Cross-cultural Consumer Behavior in Global Brand Strategy

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Cross-cultural Consumer Behavior in Global Brand Strategy
Cross-cultural Consumer Behavior in Global Brand Strategy
DU Haiyan
Shandong Institute of Business and Technology
[email protected]
Abstract: Under the circumstance of economic globalization and increasing tension of international
competition, global brand strategy has been attracting much attention. A good one can be made only
after a thorough inter-culture analysis with taking into full consideration the cross-cultural consumer
Keywords: Global brand strategy, Cross-culture, Consumer behavior
1 Introduction
The history of globalization could back to the colonialism period in the 19th century, and nowadays
globalization has become a huge wave, with nearly every corporation being unable to escape. Some
ambitious corporations plan to take advantage of it and make profits in overseas market. To this end,
they make the global brand strategy. But their consequence of putting it into practice is a quite different
story. As far as a successful global brand strategy is concerned, consumers in a different culture need
much emphasis.
2 The Behavior of Cross-culture Consumers
It is agreed that all human begins have culture and different region has different culture. People as
creator of culture are simultaneously influenced by the culture, which is too complex to get a uniformed
definition. And the dissertation is based on the aspect of anthropologists and psychologists, where a
culture is the system of shared beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and artifacts that the members of
society use to cope with their world and with one another, and that are transmitted from generation to
generation through learning. With regard to global brand strategy they are the behavior of consumer in a
different culture. According to Antonides[1], consumer behavior concerns mental and physical acts
including their motives and causes of individuals and groups regarding orientation, purchase, use,
maintenance and disposal and household production of goods and services from the market sector, the
public sector, and the household sector, leading to functionality and the achievement of consumer goals
and values and thus to satisfaction and well-being taking into account short-term and long-term effects
and individual and societal consequences. The most important factors in establishing global brand
strategy are the following:
2.1 Beliefs
Beliefs are points of view that members of a society hold to be true. Some are ancient and typical to a
culture, while others are of more recent times and may be shared across some cultural groups.
2.2 Values
A value system is a learnt organization of principles and rules to help one choose between alternatives,
resolve conflicts, and make decisions. Values are generally somewhat less deep-rooted and unyielding
than beliefs, which are shown by the fact people’s values tend to change as they get older and as they get
richer. Values also change under the influence of social and economic development, such as
industrialization, urbanization and globalization.
2.3 Customs
Customs dictate what is considered acceptable behavior in societies. As such they can have a strong
impact on brands, especially service brands. Ignoring or even offending local customs is probably one of
branding’s deadly sins. An advertising campaign for jeans that portrayed Buddhist monks as fashion
models offended Thaïs, as monks are supposed to wear only their orange robes. There are various
customs that affect branding.
2.4 Habits
Less obvious, but still clearly evident are habits, such as eating with chopsticks, drinking coffee in the
morning and tea in the afternoon, and so on. A television commercial for Asahi beer that was tested in
Vietnam left respondents bemused. The characters in the commercial were drinking beer out in the sun.
In a tropical country like Vietnam people rather drink their beer after sunset when it is cooler. Haig[2]
describes how Kellogg’s attempted to traduce Cornflakes in India in 1994–spending US$65 million in
the process, only to find that many Indians have the habit of starting the day with a bowl of hot
vegetables. In fact Indians partake of a wide range of breakfasts, such as paraatha (whole wheat
unleavened flatbread filled with cooked ground meat or a vegetable mixture) and dosa (a savory crepe),
depending on their regional background. Not only did Kellogg’s Need to promote Cornflakes, it also
needed to create an entire category in the subcontinent.
2.5 Symbols
Symbols not only provide instant recognition, more importantly they contain specific meanings. Some
symbols that are perfectly acceptable in one culture are totally unacceptable in other. One of the most
apparent symbol conflicts exists between the western interpretation of the swastika as symbol of Nazi
hatred, and the Buddhist interpretation, where the swastika(depicted in mirror image)is considered to be
a symbol of love.
