Posts Tagged 'global branding'

The impact of the economic crisis on brands: talk on 3/24

Next Wednesday, 3/24, Ed Lebar is going to share new research from the BAV.  This will give us insight into how the economic “dip” has effected the images of brands — and how some brands managed to stay ahead despite the economy.
The Impact of the Economic Crisis on Brands: Some Winning Strategies”

As part of its “New Thinker” series of events, the NYAMA will present a  program focused on the application of innovative brand research strategies to create winning marketing programs during recessionary times. The date of the event is March 24th at 6:00 p.m. And will take place at The Tai Group, 150 West 30th Street, 14th Floor, in New York.

Ed Lebar, CEO and Anne Rivers, SVP Director of Brand Strategy at BrandAsset Consulting will be presenting and taking questions. Ed Lebar is co-author of the best-selling business book, The Brand Bubble.

Mr. Lebar will present new research from the BrandAsset® Valuator study (BAV), a proprietary model of measuring brands based on brand strength and brand stature.

The student discount price is $25.

Register for this event at <> .

Kotler & Kartajaya on Marketing 3.0

I’ll make a broad generalization.  There are two types of academics: Paradigm Shifters and Eternal Seekers.

The Paradigm Shifters are people who create a ground breaking theory and then spend the rest of their career teaching and promoting that theory — regardless of how the world changes around them.  Think of Braque, one of the originators of cubism in painting.

Eternal Seekers are the people who create a ground breaking theory and then develop an even stronger ground breaking theory.  They remain open, curious and continuously looking for a better theory as they get new data and see weaknesses in their original theory. Think of Picasso, who worked side by side with Braque and then moved into different “periods” and continued to reinvent his vision of art.

I’d put Philip Kotler into that second category, Eternal Seeker.  His is not satisfied to rest with his original models of marketing.  He has continued to innovate, rethink and evolve his theories and our understanding of how marketing actually works.

The role of Corporate Social Responsibility has been very much on Phil’s mind for several years.  (Full disclosure — I had the good fortune to work with him on a client project about the rise of socially-engaged consumers.)  It has very much influenced his thinking and rethinking of marketing.

His newest reinvention of marketing is “Marketing 3.0”, co-developed with Hermawan Kartajaya.   In the fall of 2009 Phil presented the model of Marketing 3.0 at a Kellogg school conference.  Below is the key slide summarizing Marketing 3.0 from that conference.  I’ve lifted a  this from the blog of Guy Kawasaki So full credit for this photo goes to Guy Kawasaki.

Slide on Marketing 3.0 photo by G Kawasaki

The new book Marketing 3.0 is being published  in the US this spring.  But you don’t have to wait that long to better understand the fundamental principles of Marketing 3.0. Kotler and Kartajaya.  They’ve recently published a whitepaper on the topic which you can download here: marketing_3.0 Values-Driven Marketing

Brand Avoidance – or – stop that brand!

Brand avoidance, motivations for anti-consumption, organizational disassociation, and freedom of anti-choice!

No, today is not opposite day.  Although I have to admit to a through-the-looking-glass-darkly sensation as I began to read about brand avoidance and anti-choice.

There is a small body of research that looks almost exclusively at the dark underside of branding — brands that people go out of their way to actively avoid.  Usually we think of a brand as an attention magnet. Strong brands have a strong attraction.  Weak brands have little or no attraction.  This looks at the other side of the magnet where the brand pushes people away, it repels them.

Professor Michael Lee has been one of the academics in this area.  He has been creating a framework for  categorizing and understanding the types and mindsets of brand avoidance.  He separates them into 3 categories based on the primary cause for avoiding a brand: bad experience, identity avoidance and moral avoidance.

Bad experience: Going out of your way to avoid consuming a brand because you had a bad experience with it

Identity avoidance: Going out of your way to avoid consuming a brand because it is disturbing to your self-image — symbolic incongruity (I love that phrase!).  The, “I would be caught dead in that” mentality is how I like to think of it.

Moral avoidance: A conscious choice to avoid a brand because of its actions or behavior.  Not shopping at Wal-Mart because they lock-in workers overnight or don’t offer health insurance to most employees.

The concept of anti-choice is antithetical to how we typically think about marketing.  No doubt there are some clever companies out there exploiting this mindset.  I can see the marketing campaign now:  It’s the anti-choice of a new generation!

