Whether it’s a frying pan, a wooden toy, a coloured pencil or even a jar of face cream ….!”
… the label “Made in Germany” is always eye-catching! Instantly recognisable as a symbol of high quality, durability and precision. But did you know that “Made in Germany” is actually made in Britain!
Back in the 1850s, despite a skilled labour force, good vocational training and strong work ethics, Germany still lagged behind other industrial nations like Britain, France and the USA. At this time, Germany manufactured and exported mostly metal products, such as knives, scissors, cutlery and tools. These were sold at a low price and were seen to be of inferior quality. German entrepreneurs also practiced industrial espionage – they stole ideas, openly copied products, engaged in counterfeiting and forged quality-seals.
The market was flooded with mass-produced, cheap German goods which started to have a impact on the British economy and on employment. The British were not amused, and said – enough is enough! In 1887 they passed a new labelling law which dictated that imported items must be marked with their country of origin. This applied to all trading nations but was especially aimed at Germany. The idea was to protect British products from competition. “Made in Germany” was seen as a warning, to scare consumers and to create a patriotic feeling amongst Britons to “buy British.”
At this time, Germany was an aggressive emerging economy with ambitions to become an economic superpower. Britain’s scheme to stop it, with the “Made in Germany” badge, seemed like a clever idea but it backfired dramatically and actually had the opposite effect!
The new labelling law and the related negative publicity was taken as a personal insult by German industry. They rose to the challenge: invested in machinery, improved processes and hired British experts to refine production methods at their factories. Just ten years later, at the end of the 19th century, “Made in Germany” was no longer a warning sign but a synonym for high quality, good craftsmanship, reliability and innovation – a real selling point!
During the First and Second World Wars, “Made in Germany” once again became a negative symbol – merchandise with this slogan was banned from Britain and from all markets controlled by the allies. However, in the 1950s and ’60s the label experienced its real triumph. As Germany unleashed its “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle), the ingrained focus on innovation, technology and efficiency paid off. People realised that Germany was offering top quality, non-mass-produced items, at a fair price using the latest technology to create clever tailormade solutions.
Today “Made in Germany” continues to be well-respected. The slogan is used assertively by German businesses in their marketing and advertising campaigns and is now a very significant reason for people to choose a product.
So, it’s an interesting story to keep in mind when you’re making your last minute Christmas purchases!