Grab Opportunity in Global Branding
By Tom Dougherty
Many well established national and regional brands see global brand expansion as the golden egg. The promise of new emerging consumer markets in many of the world’s burgeoning economic regions is a great lure for these brands. China and India, for example, have emerging middle class consumer markets that look to provide many consumer brands (US and European) with the opportunity to grow market share. To navigate these global branding fertile markets and increase your market share it is important that you understand brand dynamics. Sadly, many manufactures do not.
They will plow these new waters with the same reckless brand management that has led them to believe that their domestic success is a result of something other than heavy advertising spending. Understanding how a brand’s permission sets the stage for future success in the market is essential, and the lessons are even more telling when you move the brand into a different culture.
Global Branding Strategy
The root of your global branding essence and strategy is found in the belief system of the target audience you are trying to influence. It is not an amalgam of product benefits, category descriptors, or “branded colors.”
When customers choose a particular brand, within a category of offerings, they choose to purchase a brand that seems connected to their own sense of self. The more closely the DNA of the brand resembles the genetic makeup of the target, the more apt they are to prefer it, the greater that attraction, and the greater are your margins. When you think about a foreign culture (foreign to your own current success) you can quickly see why understanding the preceptive underpinnings of that culture are the keys to your success.
A Global Brand Case In Point
Here is a prime example. When P&G launched its low suds Ariel soap detergent (its high-end European brand) in Egypt many years ago, they believed that their global brand was tied up in efficacy (in other words, they had no brand at all). Worse still, they simply cloned the advertising from successful European (read British) commercials from the period. Lacking any REAL brand DNA, P&G sold its low-suds detergent with the same dramatic dynamic that worked so well in the UK. Here is the plot:
YOUNG WIFE: Wife has switched to Ariel.
NOSEY MOTHER-IN-LAW: Mother-in-law barges in and chastises the young wife for the choice saying, “I always use (insert generic brand here).”
YOUNG WIFE: Wife washes two loads, one using Ariel, and the other using “NOSEY MOTHER-IN-LAW ‘s detergent” and they compare the results. The winner — Ariel out-cleans “NOSEY MOTHER-IN-LAW ‘s brand”.
NOSEY MOTHER-IN-LAW: Mother-in-law retreats with her tail between her legs.
YOUNG WIFE: Wife is the hero. It was too bad no one bothered to find out that in Egypt, mother-in-law is an honored person. She is seen as an authority and help — not the meddlesome stereotype that we find in Europe. The result… the launch was a major flop.
No REAL Brands
In the absence of REAL brand, the global brand management team was forced to look for solutions based on efficacy and they failed miserably. The cleaning process in Egypt was amazingly complicated and time consuming. The wife, who’s been responsible for the washing, would spend hours each day cleaning the family wash.
She would mix detergents, shred bars of soap, and mix a cacophony of ingredients that would baffle a scientist. She would boil the clothes, hand ring them, wash them in a machine, and put them through a host of other processes that took half a day. Finally, she would proudly hang the wash out on the back clothesline for the admiration of the neighbors. Her result— amazingly clean clothes and a full day of labor.
A Cultural Bias Will Lead Your Global Branding Awry
From the cultural bias of the European brand managers, it seemed like a great idea to “BRAND” Ariel as the laundry detergent that “saves you time” (for the same result). The idea was that the busy WIFE would gladly forgo the complicated and time-consuming ordeal that she currently employed for faster results. Sounds like a no-brainer.
The problem is that no one looked at the preceptive underpinnings in the culture. They assumed that the values found in European and American cultures was universal and that the Egyptian housewife coveted these same values. They were wrong. Once again, the brand launch floundered. It turned out that difficulty of process and complicated chemistry was one of the ways in which the Egyptian housewife measured her value to her family.
Don’t Make the Global Brand Mistake
Without such an ordeal, she felt less valuable. Even though the outcome was the same, amazingly clean clothes, the cumbersome and time consuming process was preferred because it reinforced a value that said “the harder I work, the more valuable I am.” This is a great case in point, one whose lessons on global branding strategy development are far reaching.
It certainly demonstrates how important it is to delve deeply into the DNA of your target audience when expanding into new cultures. It also demonstrates that brand management, for the most part, is not BRAND (or global branding) management, It’s product management. Had the discipline of looking at a brand as a reflection of a customer’s beliefs and values instead of product attributes been part of the P&G culture, they never would have made these brand strategy mistakes. (Read more about our process for creating a global brand here)