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Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Business Research

Consumers' reactions to global versus local advertising appeals:


A test of culturally incongruent images in China
Lianxi Zhou a,, Patrick Poon b,1, Haizhong Wang c,2
a
Department of Marketing, International Business, and Strategy, Goodman School of Business, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario L2S 3A1, Canada
b
Department of Marketing and International Business, Lingnan University, Tuen Mun, Hong Kong
c
Department of Marketing, Sun Yat-Sen Business School, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Available online 26 September 2014 This study experimentally examines consumers reactions to culturally incongruent images in advertising, which
are characterized by a mix of global and local cultural elements and symbols featured in product advertisements.
Keywords: Drawing on the persuasion knowledge perspective, the authors argue how advertising image incongruence in
Global consumer culture the globalized marketing communication context of China may lead to consumers' use of persuasion knowledge
Marketing communication (i.e., beliefs about the agent's persuasive tactics) and result in unfavorable attitudes toward the advertisements.
Persuasion knowledge
This research contributes to a better understanding of the interplay between global and local consumer cultures
China
in a globalized marketplace.
2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction category. For instance, an incongruence of advertising image will appear


when a Western model is used to promote an Eastern culture associated
One of the most important challenges facing international marketing product, and vice versa. The study reects a central issue in advertising
and advertising managers today is the need to nd the right balance of research with regard to the perceived t of the advertising image with
the conicting inuences of global and local consumer cultures (Arnett, the viewer's contingent situation (Scott, 1994).
2002). In many parts of the developing world, Western/foreign brands In the midst of conicting inuences of global and local cultural
and global elements of consumption are well received. Behind these images in modern China (Hung et al., 2007; Zhou et al., 2010), this
global symbols is a corresponding set of traditional values and norms study intends to provide evidence on how the cultural incongruence be-
that dene local identities. In China and other Asian countries, for exam- tween global and local elements affects consumers' cognitive and affec-
ple, global and local cultural inuences have resulted in a mix of foreign tive reactions to advertisements. Although the effect of incongruent
and local goods, images, advertising appeals and consumption advertising element on consumers' attitudes toward advertisements or
(Neelankavil, Venkatapparao, & Sessions, 1994; Zhou & Belk, 2004; brands has been well recognized in the related literature (e.g., Heckler
Zhou, Yang, & Hui, 2010). The conceptualization of local and global & Childers, 1992; Lee & Mason, 1999), the theoretical rationale and
identities by Arnett (2002) suggests that there is a complex interplay general ndings may not necessarily apply to the issues arising from a
between local context and global content, which makes it hard to new cultural system consisting of a mixture of global and local elements.
argue for the primacy of one over the other. This research involves two experimental studies to test the effects of
While previous research has explored the ways in which consumers culturally-based incongruence of advertising image (hereafter referred
aspire, reject, or identify the cultural meanings of advertisements to as ad image) on Chinese consumers' responses. Model ethnicity is con-
among conicting values in a globalizing world (e.g., Hung, Li, & Belk, sidered as one of the experimental factors largely due to the fact that the
2007; Zhou & Belk, 2004), this study investigates the effects of culturally use of foreign models is a distinctive feature of most magazine advertis-
incongruent advertising images on consumers' evaluative responses to ing in modern China today (Hung et al., 2007). Also, advertisements
advertisements. Specically, this paper focuses on one specic type of using models with different cultural backgrounds reect marketing ef-
culturally incongruent advertising image which is dened as the mis- fort for adaptation to local culture in international advertising strategy
match between model ethnicity and the culture of origin of the product (Zhou & Belk, 2004). Besides this, model ethnicity has diverse effects
on consumers' responses toward the type of product being advertised
(Martin, Lee, & Yang, 2004).
Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 905 688 5550x5832. Another experimental factor of interest is referred to as culture of
E-mail addresses: lzhou@brocku.ca (L. Zhou), patpoon@ln.edu.hk (P. Poon),
wanghzh.05@alum.sem.tsinghua.edu.cn (H. Wang).
origin of product category (COPC). Unlike the concept of country of or-
1
Tel.: +852 2616 8235. igin (COO) for a product or a brand, COPC represents a productculture
2
Tel.: +86 20 222 3453. association, which is dened as consumers' stereotypical beliefs about

