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'Taking A Brand Global: Ten Steps To Success';

I. Introduction: The Importance of Being Global
A strong global brand is a powerful weapon. These days, however, it may also be an
indispensable one, even as the economy challenges our faith in brands to deliver a profit.
According to Interbrand's 'World's Most Valuable Brands 2000'; study, for example, although
Amazon's share price has declined, its brand value has increased by 233%. On the other
hand, international power player Coca-Cola, although still the world's #1 brand, saw its value
drop by 13%. And technology brands did quite well— Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and Nokia placed
second through fifth—not at all foreshadowing the precipitous crash in their stock prices about
half a year after the study findings were released. Overall, notes marketing writer Jane
Bainbridge in Marketing [20 July 2000], Interbrand's second annual study of this kind reveals
not only that global brands are 'stable assets,'; but also that 'the most valuable brands are
global.'; In fact, she argues, 'to have a billion-dollar brand, a company has to be global.';
II. Branding As The New 'Universal Language';
Based on a recent survey of more than forty-five thousand people across nineteen countries,
Young & Rubicam makes a rather startling claim. In its newest Brand Asset Valuator report,
issued in March 2001, the firm asserts that brands have taken on a godlike status: consumers
find greater meaning in them and the values they espouse than in religion. As Conor Dignam
reports in Ad Age Global [12 March 2001], the study claims that superbrands like Calvin Klein,
Gatorade, IKEA, Microsoft, MTV, Nike, Virgin, Sony PlayStation, and Yahoo! can therefore
also be called 'belief brands.'; Although Dignam argues against the idea that consumers would
treat brands as gods (because they will not be dictated to by them), he does accept the
implications of the argument and make a different analogy. Brands, he says, are more like
'best friends,'; in that they are an important part of people's lives, do carry specific meanings
for the consumer, and they are respected or rejected based on how well they keep their
promises.
Yet whether one calls them gods or 'best friends,'; brands have clearly started to take on
greater importance in consumers' lives. In fact, they have gone from objects with identity to
identities in the guise of objects.
The trend has gone so far, in fact, that people are beginning to speak the language of brands
and even to market themselves as brands in their own right. There is more than one book in
print along the lines of Brand Yourself [Ballantine, 2000] devoted strictly to the notion that the
self can be carefully concepted in order to ensure success. In fact, contends Giles Lury, brand
consultancy director of Springpoint, in Brand Strategy [2 November 2000], 'branding has been
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one of the most important commercial phenomena of the last century—almost everything is
branded nowadays.'; As examples, he points to the U.K. football team Manchester United,
which successfully markets self-branded clothing, ketchup and beer; The Spice Girls, with its
'girl power'; message and 'brand architecture,'; complete with distinctive 'sub-brands'; (e.g. 'Do
you want Scary Spice girl power or Baby Spice girl power?';); and the success of Tony Blair's
New Labour party, with its updated spin on 'core values.'; Even places are being branded
these days. As Adrian Shaughnessy of Intro notes in Design Week [16 March 2001], the cities
chosen as European Cultural Capitals for 2001, Rotterdam and Oporto, have ordered new
logos for the occasion. The cities are part of a new wave of urban brand makeovers aimed at
enhancing consumers' awareness of them, not to mention tourism and trade. 'We are deluged
with zippy logos,'; Shaughnessy writes.
III. Defining The Global Brand
What is a global brand? Is it the same as a 'multinational,'; 'international,'; 'worldwide,'; or
'cross-cultural'; brand, or are these distinctions irrelevant? According to brand expert Paul
Temporal, writing in Branding in Asia [John Wiley & Sons, 2000], specificity about this is
indeed important, because understanding what a global brand means is critical to developing
an appropriate strategy for managing it. In fact, he notes, 'true global brands are relatively few
in number,'; probably because they manage the difficult task of consistency. In every market
they play in, global brands have a consistent:
ƒ Name
ƒ Personality or positioning
ƒ Consumer segment or (group of segments)
An example of a fully global brand, according to Temporal's schema, is Marlboro cigarettes.
The Body Shop and McDonald's are global as well, even though they offer somewhat different
products by market, because the factors listed above are consistent. Guinness, in contrast, is
technically an 'international brand available globally,'; because its positioning differs depending
on the target market; Nescafe, which changes the formula of its products to take on a more
local flavor, also misses the mark somewhat.
Sony
One global brand that clearly 'gets'; the importance of consistent positioning is Sony. In a
recent article for Brand Marketing [January 2001], Dale Buss discusses the brand's future
plans in light of its number-one ranking among American brands by a recent Harris poll.
According to his internal interviews with Sony's brand custodians, the strategy going forward is
to 'elevate Sony from a brand with merely a strong identity in various entertainment-related
businesses into a unified uber-brand that stands for the 'Sony experience.''; The brilliance of
this strategy is in linking all of Sony's products together—from the Walkman to PlayStation2 to
the Memory Stick—by creating a common association with them in the user's mind. What is
that association? One answer lies in the name itself: 'Sony'; connotes 'a very small group of
young people who have the energy and passion toward unlimited creation.'; (The name
combines 'sonus,'; the Latin root for 'sound,'; and 'sonny,'; or 'son.';) Yet as the company works
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through its master positioning, they may find that its actual essence is somewhat more
abstract. Recalling his observation of diverse Manhattanites all wearing headphones, T. Scott
Edwards, the senior VP of brand and marketing communications at Sony, remarked: 'they
may be enjoying entirely different experiences, but they're all enjoying an escape moment.
