Degree Name

Master of Marketing - Research


University of Wollongong. School of Management and Marketing


This study investigated the relationship of cultural values and message strategies in the context of health communication. Cultural values describe a set of enduring beliefs that a group or a particular culture share. These values are passed from generation to generation through institutions such as family, education and media. Cultural values function to persuade and influence others. Cross-cultural research in advertising has primarily distinguished dimensions such as individualism (where the individual prioritises his or her own needs over others) and collectivism (where the individual prioritises group needs over individual needs). Message appeals refer to the values an advertisement highlights in an attempt to influence a consumer. Cross-cultural advertising studies have so far attributed the difference in message strategies in the content of the advertisements found in two or more countries as arising from differences in cultural values. This study tested the applicability of these attributions to social marketing communication and health communication using an experiment in the context of tobacco control or smoking. This study is comprised of 249 smokers from a typical collectivist culture (Chinese culture; born in China) who were exposed to a print advertisement that encouraged readers to call a newly established Chinese Quitline. Half of the participants were exposed to an advertisement using a factual message appeal with explicit information on the dangers of smoking. This appeal, according to the literature, is most applicable to individualistic cultures, such as Australia. The other half of participants were exposed to an advertisement using an emotional appeal with high information context; where the recommended action was not explicit and where information was related via context such as a personal letter. This appeal, according to the literature, is more frequently employed in collectivist cultures. Both advertisements had identical visuals.

The findings indicated no significant differences, either in attitudes towards the advertisement or intention to perform the recommended behaviour (calling the Chinese Quitline) between the factual and emotional advertisements. To explore reasons for the non-significant results, an additional 20 Chinese smokers were recruited to make direct comparisons on the two types of advertisements and make comments on the advertisements in general and the recommended action (calling the Chinese Quitline).

Similar to the results of the main survey, there were no differences observed in the comments of the supplementary participants’ liking for the alternative advertisements. However, when asked about the call to action of ringing the Chinese Quitline, participants identified factors that were beyond the scope of the message appeals of the advertisements. Some of the factors they reported as influencing their likely behaviour included: self-efficacy (how much they perceive themselves to be capable of stopping smoking); their perception of how effective the Chinese Quitline will be (efficacy of recommended behaviour); the degree to which they perceive others to be conforming to the recommended behaviour (community norm); and how susceptible they are to the adverse health effects of smoking. Overall these results appear to confirm that cultural values expressed in message appeals may not play an important part in determining the adoption of recommended health behaviour within a multicultural society. Further research could explore if self-efficacy, community norm, perceived severity, perceived susceptibility to disease and perceived efficacy of recommended action may be universal factors that can be used as main message strategies for social marketing communications regardless of culture.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.