Although the idea has long been accepted that a nation's image is a factor in buying decisions, research on the effect of country of origin (COO) on consumers' evaluation of brands and on firms' strategic positioning is contradictory. The strategic use of COO would appear to be highly dependent on context. The authors examine six agribusinesses in New Zealand — all of which use COO to varying degrees in their global brand programmes — and argue that the use of COO is highly contextual and evolves over time. The different contextual elements affecting the appropriateness of COO programmes are then explored. In the final part of the paper, the implications of using COO for firms' strategic actions are discussed, and the benefits and limitations of COO are identified.