country branding

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:


Buzz around Tintin

In my recent post Country branding: Belgium I discussed an important brand entry point for Belgium -- design. To come back the theme of country branding, today I'd like to share with you the news about The Adventures of Tintin, a highly anticipated Hollywood movie to be released later this year. Because apart from design, beer and chocolate, Belgium has yet another important feature -- comic strips.  

Tintin is a character created by Hergé, a famous Belgian comics writer and illustrator.  Tintin comics have been translated into many languages, with the little Belgian adventurer's personality turning into an international brand.

I'll be curious to see this Steven Spielberg's movie and observe to what extent the Belgian roots of Tintin find its way into the movie. Will be an example of country branding in action?


Country branding: Belgium

My last Funky Brand Interview with the founder of the Belgian brand BShirt was an example of what I would call country branding in action. Associations, concepts and even stereotypes that are consistently attributed to a country can form a country's brand.  Country branding initiatives are becoming increasingly popular around the world, with governments spending sizable budgets on shaping and promoting a desirable country's image to the external world.


Sometimes, brands tap into brand associations of countries where they originate, and use them to their advantage. BShirt has based its concept on the brand of Belgium.  Many Italian fashion and accessories brands use a "Made in Italy" statement as a proof of artisanal quality and sense of style.  French perfume brands almost always remind us that they are, in fact, truly French creations.  In product branding which uses countries' images to support its positioning, a country brand becomes a meta brand -- an overarching, superior concept that adds usually positive associations to other brands that want to relate to it.


Speaking again about Belgium and its brand, let's take a step further away from the repetitive beer and chocolate (though I must say, it's all great stuff brought to perfection). For me personally, Belgium is all about design. I am glad that this brand quality of this country was stressed during a recent design week in Milan, during which a team of Belgian designers presented their work under the slogan Belgium Is Design.

Co-branding: Martini and D&G

Today I want to talk about an interesting example of a product launch video that I've spotted through the Facebook feed of Jean-Gabriel from FreshUp.TV. For branding addicts, its main attraction lies in the fact that it has included several impressively powerful branding techniques in one go: co-branding (or brand partnership), celebrity endorsement and even country branding.

Brand partnership

The product in question is Martini Gold by Dolce & Gabbana that has been co-branded by two iconic Italian brands. Here's an ad that accompanied the product launch:

As I've already written in my article Brand partnerships,

A brand partnership is usually a short or medium-term collaboration between two or more brands in order to enhance each other’s positioning vis-a-vis the target market.

In the case of Martini and Dolce & Gabbana, the co-operation between the two brands has been long-lasting and included such initiative as opening Martini bars within Dolce & Gabbana boutiques in Milan and Shanghai, and even a line of suits by D&G called Martini. The launch of Martini Gold is yet another step that strengthens both brands co-operation even further.

Celebrity endorsement

Italian actress Monica Belucci has starred in the Martini Gold ad acting as a brand ambassador.  In addition to that, the ad has been directed by a famous film and music video director Jonas Åkerlund who himself has a celebrity status.

Country branding

One of the main aims of this video is to evoke the origins, culture and lifestyle of Italy.  Italy is also highlighted by the La Dolce Vita style of the ad, and a mix of Italian style and fashion icons. Monica Belucci embodies Italian cinema, and both Martini and D&G represent refined Italian style. The scenes of Rome highlight the Italian cultural background of the product even further.

For many brands, especially those with a lot of heritage and strong cultural roots, associations with their home countries can enhance the overall brand image and give it a special zing.  Look at how Dolce and Gabbana stress the importance of Martini Gold being a truly Italian brand: