National Brands – are they still valid?

National Brands

National Brands – are they still valid?

This matter was a subject of research commenced this autumn by London based market research company Polarity. Recently there has been an ongoing debate on what stands behind the Brand Britain or any other national brand for that matter. As the Scottish situation was becoming an issue, all eyes were focused on Britain and what stands behind that Great adjective. Times are demanding and not only for the Island’s label, other national brands try to make their way as the forces of supply and demand shift from one side of the world to another.

It is worth asking a question what a national brand is as its perception certainly influence customers’ purchase intention around the world. What comes back as an answer is a simple explanation – it is like any other brand manufactured and distributed on the market but in this particular case its influence is global.

As this is business like any other trade regulations apply for national brands just like anywhere else. However, marketing a national brand requires a massive budget and generally is most successful in case of wealthy countries. Like regular companies selling their trademarks, countries sell their national brands and focus on capturing a market share. The question still remains though – how do countries trade themselves? It is linked to a perception received by each country, therefore we conducted research into the matter amongst British and non-British respondents.

For starters let’s take a closer look at Great Britain’s image. VisitBritain asked its Twitter followers for one word that sums up Britain: responses included “inspiring”, “cosy”, “addicting” and “ancestral”. As the organisation’s Marketing Director, Joss Croft, says: “Everyone has a view about what they consider British.”Our recent research focused on more detailed descriptions of countries such as Great Britain, Poland, Germany, China, Japan, France, USA and Russia. Focus groups participants had a list of following adjectives to match as the most appropriate to describe a given country.

Wild /beautiful /communist /dangerous /unregulated /boring /friendly /organised/ economic power/ diverse/ religious /overpopulated /not attractive /tempting /poor /corrupted/ restricted /changing/strange /multi-national /peaceful /worth visiting/good for business

A brief description of how the countries were perceived by the groups is listed below.

Great Britain 

The task to rate this country was given only to the focus group, which consisted non-British citizens. They related to Great Britain with adjectives such as friendly, organized, economic power, restricted, good for business and worth visiting.


The participants defined Poland with 4 main adjectives: beautiful, communist, unregulated and worth visiting. It is interesting that the adjective – unregulated – was ranked high by British respondents, but not mentioned by the non-British focus group. They also ranked Poland as a country not so good for business. On the contrary, both Poles and foreigners in the other focus group felt it was a good place to do business.

They also agreed that Poland is changing, organized and friendly while British respondents didn’t share that thought.


British and non-British participants agreed on features like beautiful, organized, worth visiting and economic power to describe Germany. The non-British focus group respondents also identify Germany with restricted, boring and peaceful.


The one and the other group clearly recognised China as communist, over populated, beautiful and with economic power. The adjectives corrupted, restricted, changing and good for business were less relevant for the British respondents. What might be interesting is that non-British participants perceived China as diverse and poor but with economic power while British respondents didn’t distinguish these two extreme qualities in such a significant way.


Brits linked Japan with adjectives like beautiful, organised, worth visiting and with economic power. The non-British respondents added adjectives like peaceful, restricted and tempting. There was a slight difference in perceiving Japan as good for business, as the British participants would consider it while the other participants were unlikely to do.


The Island citizens’ described France by two main adjectives: beautiful and worth visiting. The non-British focus group extended the list by adding economic power, tempting, strange and multinational.


The US didn’t create a great divide between the groups. All participants more or less matched adjectives like: beautiful, dangerous, wild, economic power, worth visiting, friendly and good for business. There was a slight difference with the adjective “tempting” which was more favoured by the non-British respondents.


Both groups collectively agreed on communist, dangerous, wild and beautiful. Features such as corrupted, restricted and economic power were added to the list by non-British participants. There was a significant contrast with the adjective “unregulated” which was predominantly used by British respondents and didn’t come up in non-British group summary. Also the non-British respondents considered Russia as a country worth visiting due to its interesting wild life.

The study also researched into a kitemark perception and its importance when buying products.

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