“I look like the one who carried the brick with him to show the world what his house was like”

(0) Bertolt Brecht en Benedetti, M. (2020) 

Based on this quote from Bertolt Brecht, Mario Benedetti would write “La Casa y El Ladrillo” (‘The House and the Brick’). Both poets spoke about a lost home, since both lived in the exile. They expressed something as human as longing for the place of origin.

As human beings we not only belong to a group but also to a place. It’s from the characteristics of the group and the place that we form our identity. It is where our belonging and what we share are.

This could sound very romantic but if misunderstood and exalted can become into nationalism, which I personally try to avoid at all costs. From a quieter side belonging and origins produce ethnocentrism. Something inevitable (unlike nationalism) that can though be managed. (1) Aguilera (2002) explains it as follows:

«We can say, to some degree, that all social and cultural groups are ethnocentric. Therefore, ethnocentrism is a cultural sociocentrism, referring to a human group as defined by its culture, or to a cultural area (for example, Europe, or Islam). We are part of a social, ethnocentric subjectivity, greater than our own subjectivity. Thus, ethnocentrism has two aspects, on the one hand it is positive, because it maintains the social cohesion of the group and the loyalty of the members to certain principles. And secondly, a certain radical ethnocentrism can lead us to attitudes and phenomena such as nationalism, racism or social classism».

Aguilera, R. 2002.

We are talking about a behavior as old as humanity and that has been manifested in every civilization and that inevitably leads us to rather hold on our owned cultural forms oposite to those that are foreign and distant which can sometimes be discriminated in favor of the first ones.


Whether it is because of who makes it or because of where it is made, we can agree that a brand is nothing more than an original property: a product that “comes from,” is “made in” or “made by”… no matter if we talk about an international manufacturer with factories in India, about a place where certain crops grow, or about a fashion designer who works in his workshop, etc. in the end a brand indicates an origin and everything that it implies (quality, trust, safety, familiarity…).

That is, brands –or origins– set us apart because as human beings we are irremediably ethnocentric and we attribute a value to our origin and to our belonging. It is not unreasonable to think that without this centripetal force we would not have built the wonderful world of brands.

A world, that of brands, which in recent months has been focusing precisely on claiming the places and groups of belonging. We see brands, politicians, citizens, trends… that claim to return to or protect the ethnic group from which they come from… This is nothing new because as we have already seen, we all are humans. The question we ask here is why now do we see so much ethnocentrism on edge?

We probably do not know how to answer this question with all the existing truth. But one cause that we do dare to put forward is undoubtedly the loss of identity which the failure of an absurd and uncontrolled globalization has led us to with the consequent awareness of the damage it has caused to the planet, a place of common belonging precisely. This sentiment was reinforced during the 2020 pandemic: what in terms of consumption used to be a “me, myself and I” , is now a ”WE, US, OURSELVES” in capital letters. Some say that within a decade we will return to individualism. Here, as you know, we avoid making such bold predictions.

According to the definition of ethnocentrism that Aguilera (2002) made and that we showed at the beginning of this article, we see brands seeking the social cohesion of the group of consumers they target by appealing to the loyalty of certain principles: that is, by appealing to the consumer’s ethnocentrism. A concept that rarely manifests as such in marketing but about which we believe it is necessary to clarify some concepts and share some data and thoughts.


  1. Proximity

How many “local product” labels do we see today? How many times have we heard that brands should be more local? This is about appealing to ethnocentrism through proximity, which is nothing more than the (short) distance between production and consumption.

«Proximity, which is related to the (short) distance between production and consumption, has been studied in many papers that analyze consumer preference for products produced in a near environment. Furthermore, a proper definition of a domestic product has been widely discussed (Lang et al., 2014; Limand Hu, 2016; Fern andez-Ferrín et al., 2017). Social distance and sustainability concepts have been added to the criteria of geographical distance (Lang et al., 2014; Holcomb et al., 2016), and they have completed the definition of domestic product».

(2) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019,  

Proximity has been directly linked to sustainability much more than to ethnocentrism. But to say that we buy local products because they are more sustainable would be naive. Does Seat sell more cars in Catalonia because its production and consumption are closer or because Catalan people identify the brand as part of the identity of their city? The SEAT house on Paseo de Gracia (Barcelona) may be the answer.

«Barcelona has an enormous link with the history of SEAT, it is its “home” since the brand was founded in 1950 and the firm has wanted to honor the city and shine a light on its legacy and its history with it through a new space named Casa SEAT»

Diario Motor 2020. Recover from: https://www.diariomotor.com/noticia/casa-seat/

Proximity is frequently associated with sustainability especially in food category markets. But this is totally relative since there is not even agreement on how much the distance between consumption and production should be for a product to be considered local. Something produced in the north of Morocco that is consumed in Cádiz is closer than something produced in Galicia and consumed in Catalonia, but which of the two products would be considered local?

