While marketers go through great pains to firmly establish a particular brand image for their products, Erickson, Johansson, & Chao (1984) remind us that ultimately consumers develop their attitudes towards our products based on one of three kinds of beliefs:
- Descriptive – these derive from direct experience with a product. If a consumer experiences good gas mileage, low service requirements, and a comfortable ride from a particular car, for example, he will likely have a favorable attitude towards future models of that car.
- Informational – these derive from outside sources. Some of these sources may be third-party, such as consumer reporting magazines. Other sources may be the coveted word-of-mouth resources, such as recommendations from family or friends. In these cases, the consumer must weigh the credibility of the informational sources and resolve conflicting reports to come to a positive or negative conclusion.
- Inferential – these derive from inferences based on some trait relationship. For example, if a consumer has had good experience with soap products from a particular company, she is likely to infer that other products – even from dissimilar product families, i.e. food products – from that company are likely to be satisfactory as well. More interestingly, from an international perspective, however, are the country-of-origin inferences that are often made. For example, a consumer may develop a favorable attitude towards a German car through descriptive or informational methods, which then transfers to a favorable inferential attitude towards all German automobiles.
From a marketing perspective, it could be useful to tap into existing positive attitudes developed from descriptive or informational means and develop a country-of-origin relationship to those attitudes.
Erickson, G., Johansson, J., & Chao, P. (1984). “Image variables in multi-attribute product evaluations: country-of-origin effects.” Journal of Consumer Research. 11, pp. 694-699.