The French are stubborn
National stereotypes are not always fair and should be challenged. However, they’re also powerful, resistant to change and widely held. To illustrate, try the following. Type ‘why do French’ into Google and look at the auto-complete options. These include ‘...people eat snails’ and ‘...people stare’. Try the same for British, Italian or any other nationality. An amusing exercise but one with a serious undertone. Google is smart. Its auto-complete tool is based on huge amounts of search history and a sophisticated algorithm. This implies that phrases like these represent common perceptions.
National stereotypes also apply to companies and their products (think Siemens, Aeroflot, Fujitsu). Add to this the often forgotten fact that B2B buyers are human. They’re as susceptible to stereotypical views as anyone. Various academic studies support this and show that even in B2B contexts the ‘made in’ label triggers beliefs about quality, reliability, innovation and price.
As marketers we need to take notice of this, especially when migrating a product from its home market to new shores. In these circumstances national associations can have a strong bearing on the optimum brand positioning and communications strategy. For example, Aeroflot might have a tougher time persuading UK buyers of their shipment reliability than Lufthansa.
As research manager at British Airways my colleague Andy Booth devised a four step process for managing brands with a prominent (explicit or implicit) ‘made in’ label.
1. Identify attributes of the ideal brand in your product/service category.
2. Identify attributes associated with the ‘made in’ label and whether these are positive, negative or neutral in your product/service category.
3. Identify attributes associated with your brand (whether derived from the national stereotype or independent of this).
4. Plot 1 – 3 in a Venn diagram to create a positioning blue print which prioritises positives and downplays sub-optimal elements of national heritage (all in the context of aspiring to the nationality independent ideal).
Read Andy’s full conference paper here: www.circle-research.com/branded-british.
Which B2B brands would you say benefit/suffer most from national associations?