Have you ever thought what kind of associations come to mind when you discover that a bottle of wine you are considering buying comes from France? Or a pair of very pricey, but very fancy and good quality shoes was made in Italy? How does this information influence your decision to buy, especially if there are other bottles of wine on the shelf, from Spain and Chile? And other pairs of shoes in the shop, made in China. Would you ever base your purchasing decision on the information you read on the made in label?
Even in the age when the majority of European and North American companies outsource manufacturing to Asia, the Country of origin (COO) remains a very important concept in international business. It plays a significant role in shaping a brand image, and influencing purchasing decisions. As authors of a study on country of origin’s influence on customer perception ((Perceptions of country of origin: an approach to identifying expectations of foreign products, by P.A.P. Samantha Kumara and Kang Canhua, Journal of Brand Management 2010, 17, pp 343-353 )) write, “By understanding the dynamics of how different consumers respond to country-related information, managers can make more informed choices about the risks and benefits of locating various stages of the value chain in different parts of the world.”
The COO is closely related to the notion of country brand. When you read a made in label, what pops into your mind is the “picture, the presentation, the stereotype that businesspeople and consumers attach to products of a specific country.” (( ibid. )) In other words, that country’s brand.
The study by Kumara and Canhua reveals a wide spectrum of associations which go through our minds when we discover the COO of a product. As you can see in the image below, their scope is very wide. (( ibid. ))
But the main four categories into which our mind starts to put information related to the COO are: Economic, Information, Conviviality and Personality.
“This finding reveals that when a consumer buys a foreign-made product, he considers the economic value of the product, wants more information about the product, and considers to what extent the product has an impact on social status and how the product enhances consumer personality," say the authors of the study. (( ibid. ))
The concept of country of origin should feature in your marketing mix along with the famous four P’s (price, product, place and promotions), as it can greatly help you differentiate your product. But how can companies differentiate their products, made in China, if pretty much every company in Europe and North America outsources manufacturing to Asian countries as well?
I’ve seen some creative examples which illustrate this point. Most of them use designed in rather than made in, in order to stand out of the crowd. Here's an example of a made in tag which I found on the reverse side of my Mais il est ou le soleil dress: