Where a product is made, or its country of origin, has a major influence on how the brand is perceived.
Jacob Östberg, an associate professor at the Centre for Fashion Studies at Stockholm University, recently visited Sawyer Business School to share his research on country of origin from a marketing perspective.
A product’s country of origin can refer to many things, such as where it was manufactured or designed, where its influences originated from, where the company’s founder was born, or where the company is headquartered.
Using Swedish fashion as an example, Östberg discussed the mythological aspects of country of origin. Research has shown that words like “made in” can have a tremendous influence on the acceptance and success of a product because consumers make associations with specific locations. These country associations lead to consumer biases that are dependent on the existing mythologies in particular locations, Östberg explained.
Therefore, to understand contemporary Swedish fashion, one must also understand Sweden’s common mythologies, Östberg said. Sweden’s popular culture and history provide a basis for different versions of “Swedishness” on which contemporary fashion brands build on.
Some Swedish companies exploit the notion that it matters where their products come from and claim to be connected to Sweden, even when they are not overtly associated with the country. For instance, clothing made by fashion designer Christian Berg is branded as Swedish simply because the style is influenced by Stockholm. Companies like these leverage their brands’ association with Sweden for success, Östberg said.
Östberg earned a PhD in Marketing from Lund University in Sweden. He currently supervises doctoral students and teaches fashion studies, marketing, consumer behavior, consumer culture theory, and branding from a cultural perspective to graduate and undergraduate students.
His research has been published in several major trade publications, including the Journal of Global Fashion Marketing, Advances in Consumer Research, Marketing Theory, Research in Consumer Behavior, and Consumption, Markets and Culture. He has also written several books, book chapters, and conference proceedings.