Country-of-origin: state of the art review for international marketing strategy and practice


International Marketing Review

ISSN: 0265-1335

Article publication date: 18 July 2008



Phau, I. and Chao, P. (2008), "Country-of-origin: state of the art review for international marketing strategy and practice", International Marketing Review, Vol. 25 No. 4.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Country-of-origin: state of the art review for international marketing strategy and practice

Article Type: Guest editorial From: International Marketing Review, Volume 25, Issue 4

About the Guest Editors

Ian PhauAssociate Professor of Marketing and Chair for Research at Curtin University of Technology. His has published in excess of 60 articles in peer review journals such as Psychology and Marketing, Journal of Business Ethics, Journal of Consumer Marketing, amongst others. He has extensive business and research experiences in the luxury fashion industry in Europe and Asia. His teaching experiences have spanned across Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Europe and Australia. He is the recipient of several awards for excellence in teaching, supervision and research. He is currently the Editor in Chief for Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics, and is serving on the editorial review boards of many other marketing journals.

Paul Chao(PhD University of Washington) is a Professor of Marketing at Eastern Michigan University. His works have been published in the Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Advertising, Journal of Advertising Research, Journal of Business Research, Journal of International Business Studies, Management International Review, International Marketing Review, Journal of Business Ethics among others. He has extensive international teaching and research experiences, having taught and conducted research in Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. He received a Fulbright teaching/research grant to the national Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China in the fall of 2004. He is currently serving on the editorial review boards of International Marketing Review and the International Journal of Management Theory and Practices.

Over the last several decades, the international marketing research community has witnessed not only an explosive growth in the treasure trove of information and knowledge about the country-of-origin (COO) effects, but also growth in increasing sophistication in research methodologies used to address a variety of COO issues. Despite this progress, which has added significant insights and helped in resolving quite a number of substantive issues related to the COO construct, lingering doubts persist with respect to whether any of the COO effects reported may in fact be over-inflated at best or spurious at worst (Johansson 1993). Some of these doubts may have arisen out of concerns about potential research flaws including single cue models used in many earlier studies (Bilkey and Nes, 1982), sample biases (Peterson and Jolibert, 1995), and demand artifacts (Samiee et al. 2005). “Where is the beef?” may be the most fitting analogy. In effect, researchers and practitioners alike are asking: “Is there any beef?” in your COO hamburger. On the other hand, some may also ask a similar question about “Where are the buns?” used to support the beef in the hamburger. A hamburger will not be as good or tasty without both. COO research will not be as good if our research is simply confined to COO effects testing without sound theoretical underpinnings to provide clearer understandings on why the effects should or should not exist (Obermiller and Spangenburg, 1989) and the conditions under which they should. We are pleased to report that COO research has accomplished much on both fronts.

COO research has also reached a watershed moment in its history in the context of globalization. Impacts of the increasing pace of globalization over the last few years are being felt throughout the world. This has spawned vigorous debates between the proponents and antagonists of globalization due to its perceived positive and some negative impacts on both multinational corporations and consumers alike. For multinational corporations pursuing a global strategy, multinational production rationalizations have produced numerous hybrid products whose countries-of-origins are no longer easy to identify and the effects of which on consumers have been reported (Chao, 1998, 2001).

In light of the recent developments including food scares and product safety issues, COO cues have become a more salient issue for more consumers throughout the world. Whereas COO cues may have remained peripheral for the vast majority of consumers in the past, these recent events have certainly heightened their sensitivities to this particular variable. Nowhere is this more evident than in the land where most of the recent cases originated: China (Chao, 2006).

Consumer product information processing may also be influenced by strong consumer sentiments triggered by various international events such as nuclear testing in the south Pacific, anti-whaling campaigns against Japanese fishermen and backlash against American products in the Middle East due to the war in Iraq, etc. Chinese consumers’ call for boycotting Carrefour, the French retailer in China in response to the disruption of Olympics torch relay in Paris by French citizens is the most recent case in point. Various studies have been designed to address these and other related issues (Han 1988; Klein et al., 1998). As new world events unfold and new issues continue to evolve on the world stage, it is to be expected that new COO research paradigms will emerge and research gaps will need to be filled. However, in order to make significant progress and incremental contributions to the COO literature, the bars have been raised. It is no longer sufficient just to replicate similar studies in different country or regional settings.

As indicated in the call for papers for the special issue, the purpose is to present a new state of the art review of COO issues including any new trends and unresolved COO issues. The quest is to audit and improve our understanding of the influence of the country image on the globalized market, and to assist international marketers in learning how to manage more effectively international marketing strategies based on the results. As such this special issue includes articles ranging from studies on manufacturing, arts to service industries, a sector hitherto relatively unexplored in the COO literature. We are pleased to have received more than 50 papers for this special issue submitted by authors from North America, Asia, Europe and all the way to Australia on a wide range of COO topics.

