Historically, marketers have operated under the construct that consumers are best reached with emotional appeals while B2B customers respond better to rational and pragmatic feature/benefit analysis. Indeed, most research has shown that B2B purchases are primarily about risk aversion, i.e. “no one has ever been fired for buying IBM.”
In a global marketplace, perceived risk is also often associated with macro and micro beliefs about a country and its products. For example, Germany is currently enjoying strong macro country associations with its robust economy, stable political environment, and a leadership role within the European Union. Germany also benefits from high micro country associations for many of its products, namely highly engineered products, such as automobiles, machinery, and optics. Therefore, a B2B purchaser perceives minimal risk in purchasing these types of items from a German company, even if that purchaser does not have prior experience with that specific company. Conversely, Egypt is currently seen as a fairly unstable country, politically. Even if micro beliefs about the quality of their textile products remain unchanged, the macro belief about the country’s stability casts a long shadow across their products.
However, Oberecker and Diamantopoulos (2011) have identified that country affinity (how a person feels about a particular country due to emotional attachments) can overcome both ethnocentrism (buy American appeals, for example) and perceived risk. Their research as shown that when a purchaser has developed an affinity for a country due to personal reasons, such as travel or study in that country, that affinity moves that country into an “in group” for decision-making purposes. That in-group status removes, or at least substantially lessens, the perceived risk of dealing with companies in that country, regardless of generally held macro/micro country beliefs.
It can be risky to play the country-of-origin card in global marketing communications, since the macro/micro beliefs about your country can change quickly and dramatically. However, the Oberecker and Diamantopoulos research indicates there could be strong value in identifying key global customers in your industry who have visited or studied in your country and targeting those individuals with country affinity-specific messaging in order to develop brand advocacy.
Oberecker, Eva M. and Adamantios Diamantopoulos (2011) “Consumers’ Emotional Bonds with Foreign Countries: Does Consumer Affinity Affect Behavioral Intentions?” Journal of International Marketing, 19 (2), 45-72.