Sep 11, 2013

country-of-origin effect in international marketing

Are you aware that, whey your (say Romanian) company's products are judged by a (say German) buyer, your country's reputation plays a role in the decision making process?

Yes, this is another challenging thing about international marketing: you have to be aware of your country's historical or cultural aspects and understand that, although these aspects have nothing to do with your products' quality, they exist in the mind of your foreign client.

Add to that the fact that the clients tend to form a general opinion on the quality and performance of the products originating from a given country based on their previous experiences with other products from that country.


Focusing on the positives, for example, the Japanese equipment is usually regarded as reliable, the German quality and robustness are well known, the Swiss have so much precision that we trusted them with our watches, and the French are creative and chic.

On the other hand, negative stereotypes about countries translated into huge efforts for some brands.  Skoda had to work, when entering the UK market in 1995, to change the perception that Eastern Europe cars are poor quality. The brand was received with cruel jokes like "How do you double the value of a Skoda? Fill it up with gas."

And does anyone have any idea why Hungarian wines used to have a bad reputation in Western Europe? Because I can't get to the bottom of that one.

Is Country of origin working in your advantage?

It depends a lot on the industry you're in.

In my current domain, software, the country of origin effect helps quite a lot. Romania comes with the reputation of having exceptionally gifted brains in mathematics (Romania was ranked No. 1 in Europe and No. 10 worldwide at the International Mathematical Olympiad 2012)  and informatics (Romania was ranked 1st among EU states at the International Olympiad in Informatics 2012, with three gold medals and one bronze).

Also, the Romanian IT sector is well-known for producing high quality software with great understanding of the client’s business needs while keeping the costs competitive. The workforce in this sector is appreciated for excellent skills, good education, as well as for the cultural and language affinity with the U.S. and Western Europe countries.

I use these facts and emphasize the country of origin in the marketing communication, as it works in my company's benefit and it gives me a competitive advantage in the international markets where we're present. What I also leverage is the fact that my company has a strong brand in Romania, the country with a great IT reputation. Double-win.

The nationality factor is not under the control of any private company, but the negative or positive perceptions regarding your home market must be incorporated in the global marketing strategy and leveraged or mitigated by the international marketer, as these biases affect the perceived quality of the company's brand.

I mean - would you buy [place here any negative stereotype] from [country]?

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