One Brand, Many Markets: How to Create Powerful, Global Brands

One Brand, Many Markets: How to Create Powerful, Global BrandsIf you dream big, you want your product to go global. But markets differ, and people's notions of everything from what's cool to what's cheap vary from South Africa to Sydney to San Francisco. So how much should you bend your brand to accommodate these local tastes? And if your brand differs too much from place to place, will it lose the power conveyed by its distinctiveness, it's ability to tell a consistent story about your product?

These were the sort of questions tackled by a panel titled "The Challenge of Going Global and Staying Local," during last week's 2007 Wharton Marketing Conference. Lynda Wallace, vice president for global topical health-care at Johnson & Johnson laid out the problem,

"There's a risk that, if you position a product too differently in different markets, your logical follow-on products will have to be different as well, which can raise costs and create operational problems."
So where does Johnson & Johnson draw the line when it comes to modifying its brand to suit global markets? Knowledge@ Wharton, in its coverage of the panel's discussion, summarizes the company's approach:
One thing Johnson & Johnson won't do is sacrifice premium pricing for its well-known brands... But even on this dimension of its marketing tactics, the company allows improvisation as it expands around the world and pushes deeper into less-developed countries.... For example, Johnson & Johnson, might sell a four-pack of Band-Aids instead of the larger box that's available in the developed world. Or it might sell a sample-sized bottle of baby shampoo instead of a full-sized one.
Rob Warren, senior vice president for global tequila (really, that's a job title) at beer and spirits maker Diageo agreed: "We wouldn't lower our price to get more volume. You wouldn't take Johnnie Walker Black and charge less for it." So how does Diageo confront the challenges of the global market? "Instead of cutting prices, Diageo does its homework before entering a market, identifying consumers who will pay for its well-known products."

What both of these companies share is a willingness to make adaptations to suit the global market, be they in advertising, like Diageo, or the product itself, like Johnson Johnson. But this flexibility must be paired with careful attention to what constitutes the essence of a brand and efforts to maintain this consistently across all markets.

(Image of Coca-Cola Bangladesh by Bangladesh Blogger, CC 2.0)