IMC-HSG research helps firm overcome protectionism

To overcome protectionism, firms need not to hide their origin but should actively use tailored marketing programs.

Firms that aim to successfully market their products abroad increasingly face challenges of protectionism and discrimination against their products, a phenomenon widely recognized as domestic country bias. Current research from Peter Mathias Fischer from the Institute for Marketing and Customer Insight (IMC-HSG), Katharina Zeugner-Roth (IESEG School of Management), Costas Katsikeas (Leeds University), and Mario Pandelaere (Virginia Tech University) shows that firms can mitigate such pressures and overcome protectionism with active marketing programs without downplaying their foreigness. More specifically, their study demonstrates that there are two distinct segments who tend to reject foreign products, even when being superior to domestic alternatives: national identifiers who purchase domestic because of a national sentiment of pride and ethnocentrists who do so because of an (erroneous) desire to protect    their domestic economy (i.e., prejudice). The findings illustrate that marketing programs that are prevention-oriented (i.e., advertising claims such as “always a safe choice”) are effective in overcoming domestic country bias among national identifiers and that marketing programs that are promotion-oriented (i.e., advertising claims such as “treat yourself with something special) help overcome protectionistic tendencies among ethnocentrists. Further, firms are given concrete advice on how to identify these two distinct segments to target these accordingly—based on available data such as voting behavior or (GPS) location.

Overall, the study is a wake-up call for firms believing that they should primarily rely on product quality, as this is not a sufficient criterion for important segments to purchase a foreign brand. Instead, IMC-HSG recommends to identify national identifiers and consumer ethnocentrists and to adapt the communication strategy via differentiated and targeted advertising claims. While we showed that this is effective via manipulated advertising claims, firms may also consider other factors. For example, a white goods firms that focuses on design rather than function is likely to activate consumers’ promotion focus.

The corresponding paper has been published in the Journal of International Business Studies, a journal ranked by the prestigious FT-50 list of the Financial times and is openly accessible via: