Strategic Marketing and Global Brand Management
… the pressure for globalization is driven not so much by diversification or competition as by the needs and preferences of customers.
Professor, organizational theorist, management consultant, author.
The proliferation of global competition, coupled with the perceived ‘commoditisation’ of products and services, has challenged traditional views of ‘the brand’ and ‘brand management’. This, in turn, has created a discussion amongst both academics and practitioners about the role of brands in the contemporary digital ‘information age’. Practitioners continue to struggle to quantify the return on the (intangible) brand investments they make. Academics, meanwhile, point to social, cultural, demographic and technical discontinuities which potentially threaten to undermine brands as traditionally understood.
The internet-fuelled globalization of communications poses another challenge, particularly for established brands. Conversely, the same global communications phenomenon provides opportunities to create global brands from scratch, for example, Airbnb, Alibaba, Alphabet (Google), Deliveroo, e-Bay, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ring, Snapchat, Twitter, Uber.
Organizationally, brand management roles and responsibilities remain fragmented, particularly in large companies, and this at a time when corporate responsibility and organizational reputation is under intense scrutiny, for example, Facebook and its multiple travails (Economist, 2018, February 24th).
In this chapter, we address these issues by going ‘back to basics’ regarding the fundamental question of what constitutes a brand and how these jewels in the corporate crown can be nurtured and managed. We explore the nature and meaning of brands and examine the role of global brand management in driving profitable growth and contributing towards stakeholder value amongst consumers, channel partners, employees, suppliers, communities and others (see Chapter Twelve, A Stakeholder Perspective on Global Business Strategy).
In the marketing lexicon, the original focus on ‘Product’ per se has morphed into the notion of a customer-derived Value Proposition which, along with effective Marketing Communications, provides the foundations of global brand management. The principles of branding are well understood and thoroughly documented in the academic literature. However, in many cases, the practice of brand management is often poorly executed. To address this, we will introduce and demonstrate the frameworks, tools and processes which underpin world-class brand management competencies and organizational capability.
Ahead of this discussion, we need to assess the strategic marketing context of global brand management, building upon the ‘macro issues’ of market analysis examined in the previous chapter and our earlier discussion of the ‘marketing concept’ (see Chapter Four) to explore the more ‘micro issues’ associated with market segmentation, buyer behaviour and value proposition creation.
Introducing Strategic Marketing Management
The marketing literature is vast and there is potential confusion when it comes to defining the subject. For example, mainstream textbooks which cover more or less the same ‘curriculum’ have a variety of disparate titles, including: Global Marketing (Hollensen, 2020); Principles and Practice of Marketing (Jobber and Ellis-Chadwick, 2019); Strategic Marketing (Cravens and Piercy, 2012); Marketing Management: Analysis, Planning, Implementation and Control (Kotler, 2000); Marketing Management and Strategy (Doyle and Stern, 2006). All are valid, and the texts cited here are all in late editions, an illustration of their acceptance by the profession (scholars and practitioners) of their legitimacy as ‘documents of record’ of the development of the marketing discipline, collectively providing a critical evaluation of the extant literature from early concepts to contemporary challenges.
The book which most closely approximates the discussion of marketing and competitive positioning in this chapter and the author’s recommended textbook relating to this dimension of strategic marketing, based upon the multiple criteria presented in the Preface, is Hooley et al., 2020, Marketing Strategy & Competitive Positioning. For readers interested in a more detailed exploration of the subject of general marketing our recommended textbook, based upon the same criteria presented in the Preface, is Dibb et al., 2019, Marketing: Concepts and Strategies.
Finally, see Chapter Four, Theories of Strategy and Competition, for greater analytical depth relating to strategic marketing, particularly regarding customer and competitor analysis and an evaluation of the enduring management philosophy, the Marketing Concept.
This is a long chapter. Sorry for that, but both subjects covered are huge in their own right and as the strategic marketing discipline has grown rapidly over the decades, like all expanding universes it has tended towards fragmentation, both in business organizations and business schools.
This is occurring at a period when internal organizational integration is essential to have at hand to deal with the forces of globalization as it marches forward on its inevitable and inexorable march to who knows where. The real danger is organizational entropy, but you can be sure there will be obliging hedge fund vultures with broom and brush to sweep up the mess which managers could not manage.
While the material presented here could have been split over two chapters, because of the arguments we have made against functional separation that would have been hypocritical.
There is no doubt that organizations have seen a need for ‘marketing’ within their structures, as is evidenced by the rapid growth in the appearance of CMOs in boardrooms worldwide. But there is a huge swathe of managers and employees within many organizations who think that the marketing department is responsible for advertising, websites, selling and/or for managing public relations when the s*** hits the proverbial.
And they are right to think that way because, in many cases, that is the way it is. See Part Three of this book, Creating Organizational Advantage, for more organizational challenges and inertias which potentially constrain functional managers from performing their professional roles effectively and efficiently.
Brands are cool. Everybody loves them, despite what the naysayers may say. Of course, there will be some resistance amongst the self-actualisers and way too many people who lack the means to access them, although the latter are not resisting, just excluded. The world of brand management also seems to be in a strange place right now, struggling to make sense of what the hell is happening in the www digital universe. Don’t worry, they will work it out; and a decade or so later, so will the regulators.
Volvo is ‘Made in Sweden’ and builds on this heritage (apparently only ABBA outsells it in Swedish krona export value). But it is a Chinese company. Jaguar is quintessentially English, and Range Rover oozes British aristocracy, days at the races and champagne picnics. An Indian company owns them both. The Dollar Shave Club is west-coast hipster-cool Americana. Owned by the dullest company on the planet, Anglo-Dutch conglomerate Unilever. Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce is an archetypical English craft condiment. But it is owned by an American monolith, the Kraft Heinz Company.
In the era of Globalization, the global brand rules the world…
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All content © Colin Edward Egan, 2021