Made in Poland – a reason to be proud?

Thursday, 22 October, 2015 Food From Poland 23/2015
Dorota Kałowska, Expert at the Polish Chamber of Commerce, Partner & Strategy Consultant Cobalt Sparlk

For 16 years, she has advised brand owners in the Polish market with regard to building of brand value and efficient communication thereof. She cooperates with Polish brand owners, foreign producers and trade chains, and conducts training in brand management. An active trainer and coach, an author of many publications in specialist press.

Poland, being the 22nd-23rd economy in the world, occupies a distant 45th position in the country brand ranking (Future Brands 2014), behind Fiji, Malta or Costa Rica. Yet we are a sizeable country with an excellent geographic location, a member of the European Union, a proud, entrepreneurial and increasingly better educated nation. We cultivate our traditions, we have excellent cuisines, superb crafts, a beautiful, diverse landscape, as well as sincerity and openness in our hearts. And yet…

For 25 years, we have not managed to develop a coherent image of Poland, recognizable worldwide. The undertaken initiatives (although essentially right) either did not see a sufficiently successful execution or faced a shortage of efforts and outlays in the promotion of the developed messages. Today, Poland's problem is not a bad image but lack of an image whatsoever. Poland, as considered globally, does not conjure any specific associations which would translate into exports of Polish goods. A lack of a national brand means lower margins for producers, lack of added value resulting from the Polish origin of the products, and hindered communication in the identity of our national brands. These are facts, supported by numerous surveys of Poland's image in the international arena. However, does it mean that we should give up all efforts intended to promote Polish goods, surrendering to the idea of brand homogenization? This is a question all producers who consider exporting Polish products should answer themselves. Let me share my subjective assessment of the situation with you.

I am saddened by the fact that the Poles themselves see few reasons to be proud. In a survey conducted in 2013 by the Laboratory of Social Research, contracted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, every fifth surveyed Pole was unable to indicate anything Poles can be proud of. Somewhat reassuring may be the fact that this group comprised mainly of poorly-educated men living in villages and small towns. Fortunately, they are not persons responsible for the export of Polish products and the promotion of Polish brands worldwide. Sadly, when the European Union was preparing a directive obliging all countries to sign their products (which, in practice, means placing the information ‘Made in Poland’ on Polish goods), objections arose from Polish producers and industry organizations who strongly opposed the obligation to identify their goods with the brand of Poland. Why this opposition?

Poland does have illustrious traditions, a rich culture, and cuisines appreciated in the world. If we, the Poles, do not believe in the strength of our brand, it will be extremely difficult to promote its coherent image in the international arena. Currently, the situation is that every producer who decides to export Polish goods abroad is obliged to promote ‘Polishness’ on his own. Deciding to conceal the place of origin, offering ‘unified’ products which are hard to identify, we consciously decide to enter into a price war with competition which is hard even to define. Yet we have many reasons to be proud and reliable data confirms (confirmed by research) that Polish goods, especially food, have the potential to be noticed and appreciated on foreign markets. The universal ‘tastiness’ of the Polish cuisine is recognized by people visiting our country. We have many meals which can easily win a significant and identifiable place in the foreign market. Here, it is worth mentioning Polish semi-prepared foods, alcoholic drinks, confectionery, pickles or regional cheeses, all having the potential to be a showcase of Polishness in the best meaning of the word.

However, it should be stressed that ‘made in Poland’ alone will not work. Poland has no strong, clearly identifiable brand which could guarantee the identity of our goods, and the ‘Polishness’ alone will not sell the products. Therefore, every producer is obliged to create Polishness on his own, offering top-quality, modern (on a 21st-century level) products. Therefore, we should not hide behind the curtain of bland ‘Union’ brands but undertake (unfortunately, everyone on their own) the effort of promoting the value of Polish products in export markets. I am convinced that if Polish producers sincerely, professionally and proudly promote Polish products, we will together succeed over time in elaborating a clear and identifiable image of Poland in international markets, as a place of origin of products which are tasty, in good quality, and simultaneously unique on an international scale.

tagi: Dorota Kałowska, Poland, ,

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