In this paper I will introduce the significance of global brands and the role they play in our daily lives. I will then mention a few recently popularized marketing tools being used by organisations. This paper will discuss the issue of consumer resistance faced by global brands. I will be mentioned various concepts with real life examples with respect to consumer resistance. Further the role of the organisation will be discussed when faced with resistance from the consumers and the measures organisations take in order to cope with this resistance, this is often referred to as cooptation theory. I would justify my argument with the help of real life examples and from case studies.
A brand is a name or a symbol attached to a product which helps in signifying its source (Aaker 1996). The brand name adds value to a product pertaining to its brand name. Popular brand names like Coca Cola, Google, Apple, and, McDonalds are some of the most recognizable brand names around the world (Interbrand, 2010). Global brands in existence today have been able to transcend cultural boundaries and have been successful in embedding into different cultures, to an extent of becoming cultural icons in certain subcultures. The value attached to the brand name can also be referred to as brand equity. Aaker (1991) has defined the term of brand equity as a group of assets and liabilities attached to the brand, which either add or subtract value to the existing value provided by the product or service to the customer. Aaker (1991) goes on to add that some of the global brands have such high brand equity that their total assets combined are or less value than the brand name. Building a strong brand name is the goal of many of today’s organisations, but it is a time consuming and challenging process especially because of unpredictability and growing competition in the market. Building a strong brand name is not only a marketing functions but it includes various other areas of business as well such as corporate culture, hierarchy, working conditions etc. In some instances a brand symbol might be much stronger than a brand name; even a symbol would do for the audience to recognize the brand, an example of brands with well known symbolism is Nike’s tick, McDonalds ‘M’ and Apple’s bitten apple.
Branding has increasingly become one of the top priorities of modern organisations. It is an extensive process for the organisations to build a strong brand image in this competitive and increasingly global market. Danesi (2006, p 91) explains “â€¦ brands attempt to build and solidify a semiotic bridge between the product, media, and cultural performances”. Marketing of brand name has been on a verge of growth on a global level, and excessive marketing has led to certain brands becoming a part of culture.
Branding is a pivoting characteristic of marketing. Over the years global brands have grown considerably and are eventually becoming a part of our cultures. Global Brands often use different tools of marketing in order to infiltrate the minds of their target audience. One of the influential tools used by organisations in order to infiltrate in their target market is known as ‘Cultural Doping’. The purpose of culture doping is to build a very strong brand image in the minds of the prospective consumers of the product, thus making the product a part of their subculture. A successful example of cultural doping done by a global brand is McDonalds, where they have targeted children with Happy Meal. They offer a free complimentary toy with every Happy Meal that they sell. This has made Happy Meal a favourite amongst children. Parents have even tried taking legal measures against McDonalds to stop giving a free toy with happy meal (Reimer, M. 2011), but nothing has stopped McDonald and they continue this process of cultural doping making Happy Meal a part of children’s culture, therefore developing new needs and wants amongst. Alvesson gives a critical insight to the theory of cultural doping.
‘The Argument of critical theory It is assumed that cultural traditions and powerful agents may create closure, freezing people into certain types of dependencies – to religious dogmas, to expertise (technocracy), to unconscious fantasies and processes, to limiting and repressive conceptions of rationality and knowledge, and to ideologies that selectively and narrowly tie needs and wants to particular sources of satisfaction. Marketing as cultural doping – the corporation as a socialization agency’ (1993, p 302)
Alvesson further explains the context of Cultural Doping by saying:
‘Socialization is the process whereby individuals learn and conform to the values, norms, taken-for-granted assumptions, conventions and capacities of the society and the social group to which they belong. The cultural doping metaphor suggests that management is involved in the fostering and production of individuals. It is assumed that people develop beliefs, values and identities which to a greater or lesser extent are shaped by the intended and unintended consequences of the management of “demand”.’ (Alvesson 1993, p 305)
Cultural doping is a relatively new term in the field of marketing highly emphasized in Alvesson’s work.
Today’s organisations are employing a number of marketing techniques to stay ahead in this competitive global environment, and to minimize resistance from the consumers. One of these techniques is known as social marketing, as explained by Kotler (et al 2001) is when an organisation decides to be socially and ethically responsible with respect to their marketing activities, which minimizes the risk of consumer resistance.
