Global mission, local DNA

Brand Building and Marketing in Key Emerging Markets

25 Strategies and Frameworks for Brand Growth

Part VII

Welcome again to our series on the 25 strategies that will support your brand building and business development activities in key emerging markets. Today we want to illustrate why it is not enough to understand the local culture when you build a new brand in an emerging market. On top of that, it is necessary to become part of that culture in the best possible way, and to try to blend marketing efforts into it.

No matter whether using Chinese philosophy, Hindu mythology, Brazilian folk tales or Russian nostalgia, these are all ways to link brands to prevalent symbols, beliefs, tastes and myths in these countries. In fact, many Western companies have made ingenious use of local beliefs and myths in the BRICs.

Example: Volkswagen in India

Culturally, India is a real treasure trove of traditional narratives, like the Hindu epics, the Puranas or the Itihasa. In some, Lord Krishna, the incarnation of the supreme god Vishnu, is described as a young boy playing a flute, or as a prince who gives guidance. For centuries, Krishna has been the favorite subject in performing arts and regional traditions.

Being aware of the central role reincarnation plays in Hinduism, Volkswagen ran an ad using this theme. It shows how an old VW Polo is loved and taken care of by a man. As the man grows older and older, he still takes great care of the car. After many years of treating the car as a treasure, the old man dies while his daughter is pregnant. The daughter and the husband then buy a new Polo, and they soon discover that the little grandson also cares a lot about the Polo and shows behavior similar to the late grandfather. The implication is that the grandfather must have reincarnated in the grandson and his love for the Polo is a characteristic that was passed on. The TV commercial is summarized in the closing slogan that claims “The new Polo – so good that you will come back for it.”

BRICs as a source of innovation and new ideas

The full incorporation of local tastes, habits and preferences requires deeply rooted research and development at the local level. Therefore, India, the most culturally diverse and complex market of the BRICs, is shaping up as a new source of localized innovation with worldwide effects. In fact, as then Managing Director of L´Oréal India, Jacques Challes (currently Chief Innovation Officer at the company) declared in 2012: “Though it is a worldwide role, the future of L’Oréal lies in markets like India, Brazil and China. So in terms of ideas and innovation, these will come out of these countries and this will be instrumental for the whole company” (Forbes India, 2012). In other words, the next phase in rebalancing the global economy has begun. The current phase is witnessing a strengthening of local R&D in the emerging world, with far-reaching consequences for businesses worldwide.

A good example is the automotive industry, in which all major manufacturers, such as BMW or Mercedes-Benz, have started to invest in local R&D capacities in China in order to successfully cater to the hottest car market in the world. For instance, in 2014, BMW China launched its “Horse Edition” – just in time for the Chinese New Year of the horse in 2014.

This example demonstrates that it will not take long until the new markets drive new global tastes, flavors and products that will impact trends and fashion in the rest of the world. Companies that want to stay ahead of the competition need to make sure they are part of this development and conduct R&D locally in order to fully leverage local beliefs, myths and tastes.

Book - Brand Building an Marketing in Key Emerging Markets by Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister

Order your copy of Brand Building and Marketing in Key Emerging Markets @ Amazon or Springer.