The special issue opens with a longitudinal study by Heslop et al. on a 1995 international crisis involving nuclear testing in the south Pacific by the French government. Longitudinal studies are rare in international marketing literature and with the exception of a few studies (Ettenson and Klein, 2005; Jaffe and Nebenzahl, 1993), rarer still are longitudinal COO studies. In this study, Australian consumers were surveyed before, during and a decade after the incident. They found that during the crisis, negative emotions toward France and its people rose. As a result, consumer attitude toward French products declined. Post crisis, it was found that country-people character beliefs had significant influences on product evaluations. However, the impacts of country-people competency on product evaluations and responses decreased. The study contributed to the COO literature by testing the country-people image effect model using the structural equation modeling technique.

The second paper by d’Astous et al. examined a largely untapped industry in COO research, the arts. The authors studied the COO impact on consumer perceptions of artistic and cultural products. Based on adult samples across five countries, perceptions of sixteen countries and their reputation for nine cultural products were examined. As shown in the study results, the perceived qualities of artistic products are affected by country and product familiarity, the consumers’ openness to cultures, and home country bias and proximity.

The third paper by Michaelis et al. is based on the COO impact on a company’s initial trust and corporate reputation. To date, service industries have received scanty attention from COO researchers even though service sectors in most countries have gained greater economic prominence. In this study, different service combinations were evaluated and compared across two different service categories (high risk vs low risk) by Polish students in an experiment. It was found that reputation and level of service risk played a vital role in affecting initial trust. Furthermore, when dealing with a riskier service, positive COO effects led to a higher level of initial trust.

The fourth paper by Josiassen et al. explored the moderating effects of product familiarity and product involvement on the importance of COO on product evaluations. The importance of COO information on Australian consumer product evaluations varied according to specific product context. COO was found to play a particularly stronger role in the product evaluation process when they were less familiar with the product categories being evaluated or when they were less involved with the products. Product origin congruency was added as an additional variable. It was found that this variable enhanced the importance of COO used by consumers in product evaluations.

The fifth paper by Zhuang et al. focused on the asymmetric effects of brand origin confusion on consumer preference and purchase of local and foreign brands in China. Consistent with previous research reported by Samiee et al. (2005), high levels of uncertainty existed with respect to brand-country identities in the minds of consumers. However, the results in this study revealed that local brands would be at a significant advantage if brand origin confusion was high. On the other hand, when consumers’ brand knowledge increased, effects of brand origin confusion declined.

In the last paper by Wang and Yang, the auto industry in the emerging market of China was examined. The study was based on the relationship between brand personality and purchase intention of a Sino-German auto brand, Bora and a Sino-Japanese brand Honda. It was found that both brand personality and COO image positively influenced purchase intention. COO effect on purchase intention was found to be moderated by brand personality and the COO image.

As COO issues continue to emerge, there are significant opportunities for further research. However, future COO research efforts need to move beyond COO effects testing with greater emphasis on theory development and theory testing. We hope that you will enjoy reading this Special Issue and that it will spur future COO research interests to provide greater insights and understanding of the COO phenomena as well as their implications for international marketing strategies.

A Special issue reviewers

  • George Balabanis, City University, UK

  • Alan D’Astous, HED, Canada

  • Richard Ettenson, Thunderbird School of Management, USA

  • John Ford, Old Dominion University, USA

  • C.M. Han, Hanyang University, Korea

  • Louis Heslop, University of Guelph, Canada

  • Eugene Jaffe, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

  • Myung-Soo Jo, McGill University, Canada

  • Jill Klein, Insead, France

  • Michel Laroche, Concordia University, Canada

  • Zhan G. Li, University of San Francisco, USA

  • John Liefeld, University of Guelph, Canada

  • Israel Nebenzahl, Bar-Ilan University, Israel

  • Aron O’Cass, University of Newcastle, Australia

  • Nicolas Papadopoulos, Carleton University, Canada

  • Ravi Pappu, University of Queensland, Australia

  • Anthony Pecotich, University of Western Australia

  • Pascale Quester, University of Adelaide, Australia

  • Raj Rajendran, University of Northern Iowa, USA

  • Mohammed Rawwas, University of Northern Iowa, USA

  • Saeed Samiee, University of Tulsa, USA

  • Subhash Sharma, University of South Carolina, USA

  • Mark Speece, University of Alaska Southeast, USA

  • Peter Verlegh, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands

  • Attila Yaprak, Wayne State University, USA

Ian Phau, Paul ChaoGuest Editors


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