A more broad and widely accepted definition of social marketing has been described by Zalman and Kotler, it states:
“Social marketing is the design, implementation, and control of programs calculated to influence the acceptability of social ideas and involving considerations of product planning, pricing, communication, distribution, and marketing research”
(1971 ,p 5)
Thus it proves that social marketing is not as simple as it sounds. It has to do with applying marketing concepts and techniques in order to increase social and economic value of a product. It also has to do with the social portrayal of the organisation in the consumer’s mind, which is passed through marketing campaigns and other marketing related activities.
Another marketing tool which is becoming widely popular has been used by a lot of brands recently in order to generate immediate buzz amongst the target market, it is called Guerrilla marketing. Guerrilla marketing is a tool which is quite different from others present in the arsenal of marketing. It is a very low cost method when compared to other mediums of marketing. It relies on giving offers on weekdays when normally sales are down to attract new customers; it tends to build a stronger customer base over the years, by encouraging word of mouth by existing customers. Guerrilla marketing is also reliant on telephonic and email marketing which also drastically help in increasing the customer base and are a very cheap source of reaching potential clients. Guerrilla marketing mostly makes use of unconventional methods in order to spreads marketing messages. Often strong Guerrilla marketing can lead to unpredictable results as its affectivity is hard to measure (Levinson JC 1984).
The term Cool Hunting is also related to a marketing tool being applied by brands, which tends to follow a certain subculture so that the potential customers can relate to the brand on a more personalized. Often these brands have no great knowledge of these cultures, but still tend to adapt them in hope of wider recognition or becoming a cultural icon. Originally these cultures originate from the street but many a times brands tend to pick them up and start mass production. These brands are often criticised by the people actually a part of that culture as brands tend to globalize these cultures in search of commercialisation.
In recent times global brands have had more to offer to its consumers on a personal level. Strong brands tend to build long lasting and profitable social relations with its clients. Consumers now have more freedom to choose and represent themselves with the help of global brands, as these brands tend to give you a certain image because of their popularity. Over the years co-creation from the consumers has also been on the rise, where brands give the consumers an opportunity to represent the brand by helping them create something new.
Co-creation allows an individual customer to co-create unique experiences with a company, which is key to unlocking new sources of competitive advantage, unlike the traditional system, in which the firms selected the products and services they will produce, firms now found ways to pass on work to their consumers, which originally was done by the firms employees (Prahalad C.K. 2004).
Over the years in search for efficient ways of marketing, the trend has shifted from a mass targeting strategy and more directed towards targeting a specific segment. This process was not only evolved by the marketers themselves but in actuality it came into being, with increased interaction back and forth between the consumers and the marketers in the end resulting in the process being influenced by the consumers themselves. This is not surprising as the success of global brands like Apple is a result of not only good marketing strategies but strategies have been evolved which have been influenced by consumers themselves. This has been possible due to increasing communication and interaction between businesses and its consumers. Since the emergence of sub cultures
The shifting orientation within the marketing profession from mass to segment may give the impression that the emergence of market segmentation was solely a top-down process, with all initiatives coming from marketers. It was not the case; rather it was a much more interactive process with potential consumers exerting influences on the marketing field.
Today brands have become increasingly strong with respect to cultural values, giving individuals an identity just based on the brand they are using. Some brands go as far as becoming cultural icons. BMW can be referred to as an example for being a cultural icon amongst generation X. It is often called ‘Beamer’ by its fans and the brand itself is so strong that it automatically gives the person who is driving the car a higher social value and class. ‘When marketers influence the demand for products they are affecting not only tastes, wants, understandings and needs; they are also affecting the personalities and life developments.’ (Alvesson 1993, p 306) This statement tells us what brands are aiming to achieve through these marketing tools. The key to success for any brand is to create higher value in eyes of the consumer with respect to its competition and in return offer higher value as well to its customers. Global brands want to be amongst cultural icons, with a high value and recognition amongst our culture.
In the process of creating wide recognition and becoming cultural icon through extensive marketing brands sometimes suffer from resistance from the public. From time to time big global brands have had to face some kind of resistance from its consumers or the critics. Resistance has been in different forms to boycott of products to vandalizing billboards. This idea of resisting against brands is also called as Cultural Jamming (Sandlin 2007). Duncombe (2002, p 5) has defined this concept as “culture that is used, consciously or unconsciously, effectively or not, to resist and/or change the dominant political, economic and/or social structure”.
