The global teenager hypothesis suggests that recent communication
technologies (i.e., the Internet, satellite television) have homogenized
the values, fashion preferences and attitudes of the world's
teenagers. This study explores whether differences in attitudes towards
apparel brands in general exist among teens from three nations
comprising major teen apparel markets (China, Japan and the United
States). The results do not support the global teenager hypothesis as
significant differences in apparel brand attitudes were shown between
teens from each of these three nations.
Perhaps more than any other age group, teens value apparel and
fashion (Koester and May, 1985). They also value cell phones, the
Internet, and the satellite television (Meredith and Schewe, 2002).
Wysocki (1997) suggests that such international communication modes have
homogenized global teen preferences and attitudes. Walker (1996) argues
that this phenomenon has resulted in the tendency for MTV-watching teens
to display global teen culture signs, such as jeans, running shoes, and
denim jackets. According to the "global teenager" viewpoint,
these forces have brought about a convergence of global teen values,
such as independence, self-expression, openness to new ideas and
cultures, flexibility, mobility, and enjoyment of life (Meredith and
While recent technologies have provided the global teen with
enhanced opportunities to interact with international apparel brands, a
search of the apparel marketing literature uncovered no cross-national
comparisons of teens' attitudes towards apparel brands. Such
research could provide international apparel brand managers with
valuable insight. This research is designed to provide such insight by
comparing Chinese, Japanese, and American teenagers in terms of their
attitudes towards apparel brands. These specific teen markets were
selected for the following reasons. Their respective countries
represent: (1) the world's three largest nations in terms of gross
domestic product (CIA, 2003); and (2) three of the largest and fastest
growing apparel markets in the world; and (3) three of the largest teen
markets in the world (in aggregate spending power, and in the case of
China, sheer numbers).
The global teenagers' affinity for apparel related products is
likely a driving force behind the rapidly expanding global apparel,
accessories and luxury goods market. This global market, which valued at
$1.2 trillion in 2007, is defined as men's, women's and
infants' clothing, jewelry, watches and leather goods. Womenswear
accounted for 47.5 percent and menswear 31.9 percent. The global
apparel, accessories and luxury goods market is dominated by three
specific regions: Asia-Pacific (34.1 percent), Europe (30.7 percent),
and the United States (20.6 percent). Continued growth is forecasted
through 2012, with a value of $1.5 trillion projected (Datamonitor,
2007). This global growth suggests the need for an industry examination
of international teens' attitudes toward apparel brands in general.
2. LITERATURE REVIEW
Teens and brands The preponderance of rather limited literature on
teen brand attitudes has focused on the influence of socialization
agents. For example, early research showed that parents influence
children's clothing brand choices by acting as role models (Ward
and Wackman, 1977). Dotson and Hyatt (2005) examined the impact of
gender on peer group influence and found that girls report being more
influenced by peers than do boys in terms of their preference for
certain clothing brands. Auty and Elliott (2001) seem to hold similar
views as they contend that conforming to the fashion that is accepted by
the group is more important than choosing brands that express one's
own identity. (Shim and Koh 1997) found that teens that interact more
with peers about consumer matters exhibit a more brand-oriented decision
making style. Adolescents frequently communicate with their peers prior
to making purchases in order to maintain group identity (Bearden and
United States American teens have a healthy appetite for apparel.
According to the Packaged Facts (2007) "Teen Market in the U.S.
Report," the 26 million American 12- to 17-year olds earn an
aggregate income of $80 billion. Spending on and by U.S. teenagers is
forecast to exceed $208 billion by 2011, an increase from $189.7 billion
in 2006. The biggest portion of this substantial figure goes towards
apparel, with an estimated 42 percent of the nation's total teen
budget allocated to the fashion category (Poggi 2007).
Clothing offers teens a means of self-expression or a way of coping
with social situations (Darley, 1999). Taylor and Cosenza (2002) argue
that self-expression is especially important to the echo-boomers and
found that clothing style, look and fit were the three most important
clothing selection criteria used by 16 to 19 year-old females. Taylor
and Cosenza (2002) also found that this age group was preoccupied with
social acceptance, social affiliation and "coolness" attached
to make the "right" clothing choices. Interestingly,
brand/label received the lowest ranking in the study by Taylor and
Cosenza (2002). However, as noted by Weiss (2003), echo-boomers tend to
not be brand loyal. McLaughlin (2000) argues that echo-boomers are
skeptical of advertising because they have been inundated with it.
Indeed, the average American 21 year old has been exposed to 3,000
marketing messages a day throughout their lifetime (Weiss, 2003).