That's a powerful thing that goes beyond mere products. Our competitors in the consumerelectronics
set haven't been able to do that.';
IV. The Importance of Global Brand Strategy
A brand may be recognized as powerful in its 'home'; market. Yet that does not automatically
make it a candidate for going global. Even if it could, however, a sound business strategy,
based on established principles of global branding, is critical. Such a plan can mean not only
the difference between success and failure, but between big profits and slim pickings. As
Young & Rubicam notes, based on its BrandAsset® Valuator findings [yr.com/bav]: 'there are
financial implications to how brands globalize….brands that have been managed for consistent
meaning…tend to have better financial performance: higher margins, better return on assets,
and stronger growth.';
Successful branding in any market, says branding expert Paul Temporal in Branding in Asia,
depends on knowledge-based strategy: 'how much effort the company puts into understanding
its audience; what it does to adjust to the distinctive needs of that audience; how it talks to
them.'; [p. 225] He outlines three basic goals of this process:
1. Obtain insight into the consumer
2. Define the brand vision/mission
3. Communicate the brand effectively
As we have noted, for a global brand the ideal outcome of this process is a name, identity, and
typical consumer that remains consistent across all markets. However, as Temporal notes, the
reality is that brands operating internationally will find themselves constantly choosing between
'efficiency';—or sameness—on the one hand, and 'relevance'—or adaptation—on the other.
With an 'efficiency'; approach, money is saved, but local meaning is sacrificed. On the other
hand, with a 'relevance'; approach, culture is taken into account, but at the risk of losing
consistency.
The challenge for global brand strategy, then, is to achieve meaningful consistency. How is
efficiency integrated with relevance so as to achieve this? In Another One Bites The Grass:
Making Sense of International Advertising, [John Wiley & Sons, 2000] Simon Anholt offers a
number of proposals for getting best of both worlds. In terms of brand ideation, he argues that
consistency should be sought, in terms of isolating a single concept that the brand can
represent wherever it is (e.g., fun, freedom, escape, luxury). On the other hand, it's about
localization—hiring local people to execute that concept in a way that makes sense. [This is
the approach McDonald's takes: the brand is always about fun value, but the food depends on
what 'fun value'; means in a particular place.]
Of course, actually achieving meaningful consistency through smart centralization is extremely
difficult. However, there are a number of specific tactics and approaches that one can make
use of in order to achieve this goal. These are detailed below.
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1. Brand Sincerely
Branding is trendy these days, notes Nick Shore in Brand Marketing [January 2001], but the
effort must go beyond the superficial level in order to work effectively. A brand is more than a
campaign, he argues—it is 'the energy, personality, and order of the enterprise.'; Thus
companies that take it seriously, he urges, must incorporate it into everything they do.
Although it may sound extreme, companies that incorporate the brand into everything they
do—or 'think brand first,'; as he puts it—are best poised to have that brand succeed. The
brand should be everywhere that employees are (e.g. in the form of brand statements, product
samples, posters, even furniture). Every touchpoint between the brand and its consumers
should reinforce the credibility of the brand—creating the equivalent of a deposit, rather than a
withdrawal, in the 'brand bank account.'; And there should be a single person charged with
protecting the brand over the long term, one whose authority is supported at the CEO level.
Virgin
Virgin is well-known as an outstanding example of living the brand. The company breathes its
essence—the company calls it 'virginity,'; notes Shore—throughout an extensive line of suborganizations,
products and services. How does the organization do it so well? In a recent
interview with Martin Firrell and William Maughan of Brand Strategy [2 November 2000] Virgin
Mobile's brand director, James Kydd, shed some light on the operational factors that make it
so resilient. First, he noted, founder Sir Richard Branson has a 'long-term vision';
fundamentally centered on the idea of 'trust and delivering.'; Therefore, all corporate activity is
about seeking to realize one goal: 'to better the consumer experience.'; With the brand
essence clear, employees are given a great deal of autonomy in terms of reaching strategic
goals along the way. The combination of a strongly articulated vision and 'accountability and
responsibility and freedom'; among employees in terms of implementing that vision means that
the company has tremendous latitude in terms of executing the brand in different arenas. As
Kydd puts it: 'It's not exhaustion if we do those things well, and if those things all conform to
what people expect of Virgin. People trust Virgin the brand.';
Starbucks
Starbucks is another strong, global brand whose essence—'the Starbucks experience';—is
continually filtered (so to speak) throughout the organization. Along the lines of Anholt's notion
regarding smart centralization, Temporal's Branding in Asia notes that the company targets
twenty- and thirty-something consumers in every target market with the same promise: 'a
unique experience,'; an 'occasion,'; a chance to slow down and savor life a bit. Thus,
employees are instructed in the brand through language like 'one cup at a time, one customer
at a time.'; Jane Martin, International Marketing Director of Starbucks Coffee International, is
quoted in the book: 'We have to protect and build the brand—everything everyone does
affects it.'; Since the personal commitment of employees is so critical to conveying the brand
essence, Starbucks invests in extensive training for them. The company offers employees a
sense of personal ownership in the brand by offering stock options as well. Meaningful
consistency is maintained by imbuing the physical environment with similar visuals (logo,
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signs, counters) while providing food in accordance with the local culture, a similar strategy to
McDonald's.
2. Streamline The Brand Portfolio
Particularly for companies with many brands, it can be difficult to decide which are worth
investing in on a global level. Taking the time to streamline the brand portfolio can be a good
way of starting. As Tom Andrews, a consultant at The Value Engineers, notes in Brand
Strategy [28 November 2000], 'power branding'; is a good way to go for several reasons.
