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SWEDISHNESS SELLS: Brand Perception in Germany and Sweden.


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Research: Nation Branding
SWEDISHNESS SELLS: Brand Perception in Germany and Sweden.

This study covers the image transfers between the Nation Brand Sweden and Swedish Brands. Swedishness Sells: How the image of a Country influences Brand Perception and vice versa. Our comparative Study of the Country of Origin Effect in Germany and Sweden. We also offer customized trends reports, culture studies, brand studies and inspiring workshops.

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SWEDISHNESS SELLS: Brand Perception in Germany and Sweden.

  1. 1. MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING SwediShneSS SellS. how the image of a Country influenCeS Brand PerCePtion and viCe verSa. by Franziska EndtErMANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann
  2. 2. Swedishness sells.How the image of a Country influences Brand Perception and vice versa. by Franziska EndterA bstract of theoretical and empiri- cal findings of a study by MandelConsulting, conducted by Franziska tomer’s identification with it. Just like the hu- man personality is rooted in a cultural or na- tional origin, the brand should connect to aEndter, Friedrich-Schiller-University cultural or geographical background to com-Jena.. The study investigated image plete its personality and become authentic.transfers between the nation brand In this context the country of origin (COO)Sweden and Swedish consumer brands of a product and its effect on consumer judg-among Germans and Swedes. ment and purchase behaviour has enjoyed increasing attention in the last decades.No identity without heritage However, with opening trade boarders and multinational production, the place of pro-Communicating Swedishness by means duction in terms of “made-in” became moreof branding seems more visible than ever. and more blurry. Research showed that theBrands “of Sweden”, blue and yellow brand origin of the brand is more salient to thecolourings and images of blond Swedish tes- customer than the country of production: ittimonials and untouched Nordic landscapes is much more visible in theare gladly used to attach that special some- brand communication.thing to a brand. But is Swedishness a suc-cess factor? And what exactly is perceivedas Swedish?To be able to explain how a brand can prof-it from the image of its country of origin,a description of what a brand is and offersis needed. A widely accepted definition of abrand is a “name, term, sign, symbol or de-sign, or a combination of them intended toidentify the goods and services of one selleror group of sellers to differentiate them fromthose of competition“ (American Marketing Graphic 1: Modes of conveying the brand origin.Association). As graphic 1 illustrates, the modes of con- veying brand origin are diverse: It can beAdditional to its primary function of differ- communicated through direct reference inentiation from competitors, it also expresses Slogans or brand names (“Volvo - from Swe-a certain attitude of the consumer that uses den with Love”, “Tiger of Sweden”), throughit and shows his belonging or differentiation indirect linguistic reference by using the na-to a social group. This symbolic function of a tional language in the brand name (Haglöfs,brand exceeds its functional use and is the Fjäll Räven, Hästens), through national sym-base for creating a lively brand personality. bols or colours within the logo (Ikea using aWith higher international standards of man- blue and yellow logo, Kosta Boda using theufacture, quality differences diminish and it Swedish royal emblem) or through the dis-becomes crucial to a brand to stand out by play of the lifestyle or stereotype people ofadding extra symbolic value. the country (Lätta TV spot displaying blondThe first step to achieve this is to define a girls and their affinity to nature or Ikea TVbrand identity by means of functional, emo- spot promoting relaxed family life).tional and social values. Using human charac- In contrast to the COO as place of produc-teristics the brand can then develop a special tion or assembly, a brand origin can basicallybrand personality which facilitates the cus- relateto any origin that seems favourable, re-MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann 2
  3. 3. gardless of physical places of value creation. Beyond product brands – also a nation can and must be branded According to trademark law any product can be given a Swedish sounding brand name “As long as a public opinion matters – and (think of Häagen Dasz being created in the it matters terribly because the public is the US). This artificial referral to a brand’s COO market – then it is (…) vital for countries to is called “borrowed origin” and is a popular (…) ensure that the public opinion is as fair, strategy. However, it is illegal to put a made- as accurate and as positive as it possibly can in-Swedenlabel on a product manufactured be.” (Anholt 2006a) in China. Emphasising the country of design or country of assembly is another way to In an increasingly competitive globalised connect to a geographical resp. cultural heri- market where dissolving national borders tage in case country of production has an lead to the extension of the marketplace unfavourable connotation. not only products fight for their USP, also However, it should be kept in mind that the nations do. The notion that a nation can be more authentic the brand identity and its branded just as a product is enjoying grow- background story is the more trustworthy ing attention as the achievement of political, and credible it is. Wrapping the real origin social and economical goals depends on how into a “true story” - may it be country of a nation is perceived by its target groups. In