Does Product Origin Matter to Consumers?

Is your brand image suffering because you’re not promoting where it’s made? Do consumers really care? Is purchase decision driven by where a product is manufactured? In an age where millennials value authenticity, these are valid questions. Buying local is becoming increasingly the norm.

Sustainable, ethical and quality values attributed to a certain country are becoming increasingly important to support the rise of local “Made In” movements. However, without an independent auditing body, how do consumers really know where a product is made?

Origin Labelling

Rules also vary by country. When it comes to fashion, there still is no mandatory requirement within the EU for clothing to be labeled with its country of manufacture, while such rules do exist in the United States. Despite this, consumers are asking more questions about the brands they buy: Where was it designed and in which country was it made? Manufacturers will be challenged to be more transparent. What effect will “made in” labels have on brand loyalty?

Are consumers interested in the origin of manufacture?

There are 3 basic reasons why consumers care about product origin:

  1. Ethics – In the fashion industry, the stories of sweatshops are still fresh in our memories. Consumers are increasingly interested in whether a product has been ethically made.
  2. Sustainability – Knowing where a product is manufactured and, in turn, how far it’s traveled to reach you, may mean the difference between making a sale and not.
  3. Quality – Certain countries, regions and cities are known for certain quality standards and products (e.g., Swiss watches, German cars and French fragrances) Where it’s made then becomes a positive brand attribute.

Some consumers are concerned about the exploitation of habitats, people and animals and so their choice of product may be driven by wanting to reduce the distance a product has to travel in order to reach the consumer. Others are drawn to products produced in countries that have higher welfare standards. For some, it might be about supporting local and national economies. Many believe domestic brands are more trustworthy and in touch with consumers’ needs and tastes.

Brand Loyalty

As consumers continue to place importance on product origin, it can be used as a brand attribute. Tying the place of manufacture to the brand through labeling on clothing and packaging should have a positive impact on brand choice and brand loyalty. Where consumers are overwhelmed with choice, country of origin can be used as a differentiator. This is especially true for lesser-known brands where the country of origin is not inferred as it is with larger better-respected brands.

Transparency

Due to the myriad of ‘made in’ schemes around the world, it’s difficult for consumers to know if claims being made are true. In response, the ceramics industry in the UK has created V-MARQ to independently certify where a product is manufactured. Consumers can check an online register for the origin of manufacture of products that have been audited. The hope is that adding independent verification increases consumers’ confidence regarding quality, ethical trading and sustainability for a brand.

The Future     

It remains to be seen if origin labeling will become the norm. If consumers demand it, shrewd manufacturers may use it to differentiate their brand to build brand loyalty. It’s safe to say that those brands that adopt an origin labeling strategy now will have a step up on their competitors.

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