Japan Japan has an aging population, with a disproportionately
small population between the age of 10 to 19 (approximately 13 million),
and small nuclear families (Statistics Bureau, 2003). Japanese high
school girls spend $2.5 billion annually and $275 monthly on clothing
and gear. Tokyo high school girls are the biggest spenders, spending an
average of $275 monthly on these items, which is three times the
national average (Time 2001). In Japan, fashion is no longer controlled
or guided by professionally trained designers but by the teens who have
become the producers of fashion (Kawamura 2006).
White (1994) has offered one of the more comprehensive examinations
of the Japanese teen market. She characterizes the Japanese culture as
one that reinforces individual conformity, even if that conformity is as
simple as complying with the fashion norms of a particular segment. It
appears that Japan tends to have a sort of dress code for individual
market segments. While older consumers may do little to modify the
"code," teens seem to find a way to express some
individuality. For example, while the majority of Japanese children wear
unitforms to school, there are numerous "modifications" that
are made to make them fit a particular group's personality. Boys
change the legs of their slacks to be either a peg or a wider style and
wear jackets that are tight, while girls adjust skirt lengths and hair
styles (White, 1994).
China There are approximately 200 million persons in China between
the ages of 10 to 19 (Carson, 2002). In response to its swelling
population, China instituted the one-child policy in the late 1970s.
This resulted in the "little emperors" family structure
whereby nearly every child is cherished and indulged by
"six-pockets" (i.e., two parents and four grandparents)
(Wysocki, 1997). Relative to older generations, these "little
emperors" tend to be less tradition-bound; more concerned with
brand symbolism; and more oriented towards brands, success, and
self-gratification (Salzman,1999). According to St. Maurice and Wu
(2006), direct spending on or by urban Chinese teens totaled 290 billion
reminbi (about $36 billion) annually. This figure includes $7.5 billion
in pocket money and $28.75 billion families spend on their teenage
children annually, with $3.7 billion or 11 percent of this allocated to
There is a dearth of research focusing on Chinese teens and brands.
In one exception, St. Maurice and Wu (2006) found that 14 percent of
Chinese teens strongly prefer brand named clothing, compared to 5
percent of Chinese adults. They argue that Chinese teens are a very
heterogeneous group regarding brand attitudes. Four segments of urban
teens were identified. One of those segments, "Trendy teens,"
lives in the tier one cities (e.g., Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou). They
tend to be more technology, money, status and brand-oriented, as well as
more open to foreign brands than those living elsewhere. Another
segment, "Virtuous teens" are the largest segment in second
(primarily provincial capitals) and third tier cities (the next 60
largest cities). This group tends to be much less brand conscious and
image driven, with most of their modest pocket money being spent on
books. The massive "poor teen" segment lives in small towns
and prefers Chinese brands. Despite their large numbers, they are less
attractive to marketers. The final group, leisurely teens, spends mostly
on entertainment and music.
Hypothesis: The purpose of the present research is to address these
questions by exploring the Chinese, Japanese and American teenagers.
Comparisons are made between teens in these three countries. The global
teenager hypothesis, as it pertains to attitudes towards apparel brands
in general will thus be supported to the degree that cross-cultural
similarities in such brand attitudes are observed in these teens.
A cross-national exploration of apparel brand attitudes
necessitated the creation of a survey instrument and the selection of a
sample of adolescents in each of the three countries of interest. The
study utilized a convenience sample of students in each country.
Graduate assistants from Japan and China identified geographically and
socio-economically similar regions and cities in their native countries.
Each of the samples was drawn from relatively middle-class neighborhoods
in medium-sized metropolitan cities.
The sample was comprised of 620 public middle and high school
students from China, Japan and the United States. The Chinese sample
included 178 students from suburban Xianyang, which is a city located in
the central Chinese province of Shaanxi. The Japanese sample was
comprised of 183 students from the city of Kyoto. The U.S. sample was
made up of 259 students from medium-sized metropolitan areas in Western
Missouri. All respondents were native to their respective countries. The
survey instrument was administered during the students' regularly
scheduled class sessions.
A three-way language barrier complicated the cross-national
respondent comparison process. Direct translation was not attempted due
to difficulties in translating certain words. The objective was to
capture the intent and spirit of each question. Three translators were
employed for survey examination and translation comparisons. One
translator was fluent in all three languages, another fluent in English
and Japanese, while the third was fluent in Japanese and Chinese. The
English version of the survey was developed first. The instrument was
next translated in both directions through Japanese and Chinese and back
into English. Back translation techniques were used for item comparisons
to verify concurrent survey instrument interpretation across the three
cultures (Kotabe and Helsen, 2000). Next, versions of the questionnaire
in each language were compared. Translation discrepancies were modified
so as to enhance cross-version meaning consistency.
