Sexy or smart? The impact of endorser ethnicity and portrayal on Chinese women’s attitudes toward luxury advertising

Cheng-yue YIN*, Shing Chung Patrick POON, Yang SUN, Nan BI

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to examine the interaction effect of endorser ethnicity (local Chinese vs Western) and portrayal (smart vs sexy) on Chinese women’s attitudes toward luxury advertisements and brands, as well as any moderating effect appearance self-esteem has on the above-mentioned interaction.

Two online experiments were conducted. Study 1 was a 2×2 factorial design (with 280 participants), while Study 2 was a 2×2 ×2 factorial design (with 320 participants). Data were analyzed using a multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) test and simple effect analysis.

Results demonstrated that Chinese female consumers are more likely to have a positive attitude toward advertisements for luxury goods and brands when a local Chinese (vs Western) endorser is used and portrayed as smart (vs sexy), particularly if consumers have low appearance self-esteem.

Research limitations/implications
The research focused only on female consumers and only one product type was used for the experiments. The use of controls for potential confounding effects was insufficient in this study design.

Practical implications
To maximize profits, marketers should choose the most appropriate combination of endorser ethnicity and portrayal in the Chinese luxury goods market. Accordingly, if adopting a localization strategy and using a Chinese female endorser, the endorser should be portrayed as smart rather than sexy. In contrast, if a luxury brand adopts an internationalization strategy and uses the same Western female endorser as in other countries, it is more effective to portray her as sexy rather than smart. Furthermore, advertisers should pay particular attention to Chinese female consumers who have low appearance self-esteem when advertising their product and/or brand.

Compared with past studies concerned with consumers’ perceptions of endorser image in advertisements through a focus on endorser ethnicity, this study linked endorser portrayal with his/her ethnicity and discussed the interaction effects between these two factors on consumers’ attitudes toward the advertisement and the brand portrayed in the advertisement. The findings herein contribute new insights to the body of work on luxury marketing and endorser advertising.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-427
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Marketing and Logistics
Issue number2
Early online date17 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2020

Bibliographical note

This study was supported by the National Social Science Fund of China (No. 14CGL072).


  • Appearance self-esteem
  • Self-referencing


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