design, country of assembly, country of pro- order to gain international awareness, trust duction or country of branding is adding val- and goodwill, methods need to be developed ue to a product, increases identification and to manage a nation’s image and create sus- recognition.The brand’s image in the mind of tainable and relevant the consumer, e.g. perceived functions, asso- relations. ciations and their evaluation, becomes three dimensional. Nation Branding is the approach to use the Brand awareness, brand recognition, brand tools of Marketing in order to position and associations and their evaluations altogeth- communicate a nation as a brand. Although er constitute brand equity. Consequently, parallels exist, there are two crucial differ- choosing to communicate an appropriate, ences between a nation and a product brand: relevant and favourable COO that the cus- The nation does not offer a physical product tomer remembers increases brand equity. It but a variety of associations and values. Be- has to be underlined that the brand image is cause of the complexity of a nation one can a result of consumer’s association and can- hardly speak of total brandability. A nation’s not be fully steered by the brand manager. brand identity cannot simply be made up out It evolves upon the interaction of individual of the blue. It is tied to the cultural values and experiences and associations with cultural the self image of the nation’s people. From values and norm. this starting point the core values need to be defined and wrapped into a message that is multidimensional and fits to the demands of several stakeholders. This is what makes Nation Branding such a challenge, as Fan (2006) puts it: „branding requires simplicity and clarity, but the image of a nation is com- plex and vague“. Beyond communication, the delivery of the promised product needs to be secured. That branding is an extremely powerful tool is Graphic 2: COO in the Brand Equity model. Source: undeniable. “But it will not work if other Keller 1993 MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann www.mandel-consulting.com3
  4. 4. components of the strategy (finance, R&D, „Our degree of progressivity is what distin-production, distribution) fail to deliver what guishes Sweden from other countries andthe customers want. Nation Branding is no thus whatmakes us interesting to others. Itexception” (Fan 2008, S. 11). is a summary of what we as a group believe to a high degree andwhat we thus offer theDefining Swedishness: Sweden’s Na- world. It is the basis for our work to cre-tion Branding Strategy ate a new, contemporary image of Sweden. (…) Sweden can thus best be described asThe brand communication tools of a nation a country focused on development basedare diverse and mostly relate to the local his- on people’s needs and environmental condi-tory, culture or nature.The national flag, royal tions – a progressive country that strives forsymbols, landscapes, iconic buildings, typical balanced development. On a comprehensiveproducts as well as celebrities and historical level, progressivity means having strong faithpersonalities etc. pp. all represent a nation. in the future and a desire to gradually makeThinking of Sweden primary associations are the world a slightly better place. It meansthe national colours blue and yellow, the roy- having faith in the creative force of peopleal crown, the archipelago scenery as well as and the ability to take responsibility for one’swoods sown with little red wooden houses, life.Working together and being open to thepainted in the typical falun-red colour. It is rest of the world and to the future in or-mooses, ABBA, Björn Borg, Ingmar Bergman der to take advantage of its opportunities.“and the royal family. All these symbols and (Swedish Institute 2008b)associations can be concerted in one com-munication strategy by creating an umbrella This message needs to be supported by asbrand that attaches meaning to them in a many means as possible. Stories need to belarger context. How can Sweden’s umbrella told, pictures need to be shown that clearlybrand be defined? represent these values. The media channel should be carefully selected in order to cor- respond to the brand message: Primary me- diaused by the NSU are interactive online media and social media as well as personal contacts in order to ensure a direct and indi- vidualised communication and use the word- ofmouth effect. According to the message and the media involved the pre-defined audience of brand Sweden shares its values and consists of pro- gressive, modern and creative people whoThe governmental initiative “Swedish council live up to innovation, individuality and toler-for the promotion of Sweden abroad” (NSU) ance.involves the Swedish Institute, the Swedishexport council, Invest in Sweden Agency, But there isn’t only one target group:The na-Swedish tourist board Visit Sweden and Swe- tion brand needs to be relevant within It aims at concerting the visual and dimensions that differ in their relevance toverbal communication in order to create a each audience: governance, tourism, culture,consistent, authentic and modern image of immigration and investment, people and ex-Sweden. The core values to be communi- port.cated are innovation, openness, care and au-thenticity. These cumulate in the brand core Export is the most relevant dimension to“progressivity”: consumers as they base their purchase deciMANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann 4
