research on the self-concept congruity effect suggests that the effect may be manifested more strongly in a low involvement situation (Chang 2002; Whittler and Spira 2002). Another perspective worthy of study is self-expressive involvement versus functional involvement (MacInnis and Jaworski 1989; Park and Young 1986). There is the possibility that the congruency between brand personality, which is established by the global cultural positioning strategy, and self-concept has stronger relevance to a consumer’s preference and choice under self-expressive involvement situation rather than under functional involvement.

This line of reasoning suggests that the effectiveness of the cultural positioning strategy through advertising should be investigated regarding the complex interactions among product concept, brand personality, personal traits, and situational/enduring involvement.

APPENDIX 1

MEASURES OF COSMOPOLITANISM

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Authors

Sunkyu Jun, Hongik University, Korea
Haksik Lee, Hongik University, Korea
James W. Gentry, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, U.S.A.



Volume

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



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