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Love for one's country or oneself: a brand-choice framework in emerging markets.

Growth in emerging economies has been characterized by parallel increases in population size and rate of industrialization. As multinational companies continue their decades-long expansion into emerging markets, consumers are exposed to an increasing variety of foreign brands (Steenkamp & de Jong, 2010). Researchers (Alden, Steenkamp, & Batra, 1999; Riefler, 2012) have demonstrated that consumers in developing countries tend to be charmed by foreign brands, particularly those with origins in Western or other developed countries. This effect is largely attributable to the better quality associated with these products and the higher social status associated with owning them (Batra, Ahuvia, & Bagozzi, 2012). Consumers in emerging markets have also witnessed the growth of large-scale domestic enterprises, resulting in a renaissance of domestic brands (Ding & Akoorie, 2009). Domestic companies often hold larger domestic market shares than do multinationals, presenting a considerable challenge to the operation of multinational companies in foreign countries (Ewing, Napoli, Pitt, & Watts, 2002). Some domestic enterprises in China have also expanded into the global market, and the quality of the products they export is now approaching the standard of world-renowned brands (Zhou, Yang, & Hui, 2010). There is some evidence to suggest that, as the Chinese economy has developed, Chinese consumers' attitude toward domestic products has gradually become more favorable (Li, Guofeng, & Kambele, 2012).

Given the improved perception of domestic brands, the choice between foreign and local brands for consumers in emerging markets has become increasingly difficult. This new friction has stimulated interest among researchers and marketing practitioners who seek to (a) determine how consumers behave in these markets, and (b) identify the social and contextual factors that influence their behavior (Sharma, 2011). In the current study, we sought to address these questions by testing the effects of national brand consciousness and self-brand connection on consumers' preferences for foreign and domestic brands.

Conceptual Background and Theoretical Model

National Brand Consciousness and Self-Brand Connection

Ethnocentrism relates to the tendency for individuals to be generally biased in such a way that they think highly of the group to which they belong--typically conceptualized as the nation or state--and accept cultures that are similar either to their own or to those with which they feel a connection (Talhelm et al., 2015). Batra, Ramaswamy, Alden, Steenkamp, and Ramachander (2014) proposed that consumer ethnocentrism tendency--which measures the degree to which consumers consider the purchase of domestic brands to be appropriate, correct, and moral--can explain consumers' preferences toward both domestic and foreign brands. Generally, an ethnocentric person would feel that purchasing foreign brands is inappropriate for both economic and moral reasons, but that purchasing domestic brands would provide him/her with recognition and a related sense of belonging as part of his/her ingroup (Alden et al., 1999).

In our study, we utilized a construct similar to ethnocentrism, labeled national brand consciousness (NBC), which indicates domestic consumers' identification with, and admiration for, domestic brands resulting from patriotism and an awareness that foreign brands may harm the national interest (Wang & Chen, 2004). The main difference between NBC and customer ethnocentrism tendency is that the latter is chiefly an indicator of national pride derived from historical and cultural backgrounds; the former is more closely related to consumers' patriotic sentiments (Wang, Li, Barnes, & Ahn, 2012).

In developed countries, domestic firms can manufacture products of high quality and, as a result, provide consumers with good value for their money. When foreign brands of comparable quality enter the market, consumers perceive these entrants as threats to their national economy and the well-being of the people who are employed in the domestic firms. When this occurs, consumers often seek domestic brands out of a sense of national pride, as well as confidence in products produced by domestic firms (Cheron, Hayashi, & Sugimoto, 2015).

However, NBC is a more appropriate variable and predictor than is ethnocentrism for use in developing countries such as China and India because, despite impressive economic growth, in these countries there are still few global industrial leaders, and the quality of domestic companies' products are often inferior to their foreign counterparts. In emerging markets, consumers perceive the quality of foreign products to be superior to that of domestic products (Lee, Kumar, & Kim, 2010). Therefore, consumers in emerging economies often lack pride or confidence in the products produced by companies in their home countries. To illustrate this, Nguyen, Nguyen, and Barrett (2008) found that consumers in less developed economies were less ethnocentric and less likely to believe that locally manufactured products were superior to foreign-made products than were their counterparts in developed lands.

