Cross Cultural Issues on Branding
“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.” - Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
Brands are the visual representation of a company, its culture, its people, products and vision. All these put together embody and give life to the brand, assigning and defining certain traits and values to be associated with it. Branding is the representation of those values as conveyed to the universe, whether to its customers, stakeholders or the world at large.
Origin Of Brands
Brands originated in the Medieval Ages, when craftsmen and tradesmen left their mark on the goods they sold. Brand marks were made on leather, bags of grain and even animals to show ownership. The origins of brands could also be said to start from the kings of those times, when a royal seal used to be affixed to documents in the form of recognition. These brands came to symbolize trust in the owner of the brand, a guarantee of quality of the product.
Brands and branding are today an integral part of the communication process. The branding used has to convey a single message across forums, yet mean different things to the various audiences it seeks to communicate with. An example of a continuous and integrated brand image would be Nokia.
With its brand message of “Connecting People”, Nokia goes way beyond just the telecommunications industry. Rather than define itself by the industry and products it deals with, viz. hand-held phones, it chooses to position itself as a facilitator of communication, thereby making itself customer-centric rather than product- or industry-centric. Nor is this outlook restricted only to branding.
In reaching out to customers, Nokia has a range of cell-phone products that appeal to every segment of the market from the low-end 1100 series for economy customers and the E series for business use, right up to the technology-packed N series and swank, sophisticated style statement of the Vertu. This integration of the brand message across various customer segments makes Nokia a well-recognized brand in the marketplace today.
Brands are made up of names, colors, symbols, or a combination of all these to create a unique identity, in order to differentiate the product or service it represents from all others in the market. As the world becomes increasingly integrated, brands have moved from local to global, and need to maintain a uniform visibility and message across the audiences that it affects. The global brand identity of a product can sometimes come in conflict with local culture, whose interpretation of the brand and its elements may not be congenial to the values the brand seeks to represent.
Culture is a collection and amalgamation of accepted values, beliefs and rituals that have been absorbed by a community over time, and made a part of their identity. People who have grown up in a particular culture can interpret things differently from those belonging to a diverse culture.
Brand Research Scope
The author seeks to gain an understanding of the issues arising from the global propagation of a single brand, and how it can be interpreted differently in different parts of the world. In the age of global brands, what is it that companies need to do to better adjust their brand image to the needs of local culture, so as to mitigate any negative connotations of the brand created by cultural influences is the main scope of this study.
The author will refer to key works in both branding as well as the examination of culture and their influences on each other.
Elements of a Brand
A Brand is an identifying mark, symbol, word(s), or combination of same that separate one company's product or services from another (Kotler). It is a device used to communicate certain values that the product or service which it represents embodies. Let us look at what each of the elements of a...
References: Aaker, David (1995). Building Strong Brands.
Aaker, Jennifer (1997). Dimensions of Brand Personality, Journal of Marketing Research.
Fan, Ying. THE ART OF CROSS-CULTURAL BRANDING, Brunel University.
Hofstede, Geert. Cultural Dimensions. Source: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/
Inglehart, R. World Values Survey. Source: http://www.worldvaluessurvey.com/statistics/some_findings.html
Rokeach, M. (1968). Beliefs, attitudes, and values: A theory of organization and change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Roll, Martin. Cross-cultural branding and leadership. Source: http://www.venturerepublic.com/resources/Cross-cultural_branding_leadership.asp
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