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Taking a Brand Global: Ten Steps to Success

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“Taking A Brand Global: Ten Steps To Success”

I. Introduction: The Importance of Being Global

A strong global brand is a powerful weapon. These days, however, it may also be an

indispensable one, even as the economy challenges our faith in brands to deliver a profit.

According to Interbrand’s “World’s Most Valuable Brands 2000” study, for example, although

Amazon’s share price has declined, its brand value has increased by 233%. On the other

hand, international power player Coca-Cola, although still the world’s #1 brand, saw its value

drop by 13%. And technology brands did quite well— Microsoft, IBM, Intel, and Nokia placed

second through fifth—not at all foreshadowing the precipitous crash in their stock prices about

half a year after the study findings were released. Overall, notes marketing writer Jane

Bainbridge in Marketing [20 July 2000], Interbrand’s second annual study of this kind reveals

not only that global brands are “stable assets,” but also that “the most valuable brands are

global.” In fact, she argues, “to have a billion-dollar brand, a company has to be global.”

II. Branding As The New “Universal Language”

Based on a recent survey of more than forty-five thousand people across nineteen countries,

Young & Rubicam makes a rather startling claim. In its newest Brand Asset Valuator report,

issued in March 2001, the firm asserts that brands have taken on a godlike status: consumers

find greater meaning in them and the values they espouse than in religion. As Conor Dignam

reports in Ad Age Global [12 March 2001], the study claims that superbrands like Calvin Klein,

Gatorade, IKEA, Microsoft, MTV, Nike, Virgin, Sony PlayStation, and Yahoo! can therefore

also be called “belief brands.” Although Dignam argues against the idea that consumers would

treat brands as gods (because they will not be dictated to by them), he does accept the

implications of the argument and make a different analogy. Brands, he says, are more like

“best friends,” in that they are an important part of people’s lives, do carry specific meanings

for the consumer, and they are respected or rejected based on how well they keep their

promises.

Yet whether one calls them gods or “best friends,” brands have clearly started to take on

greater importance in consumers’ lives. In fact, they have gone from objects with identity to

identities in the guise of objects.

The trend has gone so far, in fact, that people are beginning to speak the language of brands

and even to market themselves as brands in their own right. There is more than one book in

print along the lines of Brand Yourself [Ballantine, 2000] devoted strictly to the notion that the

self can be carefully concepted in order to ensure success. In fact, contends Giles Lury, brand

consultancy director of Springpoint, in Brand Strategy [2 November 2000], “branding has been

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one of the most important commercial phenomena of the last century—almost everything is

branded nowadays.” As examples, he points to the U.K. football team Manchester United,

which successfully markets self-branded clothing, ketchup and beer; The Spice Girls, with its

“girl power” message and “brand architecture,” complete with distinctive “sub-brands” (e.g. “Do

you want Scary Spice girl power or Baby Spice girl power?”); and the success of Tony Blair’s

New Labour party, with its updated spin on “core values.” Even places are being branded

these days. As Adrian Shaughnessy of Intro notes in Design Week [16 March 2001], the cities

chosen as European Cultural Capitals for 2001, Rotterdam and Oporto, have ordered new

logos for the occasion. The cities are part of a new wave of urban brand makeovers aimed at

enhancing consumers’ awareness of them, not to mention tourism and trade. “We are deluged

with zippy logos,” Shaughnessy writes.

III. Defining The Global Brand

What is a global brand? Is it the same as a “multinational,” “international,” “worldwide,” or

“cross-cultural” brand, or are these distinctions irrelevant? According to brand expert Paul

Temporal, writing in Branding in Asia [John Wiley & Sons, 2000], specificity about this is

indeed important, because understanding what a global brand means is critical to developing

an appropriate strategy for managing it. In fact, he notes, “true global brands are relatively few

in number,” probably because they manage the difficult task of consistency. In every market

they play in, global brands have a consistent:

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