First, there's 'the good old 80:20 rule—80 percent of value comes from 20 percent of your
brands.'; He cites the examples of Procter & Gamble, where the top 10 brands yield 50 percent
of revenue; L'Oréal, where 10 global brands bring in 87 percent of cosmetic sales; and
Colgate, for which 6 global brands yield 70 percent of sales.
Second, brand extension and licensing is becoming increasingly important—and the stronger
the brand the greater its potential to be leveraged. Ultimately, says Andrews, a true 'power
brand'; (note the similarity to a global brand) is that it is based around an idea rather than a
product: 'Think clothes care rather than detergent; think teeth and smiles rather than
toothpaste; family entertainment rather than kids cartoons.';
Procter & Gamble
As Andrews notes, Procter & Gamble derives most of its money from a few of its brands. It is
therefore unsurprising that the company is embracing a 'power branding'; approach. As Anna
Morton reports in Brand Strategy [4 October 2000], the company has a diverse brand portfolio
across countries, and keeping them all afloat is expensive and inefficient. The company has
been engaged for some time in buying local brands and then substituting them with global
ones. But after launching Febreze, Dryel and Swiffer as global brands several years ago
(same 'branding, formulations, packaging and marketing strategies in all regions';), the
company decided that future launches would all be global as well. P&G competitor Unilever
has explicitly anounced its intention to divide its brands into 'power brands'; as versus 'the
rest';; power brands get marketing dollars, and 'the rest'; will be spun off or left relatively
unattended from an investment point of view.
Hello Kitty
A brand that embodies sweetness and innocence, Hello Kitty is also a sophisticated player in
the world of power brands. Its strong appeal, reports Wei Leng Tay in Asiaweek [9 March
2001], fuels an extensive licensing program. It is now estimated that there are 15,000 licensed
Hello Kitty products; parent company Sanrio releases approximately 100 new items a month;
and about 500 additional companies are licensed to produce Hello Kitty products as well. One
might think that with so many Hello Kitty products out there, the market would be saturated.
Yet consumers, says Tay, cannot seem to get enough—and are willing to pay a premium for
Hello Kitty-branded goods as well: $38,460 for a diamond Hello Kitty watch by Swarovski;
$13,000 for the Daihatsu Move Hello Kitty Jeep; $4,000 for a special-edition, wedding-dress
clad Hello Kitty; $900 for the Hello Kitty Personal Computer; $60 for a Sanyo waffle maker with
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a Hello Kitty mold; and so on. And that's not to mention all the 'little things';: stationery,
lunchboxes, stationery, pens, and more.
3. Adapt Global Concepts Effectively
Once the commitment to branding has been made and the brand portfolio streamlined, it is
time to consider how to operationalize a particular brand across national boundaries. As
mentioned previously, there are multiple possibilities in this respect. The brand can be
multinational on a small scale or a large one, consistent in its presentation or utterly
transformed to suit any given market. For the purposes of this discussion we will focus strictly
on global brands, that is, brands whose name, message, and typical consumer remain
consistent everywhere. As was also mentioned previously, this daunting challenge—to adapt a
single concept so that it makes sense in the context of many local cultures—results in the
existence of very few truly global brands.
How does the company translate a brand's core message appropriately, so as to attain
meaningful consistency? How standardized should the brand be, and to what extent should it
be localized to suit a particular market? Although there are no pat answers to these questions,
there are distinct strategies for the global (or centralized) aspect of branding, as well as for the
local (or adaptive) aspect. We now focus on each of these areas in turn.
Standardization
The notion of 'smart centralization,'; proposed by Simon Anholt in Another One Bites The
Grass, is a useful way to begin thinking about the standardized aspect of global branding. [A
veteran of international advertising, his views translate easily to the larger context.] Anholt
doesn't view standardization as the problem. Rather, he says, monoculturalism is: the
assumption that a team operating within the confines of a single culture [American, Canadian,
French, Japanese] can, by virtue of 'creativity'; alone, create a campaign that will automatically
work across national boundaries. Truly international thinking is born of truly international
teams. The work that is generated by these teams, he says, must begin with 'the common
ground…the central motivational insight which holds good for all of our cultures and all of our
markets.'; Then differences per culture or market are taken into account, so that the essential
idea can be communicated in a way that makes sense. In short: 'First you find the common
ground….Then you dance on it.';
Boots
One brand that works hard at developing and leveraging a core brand in foreign markets is the
U.K.'s Boots. As Laura Mazur notes [Marketing, 25 January 2001], Boots began as 'a
regionally rooted chemist chain,'; but has implemented its global ambitions by focusing on a
single concept: expertise-driven health and beauty treatments. In the company's own words
[boots-plc.com]: 'Our goal is to become the global leader in health and beauty by drawing on
our knowledge and experience to offer excellent products and services through a wide variety
of channels to consumers around the world.'; Rather than copying the entire UK 'formula'; in
new markets, Boots took the core idea and researched ways to implement it in a locally
relevant way. For Japan, where health and beauty products are enormously popular, the
resulting tweak was 'women's personal care with European products.'; Although the jury is still
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out on the company's success, its approach—to move away from the commodity promise
toward a cohesive, brand-driven product, service, and information offering—demonstrates an
intelligent focus on leveraging a standardized brand essence.