What really jumped out at me was the recognition that people can and do change their minds, and behaviors.  They can look at a brand in a new way, their relationship with the brand can – and does – change over time.

This is particularly important to brands that are second or third tier brands and trying to break into the top rank of brands.  LG and Lenovo are two that come to mind immediately.

In the paper by Professors Lee, Motion and Conroy, one paragraph in particular jumped out at me.  While meant to propose a strategy for countering brand avoidance, it immediately struck a chord of recognition.  In fact, it was very similar to the bold strategy taken by Samsung starting in the mid-1990s to elevate the brand image and reputation.

“The first antidote [to brand avoidance] involves a genuine adaptation of the brand, one that is initiated from the highest point within the company and permeates throughout the entire brand/organization. Such a strategy may alleviate brand avoidance that is motivated by corporate irresponsibility or consumer resistance philosophies; however, in spite of these efforts many consumers may remain cynical. Thus, such a drastic strategy may not be feasible for the firm.”

That is indeed a drastic strategy.  And very, very powerful.  At Samsung the initiative came from the Chairman himself.  His call to action was, “Change everything except your spouse and children.”  They changed product quality, product design, marketing strategies, pricing strategies, distribution strategies…as well as the brand strategy.  And Samsung had the courage and patience to stay on the same course for a number of years instead of changing strategies every 12 or 18 months.

Here is a link to one of the recently published articles by Professors Lee, Motion and Conroy and  on research into BrandAvoidance.  Caution: this is wonkish.

Are you a fickle consumer or a smart shopper?

I was surprised to read this in today’s New York Times:

Nearly four in five Americans were repeat buyers back then, staunchly faithful to brands that they knew, trusted and were part of their self-image. The allegiance often continued through generations of families, like party affiliations in politics.

Now, partly as a result of increasingly fickle consumer tastes and the industry turmoil in Detroit, that hard-won loyalty is largely gone. (Emphasis added)

Are we fickle because we moved away from one brand and toward another?  It seems to me that there has been a shift in mindset among car buyers but that doesn’t mean from stable to fickle.  Also, some of the brands that people are moving away from are soon disappearing from the marketplace.  Hard to remain loyal to a brand like Pontiac that is being decommissioned.

Shifting Car Preferences from NY Times

Shifting Car Preferences from NY Times

The growth of Hyundai and Kia are noted in the article but what isn’t noted is the really really smart marketing that Hyundai has done with their buyers assurance plan.  Switching to a different brand that better meets your needs is not fickle. People change their minds all the time without being fickle.

“Fickle consumers” makes us sound like the a teenager with a crush on a different person every week.  To their credit, the Times does go on to acknowledge the role internet has played by opening up a whole new way of thinking about car buying.  Perhaps I am being unfair.  One sentence should not drag down what is an otherwise interesting story.

On the other hand, Wittgenstein was not a brand guru

Okay, so I took the Harvard Business Review seriously.  Back in 2004 they ran an issue about breakthrough ideas for 2004.  Number 9 on the list was “The M.F.A. is the new M.B.A.”   The piece was written by Daniel Pink.

Yes! I said at the time.  Yes!  Exactly!  

Here’s an example of how I see an MFA benefiting companies.  It can improve the ability of your branding to engage consumers. More engaging branding = more effective branding. It can be put into practice by having one key person on your team who really knows and understands the elements and structure of narrative.  That  is extremely valuable if your brand marketing is to be more than just a hit or miss process.  It is extremely valuable if your marketing department is to get the best work out of your outside creative agencies.


An MFA alone won’t succeed.  You need someone who is equally an MFA and an MBA.  You need someone with the skill and ability to synthesize both the creative and the business perspectives.  Those people are rare.  I suspect that is because our society tends to discourage people from crossing boundaries between the creative and business sides of life.  

It’s stereotyping, of course.  The recent stories about the photographer Annie Leibovitz being in financial difficulties is an example of the stereotypical view that great artists aren’t such great business minds.  Never mind about T.S. Eliot being an executive at Lloyds Bank.  Or that Franz Kafka was an insurance executive.  Henry Green was a business executive, too. Louis Begley (About Schmidt) was a highly successful lawyer.

