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Global brands connect across cultures

News, 26 April 2017
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GLOBAL: Becoming a successful global brand requires an understanding of local cultures, lifestyles and ideologies, according to two industry figures.

In a WARC Best Practice paper, How global brands resonate across cultures, Sue Mizera and Alessandra Cotugno, senior executives at Young & Rubicam, observe that the standardisation of brand name, logo, image, packaging and brand positioning simply enables brand recognition in multiple markets.

But to be truly successful, they argue, brands need to adapt their communications to reflect local values and culture – no easy task in a "global brand-scape [that] is a minefield of complexity, diversity and cultural nuances".

For example, there are regional skews in how people relate to global and local brands. In the East, global brands are seen as daring, high quality and trendy, while local brands are seen as reliable, popular and down to earth.

By contrast, global brands in the West are seen as distinctive, leaders, high performance and unique while local brands are seen as best brands, trustworthy, straightforward and obliging. "Not one attribute overlaps," the authors note.

Further, different brand values emerge as more important in different countries: Germans like the notion of directness, for example, while Indonesians prefer kindness and South Koreans favour energetic brands.

Global brands "immerse themselves not just in the language and habits of a culture but in its value system, vernacular, idioms, humour, customs, beliefs and philosophies," say Mizera and Cotugno, holding up IKEA as an example of a "masterful" practitioner of these arts.

Such brands connect to the lifestyle and, bringing "an outsider's caring and concerned perspective", they solve local cultural problems.

They are able to present alternative views, take a stand and stimulate debate – witness the award-winning Share the Load campaign in India for Procter & Gamble's Ariel laundry detergent which not only challenged hierarchies of gender and status but doubled sales volumes.

A common feature of the most successful global brands, such as Disney, McDonald's and Coca-Cola, the authors observe, is that they "are masters at re-engineering their brands, culture to culture, while never, ever losing their souls".

As well as exploring what global brands do, Mizera and Cotugno examine how they do it – by re-aligning their marketing to put global even more in the service of local.

"It's vital to dial up and dial down, from central creation to local adaptation and back to central for revisions, thus delivering the brand's DNA, appropriately nuanced, and fostering new ways of working," they say.

Data sourced from WARC

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