The survey instrument included a seven-item scale, with specific
questions regarding apparel brand attitudes. These measures were
modified from a five-item scale developed in a dissertation published by
Moschis (1978). A scale reliability ([alpha]= .50) was reported in the
original study. The scale items were measured on a Likert scale ranging
from 1 = Strongly Disagree to 7 = Strongly Agree. The four items, means
for each country and results of ANOVA comparisons across countries are
reported in Table 2. One of the original scale items "I don't
care about brands of -- that I buy," appeared to detract from scale
unidimensionality. Using a factor analysis, it appears that due to the
negative wording of the item, it did not load with the remaining scale
items (See Herche and Engelland, 1996. While scale unidimensionality is
an important consideration in cross-cultural research, the likely cause
of the item loading failure concerns a reversed positivity bias
associated with Likert type measures, rather than a true psychographic
difference among the items (Herche and Engelland 1996). Therefore, this
item was dropped from the analysis.
In order to test for reliability, a Cronbach alpha test for the
resulting four-item brand attitude scale was run for the entire sample
for each product, as well as for each group and product. The results
showed that the alpha levels for sportswear were .717 across countries,
and .714 for jeans across countries. When broken down by country, the
alpha levels on sportswear were .701, .748, and .704 for the Chinese,
Americans and Japanese respectively, and for jeans they were .677, .710,
and .778 for those groups respectively. While Nunnally (1978) has
suggested alphas of least .70 are desirable, Hair et al. (1998) have
argued that alphas as low as .60 are acceptable in exploratory studies.
As shown in Table 2, the ANOVA analysis revealed that significant
differences exist on each of the four questions with regards to at least
one product. Only in the cases of jeans for AttBrand1, and sportswear
for AttBrand2, were no significant differences between any of the groups
detected. Tukey tests were also conducted to test which country means
were different from each other.
AttBrand1 concerned preference for heavily advertised brands. The
results showed that the Chinese were more agreeable than both Japanese
and the Americans with the statement "I prefer heavily brands of
--." As shown in Table 3, the U.S. teens agreed more strongly than
Chinese teens that well known brands make higher quality jeans
(AttBrand2). Significant differences were also detected between
agreement levels with AttBrand3 (the statement that "I prefer
certain brands of most--that I buy.") With regards to the statement
as it pertains to sportswear, the U.S. and Chinese teens agreed more
strongly than those from Japan (p<.05). However, the Americans agreed
more strongly than both groups when the statement was posed with regard
to jeans (p<.05). The Japanese teens agreed more strongly than both
groups that brand-named sportswear was superior to off-brands
(AttBrand4), and more strongly than the Chinese teens that brand-named
jeans were superior to off-brands.
The results of the present study generally do not support the
global teenager hypothesis as it relates to apparel brand attitudes.
Significant differences between the teen groups were observed for each
of the scale items.
The results suggest that American and Japanese teens were less
likely than the Chinese to prefer highly advertised apparel brands. This
is consistent with Schaefer, Hermans and Parker (2005) who found that
relative to Chinese teenagers, American teens were less skeptical of
advertising. A possible explanation for this is that American and
Japanese teens have experienced relatively higher levels of advertising
saturation throughout their lives, leaving them jaded. This finding is
supportive of Tse's (1996) contention that Chinese place more
importance on brands' social value than do Westerners. He argued
that Chinese consumers use brands to distance themselves from
out-groups, and in-groups have greater influence concerning brand name
choice. Consequently, he proposed that relative to Westerners, Chinese
consumers would be more likely to match the brands they consume with
their perceived social status. Thus, Chinese may be inclined to turn to
advertising in determining the social status value of a brand.
The results also suggest that Chinese teens are less convinced that
well-known jeans brands are of better quality. According to McKeon et al
(2006), Chinese consumers are more familiar with domestic brands and
have become increasingly concerned about the quality levels of these
brands, with their preference level for domestic goods dropping from 78
percent to 67 percent in the past five years. This decline has been the
fastest among the nation's young, affluent and urban consumers.
