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Country of origin: brands that trade on cultural capital

We all know the old adage that people are more likely to buy when addressed in their native tongue. But what about the brands who choose not to localise? Is it a good idea to trade on a country’s reputation and cultural capital to sell your brand? Let’s take a look at some of the brands that have taken this step, why it works so well for them but also why change may be coming.

Progress through Technology

If ever there was a tagline that has done as much for the country as for the brand, it’s “Vorsprung durch Technik” (“Progress through Technology”), the Audi slogan for the last 30 years. Pilfered from a fading poster on the wall of an Audi factory by advertising icon John Hegarty, it quickly came to symbolise the new direction taken by Germany as a whole, and its manufacturing sector in particular.

By deciding, uncompromisingly, to keep their slogan in German across all marketing campaigns around the world, Audi focused on the technology and efficiency in both science and production for which Germany is now famed.

Today that seems incredibly prescient. But which came first? Did the successful marketing campaign begin to change perceptions of the country within post-war Europe? Or was the country already moving that way, and did Audi merely hitch its car to the wagon and enjoy the ride? Either way, no-one can argue against the success of the campaign or slogan, which is still widely used today.

Paris, c’est chic

The number one tourist destination worldwide, France is a highly recognisable global brand in itself, so it’s not surprising that so many French brands trade on that unique Parisian “chic” ideal.

Brands like Chanel, Dior, and Jean Paul Gaultier all set their brands locally in Paris, capitalising on the culture and style of the city. Adverts are filmed with typically Parisian landmarks or architecture as the backdrop. All three brands market their fragrances as “parfum” or “eau de parfum”, and keep the names of the fragrances themselves in French too (Mademoiselle, Sauvage).

In some ways this is easier: they don’t have to deal with the potentially insurmountable task of localising their product names into dozens of different variants for different markets. It does, however, mean that they have tied themselves to the reputation of France, and in particular French women, as fashion leaders and the epitome of all that is classic, chic and stylish. While this has gone down well for the last few decades, change could be afoot. China is the world’s fastest growing and most lucrative luxury goods market, producing more than half the global growth in luxury spending between 2012 and 2018. This is expected to rise to 65% between 2019 and 2025. With this focus towards the East, the next decade could see advertisers and marketers changing their strategies and adapting increasingly to the Asian markets.

The London Look

Just across the Channel from Chanel, UK brands have long made use of their cultural heritage and linguistic primacy on the world stage.

Beauty brand Rimmel is a case in point. Using famous London personalities such as Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne, it has identified itself with a very specific geographical (and cultural) location and the lifestyle it embodies, with its “Live the London Look” tagline. To date, it has worked well for them, as London has continued to be seen as displaying the edgier side of fashion, following on from its “cool Britannia” reputation of the 1990s.

Nevertheless, the coming decade could prove challenging: Rimmel will have to navigate the cultural (and economic) implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the extent to which this affects brand perceptions, both at home and abroad.

Go Rio!

A success story from the south… The Brazilian brand Havaianas is the number one selling flip-flop worldwide. The name “Havaianas”, meaning “Hawaiians” in Portuguese, is just one of the ways the brand has linked itself to Brazil and beach culture. It has embraced the beach party scene, and really capitalized on the fun, vibrant and spontaneous way of life in a country known for its carnivals.

But it didn’t always market itself this way. In fact, up until 2007, the majority of the brand’s sales were in Brazil itself. However, with this market largely saturated, Havaianas made a conscious decision to position itself as a uniquely Brazilian product on the global stage.

Advertising campaigns such as 2018’s “The Alphabet of Summer” invited a global audience to celebrate the essence of the Brazilian summer as epitomised through letter-based concepts such as “E” for energy, “M” for music, and “O” for original.

Based on the simple design, vibrant colours and the flag that adorns so many of the products, Havaianas has grown to become Brazil’s first truly global brand with an estimated annual revenue of 1 billion euros.

When the country fits the brand

As we’ve seen, using a country of origin to boost a brand really only works when that country’s culture and reputation tie in with the brand’s identity. After all, who can name a French computer brand? Or a German make-up company?

Sometimes it can be difficult to judge whether or not to use your country’s reputation to market your brand. The cultural, linguistic and historical connotations can be complex, varying from region to region, as well as country to country.

That’s where global localisation specialists like us come in. Bringing a company like Alpha Lifestyle into discussions around an international marketing campaign means you instantly get expertise from people who have their finger on the pulse in local cultures worldwide, plus a built in service to localise your content right there too. We bring cultural insight and linguistic knowledge to the table, to help brands understand the implications of strategies, concepts and campaigns, and we have in-house, in-country translators and SMEs to give your brand that truly global scope.

Bring your brand to the next level across the world: contact Alpha Lifestyle at