  5. 5. sion not only on the expected functional use of a product originated in a certain coun- try but also on it’s symbolic values. Buying a Swedish brand is a statement towards the governance of Sweden, the people, the cul- ture etc.Vice versa, the framework that a na- tion delivers to the creation of products in- fluences expectations towards it. Therefore the perception of the nation as a whole re- flects in purchase behaviour towards Swed- ish brands. The Status Quo of Sweden’s Nation Table 1: Sweden’s position in global country rankings. Brand In the brand hexagon the image is visualisedThe Nation Brand The nation branding efforts of NSU have per dimension. Accordingly, Sweden showsIndex is the world’s been successful: Sweden is a strong brand,largest measurement strengths in governance, economy and ex- especially within Europe. Since the beginning port, attraction of immigration and talents asof nation brand imag-es. It was developed of the measurement of Nation Brand images well as its people, whereas weaker dimen-by Simon Anholt and in the Anholt NBI1 2005, Sweden found itself sions are tourism and culture. It also showsmeasures since 2005 among the top 10 countries in the world, al- the evaluation of the country that is mostthe strengths of 50 though its position slightly dropped in 2009.countries on the six positive towards Sweden, Germany, and leastdimensions of the na- There are two reasons for this: positive, India.tion brand hexagon.In 2009 the panel 1. The panel of the NBI changed in 2009, 2.consisted of 20.000 Sweden used to be at the forefront of strate-people in 20 coun- gic Nation Branding and now, other Nationstries who respondedto questions regard- catch up and grow stronger. Unquestionableing cultural, touris- is, that the values of Swedish society, em-tical, political, eco- phasising openness to new ways of thinkingnomical and human and ethic behaviour as well as developmentaspects. based on people’s needs and environmental conditions remain important. The country Graphic 3: Sweden’s brand hexagon according to NBI is still admired for its fair governance. This 2008. Source: SI 2009 builds the framework for a strong nation in all regards. It is argued, that weaknesses of the Swed- ish image result from a lack of knowledge. Especially the focus on social and education- People outside Europe are not really aware al equality results in high living standards that what Sweden is and what it has to offer. give way to higher education. Sweden scores high in the Global Talent Index, reflecting a “We can see in the research we do, for ex. high number of highly skilled workers, es- from the NBI, that the perception of Swe- pecially graduates. These brain workers are den around the world is fairly similar, but the fundament for innovation and economic it’s stronger or weaker. For example in Ger- growth. many, Sweden’s image is very positive and strong, Sweden is well known. While in India Table 1 displays a number of global rankings. Sweden is not wellknown at all. But it’s the Sweden ranks high in all categories. For com- same things that we are strong in. You can parison, Germany’s position is given as well. generally say that in a country like Germany, knowledge isn’t a problem. If you go to India, people don’t even know that MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann 5
  6. 6. Sweden exists and if they mix it up with Germans homogenously have a positive im- Switzerland. In those countries we have to age of the country, its people and their pro- flag: we are here, we are interesting.” (Norén duction and marketing skills.The more expe- 2009) rience they have with the country, may it be through media or personal contact, the moreAnother explanation for the positive Image positive is their image. Although it cannot bein Europe and the weak image in Asia and said which is cause and which effect, NorénAfrica is the cultural distance: Sweden is a explains that travel to Sweden increases in-highly individualistic, feminine culture with a terest in products: “People that have been tolow hierarchy level. In this regard it is close to Sweden have a much more positive imagethe German culture which provides a certain of Sweden. That opens up an interest in thebase of mutual understanding. In Asia where products as well”. It is therefore vital to mo-collectivistic values, a masculine culture as tivate people to travel to get involved withwell as high hierarchies are predominant, the the country.appreciation and understanding of Swedishvalues might be low. Sweden’s product related Country- ImageEspecially in Germany the interest in Swed-ish culture and governance as well as in trav- Sweden’s economic profile is very strong. Inel to Sweden is rather high and results in the NBI 2009 Sweden ranks 8 among the bigwide knowledge about the country. Results industrial powers Japan, USA and Germany.of the Mandel study show that Germans use Germany has besides the USA the mostthe following media frequently as primary positive Image of the Swedish economy andsources on which they build their image of ranks it 6 out of 50. This is a very importantSweden on: Kids fiction, TV-documentaries outcome as Sweden’s largest export partnerabout Sweden and travel. In documentaries is Germany, making 10.4 % of the total ex-and news, the Swedish Model and the edu- port volume (Source: Swedish Export Coun-cational system is often referred to as a role cil).model for Germany. Reports from Swedenportray its untouched nature and space for Due to its relatively small domestic marketdeveloping people and thoughts. Fiction for- it relies heavily on export, first and fore-mats like „Inga Lindström“, “Michel aus Lön- most of semi-manufactured goods, servicesneberga” or „die Kinder von Bullerby” show & technology but also to a large extend ofa very idyllic, peaceful and perfect image of consumer products, such as foods, furniturethe country. On the other hand they give a and automobiles. According to the Mandelrather oldfashioned and traditional impres- study, furniture & decoration, fashion, out-sion. door and sports equipment and kids prod- ucts are those industries that are most asso-The high density of Swedish crimes in the ciated with Sweden. Cosmetics, sweets andliterary bestseller list and on TV conveys an jewellery are not perceived as typical Swed-image of a dark and cold country with cruel ish products.murderers everywhere. But people seem ei-ther to be aware that this is purely fictional It is notable that these associations refer toor to ignore the reference to Sweden, be- brands rather than products, due to the factcause it does not affect the image of Swe- that Sweden as a country-of-manufactureden in a negative way. Instead the country has lost relevance. Production is outsourcedis perceived as an extremely safe and just to mostly low-wage countries in the Farcountry. East, Baltics or Eastern Europe. The label made-in-Sweden has practically disappeared.Findings of the Mandel study suggest that It is argued that the production in low-wageMANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann 6
