Imagine I offer you a present – a watch. And I ask you to choose between a watch made in Switzerland, one made in India and one made in Brazil, or some other country. You’d most likely choose the Swiss watch (of course, the fact that the Swiss watch would cost me more than a by-pass surgery is not exactly your concern). I know I would have chosen it. I cannot point my finger at precisely why but somewhere in my head there is this perception that no on makes watches better than the Swiss.
I do not know whether the Swiss have a long heritage at this, or if they are indeed better. But the country of origin plays a key role in purchase decision as we generally associate the characteristics of countries to products, and in some cases, we even associate certain products to countries.
I’ll give you examples of both. We look for a ‘Made in Japan’ tag or atleast a Japanese name when it comes to high-tech products. We know that something made in Germany would be built with the best of quality, technology and luxury in mind. People also believe that an Italian product would be designed to be the best looking.
Now look at certain individual products – French Wine, German cars, Japanese Robots, Columbian Coffee, Italian/French fashion accessories, Swiss army knife, Swiss chocolate et al. Somewhere in our minds, these products are associated with these countries, owing to their legacy or culture or lifestyle which automatically leads us to perceive these as ‘premium’.
Foreign Branding is a concept that spawns from the country-of-origin effect and has become increasingly popular since the ’60s and ’70s. If you’ve read the previous article on this blog – ‘Whats in a name?’, where Pratik talks about the intricacies involved in naming a brand, you would recognise that many brands have been given foreign names to give a perceived ‘country-of-origin’ effect. Häagen-Dazs is one of the best examples of this. Based in the US of A, and started by a Polish immigrant, the brand was consciously given a Scandinavian sounding name since countries like Denmark are considered superior in dairy products and remind people of snow at the same time! The name is not even derived from actual scandinavian words, in fact, the digraphs “äa” and “zs” are not part of any native words in any of the scandinavian languages, yet the impact of the name is there for the world to see.
This foreign branding can be observed most frequently in cosmetics and fashion accessories, where an Italian or French sounding name is chosen to appeal to the style-conscious. Makes it obvious why ITC chose the names Essenza di Wills and Fiama di Wills for its frangrances and personal care products, especially since they’re battling it out in the premium segment.
In India, the government has put in place protections for domestic products which hold additional value owing to their respective place of origin. The Geographical Indications Registry is used to protect brands like Kancheepuram silk, Darjeeling tea, Basmati rice and Alphonso Mango from being misused. These measures prove the worth that certain products gain owing to their place of origin.
In retrospect, it seems quite obvious that building such connections between your brand and a certain place of origin would add credibility to your brand, but more importantly, the actual product must ultimately live up to the standards. Lets face it, if Häagen-Dazs did not make good ice-cream, the name would be as useless as me changing my name to Präshäanth de Zšamuél or something. The country/place of origin, if used wisely and backed by a credible product, would be an incredible asset.
I could go on to give you more examples, but being lazier than the others who post on this blog, I would instead ‘encourage’ you all to explore more examples, and I am conveniently using the pretext of ‘starting a healthy discussion’ to stop here. Happy marketing!