Successful brands are built on solid foundations, they stand out and are able to develop a unique identity and offer products or services perceived by customers to be superior to those offered by others.
As stated by Forbes contributor Jerry McLaughlin, “brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organisation, a cause, or an idea. Brand building is the deliberate and skilful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind.”
Journalist Jayson DeMers identifies seven key characteristics common to successful brands: audience knowledge, uniqueness, passion, consistency, competitiveness, exposure and leadership.
So far, the picture painted refers to successful brands throughout the world but this begs the question: Dose this apply to the “Made in Italy” brand too or is there more to it?
Arguably, the “Made in Italy” brand is one of the most trusted and recognisable brands around the world but, it is also a very peculiar brand as it is not directly linked to a product or service, businessperson, company, Group or specific industry sector. Hence, it is only fair to assume that there is more to those aforementioned key characteristics which makes the “Made in Italy” brand so unique and successful. The quest to find an explanation brings us to the Italian industrial districts.
Industrial districts are the pillars of the Italian economy, they are the powerhouse that ignites and propels the “Made in Italy” brand. Yet, what defines the Italian industrial districts and, are these different from other districts around the world?
Broadly, an industrial district can be defined as an area where there is a higher than usual concentration of specialised industries.
According to economist Alfred Marshall, what makes the industrial district so special is the nature and quality of the local labour market, which is internal to the district and highly flexible.
Industrial districts are an economic phenomenon to be found in various countries and in localised areas (some examples are: the Silicon Valley in the U.S., the area between London and Bristol in the UK or Ishikawa in Japan) but, in Italy the districts are widely spread throughout the country, they are the backbone of the Italian economy.
As pointed out by economist Markusen, what distinguishes Italian industrial districts from others the most, is the fact that firms (often with the help of regional governments and trade associations) consciously network with each other to solve problems of cycles and over-capacity and to respond to new demands for flexibility.
Another key feature that distinguishes the phenomenon of Italian industrial districts from others is the fact that there is an unusually strong link between firms and employees. According to economist Becattini, in Italy, firms merge with the people who live in the same territory, and who, in turn possess very similar social and cultural features (social values and institutions). In other words, firms and people share those social and cultural features that are embedded in that territory independently from the employer-employee relationship. Ultimately, this is the natural and appropriate backdrop to stimulate a bottom-up industrialisation process that is vital to fuel innovation.
One last key feature which characterises Italian industrial districts, according to Becattini, is the climate of emulation (in other words high level of “progressive” competition) that develops among the members of the industrial district.
In conclusion, it could be argued that what makes the “Made in Italy” brand unique is a combination of the aforementioned seven key characteristics but, with the addition of a unique eighth: the strong link between firms and people (across the country) with local heritage, a prerogative of Italian industrial districts.
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