Posts Tagged 'global branding'

The Truth About Global Marketing — or — Drop the BRICs!

The NYAMA has just finished fielding an important new study on marketing in Emerging Markets. Come to the NYAMA offices for headline findings and a discussion on global marketing with senior executives from Ketchum, Voltan Capital and Charney Research along with WSJ’s frontier markets correspondent Dan Keeler!

If you do any marketing in the emerging markets, this study and this event is for you!

It is next Tuesday, April 21st. It’s free, but space is limited, so sign up now.

Some important stuff:  The study is being spearheaded by Prof. Don Sexton, president of the NYAMA, and Craig Charney PhD, head of the NYAMA Insights Committee. The study is made possible through the generous support of ResearchNOW and Charney Research

See you there!

Corporate Narrative Arcs – or – What’s Past is Prologue to the Future*

Every company has a powerful tool to build a strong internal culture.

It is the narrative arc of the company.

The narrative arc is a collection of individual story lines that weave together the larger story of the company.  It starts with the inspiration driving the founder(s)  to form the company, driving them to the early successes, and from the inevitable failures (generously called teachable moments) to the successes which reaffirm the company employees’ sense of common purpose.  It answers either implicitly or explicitly the questions of employees and customers alike:

  • Why was this company founded?
  • What is the common purpose that we all share?
  • What are the famous past accomplishments in which we take pride?
  • What are the dark moments in the corporate history, the turning points which demonstrate the resilience and resourcefulness of the company’s people?

All of these questions are answered through telling the corporate story.  In essence, the narrative arc conveys a sense of destiny, inevitability, a unified purpose and direction behind the company’s trajectory.  Done right it points to the direction the company will take in the future.

*Or, to slightly paraphrase the lines from the Tempest by Shakespeare (our favorite creative director) what is past is prologue for the future of the company.

You can visualize it like this (thanks to Mike Prentice who is now at the U of Mich):

Corporate_NarrativeArc

All too often companies overlook the power of their past to shape perceptions of the future.  Sometimes they deliberately leave out portions of the story that make them feel uncomfortable.  Other times the stories have been forgotten from disuse, hidden away in archives and the fading memories of former employees, leaving behind a form of corporate amnesia.  Or the stories have gotten stale from they way there are told.

When you understand the cumulative power of these individual story lines, you will understand why some companies continue to mine the stories of their past and retell them today.  It isn’t limited to small companies like Patagonia.  They are big companies like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, IBM, GE and Lockheed Martin.

Example on Effective Use of Corporate Narrative Arc:  Lockheed Martin

100Years

This year (2012-2013) Lockheed Martin is celebrating a major milestone, its Centennial.  To double down, this company is actually celebrating two centennials-in-one: it is the centennial of both companies that eventually combined to form Lockheed Martin.    [Full disclosure, my team at Verse Group worked together with Lockheed Martin on this program.]

From the 100th Anniversary website:

To mark our 100th anniversary, we’re looking back at the innovations and achievements that helped our customers rise to some of the world’s most vital challenges. And we’ll look forward to emerging global challenges and the technology that will change our world for the next 100 years. [From  website].

100 years ago the Glenn L. Martin Company was founded by…Glenn L. Martin.  That very same year the Alco Hydro-Aeroplane Company  was founded by the brothers Allan and Malcolm Lockheed.

All of three of these men were pioneers with the vision, determination and smarts to make breakthroughs upon breakthroughs which transformed aeroplanes from novelty rides into a robust form of commercial and military travel.

There is real drama in their stories, and the stories of the men and women who worked with them, those who flew their machines and those who benefited from the advances and achievements they inspired.  From their bold visions and humble beginnings in a barn and church came the great innovations which helped land Neil Armstrong on the moon and are now giving us sight into the past through the Hubble telescope — to name just a few of achievements that their successors made possible.

LockheedMartin

Through-out this centennial year the company is sharing 100 story lines that weave together into the larger corporate narrative arc.  100 Stories.  100 Years of Accelerating Tomorrow.

Just as important are the stories shared by individuals with their own very personal experiences of Lockheed Martin.  There is real power in the reminiscences, imaginings and memories of these people.  The company is tapping into this power by inviting the public to share their own personal stories online.  These individual and the company storylines weave together, co-creating the larger narrative arc.

ShareYourStory

Sharing stories is what brings a brand closer to its audience.

Add them all up and these shared stories form the larger narrative arc of the company.

And that is a powerful tool for building a strong internal culture based on a common understanding of their shared sense of purpose from where they came and where they want to go next.

