Countering 'Country of origin effects' with Cuckoo branding

Jane Simms writing in her article, 'Identity crisis: When brands fake their nationality', states that 'borrowing the brand attributes of another country to help sell your product and service carries considerable risks..Manchester kitchen manufacturer Moben discovered this to its cost seven years ago when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ordered it to remove the umlaut from its name in ads. The ASA ruled that by adopting that spelling, it was misleading customers into thinking it was German, and falsely associating itself with that country’s strong reputation for craftsmanship'.

She goes on to quote, first, Rune Gustafson, chief executive of Interbrand UK, 'it is silly to pretend to be something you are not’. ‘Provenance and heritage are vital to a brand, but consumers are increasingly cynical and will see fakes for what they are. Strong brands need to build on their own brand heritage.'; and then nation branding expert Simon Anholt, 'The practice of ‘cuckoo branding’ is not only ill-advised, but also immoral. The brand image of a country belongs to that country,’ he says. ‘It gives it a competitive edge.’

Well, there is point in all that. But think about it again. What if the brand image of a country has detrimental effects on a brand, in spite of the fact that product brand in itself is a strong one? In such a case can the brand afford to carry along the 'country of origin' effects with it, especially when it knows that, being perceived as having originated in that country could actually weaken the brand? Take the case of Indian brands. For years they have been trying to shrug off the tag of 'low quality' that is associated with 'Made in India'. Sure, present day Indian brands have proven their prowess, as in the case of world class engineering through the Tata Nano or world class services as demonstrated by the Taj or the Oberoi group.

Yet, in spite of all that, the 'tag' is more than difficult to shake off. At such times, brand names help. I know, the name alone cannot help; it must be backed by a delivery of a strong product. But a name can't hurt, can help, if used wisely. As is the case with Baileys Irish Cream, Haagen-Dazs ice cream and Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula hand cream. :)

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