Dealing with Country Differences
Some firms are experimenting with capturing some benefits of global standardization while recognizing differences in countries’ cultural and legal environments. A firm may select some features to include in all its advertising campaigns and localize other features. By doing so, it may be able to save on some costs and build international brand recognition and yet customize its advertisements to different cultures.
Nokia, the Finnish cell phone manufacturer, has tried to do this. Historically, Nokia had used a different advertising campaign in different markets. In 2004, however, the company launched a global advertising campaign that used the slogan “1001 reasons to have a Nokia imaging phone.” Nokia did this to reduce advertising costs and capture some economies of scale. In addition, in an increasingly integrated world the company believes there is value in trying to establish a consistent global brand image. At the same time, Nokia tweaked the advertisements for different cultures. The campaign used actors from the region where the ad ran to reflect the local population, though they said the same lines. Local settings were also modified when showcasing the phones by, for example, using a marketplace when advertising in Italy or a bazaar when advertising in the Middle East.18 Another example of this process is given in the accompanying Management Focus, which looks at how Unilever built a global brand for its Dove products, while still tweaking the message to consider local sensibilities.
• QUICK STUDY
1. What are the main barriers to international communications?
2. Under what circumstances in a pull strategy favored? When is a push strategy favored?
3. When will a global advertising campaign work best? When will local advertising campaigns be favored?
MANAGEMENT FOCUS Dove’s Global “Real Beauty” Campaign
In 2003, Dove was not a beauty brand; it was a bar of soap that was positioned and sold differently in different markets. Unilever, the company that marketed Dove, was a storied consumer product multinational with global reach, had a strong position in fast-growing developing nations, and had a reputation for customizing products to conditions prevailing in local markets. In India, for example, women often oil their hair before washing it, so Western shampoos that do not remove the oil have not sold well. Unilever reformulated its shampoo for India and was rewarded with market leadership. But sometimes Unilever went too far. It used different formulations for shampoo in Hong Kong and mainland China, for example, even though hair and washing habits were very similar in both markets. Unilever would also often vary the packaging and marketing message in similar products, even for its most commoditized products. The company tended to exaggerate complexity, and by 2003 its financial performance was suffering.
A decade later, Unilever’s financial performance has improved, in no small part because it has shifted toward a more global emphasis, and the Dove brand has led the way. The Dove story dates to 2003 when the global brand director, Sylvia Lagnado, who was based in New York, decided to move the positioning of Dove from one based on the product to one of an entire beauty brand. The basic message: The brand should stand for the real beauty of all women. Dove’s mission was to make women feel more beautiful every day by widening the stereotypical definition of beauty and inspiring them to take care of themselves.
But how was this mission to be executed? Following a series of workshops held around the globe that asked brand managers and advertising agency partners to find ways to communicate an inclusive definition of beauty, the Canadian brand manager asked 67 female photographers to submit work that best reflects real beauty. The photographs are stunning portraits not of models, but of women from all walks of life that come in all shapes, sizes, and ages. It led to a coffee table book and traveling exhibition, called the Dove Photo Tour, which garnered a lot of positive press in Canada. Sylvia Lagnado realized that the Canadians were on to something. Around the same time, the German office of Unilever’s advertising agency, Ogilvy and Mather Worldwide, came up with a concept for communicating “real beauty” based on photographs showing, instead of skinny models, ordinary women in their underwear. The original German advertisements quickly made their way to the United Kingdom, where a London newspaper article stated the campaign was not advertising; it was politics. Lagnado was not surprised by this. She had commissioned research that revealed only 2 percent of women worldwide considered themselves beautiful, and that half thought their weight was too high.
In 2004, the “Dove Campaign for Real Beauty” was launched globally. This was a radical shift for Unilever and the Dove brand, which until then had left marketing in the hands of local brand managers. The Real Beauty campaign was tweaked to take local sensibilities into account. For example, it was deemed better not to show women touching each other in America, while in Latin America tactile women do not shock anybody, so touching was seen as OK.
In Canada, the campaign opened with billboard “tick box” advertisements on real women in their underwear that invited people to call a toll-free number and vote on provocative tickers, such as “Fat/Fabulous?” The votes were tallied and displayed in real time on the billboards. This created a huge buzz, and the technique was quickly adopted in other markets, including the United States. As the campaign gained traction and a positive groundswell of media attention occurred (in the United States, for example, the Dove Women were invited to Oprah Winfrey’s TV talk show), Unilever soon extended the Dove product line to include skin creams, shampoos, and shower gels. In 2005, the campaign was followed by the launch of the Dove “self-esteem fund,” a worldwide campaign to persuade girls and young women to embrace a more positive image of themselves.
Unilever also made an online video, loaded onto YouTube, called “Onslaught,” which was critical of the beauty industry and ended with the slogan “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.” Another video, “Evolution,” showed how the face of a girl can be changed, partly through computer graphics, to create an image of beauty. The video ended with the tag line “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted.” Made for very little money, the YouTube videos created a viral buzz around the campaign that helped to transform Dove into one of Unilever’s leading brands. By its use of such techniques, the campaign has become a model for how to revitalize and build a new global brand.
Sources: “The Legacy That Got Left on the Shelf,” The Economist, February 2, 2008, pp. 77–79; R. Rothenberg, “Dove Effort Gives Package-Goods Marketers Lessons for the Future,” Advertising Age, March 5, 2007, p. 18; J. Neff, “A Real Beauty: Dove’s Viral Makes Big Splash for No Cash,” Advertising Age, 2006, pp. 1–2; and K. Mazurkewich, “Dove Story: You Know the Name, and Some of the Story,” Strategy, January 2007, pp. 37–39.