«Local products are defined according to the geographical proximity of production to consumption. There is no agreement on the requirements of this proximity, but local products can be considered to be those that are grown, produced, marketed and consumed within a relatively small area (Martinez et al., 2010)».

(2) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019.

2. Reliability

When we say that we are now more ethnocentric than ever, it is because the origin also gives us reliability: they are a guarantee of quality. In addition, in a context of constant crisis, supporting the local is considered a way to ensure the economic subsistence of the country or the region. Spanish households have declared that they expect brands, manufacturers and distributors to pitch in and play an active role in the economic recovery. In exchange for this requirement, as consumers we are adopting certain preferential behaviors:

«70% of Spanish households consider that brands, manufacturers and distribution play a key role in the country’s economic recovery»
«76% buy national products always or almost always»
«75% do so to support national employment as the main reason

(3) Consumer Psychology Study, Kantar Division Worldpanel, 2021,

(4) Consumer Attitudes Study, Mintel, 2021,

Here is a sample of Pascual’s content that articulates in his communication the two strategies to appeal to ethnocentrism that we have pointed out so far (proximity and security):

«Vivesoy de Pascual is the only brand of vegetable drinks 100% locally grown. Now, it is also certified by the AENOR Guaranteed Origin seal that ensures the Spanish origin of all its raw materials: soybeans, oats, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts»

(5) Friend, P., September 28, 2021

*NOTE: As we mentioned in the title of this section, the strategies that appeal to the consumer’s ethnocentrism are not exclusive. The proximity between consumption and production is also a way of transmitting security to the consumer.

Who can feel so attracted by this localist promise of Pascual? Someone looking for quality?

The ethnocentric consumer is known to have the belief that buying a domestic product is morally more appropriate than buying foreign products. Pascual presents a speech addressed to a target that values ​​the local (national) product because in this way he feels that he supports the domestic economy of his country and the opposite can implies a certain immorality (this, of course, very few people would recognize verbally).

«The term ‘consumer ethnocentrism’ was first introduced by Shimp (1984) and Shimp and
Sharma (1987, p. 280) to refer to ‘the beliefs held by American consumers about the
appropriateness, indeed morality, of purchasing foreign-made products. From the
perspective of ethnocentric consumers, purchasing imported products is wrong because, in
their minds, it hurts the domestic economy, causes loss of jobs, and is plainly unpatriotic;
products from other countries»

(6) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Kastenholz, E., 2019.

It is proven that where there are strong local or regional identities the demand for local products is potentially higher. This is attributed to consumer ethnocentrism rather than to objective product attributes. And, as we have seen, we live in a social context where local identities are being exalted with an increasing force. Thus, in this case, it would be a mistake to ignore the ethnocentric component of Pascual’s message since the it may be much more powerful than the mere quality of the product:

«Local food production, tradition and connection to a product’s region of origin may represent strong elements of local identity and culture (Galli & Brunori, 2013). Where strong local identity and commitment to the region exist, the demand for local products is likely to be greater. This phenomenon can be attributed to consumer ethnocentrism rather than to the product’s intrinsic attributes».

(7) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Calvo-Turrientes, A., Artaraz-Miñón, M., Galán-Ladero, M. 2017.

The tradition

A third dimension of the “local” concept which is also on the rise is the “traditional”. When we talk about local products we mean traditional ways of doing things too. Craftsmanship and know-how are the main attributes. The traditional could not exist without being linked to a place: 

«Frequently consumed or associated to specific celebrations and/or seasons, transmitted from one generation to another, made in a specific way according to gastronomic heritage, naturally processed, and distinguished and known because of their sensory properties and associated with a certain local area, region or country»

According to TRUEFOOD, (Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019) the definition of a traditional product has four dimensions: it must be local, authentic, linked to a gastronomic heritage and with a long history in the market.

«Production must be mainly local; (2) there must be authenticity (in the recipe, in the origin of the raw materials, or the production process); (3) the product must have been marketed for a long time period of time; and (4) the product must be linked to a gastronomic heritage».

(2) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019

We see the traditional especially in food and it is a strategy that can form market categories by itself. Denomination of origins, for instance.

A curious case in Spain is found in the frozen food category. We all know La Cocinera, a brand built from the kinship figure with the greatest ability to preserve traditions: our grandmothers. Obviously, La Cocinera’s frozen croquettes are not a traditional product, but the brand’s strategy appeals to our ethnocentrism seeking to convey the dimensions that we attribute to the traditional and that we mentioned at the beginning of this section: gastronomic heritage, authenticity and local proximity.