3 Principles of Establishing Global Brand Strategy Valuing Cross-cultural
Consumer Behavior
Self-examination at the company level is required to ensure the critical success factors are in place to
take the brand to other markets. International brand has identified a consistent set of principles shared by
the Best Global Brands and those coming close to making the ranking.[3]
3.1 Recognition
Well-performing brands enjoy strong awareness among consumers and opinion leaders. These brands
lead their industry or industries. Think BMW. Car aficionados, reviewers, and loyal customers laud it
with equal enthusiasm. It has come to symbolic “performance” in engineering and design while
signifying that the owner has “arrived” on a personal and professional level. This type of recognition
represents the nexus of perception and reality enabling brands to rapidly establish credibility in new
3.2 Uniqueness
Great brands represent great ideas. These brands express the uniqueness of position to all internal and
external audiences. They effectively utilize all elements in the communications mix to position
themselves within and across international markets. Apple has creatively addressed its marketing mix
while ensuring its people embody its most own able and beneficial brand attribute: innovation. The
company has once again come to represent leading-edge technology solutions that become a part of
day-to-day life. Apple is embedded tangibly and emotionally in their consumers’ habits and practices.
3.3 Emotion
A brand is not a brand unless it competes along emotional dimensions. It must symbolize a promise that
people believe it can deliver and one they desire to be part of. This allows brands to achieve the loyalty
of consumers by tapping into human values and aspirations that cut across cultural differences. Nike has
appealed to the athlete in all, regardless of true physical ability, allowing for a focused message targeted
to the mass-market. This has elevated the discussion beyond tangible aspects of the shoe or apparel to
how the customer feels when wearing and performing in Nike gear.
3.4 Adaptability
A global brand must respect local needs, wants, and tastes. These brands adapt to the local marketplace
while fulfilling a global mission. HSBC has invested in that very message by conveying its excellence in
financial services, along with its deep knowledge of local custom and practice. In essence, it is
communicating a “global” advantage.
4 The Importance of Consumer Behavior in Global Brand Strategy by the
Example of Coca-cola
The most recognized brand name in the world got its start in an Atlanta pharmacy, where it sold for five
cents a glass. The name Coca-Cola was registered as a trademark on January 31, 1893. In its early days,
when the drink contained a form of cocaine, a drug made from coca leave extracts, Coca-Cola was
marketed as an “Esteemed Brain Tonic and Intellectual Beverage.” The name was penned by Dr.
Pemberton’s business partner, Frank Robinson, in the unique flowing script that is famous world wide
today. Mr. Robinson thought that the two Cs would look good in advertising. The company’s firs
president, Asa Candler, was a savvy businessman who implemented numerous printed coupons offering
complimentary first tastes of Coca-Cola, and outfitted distributing pharmacists with clocks, calendars,
and scales bearing the Coca-cola brand. The drink soon became a national phenomenon; by 1895, the
company had established syrup plants in Chicago, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
Coca-Cola expanded into numerous countries in the early 1900s, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and
France. In the 1920s, Coca-Cola pursued aggressive global branding, finding creative placements for its
logo, such as on dogsleds in Canada and on the walls of bullfighting arenas in Spain. During World War
Two, the U.S. Army shipped bottles of the beverage and bottling plants abroad to supply American
soldiers in Europe and Asia. Its popularity throughout the world was fueled by colorful and persuasive
advertising that cemented its image as the “All-American” beverage. When the Vietnam War tarnished
the American iconography somewhat, Coca-Cola developed more globally aware advertising. In 1971,
Coca-Cola ran its legendary “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” television spot, in which a crowd of
children sang the song from atop a hill in Italy. Coca-Cola’s moves into formerly restricted markets,
such as China in1978 and the Soviet Union in 1979, bolstered its image as a global company. By 1988,
Coca-Cola was voted the best known and most admired brand in the world. [4]
Despite—or perhaps as a result of –this immense scope, Coca-Cola did not institute a uniform marketing
program in each of its global markets. Rather, the company often tailored the flavor, packaging, price,
and advertising to match the tastes in specific markets. For example, Coke’s famous “Mean Joe” Green
TV ad from an admiring young fan and then unexpectedly tosses the kid has jersey in appreciation—was
replicated in a number of different regions using the same format bat substituting famous athletes from
those regions (e.g., ads in South America used the Argentine soccer star Maradona, while those in Asia
used the Thai soccer star Niat). Additionally, local managers were assigned responsibility for sales and
distribution programs of Coke products to reflect the marked differences in consumer behavior across
countries. For example, in Spain, Coke has been used as a mixer with wine; in Italy, Coke has been
served with meals in place of wine or cappuccino; in China, the beverage was served at special
government occasions.
