Product-country images : the role of country image in consumers' prototype product evaluation
What is the relationship between a country specific image and the image of products made in that country? What is the role of country image in consumers' product valuations? While many of previous studies have examined the COO effects on consumers' overall quality perceptions of products, little work has been done on investigating the relationship between a country specific image, its product image, and consumers' purchase willingness. A prototype car product, with fictitious country of origin from Germany, Italy, Korea and Malaysia, was developed for investigating consumers' perceptions, and for defining the role of country image in consumers product evaluations. In order to generalise research findings to the global context, tests with the questionnaires are conducted from 320 undergraduate students in four countries (United Kingdom, United States, Hong Kong, and Australia). A review of the prior literature on country of origin effects, product-country images, and models of belief-attitude provided two constructs of country of origin (COO) and country of target (COT) as direction of this study. Finally, the literature review enabled the development of three main questions as basis of five hypotheses as follows; (a) Are there significant differences between consumer groups' attitudes toward a specific country and its prototype car products? (b) Are there significant differences between consumer groups' purchase willingness toward products from a specific country? (c) What is the role of country image in consumers' product evaluations? Three sets of hypotheses were tested in this study which were concerned with country image, product image, and purchase willingness as sub-constructs of COO and COT. Two statistical techniques were used to analyse the data - multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) and one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). This study contributes to the body of knowledge on country of origin in a number of specific ways: first, prototypes, rather than existing product are employed as stimuli; second, the construct of country of target (COT) was introduced and was conceptualised as a complement to that of country of origin (COO); and third, the interaction between these three elements is explored. Eventually, the finding of this research confirmed that the COT construct and its effects are potentially very important to the study of the role of country image and to business people exporting products from a particular COO.