When we go to the supermarket, consumers find a lot of information related to the product they want to buy, such as the brand, promotions, guarantee or attractiveness of the packaging. A traditional feature that has sparked great interest for marketing researchers is the “country of origin”, Which determines the origin of production and assembly of the product.

Research on consumer behavior agrees that the origin of a product acts as a sign of its quality, so we use a country’s reputation to induce product quality. For example, those who perceive Samsung As a Japanese brand they show a higher preference and are willing to pay more for the products of Samsung Due to the high technological quality image of Japanese products, unlike those of North Korea, for example.

Recent research, on the other hand, concludes that certain consumers (for example, those from developed countries such as Spain) show a greater inclination towards products manufactured in their own country, as opposed to foreigners, and regardless of the image they have of the countries.

These consumers are known as ethnocentric, since they have a negative vision of importing foreign products because they consider that it is not patriotic or is detrimental to the national economy and employment.

Although the way we evaluate foreign products is largely automatic and occurs on an unconscious level, no research examines how consumer ethnocentrism levels shape brain evaluation of domestic and foreign products.

A study by researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) indicates that highly ethnocentric consumers experience greater brain reactions related to reward and self-interest in domestic products and high brain activations involved with risk in foreign products.

Functional magnetic resonance

In research led by the UGR Sophisticated brain techniques were used to understand how we actually process products manufactured in Spain and abroad. To carry out this research, its authors worked with a sample made up of 30 participants (men and women) who, after indicating their levels of ethnocentrism, performed a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) while evaluating national products and foreigners (USA and China) and showed their preferences towards them.

Brain results indicated that those consumers who show higher levels of ethnocentrism experience brain reactions more strongly related to reward and self-interest, such as brain activations in the striatum and mid-prefrontal cortex. In contrast, when more ethnocentric consumers evaluated foreign products, they experienced higher neuronal risk compared to less ethnocentric ones.

“These results are interesting for national companies to use the relevance and reward for citizens as arguments in their communication campaigns to promote the acquisition of their products, as well as the risk of buying foreign products. These results, therefore, advise the implantation of collaborations or brand alliances with local firms as a way to reduce negative brain processing of foreign products ”, explain the authors of this work.

Bibliographic reference:

Casado-Aranda, L.-A., Sánchez-Fernández, J., Ibáñez-Zapata, J.-Á., & Liébana-Cabanillas, F. J. (2020). How consumer ethnocentrism modulates neural processing of domestic and foreign products: A neuroimaging study. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 53, 101961. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jretconser.2019.101961

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