Magazine article Marketing

There Are No Global Brands

Magazine article Marketing

There Are No Global Brands

Article excerpt

In an era of growing tribalism and anti-capitalism the concept of global brands is meaningless - or is it?

Just how powerful is the consumer backlash against brand homogeneity?

What do consumers really think about global brands? How local should global brands get? Are political views damaging your brand? And what are the implications for marketers of global brands that reflect American values?

Research International Observer (RIO), a global bi-annual qualitative study, posed questions on these topics to more than 1500 consumers in 41 countries and 52 cities, with the hypothesis: 'There are no global brands - or are there?'

The results of the study, presented today (Wednesday), at The Marketing Society annual conference, show that the consumer is not as hostile to brands or marketing as many marketers fear.

'Global brands make you feel part of something bigger and give you a sense of belonging,' said one interviewee from New Zealand. 'Brands increase the value of the one who uses them,' said a Japanese respondent. And from an interviewee in Hong Kong: 'You feel you are above others if you own a Louis Vuitton product.'

Consumers love brands, says Greet Sterenberg, director of Research International Qualitatif.

'Because it took a polemical view, Naomi Klein's No Logo thesis is wrong,' says Sterenberg. 'Because brands are enhanced and made richer by the consumer's own projections, messages inconsistent with brand behaviour will be ignored.

The brand landscape is politicised, but consumers are not. They embrace the politicisation of brands reluctantly rather than willingly and would rather that brands were opaque than transparent - they do not want to know about the firm behind the brand.'

According to the RIO research, consumers are not influenced by negative behaviour by brands to the extent that many marketers may have believed.

'They want to be able to forgive and forget,' says Sterenberg. 'They do not like to be disconnected from brands. It's easier for them to forgive than to change their behaviour. Their political views are disconnected from their behaviour as consumers.'

Good company behaviour is noted and is embraced - it has more impact than bad behaviour. According to the study, consumers only deal with bad behaviour when it cannot be denied and affects them directly.

'Tommy Hilfiger said publicly that he did not intend his clothes to be marketed for Latin Americans or black people, but I still buy them,' said one black respondent from El Salvador. 'I know about Nestle and its milk powder scam, but one Kit Kat can't make much of an impact,' said a British interviewee. 'Genetically altered products affect my health.

I may stop buying these products for a while but, as time goes by, I'll forget about this and use them again,' said an interviewee from Hong Kong.

The research shows that even when it comes to so-called American imperialism, consumers turn a blind eye. 'It seems that America and American brands live in different worlds - they are separated and made distinct by the consumer,' says Sterenberg. 'There is not as much anti-Americanism for brands as is thought.'

'You can hate the US and love Coke,' said a Belgian interviewee. 'American brands offer good products. I don't care about them, I care about their stuff,' said a South African respondent. 'Our political views have nothing to do with our behaviour as consumers. If you go into town, you will see many people wearing Levi's handing out documents protesting against the capitalist system,' said a Turkish respondent.

The RIO study shows that politics is disconnected from the consumption of brands. 'For the broad mass of consumers, brands are far removed from their own situation, so they do not act and there is little impact from activists,' says Sterenberg.

Though consumers want global brands such as Nike and Chanel, they often want them to appeal to them as individuals, or at least to take into account their local cultures. …

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