Finnishness as a part of brand communication - A multiple case study of design companies entering the Japanese market.

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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International Business
Kansainvälinen liiketoiminta
Degree programme
Objectives of the study: The objective of this study was to understand how and why Finnishness is utilized in Finnish companies' brand communication when they enter new foreign markets. In this research the Japanese consumer market was under closer investigation. Country of origin and its effects is a widely studied phenomenon but the research so far has failed to examine the topic from the company point of view. This research filled the existing research gap and answers to following research questions were studied: 1) How is Finnish country of origin utilized as a part of Finnish companies' brands when they enter the Japanese market? 2) How intensive is the role of Finnishness in the company's brand message? 3) Why do Finnish companies use country of origin in the Japanese market? Methodology: This research was conducted using qualitative case study method. In the empirical part, brand communication of three small Finnish design companies was focused on. Both primary and secondary data were utilized. Marketing materials and products of the case companies were analyzed first. In addition, primary data was collected through theme interviews with company key informants. These interview findings were contrasted with the findings gathered from secondary data analysis. Empirical data was arranged according to themes, and the findings were analyzed using the concepts from existing country of origin literature. Also two open interviews were conducted in the early stages of the research process and further data was collected from a country image workshop. These sources provided supporting data and were utilized in both case company- and interview theme selection. Research findings: The main findings of this study suggest that the role of country of origin communication is not limited to the use of Made in -label. Finnishness was found to be communicated through either verbal, visual or thematic signs or through all of them. The role of Finnishess varied between the cases but none of the companies were found to systematically utilize origin information. Rather, also other brand elements were seen as important to communicate. In the case where the role of Finnishness was the greatest, country of origin was seen to be integrated into product design and it became a part of brand communication. In this case the role of Finnishenss was not altered in the Japanese market. In other two cases Finnishness was one of the secondary brand associations but it was not intentionally attached to the brand. However, the companies found communicating made in information important in the Japanese market thanks to the positive product country image of Scandinavian design and Japanese consumers' knowledge of Finland.
country of origin, brand communication, Finnishness, Japan, meaning transfer, secondary brand associations
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