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H O W B R A N D I N G A D D S VA LU E R EL ATA BL E Has resonant meaning, is viewed as authentic and engages effectively at global and local levels. Embodies a sense of hope. Empathetic and emotional. Strives for trusted, inspiring reputation. Has a human soul.


nd lev els

P ROFES S I ON A L Conveys confidence, reliability and ambition. Has gravitas and credibilty, translating well across markets. Strives for reputation of excellence. More rational and analytical. Has a business soul.

TACTI CAL Perceived as slick, glossy. Can miss local market signals in effort to be efficient. Strives for competent reputation via conventional outreach to market. Has a situational soul.

T R A N S AC T I ON A L Unsophisticated. Strives to survive. Lacks a soul or distinguishable characteristics.

Italian luxury fashion firm Dolce & Gabbana generated anger when it ran a TV ad in China, showing a Chinese model eating a pizza with chopsticks. The cultural message was undeniably insensitive and it led to significant negative publicity worldwide. Alibaba, Suning and other e-commerce firms stopped selling D&G products, and several major Chinese celebrities boycotted the brand’s products. General Motors (GM), meanwhile, found itself in hot water when it ran a Cadillac commercial claiming that hard-working Americans ‘deserve’ a Cadillac, while implying that those of other cultures are lazy and undeserving. While not mentioning specific countries by name, the message was clear. The market reacted negatively. Ford took advantage of the misstep, running a counter-ad that mocked GM by saying that only people with a conscience who want to do good deserve to drive a Ford Focus, an affordable all-electric vehicle.

Ask the right questions

Brand disconnects can undermine a firm’s reputation in minutes. Repairing the damage can take years. So what leads to these disconnects? To paraphrase the GM ad, laziness. The checks and balances required to ensure that a brand’s Dialogue Q4 2019

message is appropriate for a local context are not onerous, but not enough leaders ask the right questions: Do we understand the local market context? Are the messages we’re sending aligned with our values and principles? Is the communication appropriate for the market we’re entering?

Reputation is reinforced everyday by employees on the ground who have a far more informed and nuanced understanding of local context than their remote headquarters colleagues. Great global/local branding doesn’t regard uniformity or being frictionless as objectives. The best brands don’t insist on rigid conformity; regional offices can and do push back when brand initiatives lack local relevance. This is healthy friction, sharpening mutual understanding and signalling internal trust. Unhealthy friction, however, often results when global teams demand strict compliance, signalling their indifference to and disrespect for insights from local offices. In top organizations, everyone owns the brand, so senior leaders are obliged to foster an atmosphere that allows local managers to

Profile for LID Business Media

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...

Dialogue Q4 2019  

Today’s global economy is shaped more by businesses than by nation states: by the goods and services they provide, the networks and supply c...