Main Effects

We argued that NBC would be positively related to consumers' attitude toward domestic brands and negatively associated with their attitude toward foreign brands. Parker, Haytko, and Hermans (2011) found that although college-aged Chinese consumers were not significantly ethnocentric or hostile towards the United States, ethnocentrism was significantly related to their willingness to purchase foreign-made products. In line with this finding, we predicted that when consumers perceive foreign and domestic brands of a product to be of comparable value, NBC inclines an individual toward the domestic brand. When salient brand attitudes lead consumers to perceive that domestic brands are inferior to foreign brands, their inherent patriotism can negate that rational evaluation. Accordingly, we proposed the following:

Hypothesis 1: National brand consciousness will be related to consumers' attitudes toward domestic and foreign brands in that for domestic brands, national brand consciousness will be positively related to consumers' attitudes and, for foreign brands, national brand consciousness will be inversely related to consumers' attitudes.

Because consumers express and construct their own self-concept by purchasing certain products or brands (Escalas & Bettman, 2005), an individual's personal connection with a brand has an effect on his/her attitude toward that brand (Tuskej, Golob, & Podnar, 2013). Self-concept refers to an individual's perception and evaluation of him/herself, including what kind of person he/ she wants to be, believes he/she will be, and is afraid of becoming (Batra et al., 2012). Researchers have shown that brand value derives not only from product functionality, but also from its ability to help consumers create a self-identity and distinguish themselves from others (Dwivedi, Johnson, & McDonald, 2015). People tend to choose products with symbolic meaning similar to their self-concept as a means to enhance their self-esteem and self-evaluation (Ward & Dahl, 2014).

When association with a brand is used to construct the self or to convey information about one's self-concept, people become psychologically connected to that brand (Escalas & Bettman, 2005). In this way, the closeness between a brand's symbolic meaning and the consumer's self-concept is directly related to the strength of the self-brand connection (SBC), which exerts a positive effect on consumers' brand attitudes (Wei & Yu, 2012) and shapes consumers' brand loyalties (Choi & Winterich, 2013; Escalas & Bettman, 2005). Thus, we offered the following prediction:

Hypothesis 2: Self-brand connection will be positively related to consumers' attitudes toward both domestic and foreign brands.

Mediating Effects

We predicted that NBC and SBC would exert indirect effects on consumers' intentions to purchase a particular brand. Researchers have found that brand attitude is positively related to purchasing behaviors (Wegener, Petty, Blankenship, & Detweiler-Bedell, 2010). Thus, we proposed:

Hypothesis 3a: Consumer attitude towards a domestic brand will mediate the relationship between national brand consciousness and purchase intention for the domestic brand.

Hypothesis 3b: Consumer attitude towards a foreign brand will mediate the relationship between self-brand connection and purchase intention for the domestic brand.

Hypothesis 3c: Consumer attitude towards a foreign brand will mediate the relationship between self-brand connection and purchase intention for the foreign brand.

Moderating Effects

Researchers have indicated that consumers' judgment of product quality is correlated with the degree to which the country of origin of a product is economically developed; that is, consumers tend to believe that brands from economically developed countries are of a better quality than those from developing countries (Batra et al., 2014). Therefore, we expected that although consumers' ethnocentric tendencies preclude them from buying foreign brands, the effect of product quality judgment (QJ) would not fully moderate these effects (Huddleston, Good, & Stoel, 2001). Thus, in developing countries, we expected that the positive relationship between NBC and brand attitude would be moderated by consumers' QJ:

Hypothesis 4: Consumers' quality judgment of domestic products will moderate the relationship between national brand consciousness and attitude toward domestic brands.

Hypothesis 4a: When consumers perceive domestic products to be of high quality, the positive effect of national brand consciousness on attitude toward domestic brands will be stronger than when consumers perceive domestic products to be of poor quality.