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jbusres.2014.09.006
0148-2963/ 2014 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
562 L. Zhou et al. / Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568

products that are associated with a particular culture of origin (Laroche, Schema congruity occurs when the image of an endorser and the image
Papadopoulos, Heslop, & Mourali, 2005). For example, pizza is widely of a product are relevant, such that the relationship between them can
perceived as a Western/foreign product among Indian consumers, re- be readily accessible within the existing celebrity and/or product category
gardless of extensive localization efforts among marketers (Eckhardt, (Lee & Thorson, 2008).
2005). By the same token, lanterns and silk are typical products that While the schemacongruity framework provides a key theoretical
are associated with Chinese traditions and culture. Other examples basis for a better understanding of advertising image congruence
include Korean kimchi and Japanese sushi. By combining two types of through matching the image of an endorser with a product, the design
model ethnicity (Western vs. Chinese) and two types of COPC (local of previous research has not tended to fully address other aspects of
vs. foreign) into an experimental design, this study is able to examine image congruence in advertising. In particular, the match-up effect has
the incongruence effects of advertising images pertaining to the not been examined in relation to the cultural elements of advertising
interplay between global and local cultural elements. Unlike previous appeals. As a result, this paper attempts to extend the match-up hypoth-
research, this study focuses particularly on the mismatch between esis by exploring the domain of globalized advertising. The purpose is to
COPC and culturally based advertising images. As a result, this research determine the possibility that consumers may respond less (vs. more
extends the conceptual domain of advertising incongruity to culturally favorably) to culturally incongruent advertising images.
based elements or symbols, and provides novel insight about con-
sumers' responses to the interplay involving global and local advertising 2.3. Culturally incongruent advertising images and persuasion knowledge
appeals. theory

2. Conceptual background and hypotheses Within the context of this study, culturally incongruent advertising
images are characterized by a mismatch between the culture of origin
2.1. Local and global advertising images of product category (COPC) and model ethnicity. They refer to the
usage of a Western model/endorser on a typical local product (Eastern)
While there are increasing tensions regarding consumer preferences or the usage of a local model/endorser (Eastern) on a typical Western
for local vs. global identities (Zhang & Khare, 2009), consumers product. Research drawing on schema-based explanation for the
nowadays tend to simultaneously demand both global and local match-up effect suggests that a high degree of incongruity cannot be re-
goods. According to Hung et al. (2007), even with the adoption of a solved within activated schemas or can only be resolved if major chang-
global popular culture, consumers tend to scrutinize foreign goods and es are made in the existing cognitive structure (Lee & Thorson, 2008). In
images through the lens of a local perspective. As a result, a new global response, this paper draws on the persuasion knowledge model
cultural system is increasingly expressed in advertising and marketing (Freidstad & Wright, 1994, 1995) as an alternative theoretical perspec-
communications as the ideology of contemporary consumption. This tive to explain consumer responses to culturally incongruent advertis-
phenomenon is particularly apparent in the context of globalization in ing images.
China (Hung et al., 2007). Similar to other developing countries, the Freidstad and Wright (1994) was the rst to propose the theory of
consumers in China today are inuenced by a mixture of foreign and persuasion knowledge. The theory asserts that consumers use their
local goods, images, advertising appeals and consumption (Davis, persuasion knowledge to recognize, analyze, interpret, and evaluate per-
