brand experts

How "Made In" labels influence purchasing decisions

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:


Belgian business magazines Trends and Trends Tendances write about Funky Brands™

Today, the Belgian business magazines Trends Tendances (in French) and Trends (in Dutch) published a story about my Funky Brands™ philosophy.  In this story, I define Funky Brands as remarkable products which stand out from the crowd due to their astonishing design and smart brand strategy. I talk about not-too-funky companies which compete solely on cost, discuss what kinds of products have the potential of becoming funky, and mention examples of existing Funky Brands -- Ice Watch, Theo, Vespa, NewTree and Mini. Below you can see an article in French which was written by editor of Trends Tendances, Camille van Vyve. The photo in the article is by Michael Chia, a Brussels-based photographer whom I interviewed before.

Skip a milkshake, order a smoothie

I've just read an interesting post by Roger Dooley, The Power of Positive Names. In his review of an upcoming study about the power of naming products and product categories (to be published later this year in the Journal of Consumer Research), Dooley gives simple but quite powerful examples.


It turns out, we are much more likely to indulge into cakes for breakfast if cakes are called muffins.  In a similar way, we appreciate a dish of pasta, meat and vegetables if it's called pasta salad rather than simply pasta. And yes, a smoothie definitely sounds more healthy than a milkshake, notwithstanding the fact that it's essentially the same product.