Provenance is a great source of value even without formal intellectual property protection.
We are all familiar with provenance being a distinctive product characteristic; it often donates quality food from a particular region of the country. For those products that have the fame, reputation, stamina and commercial clout geographical brand protection has been very effective at limiting direct competition. The wines of Champagne are the most obvious example of how similar alcoholic drinks, even made in the same way, can’t use the name of the area in France called Champagne.
Off the top of my head there are many products that rely on map coordinates, their geography, more formally in trademark terms called Geographic Indication or GI, or “appellation of origin”, to differentiate them in consumers’ minds: Cornish Clotted Cream; Arbroath Smokies: Scotch Whisky; Gruyere Cheese; Jersey Royal Potatoes; Melton Mowbray Pork Pies. Compared to the rest of Europe the UK has a relatively short list of these due to the industrialisation of its agriculture. Interestingly, Newcastle Brown Ale formerly had such protection until the brewer moved its production facility to Gateshead and it was removed.
The sort of intellectual property protection that is afforded by GI is nice to have but, as you can see from the short list above, it mainly applies to foodstuffs where there is some sort of artisanal tradition to exploit; a traditional expertise that morphed into a brand that is now protected by law. But how can you exploit geography, a simple position on the map, without such protection? Well, at its most basic, many people rely on providing local services as a very important element of how they differentiate themselves. You’d probably think twice about choosing a plumber based 100 miles away from your home; many service providers are territorial and their territory is quite small. Marks & Spencer, a UK retailer with a distinctive food offering, is a master at value selling and never sells anything without some sort of qualification and very often it is provenance, the region, or even the farm, it is produced on. Provenance is big in food retailing these days.
I recently came across a couple of less formal but quiet powerful uses of location branding that seem to work very well. The first was a jeweller in Falmouth, Cornwall, selling wedding rings made out of “Cornish Tin & Gold”. It had bought up a job lot of Cornish tin from a shipwreck and used it to mix with gold to produce wedding rings with a very strong local provenance. Although, rather cleverly in fact, many might have mistakenly interpreted the strap line as meaning that the gold came from Cornwall, it is only the tin that does. Even so, it is still a strongly differentiated product for those of us, like me, who want a wedding ring from this part of the world, something different which associates a special event in my life with my emotional home.
The second example of “leveraging the map” I came across was also in Falmouth, in a shop specialising in “Cornish quality fayre”, under the Halzephron brand. The brand comes from Halzephron Herb Farm on the Lizard peninsular. It emphasises the artisanal – “still being made by the same mother and daughter team” and the use of local produce “as many ingredients as possible are sourced in Cornwall”, but sells a very wide range of sauces, preserves and dressings that have long shelf lives and, apart from the brand, little to connect them with Cornwall, at least to my eyes.
Whether you want jewellery for a special occasion, or a jar of chutney to take home as a souvenir of your holiday, provenance is an important driver of value in both products as it differentiates and positions them rather uniquely. As that is what we are all striving to do with our own brands, why not ask yourself how you can use provenance more powerfully in your business?