Making local brands converge

A classic strategy for globalisation consists of unifying the local brands inherited during the growth of the groups. Big groups have, historically speaking, often chosen a strategy of external growth through the buying up of strong local brands. The industrial sector typically uses this strategy: Schneider has never stopped purchasing local leading brands of electronics, for instance.

In buying these well-established reputations, these companies were able to smooth their way through local markets. This approach also involves fast-moving consumer goods. The former BSN took over the famous Belgian biscuit brand, Beukelaer, the local equivalent of Lu. The Swedish group Molnycke bought Nana in France, which then joined the Scandinavian brand of sanitary protection, Libresse.

Given this patchwork type of situation where there is not much standardisation in the brand portfolio, companies proceed to regroup brands around the same positioning. Two scenarios are then possible:

  • The company changes the names of the local brands by substituting the name of its own brand.
  • In the second scenario, the company decides to keep the local brand equities connected to the brand names. General Motor’s branch in Europe is called Opel while in the UK it is known as Vauxhall. However, these brands do need to converge.

The harmonising process of a brand portfolio is quite tricky and should always be conducted on a voluntary basis, since the initial situations of each separate brand name are never the same. A systematic programme of unification according to the style, but above all according to the product basis, must be implemented. The example of Mölnycke is interesting from this point of view.

In the female hygiene market, the intimate relationship which has slowly been built up with the client is a key factor in the capital of the brand, of course, there is the product benefit, but there is also the climate of a relationship within the brand identity.

This relationship must be maintained. Having judged it necessary to preserve the brand capital attached to Nana in Southern Europe and to Libresse in Northern Europe, at the same time as Procter & Gamble was entering the market with Always, the Mölnycke group progressed in three steps.

The first step consisted of determining together what the unique positioning of these two brands could be. The positioning revolved around the concept of what is ‘natural’. Deeper examination revealed that this concept gave rise to different readings, according to the country under examination. In Scandinavian countries, the home territory for Libresse, nature in its strictest sense was evoked, whereas in the home countries of Nana nature connoted spontaneity.

The second step consisted of bringing the brand image of Libresse and Nana closer together as they were quite different to start with. Libresse had to develop a more feminine image and more humour, going so far as to include a man in the advertisement for the first time. As for the Nana woman, she had to evolve in her commercials, become more natural with less frivolity, more pared down to the essential, more thoughtful.

This second step was brought about by specific communications, but then having achieved a single concept for the brand, the third step consisted of launching new products shared by both brands with the same commercial.

In conclusion, analysis of this internationalization strategy enables the definition of the typical pathway to follow in all countries with similar constraints. The process is made up of seven basic steps (see Table below). A consensus of opinion about the kernel of the brand, the deep identity to which all subsidiaries must adhere, is the essential starting point of these seven steps. This adhesion is revealed through visible signs such as logos, codes, tone and style. The ultimate phase is the quest for commercials that resemble each other more and more, until a single commercial is possible for all.

How to make local brands converge

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