Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

An Interregional and Intercultural Perspective on Subculture Differences in Product Evaluations

Academic journal article Revue Canadienne des Sciences de l'Administration

An Interregional and Intercultural Perspective on Subculture Differences in Product Evaluations

Article excerpt


The role of country of origin in product evaluations is examined at the subnational level, based on a study of

the views of English-speaking versus French-speaking Canadians toward products from seven culturally linked origins. The findings show that, the closer the origin region is perceived by the consumer, the stronger is the influence of culture on product assessments. Important differences between the two groups, particularly concerning attitudes toward products from Great Britain and France and those from industrialized and less developed regions, are discussed. The study suggests there is a need for more research in this area. It also suggests that firm strategies should account for subcultural differences and their influences on consumer behaviour.

Marketing research has dealt extensively with the influence of culture on behaviour in general and with behavioural differences across nations, but relatively little is known about these issues within national boundaries and from an international perspective. Yet subnational differences among consumers often are substantial enough to warrant research attention and to call for different marketing strategies in different parts of the same country. Ignoring internal heterogeneity may lead international marketers to overlook opportunities and/or miss threats arising from subculture-based behavioural differences.

The matter of subnational cultural differences has become particularly important in recent years as cities and other places or regions within nations now compete directly and internationally for attention, export markets, investment capital, and other elements of economic development, rather than leaving these matters mostly to their national governments (Kresl, 1992). This reflects a key paradigm shift brought about by such developments as the global lowering of trade barriers and the strengthening of mechanisms that facilitate cross-border trade (which means, among other things, that places are no longer as protected by national tariff and nontariff umbrellas); supra- and subnational regionalism (which has brought about both global integration and greater assertiveness at the local level); urbanization (which has made many urban regions larger and economically more significant than some nations); and the evolution of global business strategies that can be more responsive to the needs of relatively small market segments (Savitch & Kantor, 1995). In this new environment, studies of not only cross-national but also subnational diversity among consumers are essential.

Within international marketing research, the country of origin or product-country image (PCI) field has paid particular attention to behavioural differences across nations. Tan and Farley (1987) called this "the most researched" aspect of international buyer behaviour, and our comprehensive review of the literature shows several hundred entries, reporting on some 300 studies, as of mid-1997. While this body of work has made significant contributions, numerous gaps remain, not the least being the lack of knowledge about subcultural influences on the images and evaluations of domestic and foreign products. Both single- and multicountry PCI studies share a weakness with international research in general: although many studies are described as "cross-cultural," most are in fact crossnational, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. The problem with the implicit assumption that consumers within nations are homogeneous has been identified by several authors (e.g., Padmanabhan, 1988). Kaynak and Cavusgil, referring specifically to PCI research, suggested that "future studies should attempt to include regional and subcultural differences as these are major sources of variations" (1983, p. 156). This call has not been heeded widely.

Because of its multicultural society and linguistic duality, Canada is a particularly appropriate context for the study of subnational cultural differences. …

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