Aug 6, 2011

Cultural Perspectives and Globalization in Branding Strategies

Brands have become omnipresent in global popular culture. Because brands have become such an integral part of the cultural and economic landscape, there is a growing need for international marketing scholars not only to adapt to changing global market conditions but also to contribute to public discourse on branding practices. A cultural approach involves recognizing that international marketing is more than a technique that it consists of a constellation of understandings such as the relationship between individuals and society.
Moreover, it is apparent that anti-globalization activism is a diverse movement with some groups promoting various anti-consumption positions; others disputing specific elements of global value chains, such as the use of genetically modified organisms and sweatshop labor; others promoting alternative fair-trade brands. Anti-globalization takes many forms, not all of which are truly resistant to marketing or branding. These brands are positioned on anti-MNC, anti-globalization platforms that provide opportunities for product positioning and marketing communications strategies that deviate from the standardized brand positioning strategies driven primarily by price and quality.
A cultural approach asserts that branding is specific to neither modernity nor capitalist societies nor the globalized market-mediated society. Instead, commodity branding is a long-term feature of human economies. Historical accounts about branding are an important corrective to a tendency in international marketing to treat brands as a universal technology. International marketing scholars often urge brand managers to keep their brands consistent across cultural boundaries. They state that “for a global brand to be a true global brand, it must also be consistent, not just in name, but in position and what it offers”. Similarly, the branding consultant Interbrand asserts that the “best brands achieve a high degree of consistency in visual, verbal, auditory, and tactile identity across geographies”.
The writings of branding consultants, advertising executives, and other branding specialists also reflect that international marketing is a set of universal techniques. According to Keller the implicit and sometimes explicit assumption is that branding techniques and theories can be applied cross-culturally. In other words, to develop strong brands, firms must follow the models developed by Western companies such as Apple, Harley-Davidson, or Coca-Cola. International marketing scholars are ready to accept that international marketing requires attention to cultural differences but not that the models of brand development and what constitutes a powerful brand might be different across contexts. In contrast, consistent with the historical and cultural examples mentioned previously, if researchers view branding as a culturally malleable mode of communication, they can think more productively about the way the cultural context should influence branding activities.

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