Does country matter? The country of origin effect on sports apparel users' brand perceptions

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School of Economics | Master's thesis
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Objectives: The purpose of this master’s thesis is to study the factors that affect consumers’ perceptions of a brand and determine if country of origin is one of these factors. Country of origin is divided into country of manufacture, country of design and brand origin to simulate the complexity of the country of origin concept in today’s highly globalized economy. All three elements of country of origin are thought to affect brand image directly and indirectly through intrinsic and extrinsic product cues. Consumer values are also thought to influence the way in which country of origin information impacts brand image. Methods: Data was collected using a web-based questionnaire that was sent out to 1326 licensed competitive swimmers whose contact information was acquired from the Finnish Swimming Federation’s database. The questionnaire contained 44 statements measuring the respondent’s attitudes toward goods, clothes and swimwear produced or designed in Asia or Western countries as well as the overall importance of country of origin information in decision making. 343 usable questionnaires were returned. The data was analyzed using the t-test and ANOVA to determine if males and females or the different age groups differed in their attitudes. Factor analysis was conducted to uncover the factors which effect consumer perceptions of a product. Results: The study uncovered three strong factors – durability, creativity of design and patriotism – that affect consumers’ perceptions of a product and its brand image. These three factors are linked to country of manufacture, country of design and consumer values. Males seemed showed less concern for country of origin than females and interestingly the youngest age group showed the most negative attitudes towards products made in Asia. Overall attitudes towards goods made in Asia were less positive than for goods made in Western countries, but the difference in attitude was not significant. However, attitudes towards goods designed in Asia were more negative. Thus moving production to low labor cost countries should not affect brand image negatively, but design should not be outsourced to Asia.
Brand, brand image, product cues, country of origin, brand origin, specialty retail, swimwear
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