The BBC/Granada Media
With a 13% share of the global prime-time television viewing market, the popularity of British
TV during peak viewing hours is second only to the U.S., reports Claire Murphy [Marketing, 22
June 2000]. Broadcasters Granada Media and the BBC have been successful at creating
quality content with a core idea that appeals to viewers overseas, either in its original form
(and then dubbed for local language), or adapted into a 'new'; show with the same theme. A
good example of the former is the hugely successful Teletubbies, the number one BBC
program export in 1999. And although one might think that adaptations would do better, given
the attempt to be more culturally relevant, these can be fairly tricky. For example, Granada's
Cold Feet has been exported to nearly two dozen countries, but flopped in the U.S. when it
was transformed into an American version of itself. On the other hand, London Burning and
The Knock have been more successful overseas, a fact which Granada Media International
managing director Nadene Nohr credits to their 'universal themes of teamwork and adventure.';
Playing off the strength of a core theme, but nodding to the importance of a local twist, the
BBC sells Top of The Pops in Thailand, France, Germany and Switzerland by exporting the
basic program (performances at the BBC studios) and allowing individual countries to add
footage of local bands.
Fast Food @ The Olympics
One has to be careful, when deciding upon a global theme, about how to translate it locally in a
non-offensive way. Carelessness in this respect, however unintentional, can be disastrous. In
his book, Anholt relates a story that aptly illustrates this point. At a recent Olympics, a fast-food
company [which goes unnamed in his account], thought it would make good PR to 'celebrate
the international spirit of the games.'; It did so by plastering the flags of all the participating
nations on 'special editions'; of its food wrappers and takeout boxes. All seemed to be well until
the Saudi team noticed and led an outcry in protest. What the Westerners had failed to realize:
flags mean different things to different nations. To the Saudis, it connotes religious integrity
and unity—which is why the words 'there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet
on Earth'; are printed on it. Therefore, the act of reproducing the Saudi flag in such a cheap,
trivial, commercial way, particularly on the package of a religiously objectionable meat product,
was seen as not only insensitive but insulting. Ultimately, the incident damaged the brand
image of the parent company, the marketing director was fired, the agency that produced the
wrappers lost the account, and of course the packages were scrapped.
Localization
Once the brand has developed a leverageable core concept, the question then becomes how
to actually execute on the local level. There are two primary considerations in this respect.
First, a consistent consumer target must be arrived at—the kind of person who, anywhere in
the world, will want to participate in the brand experience. Once the target is clear, then the
message can be adapted to suit differences in cultural context that will affect how it is received.
For example, as noted earlier, Starbucks offers different food in different countries; yet it
consistently targets 25–35 year olds. Whether the target is 'math geniuses,'; 'mothers of
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infants,'; 'nature-loving retirees,'; or what have you. But its image must be clear so that the key
cultural differences can be addressed.
Europe's Fragmented Media Market
Once a brand and its targets are clearly defined, choosing appropriate outreach vehicles per
market may sound simple: find out what the target does, watches, reads, and so on, and
promote there. Yet obtaining such information can be difficult. For example, in Europe, as
Marketing Week reports [22 March 2001], the proliferation of media vehicles, together with
technologies like TiVo that allow consumers to tune commercials out, means it is unclear who
is watching what and when. Given this situation, it is increasingly unclear whether consumer
targets can be meaningfully grouped in terms of media usage. On the plus side, though, 'the
typical European consumer…actively consumers more media—traditional and new—than ever
before.'; For example, in the case of television viewing, Finns, have increased the amount they
watch by 64 percent over the past decade (though they still spend very little time watching,
about 2½ hours); Italians 32 percent; the Spanish 9 percent; and the British by 6 percent.
They also have increased access to satellite and cable TV, not to mention the Internet and
other media channels. The increased challenge of locating one's targets may necessitate an
increased focus on lifestyle research and consumption habits. Making the effort helps to
ensure that investment in brand marketing at the local level is directed most effectively.
Sainsbury's
Amid the confusion and fragmentation of today's marketplace, sometimes it is not only difficult
to locate one's target but impossible to please them once they are found. Take the experience
of Sainsbury's, a British chain of supermarkets, in Egypt. As Susan Postlewaite reports [Ad
Age Global, 12 March 2001] the company hoped to score big points by bringing 'western
supermarket techniques into the 40-year-old socialist retail scene.'; Indeed, the Western-style
weekly sales, discounts, and other marketing techniques were seemingly well-received at first.
Even now, a year later, one 'delighted'; Egyptian employee interviewed for the article talks
about the thrill of 'the service, the products, the prices.'; However, Egyptian consumers are
caught in a larger, unresolved cultural conflict: Western-style products, and the culture that
goes with them, are both appealing and threatening. So, perhaps inevitably, the chain
generated controversy that has reached a fever pitch. Leaflets given out on the street have
accused the store of the equivalent of stealing, because its prices undercut Egyptian
wholesalers (the store has since pledged not to do so), and rumors of Jewish ownership led to
protests and attacks on several stores. Eventually, the chain was boycotted due to its
association with other Western brands like McDonald's and Coke. It is possible for some to
find room for compromise: shopper Magda Osman, for example, told Postlewaite that she likes
the prices but will only buy Egyptian-made products there, not imported ones. However, the
store is not certain that it has a bright future in Egypt, and is currently rethinking its options.
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4. Closely Link International Brand Managers
In the ongoing shuffle to shape and maintain the brand character worldwide, it is easy to forget
the human dynamics surrounding this effort. However, coordinating the people behind the
brand is an important part of the process. In this there are two key components: hiring the best
people from around the world, and then connecting them to each other virtually.
