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The Story Behind ‘Made in Germany’

From the Mark of Cain to the Seal of Quality

Understandably, the German Reich was outraged at first. At the 1886 world exhibition in Philadelphia, German products were still considered pathetic and uninspiring according to Franz Releaux, head of the German jury during this exhibition. Therefore German merchants were better at making cheap imitations than creating new innovations. Due to the creation of the trademark laws in 1883, which prohibited the sale of goods under false copyrights, German merchants began re-innovate their production techniques and methods. Already in 1894, things were changing. Germans were able to produce quality goods in larger quantities, which could even be sold in super markets and not just specialty stores. However, as a side effect of branding goods ‘Made in Germany’, people in other countries also became aware of German products that were made of a very high quality such as music instruments, machine tools and pharmaceutical products. ‘Made in Germany’ was born.

Famous German Innovators

The US is regarded as the country of innovation, especially in the high-tech industry. Many may not know that German scientists invented many of the things we use today. What would the print industry be without Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450. One of the most important inventions: The German beer, Duke Herzog Wilhelm IV of Bavaria invents it in 1516 by declaring the “Reinheitsgebot” – German purity law. Karl Benz laid the ground work for today’s car industry by inventing the 1st automobile in 1878. In 1860 already, Johann Philipp Reiss invented the phone, which the Scotsman Graham Bell later patented. Another German invention – the fax machine was developed by Rudolf Hell around 1930. Today, German manufacturers are in the same situation as British producers in the 19th century. German products are a frequent target for cheap imitations, e.g. cheap Adidas imitations from China or even BMW trademarked innovations being copied by cheap Asian car makers.

Things Have Changed

German consumers’ preferences have changed over the years. Globalization has taken its toll on ‘Made in Germany’. Besides cars, precision machinery and handmade arts and crafts, it is hard to find to find other products with German origins in Germany. Most products are made in Asia these days. With the creation of the European Union, there have been attempts to get rid of the country of origin entirely to replace it with ‘Made in EU”. In the eyes of consumers, brand value is more important than where the product was made. Manufacturers have responded to this trend, e.g. Mercedes brands it cars with “Made by Mercedes” and BMW markets “Engineered by BMW”. However, beyond the border of Germany, the image factor of ‘Made in Germany’ is still a major buying criterion. International consumers still want to make sure that their purchase is truly made in Germany. Therefore the famous teddy bear manufacturer Steiff had to move their manufacturing facilities from China back to Germany and even Mercedes, Porsche, BMW and keep their final assembly in Germany. After all, Germany is still the strongest economy in Europe and the 3rd largest exporter worldwide behind China and the USA, even though Germany is a fraction of the size of those two countries. This proves that ‘Made in Germany’ still counts.

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