2000; Nelson & Paek, 2007; Tai & Pae, 2002). Although the trend using suasion attempts. Central to persuasion knowledge is consumer percep-
Western advertising appeals seems still to be on the rise, foreign adver- tions of persuasion tactics that marketers can use to inuence their
tisers nowadays tend to locally adapt certain aspects of their advertise- beliefs, attitudes, decisions or actions. Such perceptions are signicantly
ments to cater for the Chinese market (Cheong, Zheng, & Kim, 2011). related to how consumers respond to persuasion attempts. As presented
From a theoretical standpoint, the literature has reected on an in- in the persuasion knowledge model (PKM), three knowledge structures
creasing number of studies that have used content analysis of advertise- would interact to shape and determine the outcomes of the marketers'
ments to examine the effects of global and local advertising appeals persuasion attempts. These are: persuasion knowledge, agent knowledge,
(e.g., Tse, Belk, & Zhou, 1989; Zhang, 2009). The ndings from these and topic knowledge. In an advertising context, persuasion knowledge re-
studies suggest that despite the fact that there has been an increase in fers to consumers' beliefs about the tactics or persuasion attempts used
the use of Western images and appeals in China's mass media, Chinese in advertising. Agent knowledge refers to consumers' beliefs and feelings
consumers embrace both traditional and contemporary foreign values. about the advertiser while topic knowledge refers to consumers' beliefs
They tend to make sense of foreign features in the advertisements about the advertised product. These knowledge structures develop
(Hung et al., 2007; Zhou & Belk, 2004). The primary function of this over time as consumers are exposed to tactics and come to recognize
evaluation process is based on self-referencing responses of their own them as such.
lifestyles and aspirations which are often constructed through the lens Surrounding the PKM model, several studies have been conducted.
of traditional values and norms on one hand, and the authenticity and Campbell and Kirmani (2000) investigated conditions that inuence
symbolism associated with global or Western images on the other consumers' use of persuasion knowledge in an interpersonal sales
(Ozsomer, 2012; Steenkamp, Batra, & Alden, 2003). context. They proposed that persuasion knowledge is used when con-
sumers draw an inference about a persuasion motive which may under-
2.2. Image incongruence in advertising lie a salesperson's behavior (such as attering). These motive inferences
then affect the consumers' perceptions about the salesperson. Campbell
The roots of image incongruence in advertising stem from earlier and Kirmani (2000) conducted four experimental studies with the use
research relating to t or the match-up effect between a celebrity or of role-playing scenarios to test their conceptual model, which
spokesperson and a particular product or brand characteristic described accessibility and cognitive capacity as underlying factors
(e.g., Friedman & Friedman, 1979; Kahle & Homer, 1985; Kamins, 1990). that inuenced consumers' use of persuasion knowledge. The study in-
Prior research in this area suggests that in order for such advertising to dicates that persuasion knowledge can be activated fairly easy when
be effective, a good match-up between the spokesperson image or per- persuasion motives are made accessible.
sonality and the nature of the product being advertised should exist. In an advertising context, Campbell (1995) found some evidence
The basis for the effectiveness of endorserproduct congruence in adver- about consumers' use of persuasion knowledge in response to advertis-
tising can be linked to a variety of theoretical perspectives. Among them, ing tactics. By focusing on attention-getting tactics used in television ad-
schema-based explanations have been proven to be a useful framework vertising, she discovered how these tactics may sometimes lead
(Lee & Thorson, 2008; Lynch & Schuler, 1994; Misra & Beatty, 1990). consumers to infer that the advertiser is attempting to manipulate the
L. Zhou et al. / Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568 563

