Monday, November 22, 1999

The Lure of Global Branding

My article of choice this week was only available in a summary form on the Internet. However, since I enjoyed it, I chased down the full text in the off-line world and summarized it below.

Titled The Lure of Global Branding, this article discusses the potential for global branding to become a key weapon in a firm’s successful international arsenal. Just as Fatehi suggests that organizational structure can become a tool for the management of an international firm, so too can branding set the stage to unify a firm’s assets when properly employed.

Of course the strength of any branding tool as a management weapon depends on many implementation issues. The article suggests at least three common areas of consideration all companies must do in striving for a global branding implementation.

· stimulate the sharing of insights and best practices across countries
· support a common global brand-planning process
· assign managerial responsibility for brands in order to fight local bias

Taken point by point, these global branding issues could correlate just as well with almost any multi-cultural management quandary. Regardless of whether it is branding, product development, or channel management, the international firm must involve team members across countries, support a common process, and assign management responsibility to fight the country by country, segment by segment silos that develop without such global reinforcement.

As with most weapons of choice however, the problem for branding management is how to “balance the need to leverage global strengths with the need to recognize local differences.” In doing so, one of the key issues is whether or not the brand’s slogan, or for that matter, the firm’s name can successfully translate across cultures. In a given example IBM, in Argentina adjusted their “Solutions for a Small Planet” tag-line to read “Solutions for a Small World” thus fitting better with the market’s word usage in Argentina. Akio Morita on the other hand, in choosing the name for the company that would become known worldwide as Sony, specifically recognized that the collection of letters that comprise “Sony” could be pronounced nearly the same all over the world. He also liked the perceived reference to “sunny,” and its root in the Latin word “sonus” for sound. Whether a firm brands for a single global approach or adjusts as needed as IBM did, it would be a grave mistake to forget to check key elements of any branding campaign against cultural and language differences in potential markets.

At the same time, companies who “stampede blindly toward creating a global brand without considering whether such a move fits well with their company or their markets, risk falling over a cliff.” Perceived economies of scale may prove difficult to capture, the influence of neighboring markets may be negative or simply elusive, and the requirements demanded of the management team may prove too difficult to secure. Thus, as is true with most management tools, the implementation of global branding must be weighed carefully and then executed with swift care and precision.

Though the master Sony brand has a solid global presence, Sony is currently struggling with just such an implementation issue as it works to position the Sony brand for equal success in the global online world. Of course, this must be done in conjunction with, as opposed to in conflict with, the aggressive local efforts surrounding the Internet in each market and market segment. All truly international firms must recognize and embrace the power and the challenge of global branding in both the off-line as well as the online worlds.


Resources

Aaker, D. & Joachimsthaler, E. (1999, November-December). The lure of global branding. Harvard Business Review, 137-144.

Aaker, D. & Joachimsthaler, E. (1999, November-December). The lure of global branding [Online]. Available: http://www.hbsp.harvard.edu/products/hbr/novdec99/99601.html

Fatehi, Kamal. "International Management: A Cross-Cultural and Functional Perspective." Prentice Hall. 1996.

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