Towards a Theory of Country Image Effect on Product Evaluation

Article excerpt

Key Results

* This paper proposes an integrative-dynamic paradigm of country image (CIE) that explains how CIE influences product and brand perceptions and how these perceptions change over time. Six research propositions are given for testing the model.

Theory and International Marketing

The purpose of this paper is to propose a theoretical structure to what is known as country-of-origin effect. That there is a need for better paradigms in international marketing is axiomatic. Albaum and Peterson (1984, pp. 162-163), commenting on the findings of several authors' evaluation of the state of international marketing research (Cavusgil and Nevin 1981, Boddewyn 1981, Bilkey and Nes 1982), concluded that "with few exceptions, existing research on international marketing issues is fragmentary, generally atheoretic, and not sufficiently programmatic to offer anything other than simplistic and incomplete insights into the underlying phenomena of interest." Moreover, some scholars belie the fact that international marketing lacks a central research paradigm (Soldner 1984). Sheth (1992) takes a pessimistic view that "most determinants of international marketing are ad hoc ... unstable and, therefore, not subject to theory building opportunities." If international marketing theory is to be advanced, there will have to be more emphasis on theory-driven data analysis and less emphasis on the immediate applicability of results (Montgomery, Wernerfelt and Balakrishnan 1989).

While it may be premature to think in terms of a theory of international marketing, theories in international marketing may be used as building blocks to achieve the former. International marketing would be comprised of a number concepts, each having its own theoretical structure. One such concept is country image effect (CIE) on consumer evaluation of products and services. As the globalization of marketing efforts continues, the relationship between country-product image and purchasing behavior becomes more important. While there is no consensus definition of CIE (Sauer, Young and Unnava 1991), it is generally understood to stand for the impact that generalizations and perceptions about a country have on a person's evaluations of the country's products and/or brand. The growing importance of CIE has been reflected in academic research. Reviewing CIE literature of the past 30 years, Peterson and Jolibert (1994) identified 187 articles in academic journals. Moreover, a book of original research papers (Papadopoulos and Heslop 1993) has been published on the subject.

In spite of all the generalizations deduced from the combined literature on CIE, a recurring criticism is that they have no integrating theory (Liefeld 1993). Most studies to date are descriptive and some are limited by methodological flaws (Cf. Bilkey and Nes 1982, Jaffe and Nebenzahl 1984, Johansson 1989, Obermiller and Spangenberg 1989, Martin and Eroglu 1993, Douglas and Craig 1992). A major flaw concerns research design, e.g., the fact that many studies are univariate, treating CIE as the only cue affecting product evaluations. Another flaw is the lack of validity and reliability measures of constructs. While there are some tested constructs of CIE (e.g., Erickson, Johannson and Chao 1984, Han 1989, Heimbach, Johansson and MacLachlan 1989, Roth and Romeo 1992), a collection of constructs and variables does not necessarily make a theory (Bacharach 1989).

In the remainder of this paper the authors discuss the requirements for theory development. As a first step towards a theory of CIE, a suggested taxonomy is presented. In the next part, this taxonomy is utilized in order to structure the major empirically derived constructs of CIE that are found in the literature. These constructs are then integrated into a dynamic, general model of CIE. Finally, a number of research propositions are suggested for testing the model.

A Framework for Theory Development

According to Dubin (1978) a theory must contain six elements: what, how, and why; and who, where and when. …