Current Issue Summary
December 2022 (Vol. 62, Issue 4)
Foreign versus Local Consumer Culture Positioning when Entering Foreign Markets: Synergies of Anthropomorphic Ads, Ethnocentrism and Culture Positioning on Brand Evaluations
Talking M&Ms, Mr. Peanut and the Pillsbury Doughboy are successful anthropomorphic product characters. But when entering foreign markets, how can a brand that uses this popular communication strategy avoid the negative impact of consumer ethnocentrism—the belief that buying foreign products is wrong? Moreover, how do the synergistic effects of ethnocentrism and cultural positioning on consumers’ assessment of brands figure into the equation? Researchers Lefa Teng, Mengmeng Zhang, Xinran Wang and Xinyan Yang (all four at Jiangnan University, China) and Lianne Foti (University of Guelph, Ontario) explain that people with a high level of consumer ethnocentrism tend to outright reject foreign products. Even if they admit the foreign product is superior, they will purchase a local product. By contrast, people with a low level of consumer ethnocentrism don’t care where a product is made. In fact, they tend to evaluate foreign products more favorably.
Research over the years has explored these tendencies, as well as how a brand’s advertisement style can be successfully accepted by its target market in a foreign country. But this study is unique as it accounts for two types of culture positioning. Foreign consumer culture positioning (FCCP) associates the brand with foreign consumer culture, whereas local consumer culture positioning (LCCP) associates the brand with local consumer culture. Consider Levi’s jeans, which symbolize America’s wild and tough spirit. For its target consumers in the U.S., Levi’s uses LCCP, but for consumers in China, Levi’s uses an FCCP strategy.
Teng and team’s three-part study focuses on brands with a developed country of origin (France, Australia and Russia) entering China, an emerging market. Human-like product characters included talking juice bottles and sausages. The campaigns used either a FCCP or LCCP strategy.
Among the takeaways:
- When brands use FCCP to enter foreign markets, anthropomorphism in ads “increases social affiliation and leads to a more favorable advertising style and brand evaluation by people associated with a high level of consumer ethnocentrism” (the belief that buying foreign products is wrong).
- “The effect is the same on people with a low level of consumer ethnocentrism when, by comparison,” brands use LCCP to enter foreign markets, although to a lesser degree.
- The interactive effect is three-way: Advertising style (the use of anthropomorphic products), “consumer ethnocentrism, and the type of consumer culture positioning strategy (foreign versus local) function synergistically on consumers’ brand evaluation.”