Hypothesis 4b: When consumers perceive foreign products to be of high quality, the negative effect of national brand consciousness on attitude toward foreign brands will be attenuated.

Apart from the brand itself, the psychological distance between a consumer and the brand's country of origin can vary. Psychological distance (PD) is egocentric: the reference point is the self in the here and now, and there are different distance dimensions by which an object is removed from that point--in time, in space, in social distance, or in hypotheticality (Trope & Liberman, 2010). The PD between a consumer's culture and the culture associated with the brand's country of origin can carry over to the consumer's perception of PD from the brand. Consumers who perceive little PD between themselves and a brand are likely to have a concrete view of the brand. In contrast, consumers who perceive great PD between themselves and a brand are likely to view the brand in a more abstract manner (Wang & Yu, 2013). For consumers in an emerging economy who perceive foreign brands as representative of their own self-concept, this positive effect will be attenuated if they perceive the PD between themselves and the brand's country of origin to be substantial. In contrast, a smaller PD between a consumer and the brand's country of origin can strengthen the effect of SBC on brand attitude. Given these various factors, we predicted the following:

Hypothesis 5: Psychological distance will moderate the relationship between self-brand connection and brand attitude such that when there is little PD between the consumer and brand country of origin, the effect of self-brand connection on brand attitude will be more pronounced, and when there is a great psychological distance between the consumer and brand country of origin, the positive effect of self-brand connection on brand attitude will be diminished.

Figure 1 depicts the proposed conceptual model derived from the hypotheses outlined above.



Pilot Study

We recruited college students in Beijing, China to implement a survey-based method for investigating the proposed conceptual framework. To evaluate the effects of NBC and SBC on consumer preferences, brands in the experimental stimuli should be comparable in terms of quality, price, and familiarity. Therefore, after considering cell phones, food, and sports shoes, as products for which both foreign and domestic brands are available in China, we selected sport shoes as the product category of focus in our study because the other products were not comparable in price and familiarity. We selected Anta as the domestic sport-shoe brand and New Balance as the foreign brand. The average age of participants in the pilot study (N = 97) was 21.73 years. Of the participants, 46 (47%) were men and 51 (53%) were women. Whereas most participants (73%) reported spending less than 2000 Chinese Yuan (RMB) per month (US$314.80), 5% reported spending more than 3000 RMB (US$472.20) a month, and 22% reported spending 2000-3000 RMB a month. Analysis of responses from participants in the pilot study showed that respondents were familiar with both the domestic (p = 6.78) and foreign ([mu] = 6.43) brands to be referenced in this study.

Participants and Procedure

For the study proper, we recruited participants via email and posters. Of the 200 individuals who agreed to participate, 185 provided adequate data for analysis (response rate, 92.5%). Respondents were randomly assigned to the domestic-brand group (n = 94) or the foreign-brand group (n = 91). Before asking the participants to complete the survey, we described the domestic or foreign brand to them, providing the logo, both the English and Chinese names, and the brand's origin (home country of company). The average age of the sample was 22.49 years. Of the respondents 99 (53%) were men, and 87 (47%) were women. Most respondents (77%) reported spending less than 2000 RMB (US$314.80), per month, 16% between 2000 and 3000 RMB, and 7% reported spending more than 3000 RMB (US$472.20) a month.


NBC was measured using a scale developed by Wang and Chen (2004). A sample item is: "I prefer to support domestic brands although domestic brands are inferior to foreign brands in terms of quality." We used the SBC Scale developed by Escalas and Bettman (2005) to measure respondents' perceptions of connection between themselves and the brand in the condition to which they had been assigned. A sample item is: "I think this brand helps me become the type of person I want to be." To measure QJ we adopted the scale developed by Klein, Ettenson, and Morris (1998). A sample item reads: "Products made in China are generally of a lower quality than similar products available from developed countries." We measured PD using a scale developed by Aron, Aron, and Smollan (1992). An example of an item is: "The psychological distance between the domestic brand and me is small." For the dependent variables, brand attitude was measured using scales developed by White and Dahl (2007) and purchase intention was measured by asking participants a question derived from the work of Mackenzie and Spreng (1992) about the participants' willingness to buy this brand of sports shoe.