Recruit Marketing Talent Internationally
According to Laura Mazur [Marketing, 2 December 1999], cultural differences are among the
'hair-raising challenges'; that companies face, particularly when it comes to recruiting
marketing talent outside the home country. 'Gaze at the inhabitants of the business class
section on your next flight,'; she writes. 'They might look the same, but strip away the laptops,
the suits and even the business English and the cultural stereotypes come screaming to the
surface.'; The challenge goes all the way back, in fact, to the core concept called 'marketing';—
because the term is not universally understood in the same way: 'As a UK marketer you can
talk to a German about sales promotion and the words might sound the same but they can
mean different things.'; It is therefore not surprising, she says, that this area—translating
marketing between international colleagues, particularly those in a newly merged entity—is a
new consulting specialty. Since marketing drives the success of the brand, a failure to get
one's people on the same page can spell disaster for the entire organization.
Use Technology For Virtual 'Next Desk'; Communication
According to global business and technology writer Robert Heller [CIO, 1 March 2001],
ensuring close and democratic channels of communication will be critical to success as
companies globalize. First, the traditional vertical organizational structure—in which a set of
foreign offices report up to a headquarters where all major decisions take place—is outmoded.
Not only is it too cumbersome to reach up for approval in the face of rapid-fire competitive
developments, but to force employees to do so misses the point of creating a global
organization. The point, rather, is to create 'a seamless web designed to take full advantage of
all its global opportunities.'; DaimlerChrysler, he says, is an example of this mistake; the new
entity quickly began to operate top-down and stifle the possibilities for international
cooperation. A truly global organization, he says, uses technology infrastructure as a means to
an end, to enable open and productive communication at all levels, with the ultimate aim of
'knowledge shared in real-time,'; enabling ''next-desk' accessibility.'; Armed with autonomy,
communication and information, employees of the global corporation can become empowered
to achieve the ideal: 'a global center of excellence, in which each part contributes equally and
on equal terms to the whole.';
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
A twenty-month campaign by the U.K.'s Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, writes Ruth
Mortimer, is a good illustration of how the global communications strategy advocated by Heller
can be implemented. RICS had decided to take on a more global approach, yet wanted to
keep the organization cohesive at the same time. The resulting strategy was twofold. On the
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organiztaional level, a central council with multinational representation was created to govern
the organization. At the same time, sophisticated communications technology was
implemented so that offices could communicate with each other easily.
5. Research, Research, Research
It's not the most glamorous task, nor a substitute for vision, but research is a key component of
global brand strategy. In an environment in which mistakes are costly, it is sensible to
investigate every context in which marketing will take place. From social, political and
economic trends to consumers at the individual level, understanding 'what is going on'; better
informs brand managers as to how to adapt the brand's essence effectively and avoid major
pitfalls along the way.
Levi Strauss & Co.
The extensive research program at Levi's, and its results, illustrate both the importance of
learning about the consumer as well as the limits of research.
On the one hand, as Temporal writes [in Branding in Asia], Levi's does 'a considerable amount
of research…to see if there are similarities or differences in what might appear to be a global
consumer segment, and whether local adaptations are required.'; Generally speaking, Levi's
targets 15–19 year old males as its major consumer group, and to understand it on an ongoing
basis, numerous focus groups are conducted. The company views its brand as having a
personality with eight characteristics: original, masculine, sexy, youthful, rebellious, individual,
free, and American. The ongoing goal is how to stay true to that personality without running
afoul of culture. Thus in Japan, where rebellion is seen as negative, that aspect of the brand's
personality is not emphasized. In Asia generally, advertising is more literal than in the West,
since innuendos are less easily recognized. Following on all this attention to the consumer, a
recent Global Brand Equity Study by by Millward Brown International found that Levi's ranked
first among Asians in the 15–29 year old age group in measures like 'quality,'; 'sexy,'; 'cool,';
'youthful,'; and 'sets the trends.';
Research has also led Levi's, says Temporal, to think about the future impact of fashion trends
on the Levi's consumer. As a result, they have created a portfolio of new brands, like Dockers,
Slates, and Silvertab [as well as new subbrands derived from them, like the lower-priced
Dockers Classic]. Yet Ian Corcoran [Brandchannel.com, 26 February 2001] is doubtful about
whether these new efforts will strengthen the parent brand in the long term, or dilute it. He
notes that although margins/volumes 'appear to be slowly turning around,'; the company has
lost global brand value, as measured by Interbrand in its latest [2000] Brand Valuation Survey,
as well as market share. 'Despite its best efforts to reposition the brand and repeated attempts
to differentiate itself,'; Corcoran writes, 'Levi's continues to lose ground to its leaner, more agile
opponents.'; The problem, he believes, may be the basic one: with all the new brands Levi's is
launching, the consumer is likely confused as to what the name Levi's is actually associated
with. Thus, although research can and does help a global brand establish ongoing relevance, it
should not be taken so far that the original brand vision is diluted.
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6. Leverage The Country-Of-Origin Effect
Undoubtedly, and especially in a politically charged world, a brand's country of origin can
attract, repel, or polarize consumers in a particular market. American products immediately
come to mind, because of their notable tendency to do all three of these things. The root of this
reality, of course, is cultural stereotypes. As Misha Glenny writes [Wired, 9 February 2001]:
'Just as Americans see Europeans as hopelessly stodgy, many Europeans really do believe
Americans are uncultured.'; As Temporal notes [Branding in Asia], 'In many Asian countries…it
is by no means uncommon to hear shoppers exclaim…'I do not want to buy that brand—it is
made here.''; The more the customer knows the brand, he argues, the less the perceived risk
and the less relevant this factor becomes. However, until there is certainty that country-oforigin
is irrelevant, a brand must operate as if it were a significant factor.
