Posts Tagged 'Nigel Hollis'

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!

Bloomsday and global branding

What is Bloomsday?

It is June 16th!  Because James Joyce’s novel Ulysses takes place during the course of a single day, June 16th.  Fans of Joyce gather in Dublin and other places around the world to read the work aloud.  Here in NYC there’s Bloomsday on Broadway up at Symphony space. I first discovered it when I was a getting my MFA in fiction writing up at Columbia.  Hours and hours of listing to actors, musicians and poets reading from Joyce.  Much easier than having to actually read it myself!

Boring, right?  No!  Remember —  the book was banned for many years as pornography, particularly for Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy which ends the novel and is the moment when Bloomsday readings reach their dramatic climax. For decades it was a crime to buy or sell or even possess Ulysses here in the land of freedom.

On this Bloomsday I would like to invite you to a slightly different kind of event in NYC.  The NY AMA is holding a panel discussion  on global branding.  The panelists will include Nigel Hollis, author of the book “Global Brands“, the wonderful Dr. Joseph Plummer of Columbia University’s B-School and Susan Jurevics, the VP of Corporate Marketing at Sony.  I’ll be acting as the referee…uh…moderator during the discussion and Q&A periods.

Some of the questions the panel will explore:  What does it mean for a brand to be global?  How do local cultures influence a global brand?  What is the role of country of origin?  For instance, is a global brand a citizen of the world or is it an American brand (Nike) or German brand (Mercedes) or Japanese brand (Sony) that is globally known?  How do companies navigate through the tensions between the centralized corporate role and the local geographies?  

You can learn more about the event from the NYAMA website.  And I’ll post additional details as we get closer to the day.

Who knows, we might even end the evening with a little reading from Joyce’s Ulysses…

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