All constructs were measured on 7-point Likert scales ranging from 1 (completely disagree) to 7 (completely agree). The reliabilities of all constructs were acceptable, as Cronbach's alpha ranged between .82 and .91.


Main Effects

We used the following models to perform the main effect analyses:

[PI.sub.AT] = [a.sub.1]NBC + [a.sub.2]SBC + [Z.sub.1] (1)

[BA.sub.At] = [a.sub.3]NBC + [a.sub.4]SBC + [Z.sub.2] (2)

[PI.sub.AT] = [a.sub.5]NBC + [a.sub.6]SBC + [a.sub.7][BA.sub.AT] + [Z.sub.3] (3)

[PI.sub.NB] = [[beta].sub.1]NBC + [[beta].sub.2]SBC + [Z.sub.4] (4)

[BA.sub.NB] = [[beta].sub.3]NBC + [[beta].sub.4]SBC + [Z.sub.5] (5)

[PI.sub.NB] = [[beta].sub.5]NBC + [[beta].sub.6]SBC + [[beta].sub.7][BA.sub.NB] + [Z.sub.6] (6)

where [PI.sub.AT] represents purchase intention in the Anta (domestic) consumer group; [PI.sub.NB] signifies purchase intention in the New Balance (foreign) consumer group; [BA.sub.AT] represents brand attitude within the Anta (domestic) consumer group; [BA.sub.NB] depicts brand attitude within the New Balance (foreign) consumer group; and a and p are constants. We employed the approach used by Enders, Baraldi, and Cham (2014) to eliminate multicollinearity. Tests of multicollinearity produced variance inflation factor values well below 10, indicating the absence of multicollinearity among the variables. In Table 1 a summary of the results of the multiple regression analyses outlined in Models 1-6 is presented.

With respect to the Chinese brands, results for Model 1 show that both consumers' NBC and SBC had significant positive effects on their purchase intention. Results in Model 2 demonstrate significant positive effects of consumers' NBC and SBC on attitude toward the brand in their respective conditions. According to Model 3 results, brand attitude exerted a positive effect on purchase intention, and the effect of SBC on purchase intention became nonsignificant. These results provide empirical support for Hypotheses 1 and 2 for the Chinese (domestic) brand. These results further indicate that brand attitude completely mediated the significant effect of SBC on purchase intention.

Mediating Effects

In the case of the foreign brand, results in Models 4 and 5 show that consumers' NBC did not exert a significant effect on either their brand attitude or their purchase intention. Results in Model 6, however, show a significant positive effect of brand attitude on purchase intention; the effect of NBC on purchase intention remained nonsignificant. Taken together, these results did not provide support for Hypothesis 1 in relation to the foreign brand. Results in Models 4 and 5 illustrated a significant positive effect of consumers' SBC on their brand attitude and purchase intentions. Moreover, in Model 6, brand attitude had a significant effect on purchase intention, but the effect of SBC on purchase intention was not significant. This series of tests showed that the relationship between SBC and purchase intention was significant, but was entirely mediated by brand attitude. As such, our results provide support for Hypotheses 3a, 3b, and 3c.

Moderating Effects

We used the following models to test for possible moderation within our proposed model:

[BA.sub.AT] = [[gamma].sub.1]NBC + [[gamma].sub.2]SBC + [Y.sub.1] (7)

[BA.sub.AT] = [[gamma].sub.3]NBC + [[gamma].sub.4]SBC + [[gamma].sub.5]QJ * NC + [Y.sub.2] (8)

[BA.sub.AT] = [[gamma].sub.6]NBC + [[gamma].sub.7]SBC + [[gamma].sub.8]QJ * NC + [[gamma].sub.9]PD * SBC + [Y.sub.3] (9)

[BA.sub.NB] = [[delta].sub.1]NBC + [[delta].sub.2]SBC + [Y.sub.4] (10)

