COUNTRIES ARE SOME OF the oldest – and most powerful – brands in existence. Ancient Egypt is a 5,000-year-old brand, and ancient Greece is a relative baby at under 3,000. Both are still selling premium branded goods today, be it in the form of tourism or olive oil. It is no wonder that some of the earliest multinational corporations – like the Dutch East India Company or the British East India Company – leaned into geographical brands to communicate their meaning and power.
Today, brands don't necessarily need the power of a country behind them to be recognized, but it's still impossible for a brand to escape its relationship to its home country. Often, brands are the most tangible and recognized ambassadors for their countries. Samsung is intrinsically linked to South Korea, Chanel to France and American Express communicates its country of origin in its name. In times of prosperity, countries can lift up their brands – and brands can lift up their countries (similarly, both are vulnerable to each other's weaknesses).
We wanted to explore and quantify this powerful relationship between brands and their countries of origin in Best Countries. And, as brand strategists (BAV Group – a VMLY&R consultancy – runs the world's largest study of consumer brand perceptions), it is imperative for us to help our clients understand the impact that a country of origin might have on their brand, and how – and if – to make it a part of their brand identity. How important is this relationship? How much does it drive the overall power of country brands? How can countries – and brands – work together to reinforce mutual success?
We know that people care about brands' origins: about 77 percent of our respondents around the world "prefer to purchase products when I know which country they were made in" – for example, Made in the USA or Made in Italy." There's certainly partiality for goods from one's own country, with 67 percent of the world "willing to pay more for something that was made in my country." These insights have significant implications for brands thinking about how to – and how much – speak to their origins, and for countries looking to help local companies succeed on the global stage.
To understand who is doing it "best" today, we created the new Best Countries Origin Index (OI). We presented respondents with a series of country pairs and asked them to choose "which country they would prefer to buy products from" in a series of sectors: beauty, pharmaceuticals, health care, auto, wine, food, tech and fashion.
Below are the top 10 results for each category:
There is a strong relationship between a country's Best Countries rankings and its OI rankings. This means that the desire to buy goods from a country is closely tied to its overall brand power, and that a country's brands undoubtedly play a role in developing that country's overall perceptions.
Looking at how some major markets fare, and what it means for brands from those countries we see:
- Germany: A leader across the board, German brands are especially preferred in the auto and medical sectors. This gives companies in these industries a leg-up on the world stage. This doesn't mean that German food or fashion can't take advantage of a German heritage; emphasizing Germany's key qualities can create a competitive advantage when it comes to perceptions of expertise and quality.
- United States: Though the U.S. does not top any of the sector lists, it is No. 2 in cosmetics and No. 3 in technology/electronics and top 10 in every category except for food. Known as an entrepreneurial, modern and innovative brand, the best way for a brand to take advantage of an American heritage is by leaning into those positive associations.
- France: The go-to country for fashion and cosmetics, it is no wonder that key characteristics associated with brand France are cultural influence, trendiness and prestige. Not every French brand is looking for credibility in the fashion and beauty space, so developing a strong stand-alone identity is important; however, this luxury essence can act as a differentiator in some categories.
- Japan: The No. 1 country brand for Technology/Electronics, Japan's core identity centers around its innovation and technical expertise – a brand identity it built years ago that continues to resonate. This means that tech brands coming out of Japan onare in a great place to capitalize on their country's renown among global consumers.
- China: Though not a top 10 country on any of the lists, China's top OI rank is in technology/electronics (No. 14). It is also among the top 25 brands in fashion (No. 24). China is also the No. 1 ranking country for "cheap manufacturing costs" in the Best Countries study, but is also seen as the most economically influential, most dynamic and second-most entrepreneurial (behind the U.S.), meaning that global consumers are open to and eager to see where Chinese brands head next.
We explore these insights and more in the Best Countries Origin Index Report.
It will be interesting to see how the relationship between brands and their countries of origin evolve as national borders blur, and both companies and consumers become citizens of the digital world, not just the physical one. I am willing to bet that the lessons of ancient Egypt and ancient Greece – on how to create sustainable, global brands – will still be relevant in this new world order.
SOURCE: US NEWS & WORLD REPORT, Contributor: Anna Blender, SVP Account Director