audiences. Further, the inferences of manipulative intent may lower advertisement and also a weakened belief about the advertised product.
advertising persuasion (e.g. advertising attitudes, brand attitudes and In contrast, when consumers are exposed to a culturally congruent adver-
purchase intentions). In particular, she emphasized the importance of tisement, their usage of persuasion knowledge is to a lesser degree. There-
t which refers to the extent that the advertising appeal matches fore, they tend to have less inconsistent beliefs derived from an accessible
the consumers' schemas or expectations for the advertised product. local or global identity with the advertising appeals, which can make
Advertisers sometimes use appeals with a low t and hope these unex- them feel more positive about the advertisements and the advertised
pected elements can attract consumers' attention in product informa- products. Consequently, from the perspective of persuasion knowledge
tion processing. The research by Campbell (1995) suggests that by combining with local and global consumer identities, consumers'
raising the information processing level, these tactics may increase the attitudes toward advertisements should be more positive for culturally
activation of persuasion knowledge from the viewers which potentially congruent advertising images.
make them less susceptible to the persuasion attempts.
Other advertising tactics have also been studied. For example, Cotte, Hypothesis 2. Consumers' attitudes toward advertisements are more
Coulter, and Moore (2005) examined a commonly employed emotional positive for culturally congruent advertising images than the culturally
tactic (i.e., guilt appeal) and found that when consumers infer manipu- incongruent ones.
lative intent, they do not feel guilty, but have negative attitudes toward
the advertisement. Ahluwalia and Burnkrant (2004) proposed a
3. Study 1
conceptual model of rhetorical question effects. They argued that
consumers high in persuasion knowledge tend to be more sensitive to
Two experimental factors were manipulated in the research design.
the meaning of symbols used in advertising. If consumers perceive a
The rst one is model ethnicity. As noted earlier, the use of foreign/
persuasion tactic, they tend to draw inferences of some sort, disengage
Western models to signify global consumer cultures is commonly used
somewhat from the advertisements, or discount the advertising claims
in developing countries and represents one of the most dominant global
(Freidstad & Wright, 1995).
approaches featured in advertising. The second factor is cultural origin of
From the PKM perspective, consumers' use of persuasion knowledge
product category (COPC), which refers to cultural stereotypes of the prod-
can explain various advertising effects. When exposed to an advertise-
uct category or perceived productculture association (Laroche et al.,
ment, consumers may access their knowledge about persuasion
2005). This factor represents another global versus local cultural ele-
attempts that they feel the advertisers may use (Wright, Friestad, &
ment. The study adopted a 2 (model ethnicity: Western vs. Chinese)
Boush, 2005). The use of persuasion knowledge seems to be more prev-
2 (COPC: foreign vs. local) between-subjects factorial design. The con-
alent when the advertising appeal is incongruent with the consumers'
gruent/incongruent advertising images were operationalized as the
schemas or expectations for the advertised product (Freidstad &
match/mismatch between the advertised product category (foreign ver-
Wright, 1994). For instance, when a Western model is used to endorse
sus local) and the model ethnicity (Western versus Chinese).
a typical local product, most consumers may feel that the advertiser at-
tempts to promote the popularity of the local product by emphasizing
its global reach potential and authenticity. Owing to the poor t of the 3.1. Selection of local versus foreign product category
advertising appeal with the consumers' prior expectations for the ad-
vertised product, the authors expect that the consumers are generally A pilot study was conducted to choose typical local and foreign prod-
suspicious of the advertiser's motivation and tend to produce substan- ucts for the actual experiment. Following a similar procedure used by
tial counterarguments or negative feelings about the advertiser's Dahlen and Lange (2004) when determining brand associations, the
persuasive attempts. In contrast, when exposed to congruent advertise- study involved ten undergraduate business students from a major uni-
ments (featuring a t between model ethnicity and COPC), the versity in China and asked them to develop a list of typical Chinese
consumers may consider the persuasive intent to be less salient and and Western product categories. The participants were given examples
subsequently their inferences to persuasion knowledge tend to be like lanterns and pizza, but were emphasized to provide products which
lower. The consumers are more inclined to form beliefs consistent were strongly associated with something either Chinese or Western.
with the advertising claims and generate less counterarguments and The ve most commonly mentioned products were then chosen for
unfavorable emotions evoked by the advertisement (Batra & Stephens, follow-up verication. The local product categories included dumplings,
1994; Obermiller & Spangerberg, 1998). Therefore: steamed stuffed bun, steamed vermicelli roll, herbal tea and Chinese
liquors. The Western product categories included pizza, egg custard
Hypothesis 1. Consumers' use of persuasion knowledge is higher for tart, coffee, hamburger and perfume. In considering the most relevance
culturally incongruent advertising images than the culturally congruent of the product categories to the target audiences, food items were nally
ones. chosen as the experimental stimuli (i.e., typical Chinese food: steamed
vermicelli roll; typical Western food: egg custard tart which is actually
In line with the prediction of consumers' use of persuasion knowledge, adapted from English custard tart and widely recognized as a foreign
the authors further expect that consumers tend to have less favorable at- food in China and other Asian countries).
titudes toward the advertisements that are characterized by culturally in-
congruent images than those featured by culturally congruent ones. For a 3.2. Design of advertising stimulus
product associated with a local culture of origin, local consumer identity is
readily activated and accessible (Zhang & Khare, 2009). This may then Four hypothesized advertisements were professionally developed by
make the use of a Western model in the advertising become less appeal- a copywriter of a leading international advertising agency located in
ing. However, the incongruent advertising image may increase the Guangzhou. The advertising agency adopted real products and brands
consumers' processing attention to the exaggeration of advertising com- steamed vermicelli roll for Real Kungfu and egg custard tart for KFC
munication, such that the consumers may draw some sorts of inferences (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Pictures of the products were collected from
about their expectations of the COPC. Consumers' responses to the per- commercial advertisements via an Internet search. To resemble the
suasiveness of the advertising images would be reduced. Similarly, advertising featured in the marketplace, real brand logos and slogans
when a typical foreign product is featured in an advertisement, global from advertisements were included in the mock advertisements used in
consumer identity is readily activated and accessible (Zhang & Khare, this study.
2009). Using a local endorser for the product with a foreign culture of or- A local Chinese model and a Western model were created to feature
igin may lead to a lower degree of trustworthiness associated with such alongside the advertised products respectively. Simulating real world
564 L. Zhou et al. / Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568

