An international business major explores the impact of a brand's national origin, in this case brands from France, on the brand perceptions of customers.
CELEBRATE! Week offers an annual opportunity to highlight the academic and artistic achievements of Elon students and faculty. Each day this week, we'll be putting the spotlight on a student scholar's research — what they are seeking to find out, and who they became interested in their project.
Name: Alice Perseval
Area of study: Marketing
Major: International Business (International student from France, dual-degree program)
Faculty mentor: Lawrence L. Garber Jr., associate professor of marketing
Title of research: Country-of-Origin Effects: The Case of France
Country-of-origin (COO) effect is defined as the impact of a brand’s national origin on customers’ brand perceptions. Research and a perusal of actual practice shows that marketers use various means to convey COO, hoping to benefit from positive stereotypes of some particular country (Aichner, 2014). Some common examples of effective use of COO in the promotion of brands in the U.S. include German cars, French wines and Swiss watches.
Though there has been a great deal written about COO effects in general, there is less research examining effects related to individual countries including France. Anecdotally, French COO has proven to be widely used by brands to signal quality, hoping it might affect the consumers’ likelihood of purchase. Also, the different strategies to convey COO have been conceptually defined in previous research but not empirically tested (Aichner, 2014). Therefore, it is my purpose to empirically examine two of the strategies listed – text and visual imagery – with respect to France as the country-of-origin. Does the American consumer perceive products differently when the country-of-origin is conveyed on the packaging, and by the manner in which it is conveyed?
More fundamentally, this research also extends the examination of the relative strength of effect of a message when conveyed by pictures, or visuals, relative to when that same message is conveyed by words, to a new context, by examining their relative effect when used to convey French COO in the design of the fronts of commercial packages. Prior research, consistent with common belief, indicate that pictures generally elicit stronger responses from those exposed than do words. Will this outcome hold true in the context of consumers in the store, exposed to package fronts?
Explanation of study:
Experimental participants solicited by means of Amazon Mechanical Turk were asked to evaluate two new lines of French products being introduced into the United States, one an invented brand of cheese, the other an invented brand of candle, each represented by their package fronts and a short description. On each package, reference is made to France as COO, either in text (e.g., the word “Paris”) or visually (e.g., a drawing of the Eiffel Tower). The product categories were chosen carefully to represent respective levels of inherent association with French culture, certain kinds of cheese very much so, candles not so much. Consumer response to the brands was measured at three levels: perception, liking and choice.
Results indicate that the means of conveyance of COO do have a differential effect on brand evaluation, though, in this context, results are the reverse of what was expected, and contrary to prior findings. The mean ratings of both brands, on all three levels of measurement, were consistently greater when COO was conveyed by words rather than pictures. Strength of effect is greater for those who are younger, for those who are more educated, and, surprisingly, for those who tend toward ethnocentrism. There was no significant effect by gender. The inherent association of a brand to COO had no significant effect. Theoretical and managerial implications are to be discussed.
In other words:
This research aims at examining if the manner by which French country-of-origin is conveyed on a package matters. Specifically, it tests the effects on consumers’ perception when COO is conveyed using images related to France, or the French language.
What made this research interesting to you? How did you get started?
I am part of the Business School’s dual-degree program, I started studying at NEOMA Business School in France (where I am originally from) for two years and finished the last two years of my bachelor’s degree at Elon. When traveling and especially going shopping in different countries, I was always amazed by how brands – cosmetics, food, clothing and more, – use the positive stereotypes associated with France to sell their products. I always wondered what the reasoning behind it was. I learned later when starting to work on my research with my advisor that this was part of a broader and intensively studied area in marketing called country-of-origin effects.
I also realized products in the United States displayed images of the Eiffel Tower, but also French words, which, in my opinion, was a surprising choice as some US consumers may not know the language. This brought me to my research topic, which was to find out whether the use of images or words representing French COO would have a differential effect on consumers’ perceptions.
How has undergraduate research contributed to your experience at Elon?
At first, writing a thesis was part of a requirement from my university in France, in order to graduate, but it became a very rich learning experience. I got to learn a lot from my advisor on how to conduct marketing research, gather and analyze primary data, write a publishable paper, and more. I will definitely use the new knowledge I have acquired for future marketing jobs or when I start to pursue a master’s degree.