Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: International Marketing Review, Volume 28, Issue 5.
Country of origin (COO) has become something of a hot topic for international marketing researchers in recent years, and it shows little sign of abating in popularity. The International Marketing Review receives a high number of paper submissions that deal with the COO topic, and in recent years, has published many of these, has devoted two special issues to the topic of COO (volume 25, issue 4, 2008 and volume 27, issue 4, 2010), and has bestowed a best paper award to a manuscript addressing an important COO-related issue (see Riefler and Diamantopoulos, 2007). However, recent contributions to the COO literature have thrown up some criticism of the prevailing research approaches used in the COO field, arguing that COO may not be that important after all (e.g. Samiee et al., 2005), and to ask whether COO researchers are getting it wrong in their methods and in the kinds of questions that they are seeking to answer (Samiee, 2009).
The first paper in this issue, by Magnusson, Westjohn and Zdravkovic, addresses these concerns head on. The authors argue that consumers’ perceptions of the country that they perceive a brand to originate from affect their attitudes towards the brand, regardless of whether these perceptions of brand origin are accurate, and that this has implications for managers who may need to manage COO image within their broader marketing strategy. Magnusson et al.'s purpose here, in addition to providing guidance to marketing managers, is to confirm COO as an important research domain.
The paper by Samiee is written as a direct response to Magnusson et al.'s contribution. Samiee argues that much of the research undertaken into origin issues is athreoretic, is unimportant, and lacks managerial relevance. As an alternative, Samiee suggests that the notion of Brand Origin (BO) is a more valid issue in terms of managerial importance, overcoming many of the weaknesses that COO poses. Samiee goes on to argue that the big question that researchers need to focus on now is whether COO or BO actually influence consumers’ behaviour, and reflect on the kinds of research design that are needed to generate valid insights into COO/BO issues.
Usunier also writes his paper as a direct response to Magnusson et al.'s paper. Usunier likewise believes that researchers should refocus on the issue of brand origin, and its associated notions, such as country of brand, brand origin recognition accuracy (BORA), and confidence in brand origin assessment, and argues that this shift should occur at the expense of traditional COO notions such as country of manufacture and country of design. Usunier is concerned that the Magnusson et al. paper overlooks or downplays the brand origin questions that are so important. The paper concludes with the observation that future research must investigate the causes of BORA.
Magnusson, Westjohn and Zdravkovic provide a response to the two comment pieces by Samiee and by Usunier. They argue that much of what Samiee and Usunier argue is implicit or explicit in their original paper (e.g. brand origin is an important route for future research): as such, they conclude that there is less disagreement than initially appears to be the case. The paper also presents arguments refuting the conceptual and methodological criticisms levelled at them by Samiee and Usunier. The authors conclude by reflecting on some of the questions that future researchers must consider.
The final paper in this issue is by Schlegelmilch, Diamantopoulos and Palihawadana. These authors are motivated by the recent criticisms of COO research, and seek to determine the relative importance of country of origin image and brand image in terms of consumers’ intentions to buy specific Chinese and US brands. The authors conclude that their findings show that COO is an important driver of brand image and, as such, COO image drives purchase intentions indirectly through brand image. For Schlegelmilch and colleagues, the study provides evidence that COO research criticism is largely unfounded, and that COO is a relevant construct worthy of continued research interest.
Readers of these five papers are advised to pick their way through each paper carefully – they all contain many excellent observations and arguments. They also provide somewhat contradictory views on the relevance of the COO construct, and the direction that COO researchers should head in.
John W. Cadogan
Riefler, P. and Diamantopoulos, A. (2007), “Consumer animosity: a literature review and a reconsideration of its measurement”, International Marketing Review, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 87-119
Samiee, S. (2009), “Advancing the country image construct – a commentary essay”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 63 No. 4, pp. 442-5
Samiee, S., Shimp, T.A. and Sharma, S. (2005), “Brand origin recognition accuracy: its antecedents and consumers’ cognitive limitations”, Journal of International Business Studies, Vol. 36 No. 4, pp. 379-97