Magazine article Marketing

Moving Brands across Borders

Magazine article Marketing

Moving Brands across Borders

Article excerpt

Some brands travel well, but don't put one on the plane before completing your homework

There is a wonderful, albeit possibly apocryphal, story of a shipment of Bifi, a packaged salami sausage brand owned by Unilever in Germany, having once gone astray. Its proper destination has been forgotten because it is where it ended up that is key.

By happy accident it arrived amid a group of Unilever marketers in the UK. After chewing over the product, they reached the conclusion that this might be something that would work in their home market. Perhaps with a change of name and a strong brand positioning, a meat snack may prove popular in the UK. And so Peperami was born.

Not every brand owner enjoys such good fortune in setting the ball rolling, yet many take a keen interest in whether products that already exist in one market have the potential to be launched into another one. As is said so often,we live in a global age.

Many products and brands in the UK made their debuts in foreign markets. However, it is not always readily apparent which products will travel well or how they should be positioned in their new market. Should, for instance, marketing gain be made out of their country of origin or should they be domesticated and anglicised? Or even made neutral and globalised?

There is no all-embracing answer. What brand owners need to do is remain alert for opportunities and then use research, and probably some intuition, to ascertain the best course of action.

"The days are gone when we say 'we sell this in country X, let's sell it in country Y, too'," says Heinz's general manager for corporate marketing and communications, Eric Salamon. "Launches need to be driven by the needs of the market not just by what's being sold else where."

Getting it wrong can prove a costly exercise. Yet in their efforts to take products across borders, marketers can sometimes be blind to the fact that, often for cultural reasons, not everything that is successful in one country is sure to make it big in another.

Research International's worldwide head of new product development, Julian Bond, says: "There's someone out there who's absolutely convinced that UK consumers are waiting to get their hands on frozen sauerkraut."

Kathy Hogg, a marketing manager at Diageo-owned Pillsbury, worked on the launch last April of the Old El Paso brand's Fajita Dinner Kit, a product that had been in existence in Australia for several years. Promoted using the line 'Fun comes in yellow boxes', the dinner kit enables consumers to make a fajita meal by adding chicken, peppers and onion. Analysing the product, Pillsbury reached the conclusion it had the potential to overcome 'barriers' by encouraging consumers to try making fajitas at home. "The secret is in making sure that you really analyse the brand's consumer proposition and don't adopt wholesale from another country. You have to explore how it sits at a local level," says Hogg.

The key to this, clearly, is extensive research. Marketers need to find out how a product and its positioning will appeal to consumers. In doing so, it should become evident whether any adaptation is required or, at worst, if the response is negative, whether the whole idea of launching into a new market should be put on ice.

Design Bridge client services director Jill Marshall says spotting a product that has the potential to establish itself in another country is all about "recognising universal values that travel and have a relevance". Often, she argues, product design is fundamental in promoting those values. Design Bridge redesigned Lipton's Sun Tea packaging in Sweden so effectively that it now has a strong image that has been taken to 26 countries - although not, as yet, the UK.

But while packaging can be vital, it is the product that is fundamental. At the beginning of this year Burger King introduced its King Fries into the UK from the US. …

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