Just adding an MFA to the marketing department will not work miracles.  It is also important to create an atmosphere where the MFA and the MBA can work as a team of equals, with mutual respect.  From my perspective that is not so easy to accomplish in the real world.  And in today’s economy having an MFA in the marketing department can seem like a frivolous extravagance.

A good place to start would be having some interaction between the business school and the school of the arts at places like NYU, Columbia or the University of Pennsylvania.  Just imagine how much richer (in content) the marketing programs would be!

Full disclosure: I have both a degree in Economics and an MFA in creative writing.  There is probably a good deal of bias in this post!  

Even without an MFA, everyone can gain a fundamental understanding of the structure behind great narratives.  All you have to do is spend an afternoon reading through Aristotle’s Poetics.  Aristotle was perhaps the first brand guru, laying out all of the elements of a great narrative in his Poetics.  He knew that a value proposition was limp and unconvincing without having metaphor, character, plot, visual elements and music to give it the breath of life.

However, I do draw the line at other philosophers.  Wittgenstein just got it wrong.  “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” (translation by C.K. Ogden).  Clearly the man was word-mad.  Communications through images, visual metaphors, sound — all are powerful.  In fact, more powerful than words alone.  Frankly, it’s not worth the effort to read Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.  This afternoon would have been better spent if I had just left it unread on the shelf along with all of the unread marketing books I’ve collected.  

Oh, and one last question.  Why did HBR choose Number 9?  The Beatles’ White Album, anyone?

Guess that brand’s country of origin.

Today’s quiz is much easier than the New York Times crossword puzzle.  I’ll name a brand  and you guess the country where the company is headquartered.  









And the answer for all of the above  is The Netherlands. Yes, even IKEA has been headquartered in The Netherlands for more than 25 years. Dove?Part of Unilever which an Anglo-Dutch company.  

In fact, Holland seems to be a country that is particularly conducive global brands.  This came up at dinner on Thursday night when several friends were commenting on how country of origin plays a role in the favorability of brands around the world.  American brands came in for a lot of heat over the past 8 years.  Japanese brands have a disadvantage in China and Korea because of the Japanese occupations in those countries.  And the same for German brands.  Spanish brands are strong in Latin America and weak in Europe, outside of Spain.  And Chinese brands?  Not even the best known, such as Lenovo, are particularly strong.  And I say that with a heavy heart because I was on the team that created the Lenovo brand so that the company, formerly known as Legend Computing, was able to go global.

The answer probably lies in some combination of the liberal Dutch culture and the long history as a global trading center.  Even the colonial role of The Netherlands is not as controversial as the Spanish, Japanese or French.  Come to think of it, I’m writing this in a city founded as New Amsterdam but today is known as New York City.

All branding is local – or – you say potato and I say potato

There’s a funny story about the old George and Ira Gershwin song “Let’s call the whole thing off.”  In those days the hit songs in the US were sent to the UK as sheet music, not as record recordings.  That caused a bit of confusion about the song which has lines like “You say potato and I say potato. You say tomato and I say tomato.”  Anyone who has heard the song knows that phonetically it goes, “Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto!  Let’s call the whole thing off!”

Alas, the original song sheets didn’t have phonetic pronunciations in them so the first British singers recorded the song as “Potato, potato, tomato, tomato!  Let’s call the whole thing off!”  And they were all bewildered why this became such a big hit in the US.

Without the right language, the song fell flat.

The same thing is true for branding.

A brand that is strongly rooted in a local culture needs to find a way to  connect with other cultures as it goes multinational.  For instance, not all “independence day” holidays are the same.  In Canada there is Dominion Day, in France it is Bastille Day, and in the US it is the 4th of July.  Each is a celebration of independence.  But hardly ones with equivalent cultural meaning. While the fireworks may appear the same, the holiday metaphors are very different.  

It doesn’t mean that only local people can make the branding locally relevant.  The logic of that approach would lead you to saying that only teenagers can make ads for teenagers.  All you really need is the eye of an anthropologist, empathy and a non-judgmental attitude.  

Some brands, like Chevy or Budweiser are quintessentially American, right?  Oh, even though the original Chevrolet brothers were from France.  And Budweiser is a Czech brand with the trademark rights across Europe.  So local cultures can make brands local captives.