  7. 7. countries has no major effect on the per- There are hardly any product categories or ception of the product, as long as the brand attributes that Sweden is bad at. This clear suggests a Swedish origin: and positively perceived dimension of Swe- den as a Nation Brand is an important ad- “For example Volvo: it is owned by Ford, some vantage for Swedish companies. Especially parts are built in Finland, Austria, Mexico. As unknown brands that seek to enter new long as it is perceived as a Swedish product, markets are dependant on the trust that is as long as it is perceived as having the qual- given to Sweden. Vice versa, the perception ity and aspects like safety, that you would of the country’s economy is vital for the expect from a Swedish product than it isn’t country’s total image. a big problem to produce in a country with an unfavourable image. I have a BMW and Country-of-Origin-Effect – is the coun- it’s been built in America and I would never try image transferred to Swedish buy an American car.” (Norén 2009) brands? Recalling statements from Swedish brand The export dimension is part of the product- managers and a number of quantitative stud- related country image or country-of-origin ies2 the core values communicated by the image as it is described in scientific litera- NSU reflect in product attributes that are ture. It is the outcome of the perception of perceived as typically Swedish: quality, reli- the country as a whole including political, ed- ability, safety and innovation. Innovation is ucational and social conditions, economic in- specified by Norén as innovation for safe- frastructure and the production and market- ty and care for people. These associations ing capabilities of the people based on media proved to be fairly similar among Germans exposure and personal experience with the and Swedes. Swedes evaluate innovation country, its people, its brands and products. more and eco-friendliness less preferable All these experiences are saved within the than Germans. In the eyes of German con- associative network in the consumers mind sumers, brands perceived as Swedish are and can activate each other when exposed highly likeable. Both consider modern design to one related cue. as something closely connected to Swedish brands. In this regard, Sweden benefits from The stimulus can be the Swedish flag on a the spill-over of the perception of Denmark product package, which then activates the and Finland as great design (think Alvar Aalto country image. Such a cue initiates the in- or Arne Jacobsen), as many German consum- ference of the country image to intrinsic or ers do not clearly differentiate between the product-related attributes of the product, Scandinavian countries. Vice versa, Sweden such as quality, durability, safety and work- has to be aware that damages in the image manship.To sum it up, the Country-of-Origin of another Scandinavian country affects its effect means the image transfer from the image, as happened during the Danish cari- country image to attributes of the product cature fight 2006. associated with the country by means of branding. Furthermore, environmental friendliness is clearly something that is expected from The consumer uses COO as a cognitive a Swedish brand. Based on the progressive shortcut especially when cognitive capa- Swedish climate, energy and environment bilities and/or the motivation to investigate policies that seek to reduce emissions and intrinsic attributes are low. This is the case promote eco-friendly business practices, in situations where quick decisions are re- Sweden’s Image as an industrial nation is quired or when the product is a low-involve- replaced by the image as an environmental ment product. Empirical findings imply that nation. in the condition of low familiarity with the MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann www.mandel-consulting.com7
  8. 8. product, COO is relied on heavily adding ad- the history of being a company from 1851,ditional information. Consequently the im- with over 150 years of tradition of buildingage transfer should be stronger. This relation hand-crafted beds. In this particular casecould not be found for Swedish brands in the focussing on something more old-fashioned,Mandel study, e.g. there is no stronger as- more retro-style is enhancing the history ofsociation with Sweden’s image for unfamiliar this very old company.” (Haas 2009)products than for familiar products. Although positioned in a different segment,The central finding of the Mandel study is that the bed manufacturer Hästens risks get-the pure information that a brand is origi- ting associated with Ikea by emphasising itsnated in Sweden leads to a positive product Swedish heritage. Ikea as a provider of mod-evaluation. This COO-Effect could be shown ern furniture with a short life time opposesacross all product categories. Taking into ac- the durability and craftsmanship of Hästens,count that Sweden’s product-related country but has to