Country-of-Origin Branding: The Story of Turkey, Kernel & Roast

Place branding isn’t always about consolidating experience assets and the reputation of entire countries or cities. It can be about places as small as individual shops. D. Kılıç Arslantürk and Günter Soydanbay share this example of how Kernel & Roast has worked with Turkey as country-of-origin, for its flagship store in London, UK.

As a nation brand, Turkey epitomizes “what ifs.” At first glance, one would see a country that performs alright, only to discover upon a close inspection that Turkey realizes just a small portion of its true potential. Maybe a few facts could help get that point across.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, Turkey is the world’s sixth most popular tourist destination. That said, it can barely crack the top 15 list of international tourism receipts, which is a clear symptom of falling short of its potential.

Likewise, based on IMF, the Turkish economy is one of the world’s 20 largest. In return, it ranks in the high thirties in the GFK-Anholt Nation Brands Index, which suggests an image problem.

Turkey’s nation brand scores the highest in culture and tourism. That is followed by governance, people, investment, and immigration. It is, however, startling that Turkey -a country with a globally integrated economy- performs worst in exports. That is where the story of Kernel & Roast has begun.

Research shows that Turkey’s “country of origin” strength is particularly weak in areas like electronic goods, luxury, and automotive. However, according to FutureBrand‘s “Made in 2019” report, there is one category where Turkish exports have the potential: food!

Agriculture is of critical importance for Turkey. It provides 25% of world cherry production, 65% of hazelnut, 70% of dried fig, and 80% of dried apricot. But to put those numbers in perspective, a Turkish farmer needs to sell roughly 1,800 kilograms of tomatoes to buy an iPad. To sum, while the country grows some of the world’s finest agricultural products, it falls short of branding them.

Turkey, of course, is not the only country that fails to brand its exceptional, organic agricultural produce. From Asia to South America, Africa, and the Middle East, many countries share Turkey’s fate. That insight, right there, helped germinate the idea of opening a global retail chain that would offer natural and organic agricultural produce from Anatolia and beyond.

Haluk Okutur, the serial Turkish entrepreneur, has always been passionate about the fertile soil of Anatolia. Consequently, he dreamt of creating high-end agricultural brands and marketing them in major markets of the world. He envisioned that by doing so, he could support Turkey’s nation brand as well as help farmers and ethical farming practices grow around the world.

We envision opening over 300 stores in 10 different countries within the next five years. But as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Consequently, our starting point was in London. To open our first store, we deliberately choose the UK’s capital, because London is perceived by many as the capital of innovative food and beverage trends in the world.

If you plan to operate in a myriad of countries, your brand, undoubtedly, needs a name that has a passport. After rounds of explorations, we have picked Kernel & Roast, for it received over 90% positive reaction in lingual tests that we carried out in 25 countries.

We have created a store that provides a multi-sensory experience to our customers. The appeal to the eye through the visual richness of merchandising; the fascination of the noise through brewing and baking; the lure of the palate through sampling, those are all baked into the Kernel & Roast experience.

We also filled our shelves with colorful packages that tell the stories of our voluptuous products. We carefully crafted the illustrations on our packaging, for they are part of our in-store communication and messaging.

When it comes to country-of-origin branding, critical mass matters: a single brand alone cannot change the perceptions about Turkish produce. But if you have ten brands, then you can start moving the needle. With that in mind, we created a myriad of premium brands, ranging from lokum to pastries, halva, artisanal chocolate, organic olive oil, organic legumes, organic honey, organic marmalades, organic spices herbal infusions, and healthy snacks. Each brand has an eye-catching design that blends the transnational look and feel with a touch of Anatolia.

Moreover, we believe in building strong ties with locals, for all retail is local. One way of doing that is through partnerships. When we choose a local partner, we pay attention to their single-minded focus on quality, emphasis on sustainability, and passion for innovative brew methods. Accordingly, we partnered up with William Curley, the four-time winner of the Academy of Chocolate’s ‘Britain’s Best Chocolatier’ Award to develop exclusive products for Kernel & Roast. Likewise, we carry products of local third-wave coffee brands.

The initial reactions of British consumers have been overwhelmingly positive. Perceptions are like glaciers. They move very slowly. Yet, once they get going, nothing can’t stand in their way. That’s why, as we start expanding in the USA, Canada, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, we are confident that the brand will eventually contribute to improving Turkey’s nation brand.

Building a brand requires building trust with customers. Trust translates into credibility, paving the way to loyalty. For that chain reaction to take place, first, a brand must deliver on its promises.

As Kernel & Roast, we pledge to offer products that are: 1) Beneficial to both people and the planet 2) of the highest quality 3) Artisanal, yet accessible 4) Scouted and specially-selected internationally 5) Gourmet and delicious.

So, Kernel & Roast’s success in contributing to Turkey’s nation brand will unquestionably depend on how good we will deliver on our pledge and earn the trust of its customers.

More about Kernel & Roast here

Günter Soydanbay is part of our panel of place brand specialists. Available as speaker and consultant.

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