While the results suggest that Japanese teens are especially strong
believers in the superiority of branded products, they also indicate
that Japanese teens are less likely than American teens to prefer
certain brands of apparel. This could be a reflection of the Japanese
street fashion scene. This finding is consistent with a Time (2008)
report that fad-hungry Japanese teens are eschewing big brand-named
apparel lines for logo-less luxury items of high quality. The desire for
expensive fashion items without labels suggests a certain level of brand
apathy on the part of the Japanese teens. Moreover, Azuma (2002) argues
that an extremely fast-moving fashion cycle characterizes the Japanese
women's fashion market. Culturally, the Japanese tend to be
variety-seeking and craft-loving, which demands that their styles be
constantly changing and slightly different from those in their reference
groups. More than 100 fashion magazines showcasing local brands have
sprung up, catering to the Japanese teen girls' hunger for clothes
and their street-style pop culture (Japan Today). All of these
developments seem to bode more favorably for niche brands than for mega
LIMITATIONS AND CONCLUDING REMARKS
As suggested by St. Maurice and Wu (2006), China teens are a
heterogeneous group. The Chinese teens participating in the present
study were from the city of Xianyang, which is located in the less
developed and more stable interior region of China. With a population of
one million inhabitants, Xiangyang would be considered a third or fourth
tier Chinese city. As such, they would likely fall into the
"virtuous teens" category, which is considerably less brand
and status conscious than their tier one city counterparts.
Clearly, managers of multi-national apparel brands need to
understand the differences in perception and cultures. Advertising must
adapt to each culture to emphasize the brand name differently depending
upon the cultures in question. Future research might continue to examine
the "global teenager" idea and determine if attitudes are
changing within cultures and becoming more homogenized so that
advertising might also become more standardized.
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Table 1. Respondent Frequencies
China Japan U.S. Total
Sample Size n 176 180 257 613
Gender Male 103 73 111 287
Female 73 107 146 326
Age 13 to 14 49 2 10 61
15 to 16 105 72 129 306
17 to 18 21 106 116 243
Table 2. Item Means and ANOVA Comparisons
Japan CH USA
ITEM Product [micro] [micro] [micro]
AttBrand1. I prefer the Sportswear 4.06 4.85 4.14
advertised brands of Jeans 4.24 4.45 4.50
AttBrand2. Well-known Sportswear 4.63 4.61 4.82
quality --. Jeans 4.66 4.29 4.88
AttBrand3. I prefer Sportswear 4.15 4.74 4.61
certain brands of most
-- I buy. Jeans 4.19 4.23 5.07
AttBrand4. Brand-named Sportswear 4.77 4.33 4.31
(are) better than "off Jeans 4.81 4.15 4.42
ITEM Product [micro] F p-value
AttBrand1. I prefer the Sportswear 4.32 14.44 .000
advertised brands of Jeans 4.41 1.58 .206
AttBrand2. Well-known Sportswear 4.70 1.19 .304
quality --. Jeans 4.65 7.39 .001
AttBrand3. I prefer Sportswear 4.52 7.30 .001
certain brands of most
-- I buy. Jeans 4.58 22.73 .000
AttBrand4. Brand-named Sportswear 4.45 4.35 .013
(are) better than "off Jeans 4.46 5.19 .001
* 1 = Strongly Disagree 4 = Neutral 7 = Strongly Agree
Table 3. Multiple Comparisons Attitude Toward Branded Sportswear
Dependent Country Country Difference
Variable (I) (J) (I-J) Std. Error P-Value
AttBrand1 Japan China -.79190 .16484 .000
Sportswear China USA .70683 .15223 .000
USA Japan .08507 .15148 .841
AttBrand1 Japan China -.20876 .16376 .410
Jeans China USA -.05173 .15132 .938
USA Japan .26049 .15033 .194
AttBrand2 Japan China .01228 .17054 .997
Sportswear China USA -.20829 .15665 .379
USA Japan .19601 .15585 .420
AttBrand2 Japan China .36932 .16721 .071
Jeans China USA -.58960 .15347 .000
USA Japan .22029 .15347 .323
AttBrand3 Japan China -.59175 .16588 .001
Sportwear China USA .12780 .15191 .677
USA Japan .46386 .15086 .006
AttBrand3 Japan China -.05202 .16651 .948
Jeans China USA -.83079 .15332 .000
USA Japan .88281 .15093 .000
AttBrand4 Japan China .43763 .18261 .044
Sportwear China USA .01813 .16787 .994
USA Japan -.45576 .16614 .017
AttBrand4 Japan China .66789 .18482 .001
Jeans China USA -.27384 .16977 .241
Jeans USA Japan -.39406 .16890 .052
Note: Bolded items indicate p-value significant in the mean at the