a large extend built the product-image hardly shows any weaknesses within related image of Sweden, especially in the fur-the European markets, the Swedish heritage niture category. Hästens differentiates itselfhas positive effects on the product percep- not only through price, but also by using thetion. It should therefore be reinforced, es- emblem of the royal purveyor and imagerypecially if brand managers want their brand of Swedish open and untouched nature, theto be perceived as exclusive, innovative, high origin of the materials for the Hästens bed,quality, safe and caring for people or/and as well as the skills of the Swedish peopleeco-friendly and sustainable. manufacturing the bed. Ikea instead refers to affordable, creative design, family values andOne might argue that the image of Sweden equality, also Swedish values but differentas a traditional, slightly old-fashioned country ones. The complexity of a nation’s image iscontradicts its image regarding technology of advantage when it comes to choosing theand innovation and could therefore irritate most favourable aspects of it for the productthe consumer. But there are brands that ex- brand.emplify that these perspectives can co-exist,just as a person’s history can be the basis for Swedes are on the one hand considered shyhis or her progressive development. and quiet, but also free-spirited and selfcon- fident. The latter is what the Swedish under- “Sweden also as a country has an image wear brand Björn Borg builds upon. They abroad that is very traditional and has those refer unignorably to their heritage by using values like pure nature, lots of space for a living Swedish sports legends name. Their people to live. On the other hand Sweden is mission is to spread the Swedish spirit all perceived as a very technical and IT coun- over the world: Being playful, colourful and try and Hästens is also now changing the daring. The brand communication conveying position on the market. We launched it as a creativity and innovation pre-dominates ste- traditional brand with quality and 25 years reotypes associated with Swedes. The brand warranty; we have communicated very old clearly has the power to change a country’s values like the nature of materials, being the image. Brands are ambassadors of their purveyor of the royal household. But if you country and transport its values. They often stress only functionality or technical aspects, are the first connection to it. “A lot of Ger- it is possible to copy them. But if you try to mans have never been to Sweden, but they stress know Ikea and for them Ikea and Sweden are other values, if you withhold a certain per- synonym” (Helfrich 2009). sonality - creating a lifestyle around the brand is something that is unique, it gets in- Considering Swedens largest brands Sony tangible. Hästens would like to enhance Ericsson, Ikea, H&M,Volvo and Saab: As amMANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann 8
  9. 9. bassadors for their country they have shaped The brands then use the same local commu- the product-related image of Sweden enor- nication abroad because they are too little mously. They have built trust in Swedish don’t have the budget to adapt it locally. In brands. Swedishness attaches not only sym- future they might not adapt it because Swe- pathy and trust to the brand Ikea, or quality den is just the right association that enhanc- and safety to Volvo, but also to other brands es their brand value. that are associated with Ikea or its COO Sweden. In table 2 those brands are shown Is there one optimal COO-strategy? that came to mind when asked for a Swedish brand from the respective category in the Roth & Romeo have developed a model that Mandel study (unaided recall). helps choosing the right COO communicat- Table 2: Most recalled Swedish brands per category. Source: Mandel Study. Most Swedish brands are known in the seg- ion strategy as shown in graphic 3. This sug- ments outdoor & sports, sweets and fash- gests that the country-image can be favour- ion. The segments that Swedish and German able or unfavourable for a brand depending consumers feel most familiar with are furni- on the product category and relevant prod- ture, fashion and sweets. It seems likely that uct attributes. A product’s or brand’s COO the familiarity with Swedish furniture and should not be communicated if the country fashion brands is due to the ubiquity of Ikea is perceived as weak regarding the dimen- and H&M. An explanation for the familiarity sions that are relevant to the product. This of sweets might be that these products are configuration is an unfavourable product- frequently bought and many sweets refer country-match (quadrant II). If no associa- to their Swedish origin (Marabou, Almondy, tion between the productrelated country Gille). They might do this because image and the attributes relevant to the product exists, we face a mismatch. This 1. food products must be marked with their mismatch is favourable if the country has country-of-production and weaknesses regarding relevant product di- mensions (quadrant IV). Not to refer to the 2. Swedish brands react to the fact that COO in brand communication is then the Swedes prefer local foods as they are cul- appropriate strategy. As there are hardly any turebound products adapted to taste pat- weaknesses in the country image, no exam- terns, cultural tradition etc. of the Swedes. ples can be given for Swedish unfavourable MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann www.mandel-consulting.com9
  10. 10. product-country-matches and favourable However, to only rely on the Swedish heri- product-countrymismatches. tage as selling proposition is not recom- mendable. COO can solely reinforce the An unfavourable mismatch (quadrant III) oc- perception of product-related attributes curs, if the COO is strong in relevant prod- such as innovation, design and quality. If the uct dimensions, but the consumer does not suggested expectations are not fulfilled by associate the product to its COO. This leads the product, authenticity and credibility get to the recommendation to put stronger em- lost. A negative back-transfer on the country phasis on the COO in brand communication. image and other Swedish brands might hap- This applies to Swedish cosmetic, sweets pen. That is why Strid, author of the book and jewellery brands. Consumers prefer a „The Viking Manifesto – The Scandinavian product from Sweden, if they perceive rel- Business Approach“, recommends a strong, evant product attributes to be strengths of differentiating primary message that works its COO (quadrant I). This is the ideal con- independently from national origin. figuration and called a favourable product- country-match. In this case there is a synergy „National Origin is a weak argument and situation for country and product brand. not a very good way to differentiate a brand on the international market. No brand or The brand that is a perfect example of a fa- company can ever claim a national identity vourable product country match is Ikea, the as its own. Nationality is neither specific nor most important brand ambassador of Swe- unique enough. On the other hand nation- den: ality can be a good way to reinforce the primary brand message. IKEA is a perfect “The values of brand Sweden and brand example. The brand is built on design, price Ikea – this is a very good match. It is about and a sort of innovative populism – traits design, it is cutting edge and progressive but that are very much part of the Swedish it is also design for the people. It is inno- character.” (Strid 2009) vation with the flat packs, Do it yourself is something specific Swedish. Ikea has done The German attitude vs. the Swedes so much to build brand Sweden and Swed- attitude towards Swedish brands ish values as well. I think they are a very good ambassador. (Norén 2009) Results show that Germans that have a high- er contact frequency to Sweden or Swedish media are more aware of Swedish brands Country image dimensions and have a more favourable image of Swed- positive negative ish brands than those with less frequent contact. This latter relation might be medi-Product attribute dimensions favourable product- unfavourable product- country-match country-match ated by personal values: A consumer shares relevant Furniture & Decoration none? Outdoor & Sports Swedish values and consequently has an in- Fashion terest in Swedish subjects. At the same time Kids’ products he has a positive attitude towards brands perceived as Swedish as they are believed to irrelevant unfavourable product- favourable product- country-mismatch country-mismatch Cosmetics none? carry Swedish values. Sweets Jewellery This illustrates the importance of consider- ing the specific market and consumer cul- Graphic 4: Product-country matches. Source: Roth & ture in order to be able to predict positive Romeo 1992 or negative COO-effects. This intercultural perspective takes into account that a brand has the expressive function of reflecting cul MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann 10
  11. 11. tural and personal values. Therefore socially so average. We feel Swedish products are a visible products might be particularly sen- little boring and average”. sitive to the COO-effect. In a very collec- tivistic culture such as the Chinese, people It seems as if the foreign owners of large prefer domestic products and refuse foreign Swedish brands like Saab, Volvo, Absolut products to demonstrate conformity with Vodka are very careful to still position their their In-Group and support the local econo- brands as Swedish. Big companies from oth- my. This phenomenon that is rooted in obe- er countries seem to see the value of be- dience to strong social norm is called con- ing Swedish more clearly than the Swedish sumer ethnocentrism and has widely been companies do. For the Swedes it is nothing examined in larger countries, such as China, exotic or special about being Swedish, as Japan and USA. The Mandel study analysed Norén explains.This lack of exoticness might the level of consumer ethnocentrism in be one of the reasons why brands originated relation to Swedish brands in Sweden and in Sweden choose to communicate a “bor- Germany. Results indicate that the image of rowed origin”. Gant or Lexington appear to Swedish brands was not more favourable be American in order to differentiate from among Swedish consumers than among Ger- Swedish “lagom” (engl.: mediocrity). man consumers. The degree of consumer ethnocentrism is in both countries rather H&M and Ericsson use a global brand strat- low. Possibly, this is possibly because of the egy arguing that it is easier to act on a global extensive exchange with other cultures and market if there is no cultural rooting visible their products, as Norén desribes: to the consumer that might evoke consumer ethnocentrism or consumer animosity. Addi- “I don’t think the argument that buying tionally, when H&M launched, there seemed Swedish products supports the Swedish to be no benefit in emphasising the Swedish economy is very strong in Sweden. In the heritage. Sweden was not known as a fashion USA for example you can see it very much country at all. This has significantly changed. more, probably in France, too. That is also because Sweden has been a very export How Swedish brands build their oriented country, we have been relying on home country’s image export for a long time. We have never been able to have this protective market.We have It is important to stress that the image trans- sold our products and imported others.” fer is bidirectional. For smaller, less known (Norén 2009) brands the transfer from the country image to the brand image might be larger whereas Although an ethnocentristic attitude of the larger brands have a considerable influence Swedes could not be explicitly proved, they on the country image. Olle Wästberg, Head still might prefer Swedish products in the of the Swedish Institute illustrates that „Ikea actual purchase situation. It is obvious that has done more fort he Swedenimage abroad Swedish products are more easily accessible than all governmental efforts together“. If to Swedes than to Germans. Norén com- H&M had clearly communicated its Swedish ments on ethnocentrism among Swedish heritage, it would have helped Sweden to be consumers as follows: perceived as a fashion country. “Those who buy a Volvo do it because it’s Every brand that communicates Sweden as really a safe bet, high resale value and it’s COO builds the brand Sweden, intentionally made for Swedish roads. It has been the or non-intentionally, for good or for bad. most sold car in Sweden for many years. And Consequently, the brand management of then you have the other side where people Sweden and the brand management of indi would never buy a Volvo because it’s so dull, MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann www.mandel-consulting.com11
  12. 12. vidual consumer brands, as small as they This approach should be extended to com-might be, need to interlock in order to cre- munications just as the Scandinavian Out-ate synergies and build and maintain a strong door Group (SOG) exemplifies: This allianceand consistent image in the mind of their of Scandinavian outdoor and sports brandsstakeholders. Strid sums the interaction of aims at generating synergies in distributionSwedish brands and the Nation brand Swe- and communication. Not only the image ofden up: each member brand as eco-friendly and high quality is to be strengthened, but also the im- „Swedish Brands have put the country on age of entire Scandinavia as an export region the map, but not proportionally to their level for sustainable high-quality outdoor equip- of success on the international market. Fifty ment. years ago, few people could find the country on a map, today Sweden is a concept. Yet, It is not about large scale sales of a stan- considering the unprecedented success of dardised product. It is about an additional hundreds of companies, Sweden could and symbolic value that goes beyond the con- should be much better known. The Sweden sumer’s need for low prices. In Noréns eyes country brand has not lived up to its poten- this is what constitutes the power of small tial for two reasons: One, the Swedes are brands. culturally low-key and reluctant to talk about themselves and two, Swedish companies are “We always talk about the big brands, Ikea, very often more interested in being per- Volvo,Absolut and Ericsson.They certainly are ceived as international than Swedish. Much great ambassadors. But we shouldn’t forget more could be done on a number of levels the small brands. Of course they don’t reach in both the private and public sector” (Strid as many people but f. ex. fashion companies 2009) in Tokyo buy Nudie Jeans. And a lot of people will find out where Nudie comes from andAgain, Ikea has done pioneer work: In Ger- they will tell their friends. There are a lot ofmany, which is next to Sweden Ikeas largest small brands that make up the image ofmarket, a strategic cooperation of Ikea with Sweden.The customers of small brands thatVisit Sweden and Swedish ambassador’s takes cater to a niche market are more awareplace to increase awareness and knowledge and interested in finding out more aboutabout Sweden. Another popular example the brand. I think the exclusivity today is notof how brands build the brand Sweden are anymore about buying something expensiveSwedish fashion labels: Sweden has in the but it is about finding it. Making an awarelast decade grown to a nation of exclusive choice. It is about story and genuineness, tofashion, because of the joint force of small have something that is different from whatbrands that referred to their Swedish ori- everyone else has.” (Norén 2009)gin (Filippa K, Whyred, Cheap Monday, Tigerof Sweden etc.). They presented a product …or is the brand’s origin overrated?that reinforced the perception of Swedenas a country with high design affinity. Fur- Genuineness and “making an aware choice”thermore to appear as one face to the trade is what matters increasingly to the consum-customer and raise awareness for Swed- er and what makes him pay more attentionish fashion, the brands networked instead to the brand’s origin. But can a brand aloneof combating each other and facilitated the respond to this?development of international distribution.The Swedish Institute supported them by The fact, that social responsibility and sus-promoting Swedish fashion in international tainable production is crucial for buying withfashions and art shows. a good conscience may give reason to a sig- nificant turn in consumer choice behaviour.MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann 12
