Chinese luxury consumers, like most luxury consumers, seek to enhance their social image through the products and brands they purchase. The effects of country-of-origin as well as imagery ads for luxury products are of particular interest both from an academic and a managerial point of view. To our knowledge this is the first research looking into the conjoint influence of mental imagery and country of origin on consumers’ perceptions of luxury products’ advertisements. In this research we use print ads of luxury items to simulate the real media exposure experiences of Chinese luxury consumers.
It took three steps consisting of exploratory research, pre-test and main experiment design. In exploratory research, we conducted 4 in-depth interviews with local shoppers of luxury handbags in Shanghai. Then we conducted a pre-test with 80 consumers of luxury products in order to validate the quality of stimulus materials and to verify the quality of the manipulations of country of origin (French vs. Chinese condition) and mental imagery (high vs. low imagery). Finally, we conducted a main experiment using a 2 (COO: France vs. Chinese) X 2 (mental imagery: low vs. high) between-subjects design. In this study, 320 consumers were randomly assigned to one of the four conditions. In each experimental condition they were exposed to an advertisement for a luxury product and then they were asked to evaluate the advertised product indicating their attitudes and purchase intentions.
As an extension of previous research in the field, the present research provides useful theoretical and practical insights regarding imagery’s effects on consumer responses in an advertising context. Specifically speaking, the country-of-origin effect is quite strong. The country-of-origin effect displayed a much stronger impact than the picture imagery effect on
Grenoble Ecole de Management
consumers’ preferences. The French condition ad with high-imagery pictures was the most preferred version and the Chinese condition ad with low-imagery pictures was the least preferred one; the French condition ad with low-imagery pictures was ranked far ahead of the Chinese condition ad with high-imagery pictures. Both country-of-origin conditions communicate the same level of “quality perceptions” about which was trustworthy, which was a good product and so forth. Chinese consumers did acknowledge that the quality performance of different countries was almost on par with each other. Furthermore, high-imagery ads are more effective than low-imagery ads. These positive effects were demonstrated in different types of consumer responses such as purchase intent of product, the likelihood to buy the product, and the willingness to pay (i.e., the amount of money consumers are willing to spend on the product). Furthermore, participants also reported higher levels of involvement with and had more favorable attitudes toward ads that were higher in imagery-evoking qualities.