Brands' national origin can make all the difference - even in a world of disappearing borders

60% of British consumers regard national origin as at least as important as factors such as price
60% of British consumers regard national origin as at least as important as factors such as price

In an crowded retail environment, marketers need to understand the role brand origin plays in consumer decision-making. Nielsen UK innovation leader Ben Schubert explains why 'made in...' matters.

Ecommerce has made the world smaller and in many ways made borders less relevant. But the ‘made in…" moniker still plays an important role when it comes to which brands consumers choose to buy.

Nearly 60% of British consumers say that a brand’s country of origin is at least as important, on average, as factors such as range, price, function and quality.

Brand provenance is important for three main reasons. Local brands are seen as advantageous due to supporting local jobs and the local economy.

They’re also generally more trusted due to production factors such as shorter travel distances and the local heritage or expertise of the producer – think apples from Somerset among British consumers and the same for coffee in Colombia or sushi in Japan.

It’s no coincidence these three examples are all food, a category particularly seen as more attuned to local tastes. Food & Drink categories dominate British preference for local brands; 59% of people who buy milk prefer local over global, as do 54% of those buying meat and 51% buying vegetables. At the other end, 43% of shoppers for cars, cameras and computers prefer global brands.

Know your local market

So when tapping into local perceptions, what are the rules marketers should adhere to?

First, ask if there is a strong local connection for the category you play in – think along the lines of the examples above. If so, this is something you want to play on. If not, careful consideration is required.

That’s because it can work the other way too. In some markets, local brands can be seen as inferior - in China, for example, domestic baby formula brands are avoided due to worries on product quality. Consequently, there’s a grey market of importing baby formula manufactured in Western markets, which China is trying to clamp down on.

One also needs to consider if taste preferences differ – green tea ice-cream is popular in Asia but not in the US, while the palette for strong spicy foods is much greater in South East Asia than Western countries.

This has a big impact on the products you intend to promote, let alone the messaging you use. It’s also important to understand which brands locals have grown up with and how they relate to them.

Tropicana's fruitful strategy in Turkey 

A great example of a brand following many of these guidelines is Tropicana in Turkey. It’s a lesson in harnessing a locally-relevant concept for the successful launch of a global brand in a local market.

The PepsiCo juice brand was able to resolve the historical trade-off in the minds of consumers when choosing between local and global. Tropicana developed the "local provenance" concept to build on domestic consumers’ trust in fruits grown in various Turkish regions.

Tropicana conducted a consumer (usage and attitude) study and reviewed all available category and consumer knowledge from their Turkish research sources.

They came across interesting findings - namely, that the amount of fresh fruit consumed by Turkish people was very high compared to other nations, especially in Europe. The country’s low consumption of packaged juices meant a big barrier to success.

The "local provenance" concept came about after consulting with strategy directors, food experts and anthropologists. The concept was unique to Turkey; in a move that really marked it out from other Tropicana markets, orange was not one of the ten flavour variants offered.

The marketing combined the well-known Tropicana branding with clear communications on the locality – namely the region from which the fruit was sourced - involving local farmers and a social campaign featuring videos from local regions.

By sourcing fruits locally and heavily playing on this, Tropicana became the number three brand in a crowded and fragmented juice market of over 120 brands. Squeezing the best out of local and global for the perfect recipe.

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