La Cocinera www.lacocinera.es

Without something as humanly basic as the preference for our origins, the figure of the grandmother in La Cocinera, who leads us to eat “just like at home”, would not have any strategic value.

4. Ethnicity.

The ethnicity of the product consists of its association with a place in a cognitive sense. That is, when a product has ethnicity it is because as consumers we relate it to the ethnic universe of a place. Being a cognitive level, ethnicity is directly related to brand building. It is a story that positions a product in the mental space that a certain place occupies in our heads. For example, pizza and pasta have a strong Italian ethnicity or the brand “Hollywood” has a northeamerican one.

«According to Usunier and Cestre (2007) product ethnicity refers to the association based on stereotypes of a generic product with a specific country […] product ethnicity is a “cognitive country-of-origin” that influences consumers’ product preferences»

(2) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019

But not all ethnicity appeals to our ethnocentrism. For example, the food company Doctor Oetker, when it advertises its pizzas, uses the Italian imaginary but to address a target that is not Italian. The brands that have did appeal to consumer ethnocentrism are Mahou (to Madrid) and the aforementioned Cruzcampo (to Andalusia). The latter has clearly used an ethnic feature of Andalusia, such as the accent, to directly appeal to Andalusians who are proud of their accent and their beer. Idem for Mahou and Madrid. This is important since several authors have pointed out that ethnicity always has an affective component as well as a cognitive one.

«Several authors suggest that when it concerns analyzing the perceptions of a group of consumers, regarding the ethnicity of products in their region, in addition to cognitive elements, it should also include affective consideration»

“Van Ittersum et al. (2003, p. 218) add that “the direct influence of a product’s place of origin results from an emotional response that bypasses the purely cognitive inferential evaluation»

(2) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019

As mentioned above, ethnicity refers to association based on stereotypes. So when you choose to highlight it, breaking the stereotype becomes a challenge to overcome for any brand that sells products with strong ethnic factors (we believe that Cruzcampo and Mahou have overcame the challenge with their respective campaigns).


Reason Why news

We have pointed out here four non-exclusive strategies through which to activate the consumer’s ethnocentrism, which are proximity, reliability, tradition and ethnicity, and we have pointed out examples of brand strategies that are clearly applying it.

But beyond conceptual and technical aspects, when we read news or headlines that tell us that “Brands vindicate local identity and customs in advertising as a means of connection”, the anthropological gaze gives us depth and leads us to the underlying human reason behind this market dynamic, which is none other than ethnocentrism: something we all have, a universal behavior, socially structured and therefore, something that remains unchanged despite fashions.

Once again we see how social sciences and humanities offer a complementary and necessary look at strategic and marketing work and this time it is about a basic of our species: the preference for our origins.

Because we all like to carry a brick to show others what our house is like.


(0) Beltor Brech en Benedetti, M. (2020) . Antología poética: Selección y prólogo de Joan Manuel Serrat Alfaguara.

(1) Aguilera, R. 2002, La Gazeta de Antropología, Universidad de Granada 2020. Recuperado de: https://www.ugr.es/~pwlac/G18_11Rafael_Aguilera_Portales.html

(2) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Galán-Ladero, M., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Castro González, S. 2019,  Geographical indication food products and ethnocentric tendencies: The importance of proximity, tradition, and ethnicity. Journal of Cleaner Production, ELSEVIER.

(3) Estudio Psicología del consumidor, Kantar Division Worldpanel, 2021, recuperado de: https://www.eldiario.es/edcreativo/produccion-local-consumo-cercania-tendencia-pospandemica-espana_1_8333885.html

(4) Estudio Actitudes del consumidor, Mintel, 2021, recuperado de: https://www.eldiario.es/edcreativo/produccion-local-consumo-cercania-tendencia-pospandemica-espana_1_8333885.html

(5) Amigo, P., 28 de septiembre de 2021, Producción local y consumo de cercanía: la tendencia pospandémica de España. ElDiario.es. Recuperado de: https://www.eldiario.es/edcreativo/produccion-local-consumo-cercania-tendencia-pospandemica-espana_1_8333885.html

(6) Fernández-Ferrín, P., Bande, B., Martín-Consuegra, D., Díaz, E., Kastenholz, E. , 2019.  Sub-national consumer ethnocentrism and the importance of the origin of food products: an exploratory analysis. Emerald.

(7) Fernández-Ferrín, P.,  Bande, B., Calvo-Turrientes, A., Artaraz-Miñón, M., Galán-Ladero, M. 2017,  The valuation and purchase of food products that combine local, regional and traditional features: The influence of consumer ethnocentrism. Elsevier.