Times Squared – or – Billboard Heaven

Here it is, the cross-roads of the world, the home of New Year’s Eve…just about 12 hours too soon.  

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This is the place to see and be seen…at least if you are a brand.  It makes me feel like I’m living inside a game arcade like Wreck-It Ralph.  When your brand has reached Times Square it is part of the establishment, it’s Broadway.  

Often companies will have a celebration here when their own billboard lights up, or when they appear on the NASDAQ billboard.  It’s a marketing event.  A global stage.

For the cutting edge of branding you have to go elsewhere — off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway.  Times Square is NASDAQ, Sony, Samsung, Mini, American Airlines Theater, Marriott, Duncan Donuts, Pepsi, HBO…

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This is deliberate, of course.  The city mandated the huge billboards during the Redevelopment  of Times Square in the early 1980s.  Yes, that’s right, the city that outlaws smoking in Central Park and buying sodas larger than 16 oz has insisted on packing this area with billboards.  

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My first New Year’s Eve in Times Square was 1978.  It was a very, very different place.  The word “sleaze” was coined to describe the area.  It was the perfect setting for a punk-rock movie about a girl band named, yes, The Sleaze Sisters in the 1980 movie Times Square (sound track with songs by The Pretenders, Talking Heads, Ramones).  

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Chinese Brands and Brand China

Do the origins of a brand shape the perceptions of the brand?

Yes!  No!  A more accurate response might be, Maybe!  It all Depends!

This is a question that Chinese brands are facing every day now.  For more than a decade the rise of Chinese exports has captured the front pages and led to predictions that Chinese brand will soon breakthrough to become powerful global brands. Haier.  Lenovo.  Huwaei.

It hasn’t happened yet.  For some insights, here’s Columbia’s Professor Don Sexton discussing the state of Chinese brands:

Prof Don Sexton on Chinese Brands

Professor Don Sexton

Lost In Translation

Last night I had a dream about global branding.  It came to me, like a scene from a play or a movie.  As soon as I woke up, I wrote it down so I could remember it.  Here is what I remember:

[Scene:  Conference room of a major multinational corporation.  Five people seated around the oval table.  3 of them are from the client marketing team.  2 are from their ad agency.]

Marketer 1: “This slogan is brilliant.  I love it!  We’ll use it on all of our advertising, around the world.  It’s not the coffee that keeps you up at night, it’s the bunk.”*

Marketer 2: “Nobody in my country will understand it.  We need to translate it.  Even though our brand is global, our brand is locally relevant.  It says that in our mission statement.  So we need to speak in the local languages.”

Agency 1:  “The line will lose all meaning if we translate it.  It’s a great line, iconic.  It will make you famous.”

Agency 2:  “Look at the Apple advertising.  Nokia.  Philips.  They use English taglines everywhere.  Everyone understands English, it’s the universal language of movies, music and advertising.”

Marketer 2: “Nobody will understand it.  It will make us seem like a distant, arrogant, global corporation who is only interested in selling more, more, more.”

Marketer 1: “It loses all brilliance in translation.  Why can’t we do this in English?”

Agency 1:  “Yes, yes, that’s the only solution.”

Agency 2:  “This is a breakthrough line.  Everyone will be saying it, in every language.  It will have great word-of-mouth momentum.  We can hire models to whisper it in art galleries in all of the major cities from Madrid to Moscow.”

Marketer 2: “We have to translate it.  It is a fact.  You can disagree with the fact but that doesn’t change it.”

Agency 1: “You are killing the whole idea.  You are squeezing the creativity out of it.”

Marketer 1:  “You are both right.  The line is brilliant.  But we do need to have it in the local languages.  Why can’t we do that?”

Agency 2: “Everyone in Europe speaks English.  How about we keep it in English there but translate in China and Latin America?  That solves the problem.”

Marketer 2: “Are we translating the actual words or are we translating the meaning?”

Agency 2: “We’ll have our local offices create new lines for each country.  That way it will be completely relevant.”

Marketer 1: “So we won’t have a single global tagline?  How can we be a global brand without a global tagline?”

Marketer 3: “Okay, I know what can we do!  We’ll make it universal — we’ll use Esperanto!”

[blackout]

Context is King!

What does the color red symbolize?  In many Asian cultures it is a powerful color, very positive.  In many Western cultures it has negative connotations.

The word collaboration is positive in the US — working together.  In France it is a highly charged word, since it has shadings of collaborating in WWII.