In response to why Cultural Jamming takes place against brands Storey (2006 p 171) states “We need to see ourselves-all people, not just vanguard intellectuals-as active participants in culture: selecting, rejecting, making meanings, attributing value, resisting and, yes, being duped and manipulated”. One of the most famous group involved in cultural jamming is a not for profit organisation called Adbusters, which publishes a monthly magazine targeting different global brands. The Adbusters describe their organisation as “We are a global network of culture jammers and creative’s working to change the way information flows, the way corporations wield power, and the way meaning is produced in our society” (Adbusters 2011).
Source: Rasool F. 2009
This photo gives us an example of cultural jamming against global brands.
Culture jamming has gotten increased recognition through word of mouth, with the growth of social networking websites and blogs. Activists tend to change the messages on the brands advertisements, sometimes hosting virtual protests like ‘buy nothing day’. In other words culture jamming “seeks to undermine the marketing rhetoric of multinational corporations, specifically through [such] practices as media hoaxing, corporate sabotage, billboard ‘liberation,’ and trademark infringement” (Harold, 2004, p. 190). Culture Jammers target mass media sources of advertisements of big brands on the basis that they do not honestly depict the products in their adverts. They resist these brands as they have the notion that brands only use marketing tools as propaganda for their own monetary interests, rather than caring for their customers.
In order to overcome resistance brands can take two routes Co-optation or Coercion. Co-optation is where the leading resistor or the group leader is given a role in order to make a change which would help in resolving an issue. Where culture jamming starts taking a toll on corporate giants they tend to co-opt with their resistors in order to overcome the dispute. On the other hand Coercion is when the dispute is solved either through termination of the resistor or relocation, this on the other hand leads up to increasing conflict. Many global brands choose this option over cooptation as it is less time consuming and in the end the power to make decision still lies at your hands, but coercion measure may lead to less popularity of a brand if negative press is generated.
Source: Adbusters 2011
An example of resistance amongst the consumers towards a global brand is in the case of GAP, which is a clothing store. In popular culture people have connected the initials GAP to being ‘Gay and Proud’. Which is actually not the case, it is just a tools of resistance which people have spread by word of mouth in order to lower the image of the brand.
Source: Nancy Black 2011
Nike has been a cultural icon in sports wear around the globe for the past two decades. Despite its strong brand image and its huge sales worldwide, it came under criticism for making its labour work in unhealthy and dangerous conditions and being lowly paid on top of that. Nike factories were referred to as Sweatshops by the critics who claimed that they had underage children employed and were paid extremely low wages.
An example of resistance from consumers against global brands is of Nike, when a lot of people accused the company for carrying out production under unhealthy environment for its worker’s in the factories. Since this issue, the brand has come under a lot of criticism for inhumanely treating its employees.
“Nike advertisements and billboards have been subject to cultural jamming all around the world; however, there are some difficulties the Culture Jammers face. The very corporations and sources of power that they attack may appropriate the Jammers own use of language to subvert their messages and symbolic references and actions” (Carty, V 2002 142). “For example, Nike Corporation offered Green Party representative and consumer activist Ralph Nader $25,000 to appear in an ad for its Air 120 sneakers” (Carty, V 2002 142). This TV commercial attempt, as Nader refused to appear in the ad. “In another, more successful, stunt, Nike initiated a marketing campaign in Australia that featured a fake campaigning organization, Fans For Fair Football (FFFF), supposedly fighting for fairness in football by abolishing the unfair high tech Nike football boots” (Bernstein, A 1999 104). This action on-part of Nike was to mimic activist strategies; therefore, the billboards seemed to be developed by protesters.
Overall, “some of Nike’s responses would imply that protests and cultural jamming are having some impacts on sales, and have definitely tarnished the company’s image (Carty, V 2002 143). “The company has made some substantial concessions regarding its labor practices, and has purposefully toned down its marketing and advertising campaigns (perhaps the most notable being the substitution of the ‘I Can’campaign for the ‘Just Do It’ tag line)” (Carty, V 2002 143).
In this paper I introduced the significance of global brands and the role they play in our daily lives. Further, I mention a few recently popularized marketing tools being used by organizations. This paper also took an in-depth look into the issues of consumer resistance faced by global brands. To discuss the role of the organization, and how it deals with resistance from the consumers, I used Nike as an empirical example for this essay.
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