Global Branding - Be Careful!

When creating a brand name, companies must consider global market expansion opportunities. Once a product does well in the U.S., most smart businesses and marketers try to market their product or service abroad.  A key issue that many companies overlook is how to market to different cultures that do not closely align with American culture and values.  Most international marketing failures occur because of inadequate market research. When Betty Crocker tried to bring their ready-to-bake cake to Japan a big problem was that there were few ovens in households.  To avoid such as blunder, organizations should spend considerable time in the country, talk to the consumers, and conduct field experiments. 

Even products that are considered to be "universal" could be misunderstood and not useful in certain countries due to the way people live their lives. Whether you are appealing to the masses such as Apple, Campbell’s, or Pepsi or are a niche marketer, cultural factors matter. Consider the brand’s name and its meaning. There are thousands of languages and to different people, there are different meaning to words. Nokia Lumia for example, started making phones in 2011 and became very popular in America. Over time, the brand expanded into other countries. However, when the brand was marketed in Spanish countries with the same name, the credibility was severely diminished. The Nokia Lumia had a different meaning in Spanish. Lumia is a Spanish slang word for prostitute.  A product may be desirable for a market, but the brand name can be problematic. This is why it is so important to work on the brand's global image on a market by market basis. It has also been shown that consumers trust brands that have originated in their home country. The trust factor is lessened when there is a cultural paradox between names and meanings.

Can you identify another good example of how a poor global brand name led to an international marketing failure?



Kiss and Tell

While kissing is usually associated with pleasure, not business, there are international settings where kissing is an essential part of a proper greeting. Especially in a business environment, where decisions can be made in just a couple of seconds based both on number and interpersonal relationships, it is extremely important to be well-informed regarding the traditions of your business partners.

There are many elements in a greeting sequence, and in many cultures in includes a kiss as a traditional greeting. In other cultures it can be a sign that you are well-respected and accepted in your partners’ social circle. Nevertheless, besides knowing when and who to kiss, an essential detail in demonstrating your businesses kissing skills refers to how and how many times. And believe me, it is in no way pleasant to prepare for a kiss on both cheeks and then be left” in the wind” because your partner comes from a culture where they kiss just once. And it also happened that I left people “in the wind”, because I did not know about the 3 times rule. While some persons would kindly explain you how you should have done it, others just leave it alone as a slightly embarrassing moment. However, in an international business environment nothing says that you are a well prepared, thoughtful and respectful individual than knowing the habits and traditions of your discussion partners.

So, just a few examples from around the world can show you how complicated the world of kissing is. For example, in some regions of France, such as Burgundy, a proper greeting includes 3 kisses on the cheek, while in other areas of the country, including Paris, 2 kisses are enough. The same happens in Brazil, some of my students told me in class. The 3 kisses rule can also be found, for example, in Serbia or in different countries in the Middle East. The kiss on both cheeks rule is rather common around the world, even though, there might be differences regarding on which side to start. Hungarians, for example, start from right to left, while in Portugal from left to right. Other cultures, like the United States, the UK, Belgium and the list can go on, use the one kiss rule.

Other details refer to how formal or informal this form of greeting is considered, how much contact is expected and who initiates the greeting. Nevertheless, cultural differences also reflect on the role of genders in this non-verbal communication act.

Therefore, when discussing about business and formal settings, please remember to do your homework ahead of time. And if you kiss, please tell. Tell us how you do it.

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at;

The MINT Countries, Risky or Minty?

The BRIC countries, term formulated in 2001 by Jim O'Neill from Goldman Sachs, were identified as key targets for investment and growth for the future. In this context, analysts estimated that Brazil, Russia, India and China represent great investment destinations, whose long-term growth depends on their working population and labor productivity. South Africa was included afterwards by some analysts to form the BRICS.

While after 2001 these countries seemed to receive a boost, some more than others, in 2014 the situation is not as optimistic as predicted, due to country characteristics and the global economy recessionary issues. For example, China has experienced a significant increase in manufacturing due to Western companies’ outsourcing, with growth rates of up to 14% in previous years, but they decreased to around 5% in 2013. The same situation applies to Brazil and India.

