Okay, I have to make a confession: as I am Italian I cannot live without Italian food! However, since I have been living abroad, I have noticed how hard it can be to find real Italian products! Grocery stores are a good example: you want to buy some pasta or parmigiano and you can find several different brands. The green-white-red flag is there, the name is Italian, maybe on the packaging you can also find a picture of an important Italian symbol etc. Then you turn your box of spaghetti and…surprise! The product you were buying is not Italian at all! This phenomenon is what they call “Italian sounding”. It is related to brands that give off an illusion of being connected with Italy because they are labelled with Italian names and misleading Italian words, images, trademarks and recipes. So if you are not careful enough, you could buy something that is just evoking Italy and probably is very different from a real one.
But why does it happen?
Made in Italy is a strong brand, in fact in 2014 it was considered the 3rd well-known brand in the world after Coca-Cola and Visa. According to a study by KPMG, foreigners usually associate the term with certain values such as appearance, beauty, luxury, wellbeing, passion and creativity. The target for Italian sounding companies is a community of people called “followers”. They are focused on an idea, produced by a direct or evoked experience, which puts the Italian lifestyle in the centre of their dynamic identity. For them, everything that recalls or support the Italian way of living is absorbed by all the other symbols and values. As goods just have to recall my country, there’s no need to really make them in Italy. That’s why in the international market only one product out of three is a real Italian one!
In conclusion, the next time you go to the supermarket be certain of what you buy!
Source: Riccardo Giumelli, 2016, Italian Sociological Review, <<The meaning of Made in Italy changes in a changing world>>