English Tea. Chinese silk. Italian leather. French perfume. In the world of branding, the country of manufacture, assembly or design can have a huge impact on a consumer’s positive or negative perceptions of a product or a brand. Commonly called the ‘Country of Origin Effect’, the University of Wollongong in Dubai (UOWD) are set to lead a global team of researchers into unchartered territory as they explore how brands from the UAE are perceived across the world, and if the heritage and culture of the country comes across within their visual identity and values. They will also be exploring if these perceptions are separate to, or influenced by, how consumers view brands from the wider MENA area.
A hot topic of conversation which could have important policy implications for the UAE, the research is set to take place over the course of the next 18 months. As the first study of its kind within the region, researchers are set to work in collaboration with a number of high-profile industry partners whose UAE-based brands are leaders within their respective fields. It is the researchers’ hope that the results will assist government, businesses and the media who are endeavouring to build a strong global perception of the UAE as a whole – referred to by the researchers as the ‘Nation Brand’.
The project has received support funding amounting to AED 175,000 from the National Research Foundation as part of the University-Industry Research collaboration award, a Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research initiative that helps to promote university-industry research and collaboration projects which establish the agenda for longer-term partnerships in the UAE. It will enable researchers from the University of Wollongong in Dubai, Zayed University, Carleton University (Canada), the University of Ottowa (Canada), Monash University (Australia), Nottingham University Business School of China and the Indian Institute of Management (Udaipur) to build a deeper understanding of the role of ‘Country of Origin Effect’ on the UAE. This grant builds on two previous Research Incentive Funds from Zayed University where Dr Ian Michael is one of the Co-Investigators.
Project lead Dr Melodena Stephens Balakrishnan recently returned from a trip to Brazil where she visited Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte and San Paulo with her co-researcher to discover more about how events, media, corporations and places in Brazil impacted the nation, its people and its associated brands. Visiting the country’s elite ESPM University, where a presentation on the concept of “UAE as an embedded brand representation of Emirate and Corporate identity” was given, the researchers also discussed what it meant for organizations to ‘be from Brazil’ with faculty and postgraduate students. Dr Balakrishnan also travelled to the Reputation Institute to discuss the impact that leadership and governance has on brands and their reputation in times of crisis.
Commenting on the project, Dr Melodena Stephens Balakrishnan said: “This is a wonderful project to be a part of. It has considerable potential for long-term growth as the ‘brand’ the UAE has the potential to develop could have an impact on its people, foreign direct investment and product success. In the future we hope to be able to extend this study to other geographical areas of importance within this region.”