What comes to mind when someone says German engineering? Belgian chocolates? Milan? Paris? Brand experts such as Martin Lindstrom believe we have all formed certain notions about countries and the products that are made in them. Our imagination conjures up different images for cars engineered in Germany than cars engineered in say, Burundi. The “Made in China” label means something different than the “Made in the USA” label. Humans automatically make judgments about the quality, reliability and price of the goods based on the country on the label. French perfume is not Japanese perfume. Cuban cigars are not Hungarian cigars. Denmark isn’t known for its mangoes and Mexico isn’t known for its sleek contemporary designs.
Lindstrom advances the argument that the “made in” label is a key aspect of a product’s marketability. Marketing will be easier with the correct country on the label. Consumer electronics from Japan more easily inspire confidence than these same products from New Zealand even though there might not be any difference at all. In light of these perceptions, Lindstrom is among those who encourage product designers to consider the country of origin as part of the branding strategy.
But while it may be wise to do so, the rules aren’t as hard and fast in today’s global economy. Hyundai automobiles are made in the USA. Nike was once affiliated with a Japanese track shoe company until its own label evolved. And really, Nike merchandise is made in many places. Then there is Finland where a couple of guys started a pulp manufacturing company in 1865. They would later go on to manufacture rubber boots and bicycle tires among other things. The company would eventually take its name from a town where the name meant “small dark-furred animal.” We know it as Nokia, the mobile phone brand that possibly changed our perception of the country.
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