print advertisements, the mock advertisements consisted of a big pic- The subjects were told that a local advertising agency was interested
ture of the model with a small picture of the product and the logo/ in their opinions about the newly designed advertisements in appealing
slogan in the upper right corner (see Appendix 1). Except for the exper- to their segment of the market. They were then instructed to read each
imental controlled factors, all the other advertising elements, including of the stimulus advertisements at their own pace and complete three
the size of the picture, the background color and the composition of the sections of the questionnaire. The rst section consisted of questions
picture, were kept identical so that the effects of advertising image con- about their attitudes toward the advertisements and manipulation
gruence/incongruence could be adequately tested. The professional check variables. The second section included questions concerning
copywriter conrmed that the four hypothesized advertisements all their use of persuasion knowledge and reactions to other aspects of
appeared to look like real advertising copies. the advertisements. The third section contained questions relating to
demographic information. After completing the questionnaire, the sub-
3.3. Pretest of the mock advertisements jects were debriefed with a written description of the general purpose
of the study. No subject was aware of the main purpose of the experi-
The advertisements were pretested twice prior to conducting the ment before the debrief.
main study. The objectives of the two pretests were to (1) verify the ma-
nipulation of congruence/incongruence between model ethnicity and
3.5. Measures
COPC and (2) make sure no confounding effects exist. Thirty subjects
were invited to participate in the pretest conducted in the same univer-
The study measured three sets of variables: advertising image incon-
sity in China as before. The rst pretest was administered to ensure the
gruence, individual's use of persuasion knowledge, and ad attitudes.
manipulation of advertising image incongruence. Subjects were
Most scales were adapted from previous studies. The perceived congru-
required to rate the t between the model ethnicity and the COPC on
ence scale from Menon and Kahn (2003) was used to measure advertis-
a ten-point scale, for example, How well do the model and product
ing image incongruence. Subjects were asked to rate on a seven-point
t together? (Dahlen & Lange, 2004). The mean values were 7.6
Likert scale ranging from 1 (denitely disagree) to 7 (denitely
(steamed vermicelli roll) and 7.0 (egg custard tart) for the congruent
agree). The items were stated as follows: 1) The ad image is logically
subset advertisements (p = .221) and 3.0 (steamed vermicelli roll)
related to the advertised product; 2) The ad image is relevant to the
and 2.5 (egg custard tart) for the incongruent subset advertisements
advertised product; 3) The ad image is compelling for the advertised
(p = .325). The results show a signicant difference between groups
product; 4) It is strange to see the ad image in advertisements of this
(F = 61.727, p b 0.001) and suggest that manipulation of the advertis-
kind of product; 5) The ad image is congruent with the advertised prod-
ing image incongruence in the advertisements would be satisfactory.
uct; and 6) Overall, the match between the product and the ad image is
The second pretest was used to test the control variables and make
appropriate. Except item 4, all the other items were reversed so that the
sure that no confounding effects were present. Two control variables
higher the score, the more incongruent the advertising image.
were measured on seven-point scales. The rst control variable was ad-
Individual's use of persuasion knowledge was adapted from three
vertising attractiveness (copy style and visual elements). Subjects were
different sources used in previous studies (Campbell, 1995; Campbell
shown four advertisements (one at a time) and asked to rate their at-
& Kirmani, 2000; Moore & Rodgers, 2005). Based on a seven-point Likert
tractiveness on a seven-point scale (1 = extremely not attractive,
scale ranging from 1 (denitely disagree) to 7 (denitely agree), sub-
7 = extremely attractive). The second control variable was likeability
jects responded to the following items: 1) The way this advertisement
of model used (Lee, 2000). Subjects were shown two model images
tries to persuade people seems acceptable to me (reverse scale);
taken from the stimulus advertisements. They were asked how they
2) The advertiser tries to manipulate the audience in ways that I don't
liked the model on a seven-point scale (1 = don't like at all, 7 = like
like; 3) I am annoyed by this advertisement because the advertiser
very much). Based on the ANOVA results, the advertisements did not
seemed to be trying to inappropriately manage or control the consumer
differ signicantly from each other in terms of their attractiveness
audience; 4) The advertisement was fair in what was said and shown
(F = .847, p = .472) and also the subjects did not show any signicant
(reverse scale); 5) When I read the advertisement, I think it's pretty ob-
difference in terms of the models' likeability (Western model = 5.4;
vious that it is trying to persuade me to buy the product; 6) I notice
Chinese model = 5.2, p = .141). The results suggest that any confound-
tricks in this advertisement to promote the product; and 7) This adver-
ing effects due to advertising attractiveness or liking of the model type
tisement is meant to sell the product. As commonly used in previous
would be marginal.
studies, attitudes toward advertisement (ad attitudes) were measured
on a 7-point semantic differential scale with three items: likeable/
3.4. Experimental procedure
unlikable, positive/negative, and favorable/unfavorable.
The two COPCs (i.e., egg custard tart and steamed vermicelli roll)
were matched with two model ethnicities (a Western model and a 3.6. Analyses and results
Chinese model) to create four different advertisements. These four ad-
vertisements formed four experimental conditions (see Appendix 1): 3.6.1. Manipulation checks
two were congruent advertising images (steamed vermicelli roll with A manipulation check is essential to determine whether the experi-
the Chinese model; egg custard tart with the Western model) and the mental manipulation produced the desired controlled condition. In this
other two were incongruent images (steamed vermicelli roll with the study, the t between model ethnicity and the COPC was measured to
Western model; egg custard tart with the Chinese model). check the experimental conditions of advertising image incongruence.
In the actual experiment, one hundred undergraduate business stu- A 2 2 ANOVA test was conducted. As manipulated, there was no signif-
dents were recruited and randomly assigned to one of the four experi- icant difference between the congruent advertisements the mean
mental conditions (25 subjects for each condition). Each subject was values of advertising image congruence were 7.76 (steamed vermicelli
instructed to read the target advertisement along with three other ad- roll) and 7.48 (egg custard tart) (p = .309). Also, there was no signi-
vertisements (serving as lters). The sequence of the advertisements cant difference between the incongruent advertisements the mean
was randomly rotated in each condition and the subjects were values of advertising image incongruence were 2.84 (steamed vermicel-
instructed to provide their opinions about the advertisements by li roll) and 2.92 (egg custard tart) (p = .771). As expected, there was a
completing a short questionnaire which contained measures about signicant difference between groups (F = 200.089, p b 0.001). The
manipulation checks and the dependent variables (i.e., consumers' use manipulation of the advertising image incongruence was deemed
of persuasion knowledge and attitudes toward the advertisement). satisfactory.
L. Zhou et al. / Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568 565

Furthermore, analysis was performed to examine other control Table 2


variables, as in the pretests. First, a 2 2 ANOVA test was conducted Mean values and hypotheses testing in Study 1.

to examine the attractiveness of each advertisement. As expected, the Congruent ad image Incongruent ad image Main effect
results indicate that the subjects perceived no difference in the attrac- Ad attitudes
tiveness of the advertisements (F = .868, p = .460). Second, the likabil- Western ad model 5.52 2.80 4.16
ity of each model type was compared. The 2 2 ANOVA test reveals that Chinese ad model 4.96 2.36 3.66
there was no signicant difference in the likability of the model types Main effect 5.24 2.58
(F = .487, p = .692). Thus, potential confounding effects due to other Individual's use of persuasion knowledge
aspects of the advertisements such as copy style and visual elements Western ad model 2.44 5.16 3.80
were minimal. Chinese ad model 2.56 5.00 3.78
Main effect 2.50 5.08

3.6.2. Hypothesis testing


The hypotheses indicate that individuals' use of persuasion knowl-
edge is higher for culturally incongruent ads than culturally congruent model (3.78) (F = .019, p = .892). Also, the mean values do not yield
ads (Hypothesis 1), and attitudes toward culturally congruent ads a signicant interaction effect involving congruent/incongruent ad
would be more positive than the attitudes toward culturally incongru- images and model ethnicity (F = .910, p = .342).
ent ads (Hypothesis 2). Specically, in the congruent conditions, There is a signicant main effect of advertising image incongruence
subjects should be less likely to use persuasion knowledge, and thus on ad attitudes. The congruent advertisements receive a mean value of
would respond more positively to the advertisements. A reverse pattern 5.24, which is signicantly higher than the mean value of the incongru-
could be identied among subjects in the incongruent conditions. As a ent advertisements (2.58) (F = 18.15, p b .001). Hypothesis 2 is
baseline information, the original experimental variables (COPC and supported. In addition, there is a signicant main effect of model ethnic-
model ethnicity) were examined simultaneously through a MANOVA ity. The advertisements with the Western model receive a mean value of
test. Table 1 shows the results. 4.16 which is signicantly higher than the mean value of the advertise-
Based on the results, there are signicant interactions between COPC ments featuring the Chinese model (3.66) (F = 13.96, p b .001). Be-
and model ethnicity in terms of ad attitudes (F = 395.28, p b .001) and sides, there is no signicant interaction effect between congruent/
individual's use of persuasion knowledge (F = 309.121, p b .001). The incongruent ad images and model ethnicity (F = .201, p = .655).
MANOVA analysis also reveals that there is a signicant main effect of In summary, the experimental study indicates that advertising
model ethnicity on ad attitudes (F = 13.966, p b .01), but not on image incongruence tends to increase individual's use of persuasion
individual's use of persuasion knowledge (F = .019, p = .892). There knowledge but decrease ad attitudes. Furthermore, the negative effect
is no signicant main effect of COPC on any dependent variables. of advertising image incongruence on ad attitudes is found to be highly
For the purpose of hypothesis testing, the experimental conditions associated with individual's greater use of persuasion knowledge. As
were re-organized by creating a dummy variable, and assigned 0 to theorized, individual's use of persuasion knowledge may account for
the congruent advertising image condition, and 1 to the incongruent the inuence of advertising image incongruence on ad attitudes. Also,
advertising image condition. Congruent condition represents the original not surprisingly, the results show that ad attitudes are generally more
observations of foreign product category with a Western model, and positive for the advertisements with Western appeals than the ones
local product category with a Chinese model. In contrast, incongruent with local (Chinese) appeals.
condition represents the original observations of foreign product
category with a Chinese model, and local product category with a for- 4. Study 2
eign model. Product category (COPC) was excluded in the subsequent
analysis since it had no effect on any dependent variables. Table 2 4.1. Overview
presents the mean values of the two dependent variables, which are
organized along with the conditions involving congruent/incongruent In order to further validate the theoretical explanation for con-
advertising images by model ethnicity. The dependent variables were sumers' responses to culturally incongruent advertising images, this re-
examined with the two-factor ANOVA model. search involved a follow-up study using real advertisements and
In testing the effects of individual's use of persuasion knowledge, another product category. Consumer skepticism toward advertising
there is a signicant main effect of advertising image incongruence. (or ad skepticism, as an individual difference variable) was introduced
Subjects in the congruence condition exhibit a mean value of 2.50 in to determine its potential impact on individuals' use of persuasion
their use of persuasion knowledge, which is signicantly smaller than knowledge in response to culturally incongruent advertisements.
the mean value of 5.08 as demonstrated by those in the incongruence Consumer skepticism refers to the consumers' general tendency toward
condition (F = 17.32, p b .001). Hypothesis 1 is therefore supported. disbelief of advertising claims (Obermiller & Spangerberg, 1998). Draw-
Besides, the effect of model ethnicity is not signicant on individual's ing on the persuasion knowledge model (PKM) in advertising effects,
use of persuasion knowledge. The advertisements featuring the consumers who are skeptical of advertising are apt to generate greater
Western model has a mean value of 3.80 which is not signicantly persuasion knowledge to dislike the advertisements as well as the ad-
higher than the mean value of the advertisements adopting the Chinese vertised products. In other words, by demonstrating the moderating in-
uence of ad skepticism on individuals' use of persuasion knowledge
related to culturally incongruent advertising images, this study intends
Table 1 to provide further support for the research hypotheses and the underly-
The results of ad model ethnicity and product category in Study 1. ing theoretical rationale.
Source Dependent variables F Sig. A further 2 (ad image: congruence vs. incongruence) 2 (ad
skepticism: low vs. high) experimental study with a between-subjects
Product category Ad attitudes .201 .655
Individuals' use of persuasion knowledge .910 .342 factorial design was conducted. Since there was no signicant difference
Model ethnicity Ad attitudes 13.96 .000 in individuals' use of persuasion knowledge in their responses to incon-
Individuals' use of persuasion knowledge .0190 .892 gruent advertising images involving local and foreign product catego-
Product category Ad attitudes 395.28 .000 ries in Study 1, a local product (i.e., Shun herbal tea) was chosen as an
model ethnicity Individuals' use of persuasion knowledge 309.12 .000
advertising stimulus in Study 2. To increase the validity of the results,
566 L. Zhou et al. / Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568

