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Friday, December 21, 2007

The Role Of A Country's Brand

Tata Motors today will be announced the winner of the bidding war over Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford. The latter has been struggling to do much of anything really with the British brands and has been looking to sell them off for some much needed cash.

But, the sale has many US Jaguar dealers upset. They believe that Indian ownership will dilute their luxury brand (as if Ford was the most prestigious automaker).

Personal biases aside, the whole incident was interesting to me because, in an increasingly global world where we often like to think that country of origin has less and less impact on what a brand/product means to people (well, perhaps except China), its still a strong issue. Indian business men and women have been left feeling like they've been slapped in the face, more or less told by these US dealers that the brand of India downgrades the brand of Jaguar/Land Rover. While on one hand (if I push myself to be very understanding) I suppose I can see why these dealers have reacted this way (it's still a third world country, blah, blah), seems to me that India has done quite a bit to prove itself as a nation on the rise, and deserving of the chance.

But it also raises a broader question that I have been thinking about recently- is there another product category that has tied itself so closely to the country it is produced in? For decades American car companies have used (and continue to use) brand America (though it may not be in their favor anymore) to sell cars. It's amazing to me how strongly the brand of a nation is tied to the cars it produces, wise or not. Hell, some foreign automakers even feel like they have to defend themselves for being "foreign".

Can any of you readers think of another product or category that so heavily associates itself with the country it comes from? And is this something you see continuing (growing/declining?)- in car makers or other categories? I've been thinking that that where a product comes from will increasingly become irrelevant, but this made me pause (and, perhaps, it is yet another sign of how out of touch car makers are with what's going on in the world).


luiz said...

In Brazil, the coffee ads are all talking about the brazilian coffee style.

Bogdana said...

How about champage which is french by definition, cheese which is also, if you want the good stuff, from that same region, all wines a hile back, good watches from Switzerland and all those other cliches. I think it has less to do with that but rather with something you might have been circumventing from too much decency: sheer post-colonial fear. deep down they hate it that "those people" are catching up. See what happened when IBM turned Lenovo...what? the Chinamen making our best computers!!!?? Sacrilege. We still evaluate some nations culturally based on years old beliefs and that hurts our business :-)

Eamon said...

GUINNESS - (reflecting, to some / an important degree, THE BEST STEREOTYPES about Dublin / Ireland / Celtic Irish atmosphere / characteristics - still)

JACK DANIELS (Tennessee - old world Tennessee)




CAVA (in many cases an acceptable alternative to champagne from Spain, rather like Rioja to BordeauX).




- off the top of my head (haven't seen some of their ads, though, for a while).

Marobella said...

In a way, we've helped in the proliferation of the Indian brand as second-class. Think about how many U.S. companies have outsourced back-office functions to India. And, behind closed doors we joke about how when we call United to check on our MileagePlus account, the service rep named Joe has a distinctly Indian accent. I completely understand why the Jaguar and Land Rover makers would be upset - but where they when Ford bought them? I owned a pre-Ford Land Rover and it was a piece of s@&t. Other brands that associate with their countries: It is rampant in the spirits industry, imagine what would happen if it were allowed for Champagne to be made outside of that one regions in France to include not just other regions in France, but the U.S. Or, if Tequila were to be made outside if Tequila, Mexico?

fredrik sarnblad said...

Although it may take a few years to change this perception [India = cheap/poor], the rest of the world better get used to the fact that India is becoming an important influential factor on a global scale as its economy continues to grow at a double digit rate. Parallel to this, bollywood is expanding internationally, Indian artists are in high demand in exclusive galleries in London and New York and indian service brands such as Taj Hotels or Jet Airways are growing as respected, premium brands. As a result of this trend, India is perceptually changing into a country that can offer premium, top-quality products and services. Case in point…hotel service in Indian hotels puts US and European hotels to shame.

In terms of brands' links to their country of origin, the most obvious industry example that springs to mind is the airline industry, which [apart from the domestic/regional emerging low cost carriers] are inherently linked to their country of origin in one way or the other. The convention seems to be to hitch national carrier brands to core cultural values and/or attributes of their respective people/country of origin.

Whilst I don't think it's going to disappear in the airline industry any time soon, I think this trend is weakening in some of the alcohol categories. Vodka, for example used to be an all Russian affair until Swedish Absolut appeared. Today, many of the luxury vodkas are French. One of the fastest growing vodkas, '42 Below' is made in New Zealand. Great wines nowadays don't have to come from France. Australian, South African, New Zealand, Chilean and of course Californian can be excellent alternatives.

avin said...

thanks for all the good examples and comments everyone.

i guess for me, the biggest difference is that- except for their pickup truck buying core- i don't think most of this country cares that much where their car is made (and most realize "foreign" makes are largely produced in America as well). yet the industry still clings to "made in America" as some kind of badge of honor when most don't see it as such anymore (whereas, in the example of champagne, it still works in their favor to align closely with that region).

good conversation though, anyone else want to weigh in?

evision said...