Perhaps the most standardized element of Coca-Cola is its product appearance. Coke essentially keeps
the same basic look and packaging of the product everywhere (except in countries where laws dictate
use of local language). For legal reasons, Diet Coke is called Coca-Cola Light in Europe, and the
particular artificial sweeteners and packaging used for Diet Coke can differ in various parts of the world
too. The company simultaneously stresses that the brand be relevant and well positioned relative to
competition. In trying to keep the brand relevant, Coca-Cola uses different advertising agencies in
different countries in order to make the brand feel local. For example, in Australia the advertising
appeals to the same “classic, original” ideals but in a very Australian fashion. Moreover, the marketing
mix is designed in each country to stress that Coke is positioned positively on attributes relative to local
competitive products. Hence, although Coke looks similar across the globe, its specific image may be
very different, depending on what is considered “relevant” in each country. The advantage of this
approach is that Coke becomes entwined with the cultural fabric of the country, just as it has in the
United States. Over time this yields an advantage with younger generations who don’t even think of
Coke as an imported brand. An illustrative example that Coca-Cola recounts is of a Japanese family
visiting the United States for the first time whose young son, upon passing a vending machine, joyfully
exclaimed to his parents, “Look, they have Coke here too!”
Today, Coca-Cola conducts business with more than 230 brands in 200 countries. More than tow-thirds
of Coca-Cola’s revenues come from outside the United States, a fact that makes the company vulnerable
to down turns in international economies as the late 1990s. In response to the depressed sales wrought
by international recessions, the company pursued a restructuring plan that would recast the beverage
giant as “a collection of smaller, locally run businesses.” When Douglas Daft took over as chairman and
CEO in 2000, he expressed his desire for Coca-Cola managers to adopt a new mantra: “Think locally
and act locally.”
5 Conclusion
Global brand strategy has become more and more attractiveness in nowadays, especially under the
circumstance of economy globalization. Globalization has been a trend of varieties of business activities.
The approach on the global brand strategy is meaningful both in theoretical and practical areas. The
research of global brand strategy is closely related with the research of cross-culture as well as consumer
behavior. That is because, cross-culture analysis as a path to survey the effectiveness of global brand is
very important, and consumer’s perception towards brand is crucial.
The development of standardized marketing strategies can vary dramatically–for example, should the
strategy be based upon the common features of a trans-national mass market or upon the identification
of common clusters in different countries? The problem for a multi-national organization is that it
operates in a number of countries and adjusts its products and practices in each at substantial cost. So by
standardizing elements of the marketing mix through an international strategy, the argument is that
efficiency can be greatly improved.
Antonides, Gerrit. Consumer Behavior. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.
Haig, Brain. Business. Beijing: CITIC Publishing House, 2003.
Hu Ling. International Marketing. Beijing: Tsing Hua University Press, 2004(in Chinese)
Kevin, Lane Keller. Strategic Brand Management. Beijing: China Renmin University Press, 2004.
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