ATTITUDES TOWARD THE PURCHASE OF
FOREIGN PRODUCTS: EXTENDING THE MODEL
Edwin J. Nijssen
* contact author
Edwin J. Nijssen (University of Nijmegen), Susan P. Douglas (New York University) and Paul Bressers (Akzo Nobel)
Much research relating to consumer attitudes toward foreign products has been conducted in large industrialized countries, with big internal markets and a range of domestic brands. The study examines the impact of consumer ethnocentrism, animosity, interest in foreign travel and perceived availability of domestic products. Both consumer ethnocentrism and feelings of animosity result in reluctance to purchase German products. Product evaluation is, however, mediated by perceived availability of domestic alternatives and travel to other countries.
Although still a long way from the "global village" that Ted Levitt (1985) predicted over a decade ago, an increasing number of consumer markets are characterized by global competition. A growing number of companies in many industries including U.S., European and Asian firms now operate on a global level. The trend towards the globalization of markets is fueled by changes in consumer knowledge and behavior. Satellite television and international travel have made consumers more aware of other cultures' life-styles and products, and increased the power of global brands such as Sony, Coca-Cola and Nike.
Yet, while some consumers prefer global or foreign products and view them as symbols of status, others exhibit strong preferences for domestic-made products and have negative attitudes towards foreign or imported products. Such negative attitudes towards foreign products can arise from a number of sources. Consumers may think products from certain countries are of inferior quality (Han 1988), hold feelings of animosity toward a country (Klein et al 1998), or consider it wrong, almost immoral, to buy foreign products (Shimp and Sharma 1987).
Previous research examining consumer attitudes towards foreign or imported goods has typically focused on the impact of a single construct such as consumer ethnocentric attitudes or "made inů" cues. Recent research (Klein et al 1998) suggests, however, that the influences on foreign product evaluations may be considerably more complex, resulting from the interaction of various different factors. In addition, most studies have been conducted in large industrialized countries where a range of domestic alternatives or brands are available. The generalizability of findings to small countries, where there are no domestic brands or products in many product categories, is somewhat questionable.
The objective of this study is to examine some of the influences such as feelings of animosity, consumer ethnocentrism, foreign travel, and perceived availability of domestic alternatives, mediating consumers' evaluation and willingness to purchase foreign products in small countries. A conceptual model of these influences was first formulated. This was tested in The Netherlands in relation to purchase evaluations of German cars, a product category in which there is no Dutch alternative, and German TVs, where there is a strong Dutch brand - Phillips.
Modeling Attitudes Towards Foreign Products
Consumer ethnocentrism is a construct which has been widely used in studying consumer attitudes toward foreign products. It derives from the more general construct of ethnocentrism, which in turn is rooted in a belief that one's own group (the in-group) is superior to other groups (out-groups) (Adorno et al 1950). Consumer ethnocentrism is defined by Shimp and Sharma (1987) as beliefs held by consumers about the appropriateness or morality of purchasing foreign products. Purchasing imported goods is seen as wrong as it will harm the domestic economy, have an adverse impact on domestic employment, and is unpatriotic. Shimp and Sharma (1987) developed a measurement instrument, the CETSCALE, to assess these attitudes. Previous studies (Shimp and Sharma 1987, Netemeyer, Sharma et al 1995, Klein et al 1998) have found high ethnocentrism scores are related to reluctance to purchase foreign products and tendencies to evaluate them negatively. Hence,
H1. Consumer ethnocentrism has a negative influence on: a) product judgment of foreign products, and b) willingness to buy foreign products.
Influence of Animosity
Because of their size and resources, small countries are often dependent on their neighbors, particularly larger countries. As a result, small countries may feel threatened and have feelings of animosity toward large countries. Klein et al (1998) define animosity as the remnants of antipathy related to previous or ongoing military, political, or economic events. They hypothesized that feelings of animosity would affect consumers' purchasing behavior towards foreign products. They found evidence to support this, based on a study of consumers' willingness to buy Japanese products in the Chinese city of Nanjing, where 300,000 people were massacred by the Japanese in World War II. An interesting question is whether animosity has the same influence under less extreme conditions. This was examined here based on Dutch attitudes towards German products. It was hypothesized that animosity resulting from the German occupation during World War II would impact Dutch willingness to purchase German products.
H2: Animosity has a direct, negative influence on willingness to buy foreign products.
Interest in Foreign Travel
Much research relating to attitudes towards foreign products has been conducted in countries with a large internal market such as the U.S. The generalizability of findings to small countries is somewhat problematic. Because of its size, people in a small country will generally be more exposed to and aware of other cultures. This tends to reduce tendencies towards ethnocentrism where these stem from a lack of experience or knowledge rather than prejudice (Mooij 1997). Individuals often learn about other cultures in school by reading about them, or by watching programs on television. However, actual experience of visiting or living in another country is likely to have the most profound effect on knowledge about other countries and other peoples' life-styles and increase receptivity towards foreign products. Positive attitudes toward travel abroad will reflect a more international orientation. Hence,
H3. Interest in foreign travel will be: a) negatively related to consumer ethnocentrism, and b) positively related to evaluation of foreign products.
