Know Your Origin
What is Origin Labelling and Why Should You Care?
Is not promoting where your product is made an injustice against your brand? Do consumers really care? Are buyers decisions really based on where a product is manufactured? These are certainly pertinent questions, and ones that need fast clarification in an age where millennials only value authenticity. Stereotypes still influence people’s decisions on where they live and work, where they invest, the products and services they buy – and at what price, and this most definitely includes fashion. Taking a mass generalisation, we like Swiss watches, German cars and French fragrances. National stereotypes remain hallmarks of production quality. However, public impressions of countries’ strengths do change. Successful brands help improve the strength of the national brand they represent, and a strong national brand reflects on the brands it exports.
Increasingly, being able to attribute the ethical, sustainable and quality values to a certain region or country, to support the rise of local ‘Made In’ movements is becoming more and more prevalent. For a generation of consumers today, buying locally is increasingly the norm, as demonstrated by NJAL’S recent MADE IN NY pop-up retail shop in New York City. Yet, despite the hype of ‘Made In’, we can only really do this if we can really know where a product is produced with assured conviction. NJAL explores the world of origin labelling…
Care labels, fibre content… will consumer demand mean that origin is the next label that fashion brands will have to include? In contrast to countries such as the USA and New Zealand, there is still no mandatory requirement within the EU for clothing to be labelled with its country of manufacture. And yet, increasingly, consumers are asking questions about the brands they buy: Where was it designed? In which country was it made? As consumers become ever more savvy, designers and manufacturers will find their work is put under an increasingly searching spotlight. Will ‘Made in’ labels become the norm and what effect will that have on brand loyalty? And who will police origin labelling? What audit procedures will be in place to ensure that manufacturers aren’t making fraudulent claims?
Why are Consumers Interested in the Origin of Manufacture?
Firstly, where something is made can infer a lot about the quality of a product. Different countries, regions and cities are associated with a certain quality and indeed certain products and, consequently, this geographical denomination becomes a positive brand attribute.
Secondly, consumers are becoming much more interested in whether a product has been ethically made. The horror stories of children working in sweatshops have been firmly imprinted on consumers’ minds.
Thirdly, sustainability is currently high on everyone’s agenda. Knowing where a product is manufactured and, consequently, how far it has travelled to reach you, may become a differentiator in how consumers purchase.
Effect on Brand Loyalty
As the origin of manufacture becomes increasingly important to consumers, using it as a brand attribute – i.e. tying the place of manufacture to the brand, through labelling on clothing and packaging, should have a positive effect on not only brand choice but also brand loyalty.
Consumers are faced with a myriad of choices these days; having the country of origin as a differentiator among brands helps them to make that choice.
It could be argued that the larger and better respected the brand, the less the country of origin may matter to a consumer. However, country of origin is often inferred by these brands, albeit not explicitly stated, and so the consumer sees the place as a positive brand attribute. For lesser known brands, country of manufacture can be a definite differentiator.
There is a myriad of ‘made in’ schemes around the world with different badges and logos. And there are yet many more claims from manufacturers concerning where something is designed or made. What there hasn’t been so far though is any way of telling whether these schemes are robust and whether the claims are transparent: in other words, is what is being claimed true? Is a product indeed manufactured in such a place?
In response to concerns among the UK ceramics industry that product designed on home shores but manufactured overseas could be classified as ‘made in the UK’, a scheme has been set up to independently certify where a product is manufactured.
Called V-MARQ, the scheme is certified by Lucideon CICS, a leading provider of sustainability verification and management systems certifications.
The company conducted research with Staffordshire University prior to setting up the scheme and was also involved in ongoing consultation with the UK ceramics industry. “The research indicates that consumers are interested in the origin of a product and its heritage and we believe that this will directly influence consumer choice,” said Shaun Bainbridge, director at Lucideon CICS.
“Adding in independent verification increases a consumer’s confidence: they believe marketing claims and infer positive attributes regarding quality, ethical trading and sustainability to a brand.”
He added: “Research showed us that there is a myriad of origin of manufacture badges around the world, all with their own rules and entry requirements and that these schemes are often self-regulated and have no robust audit scheme in place.
“Add to this the vast range of ‘designed in’ and ‘packaged in’ claims and it’s currently a confusing picture for customers.
“Now forward-thinking brands wanting to communicate a much clearer picture will connect with customers by being associated with a trusted and robust method of authenticity.”
The V-MARQ scheme includes an online register where consumers can check the origin of manufacture of products that have been audited by the scheme.
Time will tell whether origin labelling takes off. As ‘made in’ becomes increasingly popular, it is perhaps the shrewd manufacturers who will increase consumer loyalty by introducing origin labelling to differentiate their brand. And, should origin labelling become mandatory in the EU, it is these manufacturers that will find themselves ahead of the game.