a real advertisement for the local brand was used. The real advertise- advertising on ad attitudes (F = 10.712, p b .001) as well as on
ment featured a Chinese model for the brand (congruent advertising individual's use of persuasion knowledge (F = 9.113, p b .001). The in-
image). As in Study 1, a copywriter at a leading international advertising signicant results on brand attitudes may be due to the subjects' famil-
agency in Guangzhou was appointed to develop a copy of the incongru- iarity or prior usage experience with the real brand.
ent advertisement. The new advertisement was the same as the original The main and interaction effects were examined by using a 2-way
one except that the Chinese model was replaced by a Western model ANOVA test. Table 4 shows the results. Consistent with the research hy-
(see Appendix 2). potheses, subjects in the ad image incongruence condition demonstrate
As in Study 1, this study involved 180 undergraduate business lower ad attitudes and greater use of persuasion knowledge than those
students in a major Chinese university to participate in the follow-up in the ad image congruence condition. Also as expected, high skeptical
study. Subjects were randomly assigned to the congruent and incongru- individuals demonstrate a greater tendency to use persuasion knowl-
ent advertising image conditions (90 subjects for each experimental edge and dislike the advertisements more than those individuals with
condition). Ad skepticism was measured using a nine-item SKEP scale low ad skepticism.
developed by Obermiller and Spangerberg (1998). A median split ap- More importantly, the results show a clear pattern of the interaction
proach was used to separate subjects into low versus high ad skepticism effects. For the ad image congruence condition, the group differences
conditions. As in Study 1, ad attitudes and individual's use of persuasion between low and high skepticism toward advertising are not signicant
knowledge were used as the dependent variables. Consumer attitudes on ad attitudes (F = 1.039, p = .358) and individual's use of persuasion
toward the advertised brand were also measured. In line with the knowledge (F = 1.703, p = .188). For the ad image incongruence con-
previous research, consumer attitudes toward the advertisements can dition, consumers with high skepticism toward advertising demon-
also be extended to their attitudes toward the advertised brand. strate a greater use of persuasion knowledge (F = 22.142, p b .001)
and less positive ad attitudes (F = 19.729, p b .001) than their counter-
parts. As a result, ad skepticism tends to moderate consumers'
4.2. Manipulation checks
responses to advertising communication pertaining to culturally incon-
gruent images or symbols. This provides an additional insight to the
Following the same procedure used in Study 1, the cultural t be-
ndings reported in Study 1.
tween model ethnicity and the COPC was veried. As manipulated,
there was a signicant difference in the perception of t between
the congruent advertising image condition (mean value = 5.54) and
5. Conclusion and discussion
the incongruent advertising image condition (mean value = 2.33)
(p b 0.001). The manipulation of the ad image congruence/incongruence
The purpose of this research was to examine how culturally in-
was therefore considered satisfactory. The likability of the model type
congruent advertising images can affect consumers' responses to
and the attractiveness of the advertisements were also compared. No
global versus local advertising appeals. This study provides fresh in-
signicant differences were found.
sights that can contribute further to the debate concerning the use of
global, foreign, or local cultural components in advertising commu-
4.3. Analyses and results nications parallel to the growth of the global marketplace (Alden,
Steenkamp, & Batra, 1999). Specically, the study demonstrates
Table 3 presents the main and interaction effects of the experimental that consumers' attitudes toward advertisements are less positive
factors on the three dependent variables (i.e., ad attitudes, brand atti- when the cultural identities of advertising appeals such as model
tudes and individual's use of persuasion knowledge). As expected, the ethnicity and culture of origin of product category (COPC) are per-
results of the MANOVA test reveal that advertising image incongruence ceived incongruent. This nding can be explained by the fact that in-
has a signicant main effect on ad attitudes (F = 856.020, p b .001) and dividuals are more likely to use persuasion knowledge when the
individual's use of persuasion knowledge (F = 925.788, p b .001). cultural incongruence of advertising images prevails. As a result,
No signicant effect is observed on brand attitudes (F = 854.909, the use of persuasion knowledge is more profound when consumers
p = .239). In line with the predictions, there is a signicant main effect exhibit a higher level of ad skepticism.
of skepticism toward advertising on ad attitudes (F = 5.854, p b .01) The authors recognize that previous studies have examined in-
and also on individual's use of persuasion knowledge (F = 19.056, congruity in advertising. However, there are different forms of in-
p b .001). Brand attitudes are not affected (F = 1.690, p = .188). congruence related to advertising communications. This study
More interestingly, the results also demonstrate a signicant interaction focuses particularly on the type of incongruence regarding the cul-
effect of advertising image incongruence and skepticism toward turally based advertising images and the cultural meaning of a

