Bblewrap proposes a new system of dynamic branding from a cultural aspect.
Today, companies are scrambling to develop truly international brands. Although the Indian retail market has a large number of unorganised retail players, the changes in foreign direct investment policies have encouraged the entry of global retailers. At the same time, Indian consumers are becoming more brand-conscious and are spending more on branded products. India is ranked among the top three most brand-conscious countries in the world.
Globalisation not only leads to wider internationalisation of markets, it also results in consumers developing favourable Country-Of-Origin-based attitudes towards foreign brands which, although maintaining their identity of a foreign or global origin, emphasise the value of their ‘local connection’ with domestic culture, traditions, and concern for the domestic society’s well-being.
There exists a gap between People’s brands and the Company’s brand. Is it worth bridging that gap through cultural integration using local symbols and images in branding? Brand Local Integration (BLI), is defined as consumer perception of foreign brands’ integration and commitment to local society derived through local manufacture and national/cultural appeals (language, symbols) integrated into a foreign brand’s image.
Consumers having a higher local identity are more inclined to their heritage and are more defensive of foreign cultures manifested in a brand. For such a highly ethnocentric segment, foreign cultural elements are often perceived as a threat to their local identity. In contrast, consumers with a high global identity tend to view global cultures as intellectual resources that complement their own culture for achieving valued goals. A global identity gives consumers a sense of belonging to a worldwide culture and an awareness of the information that is part of the global culture.
The compatibility between the global brand and the local cultural elements enhances consumers’ evaluation of the brand’s local icons and increases their purchase likelihood. Such a blended approach to brand positioning has evolved in response to the recently emerged notion of a “glocal” consumer segment. One of the characteristics of glocal consumers is that they integrate goals of maintaining their unique local identities and acquiring membership in the global community.
For example, in Russia, Starbucks present their brand name in Cyrillic; Honda Civic and CR-V models’ advertising in the UK emphasises they are ‘local’, as they are assembled in local factories. These strategies are viewed as a response to the process of “glocalisation.” What remains unclear, however, is how and what elements of glocalised branding and strategies affect consumer perceptions of brands’ origin. Do consumers distinguish between ‘purely foreign/global’ brands and ‘glocal’ brands? Do local people perceive global brands as “Our” brands?
From a brand-building perspective, developing brand identities that communicate ‘A universal appeal while highlighting specific emphases for local markets’ can be seen as a solution to creating brands that have consistent identities across several markets. Such an approach will allow for enhancing a company’s multinational profile while at the same time creating brands that appeal to consumers harbouring local affiliations.
However, one may question whether local affiliations of foreign brands may be blurring the boundaries between consumer readings of ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ elements of brand identity, thus leading to ambiguous brand ‘belongingness’ Perceptions. ‘Domestication’ dilutes the meaning of ‘foreignness’ and diminishes the symbolic value assigned to global and other nonlocal brands by consumers in emerging markets. Is it worth sacrificing global brand value for local market integration?
Most successful foreign brands were able to incorporate the crucial elements of a local brand’s identity into their management tools. Put simply, brands are no longer being judged either negatively or positively based on their ‘foreignness’ only. ‘Foreign’ no longer equals ‘better’. Due to pro-ethnocentric and pro-nationalistic attitudes, consumers place value on local resources, produce and services.
Sometimes such marketing practices by multinational companies can also be abused and may not result in positive consumer responses if there is a mismatch between the brand and the compatibility of different cultures. The brand Mecca Cola is an excellent example. Launched in 2002 by Tawfik Mathlouthi, a French-Tunisian businessman, it is now available in several Middle Eastern countries under the slogan "Shake your conscience." The brand capitalises on a tide of anti-Americanism in the Arab world, and its name evokes the most powerful symbol in the Muslim cultural landscape.
How about we Introduce a new method of branding? Bblewrap proposes a new system of branding from a cultural aspect. This nature of branding is more dynamic in terms of its identity and aims to unite diverse consumers from different geographic and cultural landscapes. How is this achieved? By devising different brand identities for different localities with regional cultural adaptations.
For example, Gujarat, North-East, South India etc. are all prospective market segments that are quite different from each other despite belonging to the same Nation. For a brand to penetrate such varied markets easily, the brand could adopt different identities by adapting visual cues from respective geo-cultural zones of different states. This strategic dynamic situation would mean multiple brand identities for the same brand. However, all the individual identities would have to have common branding elements neatly tying them together. We at Bblewrap see this dynamic branding as an exciting possibility for brands like the Indian Railways, the State Metros or State Milk Co-op Federations like Milma. This strategy can effectively be implemented for India in itself as a Brand!
Such branding will bring diverse segments of consumers closer to the company. This branding strategy cannot be generalised to all industries. Non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), Fintech, FMCGs, Heavy Machinery, Fertilizers and agro-based industries could explore this strategy while Apparel, electrical and allied industries as well as luxury and aspirational brands are advised to steer clear of the same. While designing different identities can seem costly for the brand, the ultimate ROI can prove otherwise. Such a branding system would help in cutting marketing efforts and reduce the time to achieve sales targets. It would be an innovative branding and marketing exercise to analyse the cost difference between the two and verify its profitability.
Imagine a scenario where a Non-banking finance company like Manappuram, Muthoot or Kosamattam is launching a branch in a rural village in Madhya Pradesh. If the parent brand can garner local people’s trust by incorporating local symbols and cultural imagery into the branding system, they would choose the brand over local zamindars on money lenders. Reducing brokerage and eliminating unjust middlemen would create a positive perception for the brand, although “foreign”. That is when “Their brand” transforms into “Our brand” and the branding proves successful.
Thus, opportunities exist to explore local branding in exclusively local product categories. This is often done by targeting high-ethnocentric consumers with promotional imagery triggering ethnocentric tendencies (e.g. “proud to be local-owned”), without neglecting global image promotion to sustain resultant positive attitudes and intentions.
Companies promoting global brands must think globally but act locally to create more associations with their brands. Over time, as more local brands from less-developed markets venture into the global arena, the effect of ethnocentrism on local brand purchases may weaken, and the effect of global connectedness may become more favourable across product categories. Marketing managers are well advised to be vigilant of the constantly changing brandscapes across markets and resist the temptation of standardisation at the expense of localization.