Availability of Domestic Alternatives
Another issue impacting attitudes towards foreign products is the perceived availability of domestic alternatives. Particularly in small economies, the internal market is not large enough to support a domestic industry. Where no domestic alternatives are available, for example, consumers in countries with no domestic automobile or consumer electronics production will have no choice but to purchase imported goods. Hence, consumers are less likely to have negative attitudes towards foreign products.
H4. Perceived domestic product availability has a negative affect on the product judgment of foreign products.
The model extends Klein et al's (1998) animosity model to the context of small open economies, adding interest in foreign travel and availability of domestic alternatives (Figure 1).
Choice of Country
The model was tested in the Netherlands. The country is small (15 million inhabitants) and has an open economy. Although there are several large international consumer goods companies e.g. Heineken, Douwe Egbert/Sara Lee, Unilever and Philips, many of its consumer markets are dominated by foreign brands. Most Dutch go abroad regularly, especially for vacation, and the country is considered one of Europe's most internationally oriented and least nationalist in Europe (Wall Street Journal 1997).
Germany is the major trading partner of The Netherlands and is the largest importer of Dutch products, while The Netherlands ranks second of Germany's trading partners. Despite close economic ties, the Dutch continue to harbor hostile feelings towards Germany due to their occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. In a 1990 survey of the members of the Dutch House of Parliament (Hoedeman 1990), 65% admitted to anti-German feelings and 68% associated Germany with human rights violations in World War II. Strikingly, recent studies show similar findings among teens aged fifteen through nineteen, who perceived Germany as warlike, and as a country likely to dominate the world (Aspeslagh and Dekker 1997).
Choice of Product Category
Cars and TV sets were selected as the two product categories. In one case - cars, there are no longer any Dutch manufacturers. Germany, on the other hand, has four major car manufacturers: BMW, Mercedes Benz, Audi/Volkswagen, and Opel (GM). All have a strong quality image. The other product was TVs, where there is a well-known Dutch brand - Phillips.
Sample and Procedure
The study was conducted in Nijmegen, a city in the east of The Netherlands, close to the German border. The data were collected on three consecutive days at different locations in the city. Consumers were randomly selected on the street. Of 530 consumers asked to co-operate, 219 accepted and met the criterion of being a Dutch national and of Dutch heritage, i.e. both parents were Dutch (response rate of over 50%). The respondents filled in the questionnaire in the presence of an interviewer. This took approximately 15 minutes. There was a slight bias toward younger, more educated, people, due to the fact that Nijmegen is a university town.
Each of the constructs was measured by multiple items (Appendix I). Six items were selected from the 10 item CETSCALE to measure consumer ethnocentrism. Two items were eliminated as they relate to domestic product availability and have been found to constitute a separate factor in small countries (Douglas and Nijssen 1998). Two others were not included as they did not load highly on the core construct. In total, the 6 items were considered to capture the core of the consumer ethnocentrism construct. The measures for product judgment and willingness to buy, as well as war and economic animosity were taken from Klein et al (1998) with some modifications to fit the Dutch-German situation. The war questions, for instance, focused on the German occupation of The Netherlands in World War II. For foreign travel and perceived domestic product availability, two new scales were developed based on previous research. All scales were pre-tested to ensure respondent comprehension and approximately normal distribution, resulting in some minor modifications.
First, the validity of the measurement models was examined. The fits were good to excellent for all constructs. The full model also showed an adequate fit. The fits were very similar, i.e. within a 0.01 range of Klein et al's (1998) results (GFI 0.87,AGFI, 0.84,CFI,0.91 respectively) . All T-values were significant. Further all but one relationship was in the hypothesized direction. Most surprising was the finding that the CETSCALE was positively rather than negatively related to product judgment, although the link with reluctance to purchase was as hypothesized. The results are next discussed in more detail.
The positive association between the CETSCALE and product evaluation implies that consumer with strong ethnocentric attitudes are more likely to evaluate German products positively than those with less ethnocentric attitudes. This is inconsistent with previous findings (Klein et al 1998, Netemeyer 1995, Shimp and Sharma 1987) and may be due to the strong correlation between the CETSCALE, conservative attitudes and low socio-economic status (Douglas and Nijssen 1998). German products tend to be perceived as prestigious and of high quality by lower socio-economic consumers. Consequently, while they are reluctant to purchase German cars or TVs, they evaluate them positively.
As anticipated, the CETSCALE was strongly related to reluctance to buy German products. This is consistent with previous research, but in this case the strength of the relationship was particularly marked. This may be due to the purification of the CETSCALE construct by eliminating the "availability" items. This provides further evidence in support of the view (Douglas and Nijssen 1998) that use of core CETSCALE items is preferable especially in small countries. As hypothesized, both economic and war animosity were found to have a strong influence on reluctance to buy German products. The strength of the relationship was greater than anticipated. The original animosity hypothesis was examined in a city where very extreme war atrocities were committed. However, in a less extreme situation of wartime occupation and general economic rivalry between countries the impact of animosity was expected to be less significant. This demonstrates the strength and persistence of such feelings in Dutch society and is consistent with recent studies showing a persistent negative attitude toward Germans among all strata of the Dutch population.