[BA.sub.NB] = [[delta].sub.3]NBC + [[delta].sub.4]SBC + [[delta].sub.5]QJ * NC + [Y.sub.5] (11)

[BA.sub.NB] = [[delta].sub.6]NBC + [[delta].sub.7]SBC + [[delta].sub.8]QJ * NC + [[delta].sub.9]PD * SBC + [Y.sub.6] (12)

[BA.sub.AT + NB] = [[theta].sub.1]NBC + [[theta].sub.2]SBC + [Y.sub.7] (13)

[BA.sub.AT + NB] = [[theta].sub.3]NBC + [[theta].sub.4]SBC + [[theta].sub.5]PD * SBC + [Y.sub.8] (14)

[BA.sub.AT + NB] = [[theta].sub.6]NBC + [[theta].sub.7]SBC + [[theta].sub.8]QJ * NC + [[theta].sub.9]PD * SBC + [Y.sub.9] (15)

Within these models, [BA.sub.AT] represents consumer attitudes toward the brand (Anta) in the domestic consumer group; BANB stands for consumer attitudes toward the brand (New Balance) in the foreign consumer group; and [gamma], [delta], and [theta] are constants. In Table 2 a summary is set out of the results of the multiple regression analyses to test Models 7-12.

In testing Hypothesis 4, results in Model 8 illustrate a significant moderating effect of QJ on consumers' brand attitude toward the domestic product (Anta). Specifically, the positive coefficient associated with the cross-term suggests that the effect of NBC on consumers' attitude towards the domestic product grew stronger as QJ improved. This result provides support for Hypothesis 4. Although Model 10 produced the result of a negative coefficient associated with the interaction term, it was not at a level of significance and, thus, the result failed to provide support for Hypothesis 4b. Taken together, results of our analyses provided only partial support for Hypothesis 4.

To test Hypothesis 5, we evaluated the cross-term in Model 12. This cross-term was significant and positive, indicating a moderating effect of PD. Specifically, the positive coefficient associated with cross-term suggests that the effect of SBC on brand attitude grew stronger as PD increased. This result provides empirical support for Hypothesis 5.

Finally, we performed a regression analysis in which NBC, SBC, a cross-term including QJ and NBC, and a cross-term including PD and SBC were the predictors and brand attitude was the outcome variable. Results of this analysis showed the interaction between QJ and NBC to be significantly and positively related to brand attitude towards Anta (domestic), but nonsignificant in relation to brand attitudes towards New Balance (foreign). These results provide partial support for Hypothesis 4, but the significant, positive interaction between PD and SBC across all samples provides full support for Hypothesis 5.


In this study we have demonstrated that consumers' brand purchasing behaviors in emerging economies are driven, at least in part, by two distinct motivations. The first of these is NBC, which is based on a distinct social-psychological construct. This originates from ethnocentrism and reflects an individual's desire to protect his/her home nation's brands and identity. The second motivation is a psychological link between the consumer and the brands to which he or she gravitates.

NBC was positively related with attitude toward a domestic brand and negatively related to attitude toward a foreign brand. The role of SBC in the development of customer preferences has been extensively studied (e.g., Hollenbeck & Kaikati, 2012; Malar, Krohmer, Hoyer, & Nyffenegger, 2011), and researchers have largely concluded that the strength of the connection that a consumer feels with a brand positively influences his/her attitude toward it (Malar et al., 2011). In our study we have provided further support for this assertion, producing evidence that the relationship between SBC and brand attitude is robust across domestic and foreign brands. Furthermore, we found that consumer judgments about the quality of products from different countries moderated the relationship between NBC and the consumer's attitude toward a domestic brand. We found that, whereas judging domestic brands to be of high quality tends to reinforce the positive influence of NBC on attitude toward those brands, judging foreign brands to be of high quality tends to temper the association between NBC and attitudes toward domestic brands. In addition, the psychological distance between the consumer and the brand's country of origin further moderated the effect of SBC on brand attitude. Finally, and in accordance with findings in a previous study (Jin & Kang, 2011), we found that consumers' purchase intention differed by attitude toward domestic and foreign brands.

