How country of origin affects brand trust

February 14, 2011

A global or international brand’s country of origin still has an important effect on the way it is regarded. And although that perception is related to the power and sophistication of the host country’s economy, the calibration between the two is not entirely straightforward.

That is one of the conclusions to be drawn from a survey, just out, conducted among over 5,000 adults, with a college education and in the top income quartile for their national age-group, active in 23 national markets. It was commissioned by Edelman.

The most trusted country is Germany, which achieved a 76% score, with Canada (75%), Sweden and Switzerland (both 73%) a little way behind. Britain and Japan were further down the scale (69% each), but still beat US multinationals (64%) and France (63%), while Italy scored only 50%.

Even so, these scores were comfortably above those of brands hailing from the so-called BRIC economies. Among the latter, India was top, with 42%; Brazil next with 40%; and Russia lowest, with 35%. The survey’s focus of concern, however, was the world’s second largest economy, China, which received a relatively poor trust score of 39%. Considering it is now “the workshop of the world”, that is a pretty worrying result. South Korea, by contrast, was on 44%.

True, Chinese brands are on the way up. Like all BRIC countries, approval ratings have risen sharply compared with similar research conducted last year. And China (along with South Korea) is at the top of that particular crest, with a 5% improvement. India and Brazil, by comparison, improved by 3% and 4% respectively. But that respect is not reflected in most Western economies. Americans, in particular, seem to have a very low opinion of Chinese brands, which polled a mere 15% trust rating. That in itself marked a contraction of 6% over last year’s survey results. It sounds as if, for the sake of world trade, some effective remedial action needs to be taken, and soon.

“Corporations in China should start considering strategies to communicate effectively to global stakeholders, close the perception gap and increase brand trust, creating more favorable conditions for them to do business worldwide,” says Kevin Wang, managing director of Edelman Beijing. Quite.

For more on the 2011 Edelman Trust Barometer, click here.

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