  13. 13. The paradigm that the brand origin is more and that rent needs to be paid on a regular important to the consumer than the manu- basis.” (Latshaw 2008) facturing country is about to shift. Paying at- tention to this development, Swedish compa- nies return to local production, not only for strengthening the domestic economy and se- curing higher standards for their employees. About the author But also because buying “made in Sweden” gives the consumer the confidence to make Franziska Endter studied an ethical choice. In delivering this promise Intercultural Business and not only thinking short term profit ori- Communication with ented, Swedish companies like Klättermusen, Focus on Scandinavia, Hästens or Light my fire that execute all pro- Media Studies and Psy- cesses of the value chain in Sweden seem to chology at Friedrich- be far ahead to other countries’ brands. Schiller-University in Jena, Germany. During A consumer that shares the values that Swed- her studies she worked ish brands promise cannot be satisfied un- with International Brand less the product keeps its promise. An aware Management, Advertising and Trend Re- consumer will feel cognitive dissonance – an search in Jena, Hamburg, Copenhagen and imbalanced state of mind that causes tension Stockholm. within the consumer – if intrinsic product at- She joined Mandel in 2009 to work on her tributes and the brand image do not match. final thesis on the above subject and to ex- Daring a look into the future, the growing change knowl-edge between business and sustainability movement gives the nation science. brand Sweden and Swedish brands a pole position. The image of the country as well The study was conducted in coorperation as its “hard” location factors, its economic with Mandel Consulting. MANDEL fo- and social infrastructure, natural and human cuses on Marketing and Media Services & resources create a great basis to accomplish Consulting for Brands, Products and Ideas in the request for sustainable products: all Europe & Scandinavia. Mandel is a team of dedicated Marketing “As an advanced economy with a humanist Consultants, professional Media workers and touch, Sweden, as well as its top competitors thorough Strategists.We love Brands and the Canada and Switzerland, is seen globally Communication of their Message. as a model of how to successfully balance growth with the need to protect the rights If you are interested in more findings and freedoms of citizens and the commit- of the study, you can purchase the ex- ment to protect the environment. Maintain- tended version including interviews ing this exemplary brand attribute is para- or product category specific analysis. mount to the continued success of Sweden’s Please contact: brand. With environmental problems grow- ing in importance on the international con- Franziska Endter sciousness, the value of Sweden’s strength will likely continue to grow. Sweden needs to cherish these three aspects of its reputtion: Matthias Aßmann environmentalism, technology and education. It needs to keep them closely monitored, and ensure that it continues to deserve them: you never own a reputation, you only rent it, MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTING Sveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 Matthias Aßmann www.mandel-consulting.com13
  14. 14. Systematics of the Study Further sourcesThe study involved a quantitative survey Aaker, J. L. (1997): Dimensions of Brand Personal-among Swedish and German consumers.The ity. Journal of Marketing Research. Vol 34, p. 347-sample has been generated through interna- 356tional networking platforms such as Xing or AccountAbility (Publ.) (2007): The State of Re-Facebook. This suggests that the sample is sponsible Competitiveness 2007. Availablehighly culturally open, so that results cannot via: generalised to the entire population. bleCompetitiveness.aspx?id=2088. Accessed: 19.05.2009The questionnaire contained standardisedquestions to measure the following for nine Ahmed, Z., Johnson, J. (2002): Does Country ofproduct categories: Origin matter for low-involvement products? In- ternational Marketing Review,Vol 21, Issue 1. Em- • purchase frequency of Swedish vs. other erald Group Publishing Ltd. brands • the personal importance of the brand’s Anholt, S. (1998): Nation brands of the twenty- COO first century. The Journal of Brand Management, • the brand image among the product-related Vol 5, Issue 6, p. 395-401 attributes quality, design, technology, value for money, eco-friendliness, innovation and Anholt, S. (2003a): Branding Places and Nations. In the non-product related attributes sympa- Clifton, R., Simmons, J. (Publ.): Brands and Brand- thy, prestige, service ing. Princeton, Bloomberg Press, p. 213-226. • the readiness to pay more for a Swedish brand than for one with unknown COO Anholt, S. (2005): Nation Brands Index. How the • the image of Sweden in general and its world sees the world. Available via: http://www. product related country image in terms of marketing & production skills of the Swed- ticle.htm 24.10.2008 ish people • Consumer ethnocentrism Anholt, S. (2006b): Nations Brand Index Quar- • for the German sample: Frequency of con- ter 4 2005. Available via : http://www.earthspeak. tact to Sweden / information sources com/a_selection_of_published_article.htm • sociodemographics: age, gender, nationality, 24.10.2008 income Anholt, S. (2007a): Anholt Nation Brands Index Quarter 2 2007. Results for Sweden. AvailableTo gain further insight into qualitative data, via: interviews have been conducted varlden/Sverigebilden-utomlands/Nation-Brand-with: Index-/ Accessed 24.10.2008 • Joakim Norén, Brand Development Swe- den, Swedish Institute Anholt, S. (2008a): Editorial: Place Branding: Is it • Rocky af Ekenstam Brennicke, PR Björn Marketing, or isn’t it? In: Place Branding and Pub- Borg lic Diplomacy Vol 4, Issue 1, S. 1-6. Palgrave Mac- • Marcus Haas, Marketing Hästens millan Ltd. Available via: www.palgrave-journals. • Jens Helfrich, Internal Media Solutions Ikea com/pb Germany • Steve Strid, Author of „The Viking Manifes- Balabanis, G., Diamantopoulos, A. (2004): Domes- to – The Scandinavian Business Approach“ tic Country Bias, Country-of-Origin Effects, and Consumer Ethnocentrism: A multidimensional unfolding approach. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science,Vol 32, Issue 1, p. 80-95MANDEL MARKETING & STRATEGY CONSULTINGSveavägen 66, SE-11134 Stockholm, Sweden Tel/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022Matthias Aßmann 14
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  17. 17. MarkEtinG & stratEGy COnsULtinG svEaväGEn 66, sE-11134 stOCkhOLM tEL/Fax +46 (0)8 222 022 www.MandEL-COnsULtinG.COM