Japan = Technology
One of the strongest country-of-origin effects in existence today is undoubtedly the link
between Japan and technology-based products: Pokemon, PlayStation, Digimon, Power
Rangers, Tamagotchi, Furby, AIBO [a robotic dog], i-mode…the list goes on and on. In a
recent article for Marketing [21 September 2000], Robert Gray discusses the factors behind
this strong association. In the U.K., he writes, Leo Burnett asked consumers to describe
Japanese products, and heard words like: 'futuristic,'; 'innovative,'; 'unusual,'; 'electronic,';
'compact,'; 'gadgetry,'; and more. The link is reinforced on several fronts. First, a 'love of
gadgetry'; is part and parcel of contemporary Japanese culture. Second, Japanese companies
are dedicated to research and development, which keeps them on the forefront of innovation.
Third is a uniquely appealing aesthetic sensibility. Han Vandijk, the head of planning at Tokyobased
ad agency Beacon (created by the merger of Leo Burnett and D'Arcy) calls the
Japanese 'masters…of sensory marketing,'; commenting that 'everything—except 90% of their
cars—looks just amazing.';
Spain: Camper Shoes
Thos who have never heard of Camper shoes probably will soon. In a profile for Fast Company
[April 2001] Ron Lieber chronicles the astounding success of this Spanish footwear brand,
which explicitly traces its appeal to culture: "Born on the island of Majorca, Camper shoes owe
their quirky design sensibility—and their trendy market appeal—to geographical, cultural, and
historical heritage….It all starts with Camper's sense of place." The shoes, some pairs of which
are mismatched on purpose, has been outselling every other brand of casual shoe in Spain for
the past ten years, and is now in the process of global expansion. On every pair of shoes, the
company tells its story, via a tag or brochure that communicates its Majorcan, island, farmerfootwear
roots (In Catalan, 'Camper'; means 'peasant';). And although founder Lorenzo Fluxa
denies that Camper is a brand, its message is local, real, and instantly recognizable. Design
director Guillermo Ferrer reiterates, 'We make Majorcan shoes. If they don't want our product,
we…close the factory and go home.'; In fact, it is precisely this stubbornness that makes the
shoes so attractive on a global level, argues Lieber: 'Camper's old-economy unwillingness to
compromise has made it hot.';
12
7. Engage The Consumer Online
Whatever the ups and downs of the tech market, there is no question about its lasting impact
on the world: people today are wired. And although the 'digital divide'; continues to exist, it's a
gulf that is likely to be erased in the near future, as the technology that fuels Internet access
becomes faster, cheaper, and more accessible to all. In the meantime, particularly for brands
that seek to attain global status, going online is a necessary part of an overall strategy that
aims for worldwide recognition and appreciation.
Yet contrary to what one might think, going online is not important because it is possible to do
so. Rather, it is necessary because of a culture shift that has developed hand-in-hand with the
Web: consumers around the world now expect a great deal of information about the products
they buy, and to be able to converse about those products freely. It is too easy to
misunderstand the Web as an advanced technical tool rather than the human connection that it
really is, perhaps because technology is easier to quantify, justify and manage. As Bruce Davis
notes in Brand Strategy [4 October 2000], 'Business makes sense of the web by creating
departments, acronyms and buzzwords - www this, e-this, dotcoms and 'clicks and mortar'.
However, these labels mask the wider lack of understanding of what the web really is. It is not
a 'thing', not a single technology, but a cultural phenomenon driven by technology.'; It's the
same mistake that gets made in the realm of customer service and internal communication:
technology should be used facilitate relationships, not mask deficiencies in them.
Obviously, companies can and should use the Internet to portray brand personality on a global
scale, as well as to disseminate information. But the most powerful thing they can do is use the
'Net to interact with both existing and potential consumers. Done right, says Simon Roberts
[Brand Strategy, December 2000] it's a powerful strategy, for it demonstrates a company's
honesty. Rather than insisting on an artificial construction of the brand enforced through all
channels, the organization interacts with the consumer so that a more vital, 'real'; definition of
the brand can emerge. This is not to say that the brand should not be managed, by rather that
it can be all the more dynamic if allowed to emerge somewhat interactively, rather than hamhandedly
forced upon consumers from a remote corporate boardroom. As Roberts puts it, 'the
emancipation of conversation [via the Internet] mean …companies…are more transparent,
whether they want to be or not. It is no longer sufficient to have a nice outer layer to project
what you see as your image.';
United Airlines
If a company does not take advantage of the opportunity to faciliate conversations about itself,
it leaves a gap that may be filled in unwanted ways. A case study of such a failure, says
Roberts, is United Airlines. Without an online channel to discuss their frustrations, consumers
created their own—the ironically named 'untied.com';—a site dedicated to the venting of
complaints. 'Untied is the direct result of United's desire to face down complaints,'; says
Roberts, 'to pretend they don't exist and.'; This example demonstrates the ineffectiveness of
corporate censorship, particularly in an age when any literate twelve-year-old can set up a
homemade website.