Some of the major challenges of these countries include inflation, corruption, unstable policies and regulations, as well as significant inequalities between the rich and the poor is common. Just a few recent examples of what is happening in these countries make investors less excited about these prospects: signs of corruption and overspending have been signaled in Russia’s preparations for the Olympics, and in Brazil’s work for the Soccer World Cup. Instability in economic and financial policies in countries like Russia, India and China make investors worry about increased interest rates, inflation and taxes. Nevertheless, a better informed and organized workforce in China is starting to ask for higher wages and better work conditions, which led to increases in labor costs. Overall, the general characteristics of any developing country, such as corruption, unstable currency and policies, combined with other internal political and civil conflicts, have affected the BRICs.

In this context, at the beginning of the year, Jim O’Neill came up with another set of tempting countries, the MINT group: Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. O’Neill underlined the fact that all four countries have very favorable demographics for at least the next 20 years, and their economic prospects are interesting.

One of their advantages is represented by their geostrategic position either near major economic players, such as Mexico and Indonesia, or in zones that allow for future penetration of other countries, such as Nigeria and Turkey. Especially considering Nigeria, investments in this country can represent a significant opportunity to penetrate a huge African market that has remained almost untouched by major companies. Regarding wealth, Mexico and Turkey are at about the same level, earning annually about $10,000 per person, while Indonesians earn $3,500 and only $1,500 per head is being earned in Nigeria (on a par with India). WealthInsight noted that the MINT countries are expected to rank within the top eight countries set to create the most millionaires this year. Led by Indonesia, which is expected to see a 22% increase in the number of millionaires this year, the list is followed by Nigeria with a 10% increase, Turkey with an 8.5% increase and Mexico with a 7% increase. However, as a general trait of developing countries, increases in the number of millionaires does not mean higher incomes for the general population, due to the high income disparities exhibited by these countries.

While the IMF estimates that MINTs could have growth rates in the double digits by 2050, this does not mean that businesses will not face the major issues accompanying any developing country: inflation, unstable currency and interest rates, taxation issues, corruption, unstable judicial system and politics. Moreover, each country has its own internal problems that need to be resolved before making them an attractive market. For example, Mexico’s war on drugs does not provide a safe environment for local and foreign businesses in many areas of the country. Turkey was faced with its own civil and political unrest recently and the situation does not seem to have been completely solved, while corruption and security issues in Nigeria are also high risks that need to be taken if investors expect high rewards.

Overall, statistics show a significantly positive evolution of the MINTs; however, investors who do not to their research and are unprepared will risk finding out that the actual situation is not as minty.

*Image source: World Bank

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at

Pour Some Sugar On Me

It is rather common knowledge that in the U.S. we take life with a large side of sugar. Media present different discussions and debates related to the high rate of obesity, sugar consumption and the size of soft drinks in the U.S. We even had the example of Mayor Michael Bloomberg trying to prohibit oversized soft drinks in New York. They might be right about America's sugar obsession.

One of the key decisions that marketers need to make when doing business in international markets refers to standardization versus adaptation. In order to be successful, major companies are trying to adapt as much as possible. Regarding sugar preferences and regulations around the world, companies have shown that many times adaptation is the best approach. For example, Nabisco was forced to adapt to the local preferences after introducing Oreos to the Chinese market. Among others, they reduced the amount of sugar in the Oreos, because they seemed too sweet for Chinese consumers' tastes.

When discussing about Coca-Cola and its products, there are also differences from one country to another regarding the amount of sugar and the ingredients used. For example, 100 ml of original Coke have 42 calories in the U.K. and in France, but 44 calories in the U.S., where we also benefit from an additional gram of sugar. It might not seem much, but multiply this by 10 for two oversized drinks per day, and you will see the difference in calories.

For Coke's sibling, Fanta Orange, not only the sugar content differs around the globe, but also its color and taste. The bright orange drink in the U.S. has even more calories (45.6) and sugar (12.5 g) than Coke for 100 ml. At the same time, in the U.K. and France, just to name a few countries, it includes way less sugar and its color is much closer to yellow than the American bright orange. In the U.K., incredibly, Fanta has only 28 calories and 6.9 grams of sugar, while in France, 39 calories and 9.6 grams of sugar per 100 ml, significantly less than its sugary American sibling. There are many other examples of countries where Fanta counts on less sugar and on a more savory flavor. Moreover, while European products include sugar, their American counterparts are based on high fructose corn syrup.

The examples do not end here. Take some products from an ethnic store and compare them to their U.S. made correspondents. You even have a reason to indulge in the name of research.

Have a sweet week.

Maria Petrescu, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Marketing at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University. She can be reached at More About the Contributor