Date of Award

Summer 2005

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Grow, Jean

Second Advisor

Wolburg, Joyce

Third Advisor

Ksobiech, Kenneth

Abstract

The shaping of this thesis began in Fall 2004. At that time, I was closely observing the American branch of a Chinese company-Haier America. Haier was the first Chinese brand promoted in the U.S. market. This company launched its first consumer advertising campaign in September 2002. As a graduate student interested in marketing communication, I was very curious about the effectiveness of this campaign. So I investigated this campaign as coursework for three classes: (1) For an independent study under Dr. Kenneth Ksobiech, I analyzed the persuasiveness of the messages in this ad; (2) for COMM 202, I applied qualitative research methods such as frame analysis and in depth interview to conclude that American media and consumers tended to stereotype Chinese companies and products; (3) for COMM 203, I conducted an online survey as the pilot study for this thesis in an effort to improve the validity and reliability of the measurement instrument. The findings emerging from these course projects confirmed the general idea that country-of-origin helped stereotype foreign products. However, there is a considerably strong voice from some international marketing practitioners and researchers that denies country-of-origin effects. Their arguments inspired me to test country-of-origin effects with the Haier America ad. After a literature review, I became aware of the problematic assumptions underlying previous country-of-origin research. The assumption suggested that, with the exposure of country-of-origin information, consumers spontaneously activated relevant attitudes, i.e., country images, from their memories to stereotype foreign products. From the perspective of attitude research, this assumption failed to recognize possible " impact of attitude accessibility. That is, when country images were not accessible from an individual's memory, they might not influence product evaluations. In other words, the extent to which country images were accessible was likely to moderate country-of-origin effects. This study is an interdisciplinary effort to integrate literatures in attitude research, marketing, and advertising to explore a marketing communication issue in the context of international advertising. Beyond the predominant studies on country-of-origin effects, this thesis questions the fundamental premise in this field. To test the speculation, I surveyed 121 residents in Milwaukee County in February 2005. By March 20th, I received a total of 88 feedbacks (response rate at 73 percent). The results confirm that accessible country images are associated with brand preferences and attitude accessibility moderates country-of-origin effects under certain situations. Though this study is just a trial test, it is clear that country-of-origin researchers have overlooked moderating impact of personal cognition on country-of-origin effects. For the future research, further investigations are suggested to explore the process and under what conditions personal cognition influences country-of-origin effects.

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