Global brands are immigrants

The best brands are confident enough to adapt without compromising their core strengths. When faced with a new technology or market, they can translate the value proposition in meaningful ways that are consistent with both their heritage and their potential. ~ Brad Nemer in Brand Magic in India

This is an early exploration of a concept – I’ve been pondering deeply after a conversation on global brands entering new market. The concept was put to me that could a global or transnational brand, be in effect, compared to an immigrant?

Take Coca Cola as an example. Yes, it is an American company, with respect to it’s headquarters. But today, after almost a century of global expansion, is it an ‘American’ brand? Similarly, Philips, Unilever, Nestle, Shell – can they be considered Dutch, British, Swiss and ?

We’ve seen and said that brands that are embraced by people and made into their ‘own’ are the epitome of what all corporates aspire to – after all, the power of a loyal customer base cannot be denied.

Taking this thought one step further, say a P&G entering China or India, are they entering as an immigrant – intending to stay, adapt to the local culture and social mores, and be ‘accepted’ or ‘assimilated’ or are they simply entering as an expat or temporary resident, a ‘foreign’ visitor?

Are there lessons from the way immigrants adapt and assimilate into the society of their new homeland that multinational corporations can learn from?

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7 Responses to Global brands are immigrants

  1. Intersting analogy. Seems the top brands (in services as well as products) are immigrants.

  2. niti bhan says:

    Yes, more so when you consider the qualities that crossing a culture successfully, particularly for multi movers, requires – adaptability, flexibility, observation skills and a respectful sensitivity to a different way of seeing and doing things.

  3. jens says:

    the brand anology can cast a new light on immigration. it shows us that cultural assimilation can be a dead end street for those of prestige and style. for comodities assimilation is ok, for fmcg too. for luxury..?.. no. not at all.
    – always stay a exotic and eccentric.
    learning from immigation for brand strategy: take the italians and the chinese. one might say that italians are extremely successful in blending their identity into the host culture. “enriching the host culture” they maintain strong brand identities. they have a strong sense of comunity and take their own society system (mafia) with them where ever they enter. – (pretty much like the chinese too – have we got another potential winner here?)

  4. niti bhan says:

    Jens,
    To your first point, recall the Gucci brand post I wrote earlier this year, http://www.nitibhan.com/perspective/2006/03/design_20_cocre.html, where I said that luxury brands, by virtue of their standing, cannot indeed assimilate, and should not. So, we are on the same page here…
    And taking your very insightful articulation further, can we not also say that global brands, in this rapidly evolving world of today, the flat world, are closer to being ‘global nomads’, living in liminality, than true immigrants who leave one place to settle in another?
    They are multi movers, if you will, and while the long established brands of yesterday like the names I’ve mentioned in my post, were leaving their host culture after being very established domestically, with strong cultures (within the organization), and entering new markets, it wasn’t easy for them. Witness the various fiasco’s when India and China first opened up.
    But the brands emerging today, like Skype, Google and Apple, unlike the Shells and the Nestles and the Cokes, are evolving in a connected world. They cannot launch and integrate into any one culture first before they move to the second, they must immediately transcend cultural and geographical boundaries to become truly global.
    It doesn’t even have to be intangible online brands, it applies to any product or service, if you want a global market. today, you or I are brands, how do we present ourselves to our global audience, after all, you yourself are a German living in Madrid, Spain? Yet here we are communicating on a blog hosted in the United States?
    Would it be too much to say that today, design needs to speak to our common humanity?

  5. jens says:

    the first point was about what we as immigrants can learn from brands.
    second point: skype and google are too young to judge – not sure if they are residing in cyberspace – and apple is messiah jobs and his followers (which is not mafia but in some aspects a similar kind of comunity)
    have a good week.

  6. niblettes says:

    Oh I don’t think Google is too young to judge. It seems to be adapting rather well and rather quickly to Chinese ways. Apparently the “don’t be evil” brand message just doesn’t travel very well–better leave it at home.
    http://www.itwire.com.au/content/view/4599/106/

  7. niti bhan says:

    Jens, yes, the first point was about what we as immigrants can learn from brands, but I was extrapolating it to the fact that you’ll have ‘luxury’ immigrants who will hold on to their ‘uniqueness’ as a differentiator.
    that skype and google are too young to judge may be a point, but the fact remains that they are emerging brands in a changed landscape, so it’s not a question of judgement so much as approach. how would a new brand launched in today’s climate adapt and evolve? they’d learn from others,no?

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