Exploring the Chain of Effects Between Local Identity and Expatriate Consumers’ Preference for Local Food Brands
local identity; social identity theory; social ties; local brans; global brans; food products; brand value signaling
Emerald Publishing Limited
Journal of Product & Brand Management
Theorizing about consumer’s cultural identity has led to a greater understanding of why consumers choose and consume certain brands and products. The influence of cultural identity has traditionally been studied primarily in a consumer’s country of origin, neglecting its potential relevance for understanding the consumption choices of sojourners and expatriates. This paper aims to investigate how the length of stay (LOS) in a foreign country, as a manifestation of local identity, shapes expatriate consumers’ food brand preferences.
This study draws on social identity theory and cultural branding literature to examine the mechanisms through which local identity drives preference for local food brands among expatriate consumers. Data from a cross-sectional survey of 180 USA and UK expatriates living in the Greater Middle East were analysed using structural equation modelling.
Local identity (measured through LOS in the host country) appears to exert an indirect effect on the consumption of local food brands through social ties with a local community. Next, social ties with a local community enhance local food brand preferences (LFBP) and this relationship is fully mediated by the global food brand preference (GFBP) where GFBP weakens the preference for local food brands and vice versa. In addition, the heterogeneity of interplay effects between local and global food brands can be attributed to the local food brand value signalling. The study finds that the higher perceived value of local food brands lowers the negative impact the GFBP has on LFBP and vice versa. The hypothesized effects in the model remain robust when controlling for moderating effect of age and the expatriate’s country of origin.
The current study investigates the consumer behaviour of the expatriate consumer segment. As this study focuses only on expatriates currently living in countries of the Greater Middle East, its findings should be tested in other regions and with diverse subject samples.
Expatriates should not be treated as a uniform consumer segment but, instead, should be evaluated as unique individuals whose inclination towards local food brands depends on their: ability to establish and verify their local identity through developing social ties with the local community and reliance on global food brands. Moreover, findings demonstrate that brand managers should focus on increasing their perceived value by showcasing quality, reliability, innovation and performance, factors that reassure expatriate consumers when choosing local, over global food brands.
This study goes beyond the traditional focus on local identity in the domestic setting and sets out to investigate the chain of effects on LFBPs in the expatriate setting. Empirical evidence shows that an expatriate’s higher integration in a local community via social ties confirms their local identity, and thus exerts a stronger impact on a preference for local food brands. The study’s results demonstrate that the preference for local food is dependent on an expatriate consumer’s reliance on global food brands and the impact of global food preferences on local food preferences is moderated by the perceptions of the local food brand value. Additionally, findings suggest that the negative effects of global food brands are stronger for older expatriates and expatriates coming from the USA.