Another interesting finding is the negative link between attitudes toward foreign travel and ethnocentrism. As proposed by Mooij (1998) this suggests consumer ethnocentrism is due to a lack of knowledge and exposure to other countries rather than prejudice. Interest in foreign travel also has a positive affect on foreign product judgment, suggests that this may be an important mediating factor in attitudes to foreign products. Perceived availability of domestically produced alternatives also has a significant and strong affect. Not unsurprisingly, foreign products are more likely to be evaluated positively when there is no perceived domestic alternative, and hence no other point of reference for evaluating products.
Initial results confirm previous findings that consumer ethnocentrism and feelings of animosity towards a country result in reluctance to purchase a country's products. Evaluation of a country's products appear, however, to be mediated by the availability of domestic alternatives and also travel and exposure to other countries. Where there are no perceived domestic alternatives, consumers appear more likely to evaluate foreign products favorably. Equally, if they are internationally oriented as manifested in interest in foreign travel, they are less likely to be ethnocentric and to evaluate foreign products negatively.
Further research is clearly needed, comparing product categories where domestic options are widely available, with those where they are not. Attention to variation at different price points and depending on the level of consumer involvement may also be of interest. Extension of the research to other small, outwardly oriented countries such as Denmark or Norway would also help to determine how far results can be generalized beyond the specific case of the Netherlands.
Adorno, T.W., Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson and R. Nevitt Sanford (1950), The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper & Row.
Aspeslagh, R. and Henk Dekker (1997), "An Equivocal Relationship: Germany and The Netherlands." In: Germany In The Picture: Mixed Feelings Revealed. Dekker, H. and Aspeslagh, R. (Lisse), Swets and Seitlinger.
Douglas, Susan P. and Edwin J. Nijssen (1998), "Examining the Construct Validity of the CETSCALE in the Netherlands," working paper, Stern School of Business, New York University.
Han, C. Min (1988), "The Role of Consumer Patriotism in the Choice of Domestic Versus Foreign Products," Journal of Advertising Research, 28 (June/July), pp. 25-31.
Hoedemand, Jan (1990), "Anti-German Feelings in the Second Chamber," Elsevier, (April 7).
Klein, Jill Gabrielle, Richard Ettenson and Marlene D. Morris (1998), "The Animosity Model of Foreign Product Purchase: An Emprical Test in the People's Republic of China," Journal of Marketing, 62 (January), pp. 89-100.
Levitt, Theodore (1983), "The Globalization of Markets," Harvard Business Review, 61 (May-June), pp. 92-102.
Netemeyer, Richard, Srinivas Durvasula and Donald R. Lichtenstein (1991), "A Cross-National Assessment of the Reliability and Validity of the CETSCALE," Journal of Marketing Research, 28 (August), pp. 320-327.
Olde Dubblelink, Tanja (1995), "Attitudes of Youngsters With Regard To Germany and Germans," Leiden: State University Leiden, (June).
Shimp, Terence and S. Sharma (1987), "Consumer Ethnocentrism: Construction and Validation of the CETSCALE," Journal of Marketing Research, 24 (August), pp. 280-289.
APPENDIX A: Constructs and Items
|» Reluctance to buy foreign products
· I would feel guilty if I would buy a German car
· I would never buy a German brand car
· I do not like the idea of owning a car that was made in Germany
· If two car brands were equal in quality, but one was Dutch and one was German, I would pay 10% more for the Dutch brand
|» Product judgments
· Cars made in Germany are carefully manufactured and display fine workmanship
· Cars made in Germany have a high level of technological sophistication and have the latest features
· Cars made in Germany are usually reliable and will function all through their "life expectancy period"
· Cars made in Germany usually have a very good price/quality-ratio
|» Economic animosity
· German companies are not reliable trading partners (e.g. Fokker-Dasa)
· Germany wants economic power over The Netherlands
· German companies often out smart Dutch companies
· Germans generally are not straightforward when they do business with Dutch companies
· While dealing with Germans one should always be careful
|» War animosity
· I feel anger because of the role the Germans played in World War II
· I can still get angry over Germany's role in World War II
· I will never forgive the Germans for occupying our country and pursuing the Jews
|» Perceived availability of domestic alternatives
· There are no Dutch car brands
· There is no real Dutch alternative for a German car
· Germany manufactures cars for which there is no Dutch alternative
· I love traveling and visiting other countries
· I love to go abroad
· I go abroad several times a year
· I like to visit exotic places during my vacation
|» Consumer Ethnocentrism Items
· Dutch products, first, last and foremost
· Purchasing foreign made products is un-Dutch
· It is not right to purchase foreign products, because it puts Dutch people out of jobs
· A real Dutchman should always buy Dutch-made products
· We should purchase products manufactured in Holland instead of letting other countries get rich off us
· Dutch people should not buy foreign products, because it hurts Dutch business and causes unemployment
THE EXPANDED MODEL OF ATTITUDES TO FOREIGN PRODUCT PURCHASE
back to resume | back to publications