Activation of country stereotypes: automaticity, consonance, and impact
Country-of-origin (COO) research typically regards COO cue usage as a conscious and controlled process dependent on consumers’ intention to use COO information. However, emerging evidence indicates that country stereotypes can affect consumers’ brand evaluations regardless of intention. In three complementary experiments, this study investigates how the mere presence of country cues can trigger different kinds of country stereotypes (functional vs. emotional) which subsequently automatically influence consumers’ cognitive and affective brand evaluations as well as brand-related behavior. Findings confirm the automatic influence of country stereotypes and suggest that brand evaluations and brand-related behavior are enhanced when the underlying country stereotype matches the advertising execution format. On the other hand, mismatches can result in adverse effects. A follow-up study further reveals that cognitive and affective brand evaluations mediate COO effects on brand-related behavior. Theoretical and managerial implications of the findings are considered and future research directions identified.