13
Surf
Going online can also be a great way to engage consumers in a 'brand experience'; that draws
them in more subtly. Consider Unilever's interactive online soap opera, Foam and Away. The
program is designed to promote Surf washing powder among a difficult-to-reach group, U.K.'s
college student population, 'well-known soap opera addicts.'; As Harriet Lane Fox [Brand
Strategy, 2 November 2000] reports, the company claimed success for the effort early on,
citing 2000 hits for the show in the first week of release. Yet the strategy goes beyond creating
an experience—it engages the consumer by allowing them to decide what happens next.
Although, for various reasons, some believe the strategy is flawed, the underlying process is
on-target: creating a virtual 'brand story'; that actively engages consumers in order to drive it
forward.
8. Confront Brand Controversy
Related to the need to engage consumers online is the necessity of responding to the
concerns they volunteer—not only about one's particular brand, but in regard to corporate
power in general. Naomi Klein's No Logo: Taking Aim At The Brand Bullies [Picador, 2000] is
generally regarded as a watershed book in this respect, with its careful documentation of the
growing power of brands and consumer resistance to them. As Dale Buss notes [Brand
Marketing, November 2000] there is a tendency among marketers to deny the importance of
this trend: 'Brand marketers generally dismiss concerns about popular resistance to their
messages and to their properties. They insist that consumer disappointment and even activist
outrage will remain isolated and specific…not coalescing into any widespread dismissal of
what they have to say.'; In an interview with Buss [Brand Marketing, November 2000], Klein
herself comments that 'the strength of response internationally is not something I dared to
expect….This movement is just exploding.'; Even brand executives, she said, are contacting
her because they are 'completely conflicted about these issues—about values that they
thought were archaic and that nobody shared.';
In fact, it is difficult to dismiss the high-profile protests against globalization and corporatism
that have been taking place around the world, not to mention the big brands—Ford's Firestone,
Hike, Taco Bell, Pepsi—that are being taken to task by consumers for various perceived
missteps. In another article in Brand Marketing [January 2001], Lance Secretan goes so far as
to call the anti-brand movement 'The New Revolution…driven by a group of people who have
name the Global Enterprise as their nemesis.'; Via numerous planned disruptions, coordinated
online and off, these activists 'believe, right or wrong…that the current hubris and swaggering
style of modern corporations and their leaders must be reined in.';
What can companies to to deal with this? Secretan argues that they must go beyond words
and genuinely change—matching 'a passion for caring capitalism'; against the passion of the
'New Revolutionaries,'; because right now, strict corporatism is cold and bland in comparison.
Corporations, he says, should not try to suppress the new wave of activism but rather integrate
its vision into their own, to develop 'a dream of what they can fashion together—not apart or in
opposition….to achieve the best part of each other's dreams in a world that is real.'; In other
words, this means bringing anti-brand activists into the corporations as full partners.
There are other possibilities, says Buss, based on the suggestions of various marketing
experts. One of these is to discuss strategic plans with consumers throughout. BP Amoco, for
14
example, is now repositioning itself as an environmentally friendly energy provider after just
such an initiative. Companies should also publicize their strong points, particularly the close
relationships they have with consumers. They should also make every attempt to keep the
brand promise—and admit when things may be going awry.
Philip Morris
In today's marketing environment, it is difficult to think of a more vilified company than Philip
Morris. And although the company has made some steps toward acknowledging its opponents,
says Nick Thornton [Brandchannel.com, 5 March 2001], its behavior internationally has not
exactly been consistent. For example, the David Davies, VP of Corporate Affairs, Philip Morris
Europe has been quoted as saying that 'sensible regulation of tobacco benefits society and
consumers everywhere. It also benefits our company's business.'; The company has an antiyouth-
smoking council. It even runs promotional ads in the U.S., showing its pro-community
activities benefiting the poor, elderly, at-risk young, victims of domestic violence, and so on.
Yet on the other hand, an internal memo revealed to the public says that 'today's teenager is
tomorrow's customer.'; Warnings on cigarette labels are not as strong in the U.S. as in Canada.
And although the Marlboro Man has been banned from billboards, Ad Age Global [30 March
2001] reports that in Vienna, the company is bringing him back—in female form. A new
commercial featuring her, called 'Lady Mustang,'; was shown in 4,000 German theatres on
March 22. In fact, reports Thornton, Philip Morris is not restricted from marketing its cigarettes
abroad, and wonders aloud whether this fact has anything to do with a 68 percent rise in non-
US revenues for Philip Morris International between 1993 and 1997 alone [ from $15.7 to
$26.3 billion in U.S. dollars]. In response to the hypocrisy of tobacco companies, reports
Thornton, anti-tobacco marketing is now being used as a weapon against them. For example,
the American Legacy Foundation commercial, shown during the most recent Superbowl [cost:
$2.3 million], depicts people talking about the cancer-caused deaths of people they loved.
Ultimately, Thornton writes, 'the effect of the ads is deep: While Philip Morris's 'Working To
Make A Difference' Campaign succeeds at tugging a few heartstrings, the American Legacy
ads wrench your stomach.';
9. Take Advantage of Opportunity
Sometimes a company brings a new brand vision to an'; unsuspecting'; world: examples like
Virgin, McDonald's, Coca-Cola, and Camper immediately spring to mind. Yet organizations
alert to opportunity can also work the opposite way. They can look for ideas that are growing in
appeal around the world, and turn them into successful brands. Renewed spirituality, 'the new
fatherhood,'; nutraceuticals, child empowerment, and more are all examples of concepts
without brands that embody them. We now examine one of these concepts in greater depth.