As companies stretch to become global brands they have to wrestle with the problem of being lost in translation.  Words are not universal.  Their meaning shifts.  They cannot be nailed down to simple plain meaning.  Somewhere along the line irony begins to slip in.   In fact, the meaning of words shift in the same country over time.   They go from current to camp faster than you can say phat.

Brand Context is King!

Here’s an example:  In the 1990s Samsung had a tagline, “Simply Samsung” which consumers understood to mean the products were simplistic, basic, not very advanced.  In the 2000s Philips has a tagline, “Sense and Simplicity” which is understood to mean taking complex things and making them easy, everyday and wonderful.

* Yes, this is the slogan that won a big contest in the old movie “Christmas in July.”  Great movie that hinges on who comes up with the best slogan for a big coffee company.

All Context Is Cultural: Part 2

The last time I was in Beijing was shortly before the summer Olympics.  When I had some free time I walked around, observing the changes that the city had undergone since my previous visits.  Towards dinner time on one of my walks,  I was feeling particularly hungry for pizza.  Being a New Yorker, pizza is comfort food.  I went into a Pizza Hut, where there was a line of people waiting to be seated.  When my turn came, I was shown to a table, handed a menu.  I observed the people around me while waiting for the food to come.  At some tables there were couples, dressed as if to impress each other on a first date.  There were families, also well-dressed.  I suddenly became self-conscious of my own appearance.  Not that I was an American but that I was very casually dressed in jeans and running shoes.

What I observed was Pizza Hut adapting to the local cultural, where going out to dinner was reserved for special occasions.

For brands to succeed across different cultures, they need to adopt and adapt.  Understanding these differences requires careful observation and non-judgmental perspective.

Disney is a great example of an American brand trying to export Americana to a different culture.  EuroDisney was the company’s first theme park outside of the U.S.A.  The cultural conflict flared up as soon as the location, in France, was announced.  In the first years of the park, again and again, Disney stubbed their toes on the local culture.   For instance, EuroDisney did not serve wine or beer at their restaurants during the first year of operations.  Alcohol was almost antithetical to the Disney brand heritage.  You could sense Disney had an almost Puritanical judgment about wine.  However, faced with poor attendance, EuroDisney adapted to the local culture in the second year.

While many of the EuroDisney executives were culturally attuned, the overall Disney organization wasn’t.  The business model was to bring the American Disneyland to Europe.  Had the organization as a whole been more attuned, they would have realized that France has nearly perfected an art form of criticizing the shallow and inauthentic Hollywood culture.  EuroDisney learned through trial and error that success meant re-interpreting the Disney brand to adapt to the local cultures.  And that meant suspending judgement about the local culture.

 

Global Branding vs. A World of Unique Cultures

Last night I was asked about how global branding is reconciled with the real differences between cultures and countries.  I was asked this by half a dozen people who had lived in China, Israel, Singapore, France and Queens (okay, the outer boroughs of NYC are only a foreign country to people who live in the City).

Some context — last night I was at the Media Networking Night up at Columbia University.  It drew a large crowd to Low Library, a group of people from about as many cultures as you could imagine.  The purpose of the evening was for students and alumni to meet with executives from a wide range of media companies, including ABC, MTV Networks, Nippon TV, Random House, NY Times, The Barbarian Group, Ruder-Finn, New York Design Center, Tribeca Film Institute, Epic Records, AOL, Huffington Post, Digitas — and Verse Group!

So back to the Global vs. Cultural question.  The simple answer is that there is no simple answer.  And that is important because what works for IBM will not work for Kellogg’s.

Why?

Consider that IBM is selling to IT professionals — people who tend have have more in common in terms of their education, needs and specialized technical language (generally in English).  IBM is also selling products that are almost identical around the world, with compatible protocols so they mesh with other systems in different countries.  Culture has relative low influence on attitudes about IT.

Kellogg’s is selling food to a wide range of people in each country, old and young, tall and short, across all the usual markers of socio-economics.  Culture has a huge influence on taste preferences, foods people eat, even when they eat.  In Battle Creek people eat cold breakfast with milk, milk, milk.  In China they eat a hot breakfast, and drink relatively small amounts of milk.  The low milk drinking is a combination of high levels of lactose intolerance as well as a culture where milk was very expensive so eating habits evolved without it.

Here we touched on two of the considerations in global branding:

1. Product category: weak influence of culture in IT infrastructure or strong influence like food.

2. Target audience:  similar across countries like IT engineers or diverse like the general populations.

Now try explaining that in a throng of hundreds of people in the echoing acoustics of Columbia’s Low Library!


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