Dynamics of country image: evidence from Malaysia

Dana-Nicoleta Lascu, University of Richmond
Zafar U. Ahmed
Irfan Ahmed
Tan Hui Min

Copyright © 2020 Asia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/APJML-04-2019-0241

The definitive version is available at: https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/APJML-04-2019-0241/full/html


Purpose – Previous research has posited country image to operate at two levels: the country’s macro image, based on general politico-economic descriptors of the country, and the country’s micro image, based on perceptions of products from the country. The purpose of this paper is to further explore this premise in a practical study, using a psychometric assessment of macro and micro country images by ascertaining the nature of differences in macro and micro images of leading exporters, the USA and China, for consumers in Malaysia, a top import destination of US and Chinese goods; the images of Malaysian goods were similarly assessed.

Design/methodology/approach – The study used a systematic sample, with questionnaires distributed to adult respondents using a street intercept. Interviewers asked every other passer-by to fill out a questionnaire, and stood in close proximity to address any questions from respondents. The study hypothesized that there is a significant difference between country macro and micro image, respectively for the USA, China and Malaysia, and that there is significant relationship between country macro image and country micro image in each country, respectively, USA, China and Malaysia.

Findings – The study found support for the reliability of existing country micro and macro image measures, and further refined them for increased validity. The study compared between the countries and found significant differences on both macro and micro dimensions of country image. The US scored highest on technological research, high quality products, standards of living, labor costs, welfare system, industrialization, civilian government, development, literacy, free-market system and democracy, followed by China on technological research, industrialization, development and free-market system, with Malaysia scoring higher on product quality, labor costs, welfare system, civilian government is civilian/non-military, literacy, free-market system and democracy.

Research limitations/implications – A broader study of countries that share geopolitical and cultural similarities might offer additional insights into country macro and micro image.

Practical implications – The study cautions marketers to assess the acceptance of their products in the context of their country’s macro and micro image perceptions in target markets, and steer those perceptions in a manner that would be beneficial to their marketing efforts.

Originality/value – The conceptualization of the macro and micro aspects of country image has been one of the less studied dimensions of country image. This study is the first to address these dimensions from an emerging-market perspective, suggesting that, at the macro level, country perceptions regarding technology, economy, and politics contribute to an overall impression of the country, which would then influence the desirability of its products originating there. For the micro country image, products from countries perceived as innovative, excelling in product design, and producing prestigious products, are likely to be perceived as desirable.