Having the same brand vision in all contexts has enormous advantages in coordinating brand efforts across product categories and markets, scaling brand-building programs and gaining internal clarity for the brand. But the goal should be strong brands everywhere, not the same brand everywhere. Adaptation is often helpful and sometimes necessary. Brands often span products and markets.
Some brands face market share differences; look at Volkswagen’s dominance in Germany but not in the UK. Some brands have brand image differentiations, being “premium” in some geographies and “value” in others. Sometimes, customers have different motivations. For example, P&G’s Olay brand found that in India people wanted skin that was brighter looking rather than younger looking and had to readjust their strategy.
Distribution channels can be a challenge. Cultural differences and local heritage can play a factor in brand strategy as well. Competitor positions have to be considered and preempted. The challenge is to allow adaptation without the process leading to anarchy, inconsistency and uncoordinated marketing programs. My brand vision model, in part because of its multi-dimensionality, is well suited to several adaptation strategies. The core elements can be selectively highlighted, interpreted or augmented:
Emphasize Different Elements of the Vision
A brand that has a core vision of two to five items can selectively maximize its impact on the silo market. A major financial services company was developing a loan program eventually to be used in many of the countries in which they operated. Their brand vision included “easy to work with,” “bias to yes,” “flexibility” and “speed.”
Research in three representative countries showed very different reactions. In the United States, “easy to work with” and “bias to yes” were the most effective appeals. In an Eastern European country, “easy to work with” and “speed” were the most impactful. In a developed Asian country, “flexible,” “easy to work with” and “speed” were the winners. So these countries could dial up different aspects of the vision in each location, even though the core vision was the same.
Spin the Brand Story for the Local Market
The same brand vision can be applied across organizational silos, but elements of it could be interpreted differently in different markets. A hotel’s friendly, interactive style may look different in different countries. Or social responsibility could take on water conservation in one country and worker conditions in another. An appliance firm’s innovation story could focus on affordable, compact appliances in emerging markets and on computer-aided features for a more advanced market. ChevronTexaco has a core brand vision that consisted of four values — clean, safe, reliable and high quality. The high quality element is interpreted differently for lubes, convenience stores and gasoline.
Augment with Additional Elements
A vision element in the silo context could be relevant and compelling while keeping consistent with the global brand. ChevronTexaco, in addition to allowing the silos to interpret the brand vision elements, also allows the country or product silos to add one vision element to the four elements already in the core vision. So the lube business could add “performance” and the Asian geography could add “respectfully helpful.” Another energy company added “an honest pump” to its brand vision for a South American county because customers in that country were used to being cheated at the pump and getting less than they paid for. When a country spans silos, the brand can add a local or country flavor by infusing associations that connect with the culture and heritage of the country.
Get People Involved
The goal is to provide flexibility to the silo units within the confines of the overall brand strategy, so that the brand has a greater ability to link with the silo customer. Not only does this provide the flexibility to adapt the brand to a silo context, it also provides room for silo executives to excel. It can be demoralizing for a silo manager to be given a brand strategy that, in his or her eyes, will not work (even if it may in fact be optimal). The result can have unintended and undesirable consequences. It is much better to make sure that there is flexibility in order to make the brand work in all contexts, while still maintaining a core consistency.