Note: This article was first published in Advertising Age on May, 15 1995, in
the now defunct "ViewPoint Forum" Section. It has been re-published
since (International Parallels Quarterly 11/95)

It was recently published in Brazil (11/00). Click here to read the Portuguese version.

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Global branding: Married to the World

by Jacques R. Chevron

The newly promoted Global Advertising Manager for this brand of 
toothpaste for children was puzzled: The highly successful ad 
campaign which had boosted sales in the US, Canada, Europe and 
Australia was not well received by the folks in the Bangkok 
office. "Too American" they kept repeating... So, he showed them 
the French and the UK versions of the campaign. Still, they were 
uneasy, and, as politely as their Thai education allowed, they 
were telling him that the campaign would not work in their 
country... It had to do with the "pat on the head" mnemonic device 
which was at the center of all the executions. That scene, which 
closed all commercials in the campaign, was designed to express 
the parent's appreciation for the good brushing the child had done 
with the toothpaste specially designed to appeal to children. But 
one does not touch the head of another person in many Asian 
countries.
The ad manager thought his hopes of creating a global brand, with 
a global ad campaign, were vanishing in Asia.


Not!

A global brand is one which is perceived to reflect the same set 
of values around the world. In the example of the children's 
toothpaste, the "pat on the head" is only an execution device to 
express the parent's appreciation for the child's action, and 
corresponds to a set of brand values such as: "Likes children and 
helps them to be more self-reliant in taking care of their 
hygiene; Is appreciative of the concern parents have for their 
children's hygiene," etc. If, in a particular market, a 
communication device does not work as well as in other markets, it 
can (and should) be replaced with one that communicates the 
intended set of values or "brand character" which form the 
backbone of a global brand strategy.

Branding, be it global or domestic, can be explained with the 
following metaphor: Long term brand loyalty is akin to getting the 
consumer to marry a brand and requires that the marketer provide 
the same set of information one needs to decide upon marrying a 
person, i.e. information about the physical attributes, the style 
and the character of the brand.(See footnote)

Physical attributes (e.g. how well does the product perform, how 
competitive is its price, etc.) may require some adaptation to 
local market conditions and culture: A US laundry detergent (which 
does not contain perborate) may not satisfy a European housewife, 
used to washing her laundry at near-boiling temperatures; Green 
monochrome computer monitors may not satisfy the German hacker, 
who prefers an amber screen. Physical attraction is in great part 
determined by culture: Beauty-enhancing tribal markings might not 
make you more attractive in Peoria...

Style (i.e., how the physical-attributes message is delivered) is 
even more rooted in culture. Germans, whose ad culture grew from 
magazines, want hard facts. Latin cultures are inclined to imagery 
and may resist hard sell. Asians are sensitive to symbolism, 
Britons to humor, etc. There is some truth to these generalities, 
even though the rules are often successfully broken. 

Character communication is the key element of branding and the 
backbone of a global branding strategy. It requires an absolute 
consistency of purpose which one can only achieve by having, at 
the onset of the communication planning, a very clear idea of the 
set of values to be linked to the brand.  A McDonald's commercial 
from the US, Germany, Brazil or Japan is readily recognized as a 
McDonald's commercial, even though it may have been produced 
locally, and by a different ad agency. It will consistently convey 
some or all of the values (service, friendliness, understanding of 
family life etc.) which are attached to the company. 

Global marketers need to first write a thorough and sustainable 
Brand Strategy which lists the character traits intended for the 
brand. Then they should set up an organization which can tactfully 
direct, teach and evaluate the brand's communication to ensure 
consistency while at the same time preserving the autonomy (and 
thereby the quality) of local management.

After this they may give them selves a big pat on the back. 
Except, of course, for the back of the British manager who might 
be offended by this excessive familiarity...

Mr. Chevron is an international marketing and communication consultant based in La Grange, IL. 
Footnote:
See July, 22 1985 Viewpoint Forum article titled "Give your brand in marriage" by the same author.


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