By students, for students.

Global Marketing Management: One world, one voice? (part 5)

In Management, Marketing on March 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

External conditions required for standardised advertising


Figure 5 French McDonald’s ad

Cultural integration

There are fears that globalisation will cause a homogenous world standard by ‘cultural imperialism’. Yet, we are protective of the ‘imagined communities’ we live in and can be resistant to change (Benedict Anderson, 1991). James Cantalupo, President of MacDonald’s International undermines the concept of cultural influence as a zero-sum game:

You don’t have two thousand stores in Japan by being seen as an American company. Look, McDonald’s serves meat, bread and potatoes. They eat meat, bread and potatoes in most areas of the world. It’s how you package it and the experience you offer that counts. [3]

With this ethos, McDonalds balances standardisation and local adaption. The below advertisement illustrates the brand associating itself with the ‘café culture’ in France.

Differences in moral and religious beliefs and even colour associations can make for wildly divergent interpretations of ads. For instance, the French associate red with danger, passion and revolution, while the Chinese think of good fortune and prosperity. Some transnational companies borrow national associations to increase the cultural capital of their brands (see figure 5). Language is a major barrier to standardised advertising. In a study of 400 agencies, only 11% of brands use the same language in all international markets (Duncan and Ramaprasad, 1995).

cafe rougechinese

Figure 6 Red in corporate websites

A study of more than 70,000 ads across cultures found few ‘travelled well’ and that the cost savings of standardisation were offset by a lack of local resonance (Millward Brown, 2007). Cluster analyses of countries, considering factors including media availability and economic development, support these conclusions leading Siriam and Gopalakrishna to argue:

[Advertisers] should view standardisation not as the transferability of an entire campaign across countries, but as a strategy that makes unified themes, images and even brand names, possible. (1999, p.146)

Standardised ads often draw on ‘universal values’, such as the desire to live long and comfortable lives or nurture the next generation. Johnnie Walker whiskey has capitalised on the theme of personal progress. Diageo’s ‘Keep on Walking’ campaign, which spread this message using local landscapes, increased sales by 48% in eight years (Hollis, 2007).

 jhonny walker

Figure 7 Johnnie Walker: Same theme, different location

As standardisation establishes products as global, multinationals leave themselves vulnerable to ‘out-localisation’. Greater expertise enables local firms to target underrepresented consumer segments. India’s Tata Motors developed its financial services to support rural Indians who had no access to loans and support.

This is not to say that products tied to a local culture cannot move between countries. Americans enjoy a dazzling array of cultural imports including Vietnamese restaurants, Reggae music, Egyptian novels, Chinese films, Indian clothes and Afghan jewellery. Yet, some product categories are easier to export, e.g. technology over local delicacies. Further, even countries with radically different cultures may have similar consumer segments which possess the same needs. Tata has leveraged its expertise in marketing to Africa and ASEAN countries with consumers closely resembling those within the firm’s home nation.

The emergence of consumer segments which can be found in all the principal regions of the world is explored in the penultimate section of this essay.


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