Global Brand Outlook

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Marketing and research company NOP World offers insight into how 30 countries perceive American values and brands, including America.

"America, the World, and the New Challenges for Global Brands" was among the hot topics for discussion at the NOP World Global Summit, held in New York City in May. A leader in worldwide marketing and research, NOP World was formed through the merger of UK-based NOP Research and U.S.-based Roper ASW, as well as four other specialized research firms in a variety of business sectors-from health care to automotive and media. Annually, the company facilitates summit meetings both domestically and internationally, tailoring the presentations by territory. License! spent some time learning more about the study and the impetus for the study in a conversation with Tom Miller, managing director of NOP World.

Last year, according to Miller, there were first warning signs for American brands and their respective brand fundamentals. Even though American multinational brands had not decreased global presentation, penetration of those brands across the globe had leveled out or declined. In response, NOP World dusted off a 1999 question to ask, "What does the world think America as a culture stands for post-9/11 and post-Iraq?" The answers lie in NOP World's "gold standard" research, which consisted of face-to-face interviews with 30,000 people in 30 countries (1,000 per country). The results of the new survey then were compared with the 1999 survey for purposes of the summit presentation. According to Miller, participants are offered 60 different specific values-wealth, power, status, ambition, security, as examples-and asked to rank their guiding principles as individuals. Then, using the same values provided, they are asked whether they think America shares their individual values and whether those values are associated with "American culture."

While general attitudes toward America and the U.S. government were headed in a negative direction, personal values and those values believed by participants to be associated with "American culture" had not changed as much compared with five years ago. What did dip significantly in ranking was internationalism, a decline in rank from No. 11 in 1999 to No. 29 in 2004.

Interestingly, compared with five years ago, the following countries (of 28 countries total) feel less aligned with "American values": America itself, falling 14 places to No. 15 in 2004 compared with No. 1 in 1999. Germany fell 17 rank places to No. 28; UK fell eight rank places to No. 22; and Italy and Spain fell five rank places to Nos. 24 and 25, respectively. What countries gained in rank and values align with that of American culture: Venezuela (No. 1 from No. 10 in 1999), Taiwan (No. 2 from No. 5 in 1999), Philippines (No. 3 from No. 23 in 1999), Brazil (No. 4 from No. 25 in 1999), and Australia (No. 5 from No. 7 in 1999). Other notable rank increases came from South Africa, India, Korea, Poland, Mexico, Argentina, and Turkey. India was the most significant, rising to No. 8 in 2004 from No. 24 in 1999.

So what does this suggest? Miller says the research reveals a move from a global brand message to local country positioning. "The more local positioning strategies utilized by companies, the more effective," he says. According to the study, in 2002, awareness and use of global brands were rising. In 2003, consumers were more hesitant with familiar brands. However, the study reveals that global brands began to take a slight dip from 2003 to 2004 (see charts). "There has been some weakness in brand loyalty. There have been increasing pressures on global brands-consider pricing pressures for airlines and automotive manufacturers, as examples. Although not a significant dip, it is a dip nonetheless," says Miller.

Miller says that the overall takeaway from the study was that perceptions of "American culture" may have changed in the last five years and global brands have been somewhat affected, but there is no major risk of global consumers boycotting these brands. However, there is no guarantee of how long the dip may last or when it may recover. ©

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