Can country be a brand?

A brand is considered a major factor for differentiation. Despite the fact that products can be differentiated on the basis of their characteristics, consumers tend to pay little attention to the product details. Instead, they differentiate the product from its competitors based on the brand name and their familiarity with the brand.

A brand has a social and an emotional connection with the customer. A good brand name helps in enhancing the perceived value of the product. As a result, a buyer pays less money for the products or services offered by lesser known brands. However, they are more than willing to pay premium for established brands. A brand is created based on several factors like performance, perceived value, trust and identification.

The term ‘country equity’ refers to the assessment of a brand based on the country from which it is originated. Research has shown that the country from which the product or service is originated, has a big role to play in deciding the quality of the product. For instance, consumers tend to get attracted by a tag like ‘Made in Germany’, as it is an industrial nation and one of the top manufacturers. Hence, consumers tend to perceive the product to be of high quality, as compared to the products from countries having a low ‘country equity’. This makes them pay a premium for the products.

An individual forms an image of a country depending on information or facts she/he is exposed to. Though the image created is subjective in nature, a country tends to get stereotyped in the minds of the consumers. The image depends on some factors country’s history, eminent personalities and existing companies, geography and recent political/social activities. ‘Country equity’ majorly affects a low involvement purchase, where it supports consumer decision heuristics. The consumer tried to fit reality with the perception already existing in her/his mind and tends to ignore any kind of information or knowledge which is against the perceptions already created. This is called confirmation bias.

Ethnocentrism and animosity towards a particular country affect the purchase of products or services from a particular country. Research studies have indicates that cultural dimensions like individualism or collectivism, and low motivation levels of consumer have an impact on the purchase.

Poverty is a widespread problem today, which has led to problems like unemployment, poor infrastructure and bad living standards. Presently, economic development has become a market challenge as well. Nations are continuously fighting against each other to establish a competitive advantage. A nation should adopt conscious branding strategies to attract different set of consumers and enter into new markets.

The brand management of a country involves:

  • Managing the image – Before devising a strategy, it is essential to assess the country’s brand image and compare it with that of the competitors. Different branding strategies are required for different target segments, which come in the purview of ‘Strategic Image Management’.
  • Attracting factories and companies – Global MNCs are always in the pursuit of new locations where they can invest in order to cut down their costs in the long run. Thus, countries should take a proactive approach in defining the industries they wish to encourage, and also offer financial incentives.