Table 4
Table 3 Mean values and hypotheses testing in Study 2.
Results of ad image incongruence and consumer skepticism toward advertising in Study 2. Congruent ad Incongruent ad Main effect
Source Dependent variables F Sig. Ad attitudes
Ad image incongruence Ad attitudes 856.020 .000 Low skepticism 5.59 2.87 4.23
Attitudes toward the brand 854.909 .239 High skepticism 5.33 1.95 3.64
Individuals' use of persuasion 925.788 .000 Main effect 5.46 2.41
knowledge Brand attitudes
Skepticism toward Ad attitudes 5.854 .003 Low skepticism 5.59 4.90 5.24
advertising Attitudes toward the brand 1.690 .188 High skepticism 5.44 4.71 5.07
Individuals' use of persuasion 19.056 .000 Main effect 5.55 4.80
knowledge
Ad image incongruence Ad attitudes 10.712 .000 Individual's use of persuasion knowledge
skepticism toward Attitudes toward the brand .474 .623 Low skepticism 2.55 4.81 3.68
advertising Individuals' use of persuasion 9.113 .000 High skepticism 2.73 5.82 4.27
knowledge Main effect 2.64 5.31
L. Zhou et al. / Journal of Business Research 68 (2015) 561568 567

product. The theoretical development lies in the persuasion knowl- Appendix 1. Stimulus advertisements used in Study 1
edge perspective (Freidstad & Wright, 1994, 1995) and has gone be-
yond the previous information processing theories. Specically, this Local product features local ad model Western product features local ad model
research contributes to a better understanding of global and local ad-
vertising from the perspective of the persuasion knowledge model
(PKM). PKM is a general theoretical paradigm that helps to explain
how consumers respond to marketers' attempts in persuasion. The
ndings indicate that persuasion knowledge takes place when per-
suasive intent is salient (i.e., when the model ethnicity is incongru-
ent with the cultural meaning of a product). In general, this study
suggests that it is critical to nd a balance between global and local Local product features Western ad model Western product features Western ad model
advertising appeals, particularly when dealing with products with
strong country stereotypes.
In practice, although marketers and advertisers may prefer to use
global or foreign appeals as important components of their branding
and marketing communications in emerging markets, they should
pay special attention to potential conicts with national, ethnic and
local identity sentiments (Ozsomer, 2012; Zhang & Khare, 2009).
Incongruent cultural identities in advertising images, such as the use
of a Western model to endorse a typical Chinese product, can result
in unfavorable responses due to consumer sentiment or deeply rooted Appendix 2. Stimulus advertisements used in Study 2
cultural meanings associated with local iconness (Steenkamp et al.,
2003). A key contribution of this study is to highlight the impact of
incongruent advertising appeals on consumer attitudes as they are re-
lated to advertising and marketing communications in a globalizing
marketplace.
There are several limitations that should be addressed in future
research. First, the subjects were only exposed to the designed advertise-
ments once in the study. People may question whether the same results
would occur following multiple exposures. In the external marketplace,
consumers are frequently exposed to certain advertisements and
perhaps the perceived incongruence decreases when consumers have
become more familiar with the advertising appeals. Therefore,
researchers may want to explore how advertising image incongruence
is perceived when consumers are exposed to the advertisements several Congruent advertising image Incongruent advertising image
times. Second, future research may also examine the phenomenon by (Local ad model features local brand) (Foreign ad model features local brand)
using other kinds of cultural identities pertaining to advertising images,
such as global or foreign symbols and cultural elements (instead of the
model ethnicity used in this study). A better understanding of conicting
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