Can SMEs Build Global Brands with Place-Of-Origin Information? The Role of Social Networks
Agri-food small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can enter global food chains by pursuing niche marketing strategies, where a narrow segment of customers perceives high benefits of food products that compensate their high prices and do not require large volumes of supply (Humphrey, 2005). To serve a niche of global customers, building a brand is challenging but crucial. Brands are crucial as they provide signals of the overall quality of products, as well as create an image that differentiates them from competitors (Keller, 1993). Building a brand is particularly important for firms that aspire to have a product image associated to credence attributes (Darby and Karni, 1973; Humphrey, 2005). Credence attributes are quality features that cannot be verified either before or after consumption of a product (Darby and Karni, 1973). The place of origin of a product, which is the most extensively studied credence attribute in the agricultural economics and marketing literature, is often used as a cue of the excellent flavor, the typicality and the sustainability of agri-food products. Credence attributes are increasingly valued in global markets and, given their own nature, the role of who signals them is crucial to determine their value.
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