The country association has always been great brand building tool. As part of a generation that craves for Swiss chocolate, Japanese Hi-fi, American Shoe and Italian clothes – we put our heart and soul in the entrusted seal – “Made In…..”. When we see our gaming console is from Japan, we know we are in trusted hands. When we see our friends use cheap imitations, we empathize with them. The poor chap probably ran out of money.
Another thing that is closely associated with this “Country association” is patriotism. The nation where these brands are built take immense pride in being world renowned in that sector. That is why lots of brands have taken the patriotic route of positioning themselves, which has always been a sure-fire way of reaching to the mind of the customers. Patriotic spirit is undoubtedly one of the strongest emotions, and by associating themselves with that spirit, the TATA salts and Swatches of the world thought they too are lying very close to audience’s heart.
But outsourcing has thrown in a rather interesting twist in this saga. What if the “Nike”s are no longer made in USA? Would people still crave for Nike when they want to have association with USA-based hip-hop lifestyle? What if Microsoft programs are no longer written in USA but in Bangalore? Would we still believe its simplicity and ubiquity?
There of course is the ancient brand wisdom that products are made in factories but brands are made in the mind of customers. And some might argue that as long as “Nike” is positioned as a maverick lifestyle statement, as long as Nike USA is in charge of marketing, not some manufacturer in China – people will continue to buy in the “Nike” lifestyle and hence Nike.
But unfortunately its not that simple. It might have happened in an uninformed generation. But in a generation as connected as ours, these things will matter. We just know too much. There might be a reason why Nokia is no longer the reliable Nokia as we used to perceive. Because we know its no longer manufactured in a fantastic and unknown facility in developed Europe. Its made right in our doorstep in a factory in a rapidly developing India. There is a reason why we know longer rely in the longevity of Sony batteries, or the elegance of a Barbie doll or the efficiency of a Dell laptop. Because its no longer the authentic “Made in ……”
Therefore the brands whose main strength is country of association (where they come from) and “patriotism”, and those who also outsource their manufacturing, may need a different brand muscle to continue the brand war.