How geographically contextual are brands?

When I work with companies on their business offer to international markets, I ask them to consider how important Englishness, or Britishness is as a differentiator for their brand in target markets. The same I am sure is asked by my counterparts all over the world. But recent events have brought this to the forefront of my mind once more. Firstly there was the announcement that the very English Twinings Tea packing plant in North Shields is to close and a portion of the business will move to China and a New facility in Poland. The second was the news that Cadbury is to be taken over by US food giant, Kraft. Does it matter?

Perhaps for differing brands it matters to greater or lesser extents, but I think it is important to look at the geographic context in two dimensions.

Culturally defining

Some brands’ values are important in defining the nation and the people from whence they originate. Twinings tea and Burberry coats etc. help define Britain. As Volvo and Ikea define Sweden.

Culturally defined

By this I mean brands that are intrinsically tied up with the culture of their nations – by the characteristics we associate with their people – German engineering, Italian fashion etc.

There is no simple dichotomy of course: far from it. It is often the major brands that help define the culture that we then attribute to other brands.

In an increasingly global culture brand origins, place of manufacture and ownership are increasingly confused. We see the iconic British ‘Mini’ brand now under German ownership, manufactured in the UK and benefitting from the Issiagonis heritage and German build standards. Does it matter that Knightsbridge store Harrods is owned by an Egyptian? Hmmm… well…..

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