What defines a global brand?

Following the abortive Pfizer/AstraZeneca takeover a couple of months ago, there’s been a lot of coverage in the media about multinational brands and what it means to be ‘global’.

The Economist, for example, revealed some research on the ‘domestic density’ index of certain companies. It argued that the truly global companies tend to be European – Toyota, for example, is mostly Japanese (57 per cent), while IBM (53 per cent), General Electric (63 per cent) and Coca-Cola (62 per cent) are mostly American. By contrast, Nestlé is only 5 per cent Swiss, Vodafone only 15 per cent British) and with AstraZeneca only 12 per cent British in terms of where its sales, employees and shareholders are based.

The business I work for regards itself as global. It has a very strong domestic market in one territory and market shares in single digits across the rest of the world. This is echoed in marketing spend – the ‘home country’ gets to spend millions of pounds reinforcing the brand there but the other regions get next to nothing. The parent company feels there is little point investing heavily in the markets where it is a challenger when its domestic market, where it is leader, is under attack and it needs to spend large to maintain market share. So it’s no surprise that brand recognition remains low outside our home locale.

To be accepted as a true global brand it takes billions of pounds in marketing investment, and very few brands can afford that – certainly not mine. (Just think of the millions that some brands have put into this World Cup alone.)

But is it really necessary to be a household name in every country? We talk of multinational brands but aren’t these just businesses that are strong in more than one territory, with a consistent approach to marketing between them? And those that have stretched further have tended to do it through acquisition of a local business, as opposed to relying on their brand credentials to win business organically.

Either that, or I’m just a bit jealous that I haven’t managed to secure my World Cup Final ticket, yet.


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