The influence of regional Italian images on consumer behavior: a study of consumers in Germany
Is the research on the effect of regional information on product perception new?
No, it is not really new. The effect of information on a product’s geographical origin has been part of international marketing research for decades and there is a wide range of empirical evidence that supports the impact of country images on consumer perception. However, what is constantly changing is the perception of geographies on a product’s origin.
What are the findings of your study about the influence of regional Italian images on the behavior of German consumers? Are there any North-South Italy tendencies?
As the perception of some heterogenous geographies are changing, the question arises whether subnational geographies have a different effect than mere national geographies. There are highly significant differences between Northern and Southern Italy, for instance. This has historic and structural effects. Italy in general, and Northern Italy in particular, enjoys a high degree of sympathy among consumers in Germany. However, Northern Italy benefits from a significantly better sympathy value than Southern Italy for German consumers.
At the same time, it can be observed that the norms and values represented by the Northern and Southern Italian population are less compatible with the values and norms of the respondents. In this case the respondents see the Northern Italian population as normatively closer to their own values than in the case for Southern Italy, which may be explained by a higher cultural proximity of Northern Italy to Germany.
The respondents see Northern Italy by far as economically more developed and as a producer of higher quality goods. The image of Southern Italy, on the other hand, differs significantly from that of Northern Italy and shows a significantly lower value. Thus, the evaluation of the economic performance of the respective region is seen as diverging within Italy.
It can be concluded that image components in all cases differ significantly from each other. And hence, it could make sense to market a specific product not as Italian, but rather as Northern or Southern Italian.
Does a North or South Italian indication of origin per se influence purchase probability?
The strongest effect of an indication of origin on the purchase probability is given with wine of Northern Italian origin. The purchase probability differs at a significant level from the purchase probability of a product without indication of origin among respondents with low country knowledge. An increase in the respondents’ country knowledge further strengthens the influence of Northern Italian indication of origin. There is a strong effect of a Northern Italian origin information, since the mean value differs between wine without origin formation and wine with Northern Italian origin information.
Highly significant mean value differences were also found for wine with Southern Italian origin information. The purchase probability of respondents with low country knowledge is significantly influenced by Southern Italian indication of origin.
The influence of an indication of origin increases further with an increasing country knowledge. Thus, the influence of Southern Italian origin information on the purchase probability of the subgroup of respondents with a high level of country knowledge increases.
Does the purchase probability itself increase?
No, it is not the purchase probability of a wine e.g. from Southern Italy that increases, but rather the purchase probability of a wine without origin information that decreases. This indicates a greater importance of indication of origin for respondents with a high level of country knowledge, for both Northern Italian and Southern Italian wines.
It is therefore to be noted that Italian origin information for wine has a very strong influence on purchase probability. This can be observed particularly with Northern Italian wine. Southern Italian wine also benefits in a positive sense from a Southern Italian indication of origin. With increasing country knowledge, the purchase probability of wines with Italian indication of origin also increases, which is especially true for Northern Italian wines. In general, the effect sizes of wines with a North Italian indication of origin are higher than those of wines with a South Italian indication.
Northern Italian wine in particular benefits thereby from regional indications of origin.
Is there any halo effect?
Based on the theoretical considerations, it is assumed that the subgroup of respondents with a low level of country knowledge, due to their lack of familiarity with Italy and the typical products of the country, relies more strongly on the general associations with Northern Italy. Since Northern Italy is associated with a developed economy and associations with Northern Italy are generally positive, especially in the cognitive component, respondents automatically assume that Northern Italian products are of high quality, which decreases risk perception and analogously increases the purchase probability of products of Northern Italian origin, which strengthens the influence of the existing image.
Since the associations with Southern Italy are rather negative and the region is not associated with the values and characteristics mentioned above, this halo effect does not exist and there is no activation of the Southern Italian image in the purchasing process.
Thanks a lot for these insights!