Theoretically speaking, we have provided a comprehensive framework for describing the complex, interrelated forces that influence consumers' brand preferences. Most previous studies conducted in China were performed at a time when foreign brands (typically multinational companies) were entering (Kothari, Kotabe, & Murphy, 2013), and dominated, the market because the product quality was superior to that of domestic brands. However, as the global competitive landscape shifts, the need for a new theoretical framework to understand changing consumer behaviors becomes urgent (Ewing et al., 2002). We have also provided further support for the moderating roles of quality judgment and psychological distance in the relationships described above.

Practically, our results indicate that companies in emerging markets should be aware of consumers' patriotism and national consciousness in relation to domestic brands. In addition, our results suggest that in emerging markets management and marketing personnel of both domestic and foreign firms should seek to build connections between consumer and brand, and develop products of high quality. Finally, in an emerging market foreign companies could benefit from a narrowing of the psychological distance between the consumer and the brand that the producer wishes to promote.

Although our analyses have substantial explanatory value, additional research is needed to better understand consumers' brand preferences in transition economies. For example, more extensive research on the influence of demographic factors, such as geography, generation, and education level, on consumers' brand preferences would prove useful. Second, although our results may be generalizable to emerging markets other than China, future researchers could benefit from analyzing these variables in other countries. Doing so will provide a more comprehensive understanding of the similarities and differences intrinsic to consumer behavior across emerging markets.

Xiaodong Zhu, Chunling Yu, AND Saiquan Hu

Tsinghua University

Xiaodong Zhu, Chunling Yu, and Saiquan Hu, Department of Marketing, Tsinghua University. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Saiquan Hu, Room 729A, Zijing Building #14, HaiDian District, Beijing 100084, People's Republic of China. Email: husq.11@


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Table 1. Multiple Regression Analysis Results: Models 1-6


            Model 1       Model 2       Model 3
Variables   [PI.sub.AT]   [BA.sub.AT]   [PI.sub.AT]

NBC         .516 ***      .214 *        .383 ***
SBC         .315 ***      .331 ***      .108
BA                        .953 ***
[R.sup.2]   .297          .261          .458
F           19.189 ***    16.092 ***    35.320 ***

            New Balance

            Model 4       Model 5       Model 6
Variables   [PI.sub.NB]   [BA.sub.NB]   [PI.sub.NB]

NBC         -.189         -.101         -.093
SBC         .300 *        .315 ***      .000
BA          .626 ***
[R.sup.2]   .112          .129          .682
F           5.547 **      6.493 ***     155.885 ***

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. NBC = national brand
consciousness, SBC = self-brand connection, BA = brand attitude.

Table 2. Multiple Regression Analysis Results: Models 7-12


                          Model 7         Model 8
Variables               [BA.sub.AT]     [BA.sub.AT]

NBC                    .214 *          .077
SBC                    .331 ***        .339 ***
QJ * NBC                               .212 *
[R.sup.2]              .261            .301
[DELTA][R.sup.2]                       .040 *
F                      16.092 ***      5.173 ***

                               New Balance

                         Model 10        Model 11
Variables               [BA.sub.NB]     [BA.sub.NB]

NBC                    -.101           .074
SBC                    .315 ***        .304 ***
QJ * NBC                               -.093
[R.sup.2]              .129            .144
[DELTA][R.sup.2]                       .015 **
F                      6.493 ***       1.589

                         Anta + New Balance

                       Model 13        Model 14
Variables               BA              BA

NBC                    .030            .033
SBC                    .365 ***        .345 ***
PD * SBC                               .078 *
[R.sup.2]              .165            .183
[DELTA][R.sup.2]                       .018 **
F                      17.991 ***      4.068 *

Note. * p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001. NBC = national
brand consciousness, SBC = self-brand connection,
QJ = quality judgment, PD = psychological distance.
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Author:Zhu, Xiaodong; Yu, Chunling; Hu, Saiquan
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 1, 2016
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