To get around that Budweiser is sold as “Bud” in other countries.  

Some people believe that the way to avoid this trap is to adopt the Theodore Levitt approach of globalization.  As Nigel Hollis points out in “The Global Brand”

Encouraged by Theodore “Ted” Levitt’s 1983 prediction that the future of brands was global, and expecting to reap tremendous economies of scale, multinationals sought to standardize their brands.  But to their chagrin, they found that the future Levitt predicted had not yet arrived. “

A brand that ignores local cultures in the noble purpose of global uniformity, is in danger of becoming uniformly bland.  

As brand marketers we  must actively avoid being tone deaf.  To increase my own sensitivity, I am actively campaigning for a week in Paris to celebrate Bastille Day.  After all, it is a singular experience to see the fireworks the transform the Eiffel Tower.



Bastille Day for brand marketers

Bastille Day for brand marketers

Global Branding panel in NYC

I am delighted to announce that the NY chapter of the American Marketing Association will be holding a panel discussion on global branding on Tuesday, June 16th, between 6 pm and 8 pm.

The panel will feature three very wonderful and knowledgeable people:

Dr. Joseph Plummer of Columbia University, who was the former Chief Strategy Officer of the ARF (that’s Advertising Research Foundation, which took me a while to figure out).  Dr. Plummer is also a consultant at Olson Zaltman Associates

Nigel Hollis, author of the new book, Global Brands.  He’s also the EVP and Chief Global Analyst of the global market research firm, Millward-Brown.  His blog, Straight Talk is always a smart place to go for insights into global brands, 

And Trena Blair, VP of the Business Travel Division of American Express. She’s responsible for the marketing strategies across the Americas and Canada.  Her experience extends to the other side of the world.  Before joining American Express she was the SVP of marketing and sales at Westpac Banking Corporation.  Westpac is Australia’s largest retail bank.

You can sign up for the conference at the NYAMA’s website, or by clicking this link.

The original title of this panel was “Global Brands: Over-rated or Under-appreciated?”  However, it was eventually titled, “Building a Multinational Brand: Global, Regional or National Strategy?”  

I’ve been invited to moderate this event.  Please bring your excellent questions for our panelists. The question I will ask is, “Are global brands a myth?”

See you there!

The tensions of global branding

You can make a lot of analogies between a company and a family.  I’ve had clients say to me, “We are like a disfunctional family”.  Or, “This company is like a traditional family.  When the father speaks everyone falls into line.” [Note: It was an Asian company.  Not many American families follow that credo!].  

The analogy is useful to understand the tensions between local countries, product divisions, regional operations and corporate headquarters.  This is important because successful global branding requires alignment between these different groups.  

Sometimes the family runs smoothly with everyone recognizing and playing their assigned role.  

But more often the local companies are like rebellious teenagers.  They know they are part of the family but at the same time need some freedom for street cred.  As anyone who has been in the local level knows, there are local competitors who are not playing by the same rules as your company and it puts you at a disadvantage. You need all of the tools possible to win, including branding.

Corporate is like the family matriarch/patriarch (I believe in gender neutrality on who heads up the family).  They have the perspective that is unique, looking out over all of the areas.  And they have the wisdom of seeing what has worked and what has failed in different parts of the company.  They also want everyone in the family to be well-behaved and respectful.  At the same time corporate is several steps away from the day-to-day realities.  While this gives them perspective, it can also create blind spots.

If Corporate has strong control over the purse-strings, then they have a lot of authority.  If the local countries have local budgets, then they have the freedom to do what they see as necessary.

In truth, both are right.  There will always be a seesaw between the centralized control and the local control.  It is instructive to see how the subjective truth changes quickly when then the head of local marketing is promoted into corporate marketing.  

A little tension is inevitable and perhaps even a healthy competition within the company.  When there is too much tension, then the company needs to make some changes.  The tension is a symptom, not a cause.  It signals that something is not working well.

The first step is to openly acknowledge that these tensions exist.  By examining them honestly the company may actually uncover new opportunities.  For instance, the tension might be the result of an external change in the marketplace which corporate has not fully recognized but the local marketers see very clearly.  There are many things this tension might signal — too many for a single posting.  

To sum up, a little tension in the family is normal.  When the tension grows too great, it’s time to get some help!

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