Conditions favouring global brands

Certain situations make global communication and brand policy easier. They are linked to the product, to the markets, to the force of brand identity and also to the organisation of companies.

Social and cultural changes provide a favourable platform for global brands. Under these circumstances, part of the market no longer identifies with long-established local values and seeks new models on which to build its identity. Turning its back on prevailing national values, it is open to outside influence from abroad. In drinking Coca-Cola, we are drinking the American myth – in other words the fresh, open, bubbling, young and dynamic all-American images.

Youngsters form a target in search of identity and in need of their own reference points. In an effort to stand out from the rest, they draw their sources of identity from media-personified cultural models. Levi’s are linked with a mythical image of breaking away down the long, lonely road – the rebel. Nike encourages them to strive to surpass themselves, turning its back on the national confines of race and culture.

Women also constitute a clientele looking for new models; Estée Lauder could portray the free, independent and seductive woman, and use this image for its own globalisation. Brands corresponding to new eating habits also have to impose forcefully their view of the world in order to rally consumers in search of change. In this way, the brand is seen as a new flagwaver.

New, unexplored sectors have not, by definition, inherited a system of values. Everything is there for the making, and it’s up to the brand to do it. This is why there is nothing to prevent the global marketing of high-tech, computer, internet, photographic, electronic and telecommunications or service brands. Dell can, and must, spread its brand everywhere, because brands themselves are the only point of reference in these markets.

Only the themes of the campaigns will change to take into account the country’s level of economic development, hence its preoccupation. Globalisation also applies to new services: Hertz, Avis and Europcar globalised their campaigns by portraying the stereotype of the hurried businessman – and in any event an Italian businessman wants to identify more with being a businessman than with being an Italian.

The argument of novelty works also for McDonald’s, Malibu or Corona! The world has been standardised by the increasing and levelling power of technology – this is Levitt’s point (1983). Its products no longer stem from local culture but belong to our times. They are the fruit of science and time. They therefore escape the local cultural contingencies that hinder global communication.

In general terms, globalisation is possible – and indeed desirable – in markets which revolve around mobility. This applies to multimedia, the hotel industry, car rental, airlines, and also the transfer of pictures and sounds. When the brand is perceived as being international, its authority and expertise are automatically accepted. Again, brands have a clear opportunity to organise and structure those market sectors which symbolise the disappearance of time and space constraints. It is their role to deploy their system of values, which can only be unique faced with mobile clients.

Globalisation is possible when the brand is totally built into a cultural stereotype. AEG, Bosch, Siemens, Mercedes and BMW rest secure in the ‘Made in Germany’ model, which opens up the global market, since the stereotype invoked is a collective symbol breaking national bounds. It conjures up a meaning of robust performance in any country. The Barilla name is another stereotype built on the classic Italian image of tomato sauce, pasta, a carefree way of life, songs and sun. Volvo, Ericson, ABB and Saab epitomise Sweden.

Finally, certain brands represent archetypes or ‘universal truths’, to paraphrase Zaltman (Wathieu, Zaltman and Liu, 2003). Snuggles fabric softener not only arouses the same notion in every country – that of gentleness (which is not in itself original) – but also the image of reliance, love and security as in one’s childhood, as symbolised by the teddy bear. This is why, in order to express the notion of ‘snuggling, caressing, cajoling’, the brand name is translated as Cajoline in France, Kuchelweib in Germany, Yumos in Turkey, Mimosin in Spain and Cocolino in Italy.

La Vache-Qui-Rit, which corresponds to the archetype of the generous mother, is likewise translated (Die Lächende Kuhe or The Laughing Cow). Marlboro embodies the archetype of the macho man – alone and untouched, authentic, yet modernised and popularised throughout the world in Western sagas of the conquest of America. Maybelline expresses American beauty. Lancôme expresses the French woman.

Several of the above factors explain why luxury brands and griffes have gained a worldwide appeal. In the first place, they bear a message – each creator is expressing his or her own personal values. They were not conceived as a result of any market study or consumer analysis from one country to the next. It is the creator’s identity and his or her desire to express his or her own values that form the automatic basis of the brand’s identity, in no matter what part of the world.

Second, behind every luxury brand there is a guiding standard – sometimes even an archetype. Cacharel and Nina Ricci represent the dawning of femininity, a dawn tinted with shyness and modesty. Yves Saint Laurent stands for female independence, even rebellion. Finally, the ‘Made in France’ label and the myth of Paris imbue these brands with definitive cultural undertones. All these are reasons why such brands are able to impose their own vision of the world on national outlooks. Like any religion, brands that set out to convert must believe in their message and spread it unerringly among the multitudes.

On the whole, brands whose identity focuses on the product and its roots can more easily go global. Jack Daniel’s whiskey builds the pivot of its brand identity from its distillery and its tradition, which leads to advertising which has been remarkably stable throughout time and similar in all countries. Even though it is working with different agencies, the articles and conditions are such that each one produces commercials or announcements that are typically Jack Daniel’s.

Certain organisational factors also ease the shift to a global brand. One-man companies and brands that bear the name of their creator who is still alive are from the start more global. Countries have less ability to modulate locally the identity of Ralph Lauren since the head of the company is precisely Ralph Lauren. It is also true for Bic or Paloma Picasso.

American companies are more ready to globalise because marketing on their domestic market is in essence global, considering the social and cultural diversity of the American melting-pot. Organisational factors also point in the same direction. When expanding towards Europe, these companies created European headquarters from the beginning, based most often in Brussels or London. Individual countries therefore had to account for their results to these European centres. As seen from the US, there was very early on the need for a centre for ‘European operations’, for considering Europe as a single and homogeneous area.

Finally, a single centre for production in Europe or South America is also a strong factor for globalisation, at least for products. The fact that one factory centralises the production of detergents for Procter & Gamble in the whole of Europe leads to a standard product offer throughout and to the spread of technical innovations to all countries at the same time. In markets where the product advantage is key in the positioning of the brand, this centralisation of production and of R&D leaves little room for differentiation on a local basis.

Disruption versus optimising products

Apart from factors linked to the market or to the organisations themselves, the same company may have to follow two different policies according to the status of its products. One analysis that explains the differences in observed behaviour is linked to the type of marketing. Certain products are the optimization of an existing offer. Others are complete breaks from what is on offer, innovations even to the extent of creating a new segment that did not exist before.

This distinction has an impact on the chosen international policy. Optimisation marketing leads to more flexibility when there is a need to adapt to local conditions. Strong innovation, however, that which conveys new vision, tends to impose itself on all countries and hardly needs any adapting.

Generally speaking, a strong new concept is capable of breaking the rules and borders. For example, alcoholic beverages are generally promoted using local strategies. What is more cultural than alcohol? Moreover, it is drunk by adults and as we get older our tastes and preferences solidify (unlike with soft-drinks for teenagers). However, very new concepts in this field are able to have a worldwide impact: Corona, Absolut, Bailey’s, Malibu. It is the same for cheese: La Vache-Qui-rit is a global concept.

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