Does local brand bias exist? The exploration of the impact of local brand bias on consumer decision-making in a diverse, developed South-East Asian Country

  • Sadie-Jane Nunis

    Student thesis: Professional Doctorate


    This research investigates whether local brand bias exists in Singapore. It aims to better understand how and why Singaporeans’ perceptions change when it is revealed to them that the brands that they had assumed were foreign were actually local brands; whilst also addressing how the country of origin effect affects the consumer decision-making process of Singaporeans. The research also explores whether there are varying levels of consumer ethnocentrism among male and female Singaporeans. Singapore tends to be a paradox, as discussed within this thesis, as Singaporean consumers do not necessarily react to the country of origin effect or to consumer ethnocentrism like their developed country counterparts; in fact, this research shows that Singaporean consumers make assumptions about the country of origin for many products instead of accurately researching it. Earlier research in the field of consumer ethnocentrism has emphasised the fact that higher levels of consumer ethnocentrism exist in developed countries versus that of developing countries; however, the way Singapore tends to differ from other developed nations is intriguing. Furthermore, limited research has explored Singaporeans’ perception of imported and local products. Thus, this thesis discusses how the country of origin effect, consumer ethnocentrism effect, and conspicuous consumption effect affect how Singaporeans respond to local brands and suggests reasons why Singaporeans defer to their other developed country counterparts.
    From a practical standpoint, this research can assist local entrepreneurs, businesses, and marketers to determine better means to entice local Singaporeans to buy local as well as to better understand their local markets. Based on the researcher’s interpretivist approach, qualitative data was manually collated through 40 in-depth interviews with Singaporean consumers of different age groups. These were followed by five in-depth interviews with Singaporean business owners and one Singaporean business management representative. Furthermore, three in-depth interviews with Singaporean marketing experts ranging from health care to fast-moving consumer goods were conducted. The data collected provides a holistic view for this study, with various perspectives. The findings provide empirical support that shows that there is local brand bias among Singaporeans. However, the bias is on varying levels depending on the products or services. The consumer decision-making process is rather complex and is further complicated by the variances in brand loyalty and how loyalty is developed for local brands. The findings indicate that most Singaporeans, although demonstrating pride in some Singaporean brands, did not believe that Singaporean brands had much of a chance to become a premium brand. It was indicated that heritage brands, that is, brands that have a sense of local flavour and rekindle a sense of nostalgia among the locals, are the most favoured among local brands as well as most trusted among local consumers. Many interviewees expressed frustration at having felt ‘cheated’ when they learnt that some of their favourite brands were actually local brands with foreign names. However, Singaporean consumers wanted the local businesses to find the balance between finding the right brand names that still keep the Asian essence so as not to be seen as being a Western brand for example, the luxury hospitality Singaporean brand The Banyan Tree which is internationally revered. Consequently, one of the suggested ways to influence Singaporeans to support local businesses was to capitalise on heritage and local culture and infuse it into brands. Other theoretical implications from the findings of this research thesis are discussed as well as various future potential research possibilities. The thesis also derives guidelines for Singaporean and Singapore-based marketers, Singapore business owners, and Singaporean entrepreneurs to better enable them to identify their potential markets by maximising their promotion of consumer ethnocentric appeal to entice Singaporean consumers to buy and support local.
    Ultimately, this thesis explores the reasons as to why local brand bias exists; why local companies feel that local brand bias exists and yet are unable to give the local consumers what they want in spite of claims of knowing what their local customers want; why local consumers are not more supportive of local businesses; why consumer gender plays a role in being a local brand champion; and why Singaporean consumers are deemed as being too demanding when willing to pay for some local mass products and high prices for local premium products especially when they feel a sense of pride towards these local brands. Finally, this research both supports and adds to the existing literature in understanding the country of origin effect, conspicuous consumption, and consumer ethnocentrism in a developed Asian country like Singapore that has different cultural aspects that alter how the above three listed factors are or can be affected.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorRaechel Johns (Supervisor) & Stephen Kelly (Supervisor)

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