Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Brand Culture Shock - Vive Lonchamp!!

 by Emma Francois

Last fall as I walked on to North American University Campuses it shocked me to see that they were everywhere as fashion statements! Longchamp bags!!! I thought the fashion had died as a fashion statement years ago. This is when I realized I had experienced a  "brand culture shock!" Brands that are totally out of vogue in one country turn out to be hip and hot in another. Brands that are mass market brands in another country turn up as exclusive in another.  So much for global brand consistency!

The Longchamp bag in my campus example is “Le Pliage” in medium size. On campuses, the girls who wore it had very refined, exclusive and had elegant taste in fashion. This is in direct contrast to my experience back home. I have lived in France for 10 years, and the Longchamp Le Pliage image there sure isn't close to being the same. Although many other Longchamp bags have remained a symbol of classism in France, the opposite is true for “Le Pliage”.  In fact, it is the bag of choice for "whatever main street", partly due to its lower price. As a result, the Le Pliage  bag is not associated with the refined, exclusive, and elegant user imagery that it has in North America. In France, the bag is just seem as a simple, sporty and practical bag.  When I talked to some of the North American campus girls wearing the bags, what struck me most was that they associated Longchamp romanticized classy fashion view of France.  Yet, in France, very few would want Le Pliage to be a representing brand of the country! To all my new North American Longchamp wearers I say, "Vive Le Pliage"!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Is Googling Good for Google?

by Tatiana Scopelleti Sicotte

Google was created in 1998 and ever since has become the most popular search engine in the world. Its success was initially driven by two aspects of its core brand proposition: superior search results and "you can trust us with your private information."

Google's ascent to one of the top brands in the world is truly impressive. Google was a very late entrant into a crowded search space. Some well-financed companies had gianormous leads on Google including Lycos, AltaVista, Magellan, WebCrawler, InfoSeek, Excite and HotBot. Yet Google triumphed.  How did it do that? In a space where switching costs are relatively low, Google decided to build a better search product and helped alleviate privacy concerns with its messaging. And, it did this by giving the brand some personality: Google’s fun and unique games and interface is also extremely likeable. 

The company's early search success in delivering better results was based on an algorithm that followed the academic citation model.  The best sites will have more, better quality, high traffic sites linking to it. Today it seems obvious, but Google's competitors at the time were using meta-tags as a primary driver of search results. Today, Google's search algorithm is a lot more complicated (and ever changing!) but the idea behind it is still the same. Trying to find out the exact algorithm is a big secret, although some experts argue there are more than 200 factors that Google considers.

             So now
, instead of saying that you are going to search something on the Internet, we use the term “Google it” instead. Does this take away from Google’s brand equity, as the brand name is used synonymously with its function? The answer to that is no. Every time Google is mentioned, it keeps the brand top of mind - which is great.  Plus, "Googling it" implies the brand is the guardian of information and gateway to answers - things  that reinforce the brand's search core value proposition. In short, "Googling" is good for Google's brand awareness and image.  

So why then, does Google reprimand its employees for using the brand name as a  verb?  The same reason why Kleenex, Xerox and Zamboni do.  Google is a trade name. If the term Google becomes a common everyday word, then any company can use it - and the name is no longer legally protectable.  That my friends, would destroy the favorable, unique value propositions of our favorite search brand- Google.

If you don't believe me,
just Google it.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buying into the Price Tag

by Jesse Kim

One of the things I’ve been noticing during my bi-yearly visits back to Korea is the growing domination of high-fashion brands on the streets. It’s becoming just as common to see middle-aged women with Louis Vuitton purses as teenage boys with Gucci shoulder bags. Do Koreans just happen to be fashionistas as a collective nation, or is there something more to this phenomenon? To make matters more puzzling, those elite brand products, which already command an astounding price, tend to cost even more in Korea especially relative to their living costs. For me, a simple attribution to luxurious taste in fashion does not fare well in explaining why there are so many Korean eighteen year olds expecting a three thousand dollar purse for Christmas.  
Granted, I’ve always been aware that premium pricing is a huge part of the fashion industry in Korea. I even remember watching a news interview as a little girl that featured a storeowner who admitted that simply adding a zero at the end of the price tag of a dress boosts its sales. This excited me because she seemed to have just exposed a big secret: “price doesn’t always represent quality”; though I did eventually realize that most people were already aware of this fact. Then why is it that premium pricing continues to play such a potent role in increasing perceived brand value, especially for high fashion brands, and how come it’s more potent in some places, like Korea, than others, like Canada?

When considering brand equity as the difference in value of a product with a brand and the same product without the brand, the comparison between my trusty old fifty dollar purse and my cousin’s three-thousand dollar Gucci purse shows the brand equity of such high fashion brands to be enormous.  It’s obvious that brands such as Coach and Chanel enjoy considerable brand equity around the globe, but my experience tells me that it seems to be more evident in some places than others.  It could be that in some countries, fashion brands are simply valued more due to their country-of-origin desirability.  It might also be that some cultures value highest priced goods more as a symbolic device. In any event, the relationship between the brand and the high prices has some sort of equilibrium:  the high prices are imposed to help create the brand equity;  the intangible benefits of the brand justify the higher prices.
I still can’t shake the strange feeling that I get while watching a 9 year old Korean girl trot to school with her mini Louis Vuitton backpack and a Burberry scarf. But by accepting that different places may have different attitudes regarding brands, I can view these seemingly "wasteful" tendencies as an interesting cultural brand phenomenon taking place, rather than the result of the brands’ exploitation of superficiality.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Friends that Drink Together Stay Together? Or was that a Slap in the Face from Guinness?

 by Jordan Sudermann

Check out the recently launched Guinness communication.

The commercial goes squarely for the heart with an emotional appeal.

Here's the idea:  Get the viewer to admire the wheel chair athletes who are engaged in a pick-up game of basketball. These basket ball athletes are playing every bit as grittily and determined as any physically-abled, group of friend, and it's a pretty inviting proposition.

Then, twist the story.

At the end of the game all of the guys, but one, stand up from their wheelchairs and walk off the court.  A voice over talks about authentic loyalty and true friendship. These values are celebrated  by sharing a pint of Guinness beer in a bar.

This is where I am torn. One one hand, this message is showing  how great of friends behave and that Guinness is a catalyst and reinforcer of important ideals (authentic friendship and loyalty). That's inspiring. If I feel good about the piece and link it to the brand, the net impact is I'll like the brand more.  That's good for the brand.

On the other hand, I can't escape the feeling that this is somewhat of a public service announcement declaring how ignorant we are about disabilities- and the needs of peoples with disabilities-  and we need a beer company set us straight. In other words, I feel a little bit tricked which makes me like the ad less- and therefore brand less.
For me, then, this ad is not a clear winner.