Commentary by Al Ries

THE POWER AND PRESENCE OF GLOBAL BRANDS

And Why U.S. Marketers Can't Ignore Them

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On recent trips to Europe and Asia, I was struck by how rapidly global brands are taking over local markets.
Global brands are rapidly taking over local markets around the world.

In many categories, the dominant brand is a global brand. Whether it's accounting, advertising, automotive, banking, beverages, credit cards, car rental services, computers, computer software, cosmetics, fashion, fast food and many other categories, chances are that many of the leading brands are global.

In every high-end restaurant or watering hole in the world you'll find virtually the same names behind the bar: Jack Daniel's, Absolut, Stolichnaya, Tanqueray, Johnnie Walker, J&B, Chivas Regal, Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Bailey's.

Global celebrities
In addition to global brands, we also have global celebrities. Jennifer Lopez is just as well known in India as she is in America. And so is Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Bill Clinton, George Bush and a host of other global celebrities.

In books, nothing succeeds like a celebrity author and that's true in almost every country. The first month it was on sale in China, Hillary Clinton's new book sold 200,000 copies

(A couple of years ago, a friend of mine in Sao Paulo tried to trick me with the question, "Who's the most popular athlete in Brazil?" "That's easy," I replied, "Michael Jordan." And, of course, I was right.)

The growth of English
There are a number of factors driving the trend toward global brands. One is the globalization of language. Everyone knows that English has become the world's second language, but I was surprised at how much English has wormed its way into the cultures of many countries.

Even local stores owned by local entrepreneurs selling goods and services to local people will use English names. Redgreen, Solo Man, Steps, Joy Boy, Dressmann, Sand, Limbo, Brothers, Exit, Nice Girl and Biggie Best are some of the mystifying retail names you find in the far corners of the earth. My favorite is a retail store in Copenhagen called And.

The world is also moving toward the globalization of currency. The only question is whether the euro or the dollar will prevail. (The Chinese government recently announced a $4.5 billion dollar bond issue, but not in yuan. The issue will be split between dollars and euros.)

World Wide Web
Another significant factor accelerating the globalization process is the Internet, which is the first global mass communications medium. In the past you could communicate worldwide by letter, fax, phone or telex, but these are not mass media like the Internet, which has become a strong force in global branding. Look how rapidly Internet brands such as Amazon and Yahoo became global brands.

What does globalization mean for companies in every country of the world?

For one thing, if you haven't already done so, you need to think about going global. If your company doesn't go global, you can be sure that some other company in the world will move into your home market as a global brand and take some of your business away from you.

Registering brand names
Even if you have no intention of going global immediately, you should at least take the precaution of registering your brand name in the 150 or so countries that account for most of the world's economic activities.

Secondly, your brand name has to work in English. It doesn't necessarily have to be an English word, but it needs to "sound right" in the English language. In particular, consumers need to be able to pronounce and spell your brand name easily. Nokia is a Finnish name, but it works well in English. Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo is a Japanese name that doesn't work well in English.

That's why Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo changed its name to Sony and the rest is marketing history.

Truly, globalization is a trend whose time has come.

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Al Ries is the author or co-author of 11 books on marketing, the most recent of which is The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. He and his daughter Laura run the Atlanta-based marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries.

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