It’s no secret that consumers all over the world are far more politically savvy than they were a decade ago. They clearly support or oppose their own country’s internal or external governmental policies.
Equally, and more often, they are fully aware of the major foreign policies of the other foreign governments and have a sense to measure their direct impact on their own immediate surroundings. Most foreign policies, whether straight or sugarcoated, strategically branded or falsely promoted by so many countries, have all contributed to new tendencies towards a “culturally-profiled-neo-consumerism.” The emergence of this new twist is going to shake the flow of products and services among all nations.
Customers have started selecting goods and services available on the global markets based on cultural profiling, while creating an aggressive “us versus them” street fighter mentality.
In the meanwhile, the high-speed e-commerce humming via broadband has replaced the traditional tradewinds that once traveled all the way from the long-anticipated caravans with their classy silver-tongued merchants suddenly appearing through twisted silk roads. Now there are massive colorful catalogues of millions of products and services, directly plugged into our pre-programmed online purchasing portals. Marco Polo would have simply flipped.
With hundreds of countries making millions of original products, the origination of products is no longer exclusive to a single country and consumers have the choice and the power to select at the best quality and price while applying a random culture profile to a brand.
An entry to a consumer’s house in any foreign land now requires a quick customs check. Ah … So where was this product born? What’s its true nationality? What’s this nation doing on the global scene today? What’s the bearer’s nation done for my nation lately? Do I really like this nation?
Depending on where this is happening, the national level of education determines the outcome. The problem gets even more complex, when a pre-conceived or ill-informed notion about a specific country kicks in and seriously hurts sales.
Globally geared propaganda machines are available to almost all countries, and some use it with great sophistication, while the rest use it as a purely unsophisticated screaming device. They simply yell about their causes, while the global audience tunes them out. To most, this may sound like managing marketing and branding 101, but in reality, it is extremely difficult. An advanced level of image-building knowledge is required.
Three Forces in Play
First, replication of technology is easy for developing nations. The more they grow in population, the easier the math as economy of scales pushes them forward. Technology then further enhances their capabilities, making it an outward-bound spiral of growth and new opportunities. The floodgates are now open for increased global consumerism.
Second, news, good or bad, is traveling faster than the actual goods, making it a key component in the buyer’s mind before a purchase decision. There is a country-by-country drive to achieve distinction and acquire some branded image to align with friendly countries, something that was once only done at the political level and not at a general populace level.
Lastly, there is an absence of a super power at the consumption level. There is not one single country that could exclusively dominate the global consumer supply chain. From the beginning of modern business, there were only a handful of countries that dominated the global appetite for finer products. Not any longer.
Corporate branding now requires a deeper understanding of the type and style of persona a corporate image is and what perceptions it triggers. It is essential to know the three critical personas — Territorial, Nationalistic or Universal — and equally which one is the best and for what reason.
Profiling the Future
As old models of wild promotions and overly repeated designs are dying, marketing, cyber-branding, global domain management and creation of global identity all have very different challenges today.
How far will this go? This current research points to a long-term scenario. If through a miracle there was a global peacetime, however, then it is possible that the global consumer will park these hostile feelings and look for positive qualities on the product and not blame the origin of a government policy as a factor.
The global free trade pendulum is swinging back more to a nationalistic tick. For the time being, brands are increasingly being culturally profiled. Passport please.
Naseem Javed, author of Naming for Power and alsoDomain Wars, is recognized as a world authority on global nameidentities and domain issues. Javed founded ABC Namebank, aconsultancy he established a quarter century ago, and conducts executiveworkshops on image and name identity issues. Contact him at [email protected].