This study sought to determine the public image of the Nigerian branded exports by Nigerians and non-Nigerians. A stratified random sampling method was adopted in selecting a sample of 930 respondents. Data were analyzed using T-Test, ANOVA and regression statistics. The results obtained depicted negative image for the Nigerian branded exports, with no significant difference between Nigerians and non- Nigerians in their perceptions. To effectively reposition the image of the Nigeria via branded exports, plans should be made by the government and organizations to enhance infrastructure by funding a 'Brand Academy' to train specialist on brand management, design and industrial packaging.
Keywords: Branding, Branded exports, Country-of-Origin, Image, Made-in-Nigeria
Branded exports play an important role in establishing a country's reputation abroad. Branded exports have the special power to accelerate and cause changes in public perceptions of countries. Brands are increasingly vital vectors of national image and reputation. According to Anholt (2007), branded exports is one of the commercial sub-brands of a nation brand that generate funds rather than cost money. To him, products are tangible and they make far more effective ambassadors for national image than promotional campaigns; people keep products but avoid advertisements or propaganda. Commercial brands are increasingly performing the role of transmitting national culture; they have become one of the primary vectors of national image, and are more and more often the means by which people form their views about national identity. Chilean wines are examples of successful quality brands that have changeda nation's economy. Chilean wine producers now export more than 50% of their products to ninety countries in five continents around the world (Dinnie, 2008).
The names of some countries' products/services connote superb quality, reliability, durability, attractive price, excellent service, high technical standard, refined taste and design. For example, countriessuch as Germany and Japan are often associated with high technology and durable goods. By contrast, some countries are associated with poor quality goods. Every country should therefore be interested in how its products are perceived.
If Nigeria as a nation is to be branded effectively and if she is to compete favourably in the global market in terms of its products/services, the starting point of its efforts to rebrand should be to ascertain the current image of its products and services. Nigeria and, in fact any country, cannot be branded effectively through mere propaganda and promotional campaigns. It requires, among other things, quality products that will create lasting positive impressions in the minds of customers. Previous re-branding efforts by Nigeria such as the 'Heart of Africa' project of 2004 and the 'Good People, Great Nation' approach of 2009 appeared to have failed because of what Fasure (2009) described as 'Good Salesman with Bad Products'.
A number of related studies have been done in this area. First, some studies have measured the attitudes of Nigerians toward locally made goods (Agbonifoh, 1986; Okechuku & Onyemah, 1999). Second, some others have focused on the level of consumer preference for imported goods/services (Adjeba 1982; Oyegunle, 1982; Agbonifoh, 1985; Jaffe & Nebenzahl, 2001). Most of these works were done over thirty years ago. Given the fact that change is constant and consumer perceptions and attitudes change overtime, it would be necessary to carry out further research to determine the current image of Nigerian branded exports. In addition to the above quest, the current study seeks to determine if there is a significant difference between Nigerians and non-Nigerians in their perceptions of Made-in Nigeria products.
The perception of made-in-Nigeria products by Nigerians and non-Nigerians is not only significant in terms of the potential effects on the individual firm, but also in terms of its possible implications for the government and the nation's citizens. Poor or negative perceptions of locally-made products generally leads to loss of demand and patronage, low turnovers, plant utilization, profit and growth for domestic industries which in turn results in unemployment problems. According to Agbonifoh (1985), Nigerians' preference for foreign products has adverse implications for the survival of locally made ones; the country's gross domestic product can result in balance of payments problems except actual outflows of local products match inflow of foreign ones. An example of an industry that suffers from the effects of negative attitudes to locally made goods is the Nigerian automobile industry: Nigerians' preference for imported consumer products "resulted in reduction in sales of the domestically assembled Peugeot 504 car from about 100,000 units in 1986 to about 4,500 in 1996, when import restrictions were eased" (Jaffe & Nebenzahl, 2001: 3). Nigerians' attitudes toward made-in-Nigeria goods is, to say the least, not encouraging because citizens possess whetted appetites for foreign goods, which drain the Nigeria's foreign exchange reserves. It also contributes immensely towards the rapid industrial growth of the countries where the goods are imported from while hurting the Nigerian economy in terms of employment.
In view of the foregoing, this study sought to achieve the following objectives. The main objective of the study is to determine the public image of Nigerian branded exports in the eyes of both Nigerians and non-Nigerians. Other objectives of the study are to:
Ascertain if there is significant difference in the perceptions of Nigerian branded exports by Nigerians and Non-Nigerians.
Identify the demographic and socio-cultural factors that influence perception of made-in-Nigerian products. Variables of interest here are age, sex, education, income, religion, and international exposure.
Determine if there are significant differences in the relative images of the following countries: China, Ghana, Italy, Nigeria, South Africa, UK and USA in terms of branded exports and;
To examine the implications of the research findings for Nigerian business organizations and the government with a view to repositioning the Nigeria brand internally and externally by means superb quality products.
Concept of Branding
Branding is a management tool traditionally used by managers to create meaningful differentiation to achieve competitive advantage in the market place. A brand is a promise of value to consumers; for example, a guarantee of value, of quality, of performance, of service delivery or of after cares (Allan, 2007). Jaffe and Nebenzahl (2001) defined country image as the impact that generalizations and perceptions about a country have on a person's evaluation of the country's products and/or brand. Following Riezebos (2003), a nation's brand image is a subjective mental picture shared by a group of people about the country. Brand equity is a "set of brand assets and liabilities linked to a brand, its name and symbol that adds or subtract from the value provided by a product or service" (Aakar, 1991:15). Brand-equity helps to build a relationship, a strong bond between the brand and the consumer; trust and emotional connections are established over time (Van Auken, 2002).
Country of Origin (COO) Effects
COO effect refers to the impact that a product or service's origin has on consumer attitude and behaviour towards that product or service (Dinnie, 2008). The image of a country can be enhanced when the product brand's COO is explicit; but if nobody knows where a product comes from, then it can not affect consumers' feelings about that country. Despite the benefits that can accrue to a nation brand from branded exports, the difficulty often lies in getting the owners of powerful commercial brands to employ their COO in their marketing or packaging (Anholt, 2007). A case in point is that of Nokia brand and Finland brand. Nokia being a bigger and stronger brand than Finland brand, Finland was scared that if the two brands were closely attached to each other, the brand equity would all flow from the stronger to the weaker, and benefit the brand image of Finland as a nation at the expense of Nokia brand image. According to Anholt (2007), this appears to be a common misconception on the part of Nokia and other brands that underestimate the power of their brands. He argues that if consumers are brand loyal, it seems unlikely that they would change their minds about the brand if they eventually discover that the brand originated from a small, poor or exotic country.
The direction of association and perceptions flow between the product and its COO is uncertain for some types of products. For example, does a prestigious brand such as Sony enhance the nation brand image of Japan or does the high credibility of Japan as a source country for high technology products enhance the sale of Sony brand? For Jaffe and Nebenzahl (2001), there are two-way interactions between the images
of countries and of brands. It suffices to say that there is a symbiotic relationship between a nation brand and product, service and corporate (PSC) brand that highlight or down play their COO. This suggests the need for collaboration between the nation's public and the private sector to improve the economic welfare of the nation and its commercial organizations.
In an attempt to minimize negative COO effects against their place of origin, some international service brands have resorted to the use of acronyms as their brand names. For example, in 1997, British Airways caught in the web of globalization, decided to graduate from mere national carrier to global travel brand by changing its name to BA. To dissociate itself from the explicit reference to its COO and the union flag, it branded its airplanes with images from many different nations. Other such examples...