Integrated Corporate and Product Brand Communication (1)

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Today, integrated communication needs to be viewed from a global perspective. Given the speed, span and reach of electronic communication, there are technically no local or national firms, only global ones. The reality is that organizations no longer have any choice. Once they enter the electronic arena, they become global almost instantaneously as witness the growth of Amazon.com, PriceLine, Charles Schwab and other "new economy" brands. This "global without choice" situation creates a two-fold communication scenario for executives:

(a) integrated communication that is created and related primarily at the corporate brand level; and

(b) integrated marketing communication that takes place primarily at the level of the individual brands.

Corporations or firms are brands in their own right. Thus, communication decisions are not just about traditional product branding directed by the mid-level managers, but corporate and organizational brand communication as well which generally is the purview of senior corporate managers. The important point, of course, is that both areas of communication are interactive, synergistic, and generally global. This duality in communications at varying levels of management in the firm has caused much of the disruption in traditional communication planning.

In this conceptual paper, we start by looking at the global environment in which integrated communication (corporate) and/or integrated marketing communication (product or service) will be deployed. We justify the need for the two types of communication, one taking place at the corporate level, the other at the operating marketing level. Obviously for business-to-business firms or those with unitary product or service lines, this distinction may require more analysis, and in some cases, may not even be relevant. But, for those firms with multiple product lines, diverse brands, and brand architectures that rely on the corporate name for support and relevance, the issue is clear and the discussion below appropriate. More importantly, the principles and processes outlined can, we believe, be used in all organizations. The argument that follows is based on that in our book: Global Communications: An Integrated Marketing Approach (Schultz and Kitchen, 2000) and we further develop and expand this argument in Raising the Corporate Umbrella (Kitchen and Schultz, 2001).

THE CONTEXTUAL GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT

Clearly, this paper cannot consider all types of global marketing activity (see Dunning, 1993). As the period from the mid-1980's to the present day has defined the contemporary global economy, this is where we focus attention. It is in this time span, this scenario, and this economy and related marketplaces that corporations are engaged in the battles for market and mind share, competitive positioning, and global dominance. Today, businesses are still progressing through a series of environmental upheavals that are impacting business activity around the world. This has been created by an exponential advance in information technology that potentially is universally accessible; by the dislocation of labor away from the country of origin toward the Asian, Indian, and Eastern European economies; and by the rise of informed streetwise, savvy, and sophisticated consumers at least in the triad regions (i.e. in the USA/Canada, Pacific Rim, and the European Community). These factors are all influenced and impacted by the fluid nature of capital that can flow from one side of the world to the other at the flick of a computer button. And, all this is compounded by rising social issues and growing unrest concerning globalisation, not just in underdeveloped countries but in the U.S.A., Australia, and other apparently globally connected countries.

Dunning (1993) remarks:

The decision-making nexus of the MNE [global firm] in the early 1990's has come to resemble the central nervous system of a much larger group of interdependent, but less formally governed activities, aimed primarily at advancing the globally competitive strategy and position of the core organization. …