Organic Food
As Anna Morton reports [Brand Strategy, 02 November 2000], the idea of organic food is
becoming more and more appealing to consumers, fueled by a number of converging factors.
From the consumer standpoint, there is increased concern about personal health, food safety,
and the health of the environment. From a market perspective, although organic food has been
15
available for some time, there is now wider availability, lower prices, growing involvement in
the part of supermarkets, and of course increased awareness among consumers. Legislation
and state support have also fueled this trend: in the European Union, for example, common
certification has been adopted for organic plant production, and farmers and other organic food
producers have been provided with subsidies. Finally, in what might be called 'The Tipping
Point'; for this trend [after Malcolm Gladwell's book], recent food scares and outbreaks of
disease have jolted food safety issues into the consciousness of the average consumer. And
although the panic in Western Europe likely explains its status as the number one market for
organic food [2000 sales were US $9.5 billion, versus $8 billion in the U.S. and $2.5 billion in
Japan], Euromonitor expects the market for organic food to grow around the world, including
developing countries. Right now, the global market value is $21.6 billion, but is projected to
reach nearly $60 billion by 2005, with the U.S. the number one market for organic foods by
2004. Morton notes that although 'strong branding'; is beginning to emerge in organic food in
Britain, major multinationals like Nestlé, Heinz, and Danone are also getting in the game with
niche organic food lines. Clearly, organic food is a commodity that has evolved into a concept
with global appeal—and the opportunity to create a superbrand virtually 'overnight.';
10. Reposition as Necessary
If there is a season for all things, then a lack of success is unfortunately one of them. Part of
global brand strategy is confronting this reality and repositioning accordingly. We now turn to
two successful brands dealing with a lack of success in the international marketplace. One of
them, Wal-Mart, is in need of repositioning; the other, Guinness, has already made this
attempt. The experiences of both brands are instructive.
Wal-Mart
It's an American brand to be reckoned with—but in Europe the impact of Wal-Mart has been
somewhat less stellar than expected. As Thomas Grose reports [Time Europe, 15 March
2001], although Wal-Mart announced a 16 percent increase in sales between 2000–2001 to
$191.3 billion, and a 17 percent increase in earnings, to a staggering $6.3 billion, its European
operation is relatively slow. One investment bank, WestLB Panmure, comments in the article
that 'Wal-Mart has not yet succeeded in markets that it cannot drive a truck to.'; The company
puts a bright spin on performance, noting that operating profits overseas rose 36 percent to
$1.1 billion, but as Grose notes, this represents just a 6 percent return [23 percent is typical in
the U.S.] when one factors in the $17 billion Wal-Mart invested in going abroad. In Germany
alone, where Wal-Mart acquired the Wertkauf, Interspar, and Asda chains of supermarkets, it
commands only a 1.1 percent share of the market in food sales. Analysts say losses there
have reached $200 million per year. The reason for its lack of success? Where Germany is
concerned, at least, Wal-Mart is competing on price in a market where price is generally low
and margins are small. Moreover, the company does not have the same scale as it does in the
U.S. In order to succeed, at least in Europe, it appears the company will have to reposition
itself more along the lines of a brand promise than a commodity sell.
16
Guinness
The brand personality of Guinness, writes Nick Thornton [Brandchannel.com, 5 February
2001], has always been tied to its Irish roots. Guinness, the number one alcoholic beverage in
Ireland, is known for its charitable contributions to a land that is known for its economic and
political challenges. The beer brings to mind associations of 'downing a night's worth of warm
stout in a poorly lit pub while affable countrymen discuss poetry and politics or [are] warbling a
few verses of 'Irish eyes are smiling.''; However, times are changing, and Guinness is making
an effort to change with them. Rather than insisting on marketing its well-known brand
essence—and it could, with the company reporting that sales abroad are 'booming';—
Guinness is trying to reposition that essence to conform to the twenty- and thirtysomethings
who 'now have plenty of money in pocket, plenty of exposure to worldwide brands…and plenty
of reason to celebrate.'; The company is now selling Guinness Extra Cold in the U.K., for
young people who dislike their beer served traditionally warm. And they have patented a new
system, advertised via commercials with dancers, to increase 'the usability of Guinness on the
dance floor,'; in the words of HHCL advertising agency brand director Gillian Wilson, who has
been working with the company. The new concept? According to Thornton, one could say that
all the new promotional work consistently portrays the idea that 'intense emotions or
experiences come with drinking Guinness.'; Whether that is true or not, or effective or not, or
consistent or not, it demonstrates Guinness' willingness to roll with the punches and do what it
takes to succeed wherever it is sold.
V. Conclusion: The Future of 'Global Culture';
Creating and implementing a global brand strategy is a huge undertaking, from the perspective
of time and effort invested as well as cost. The task would undoubtedly be greatly simplified if
all consumers were participants in a single global culture, which could then be used as a
referent. Although some may argue that there will never be such a thing, due to the multitude
of conflicts that exist today [not to mention language differences], the world is closer than ever
to realizing this possibility. And though the world's citizens are accustomed to numerous
traditional values, attitudes, and beliefs, there are a number of existing frameworks through
which these can be understood and even reconciled.
Ultimately, the reality is that consumers are routinely crossing national borders. They meet in
person, via air travel, as well as via shared television, film, radio, music, food, access to the
Web, and more. The fact is that the cultures of the world are already overlapping. In the future,
they will likely converge far more significantly than we can imagine today.

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