In an article on HBR online Rohit Deshpandé coined the term “Provenance Paradox“. So far all exact google results for the term lead to his article. Looks as if he has invented the term. Here comes his short definition:
A product’s country of origin establishes its authenticity. Consumers associate certain geographies with the best products: French wine, Italian sports cars, Swiss watches. Competing products from other countries—especially developing markets—are perceived as less authentic.
He doesn’t explain why it is a paradox and not just a “branding accelerator” or simply a “factor”. I assume it is a paradox because the country of origin of some of the above products are not necessarily the countries of cultivation. Cacao for Swiss chocolate grows, paradoxically, in South American countries. But grapes for French wine usually grow in France. Therefore, the paradox is not completely evident to me. I would rather speak of a “provenance effect” if the country of origin equals the country of production.
I think the “provenance effect” is evident and unsurmountable for products specific to its country of production. Take a Chinese restaurant as an example. You expect “Peking Duck” on the menu. Would you order “Peking Duck” from the menu of an Italian restaurant? Probably not …
You see, chefs from emerging Asian countries already claim their monopolies when it comes to dining-out. Chinese or Indian restaurants have successfully shaped their “brand experience” 😀
But what about chocolate? The article talks about El Rey, Venezuelan chocolate. Obviously South America is the origin of cacao. Why not use this for marketing purposes? My strategy to boost the sell of El Rey chocolate would be the creation of a genuine cacao product – made in the country of production. Furthermore, the brand name El Rey should be utilized better ( -> rey is Spanish for King).
There is something else, “best product” is a subjective judgement as long as there are no clear standards. Above mentioned products with their country of origin serve a premium market – not primarily the market with the largest turnover. Anyway, when it comes to sports cars I don’t fancy Italian models. I favour German horsepower – is it a matter of taste or is it the Provenance Effect? 😉