Building a Local Brand in a Foreign Product Category in India: the Role of Cultural Interpretations

ABSTRACT - Ger (1999) suggests that local companies can compete against foreign companies successfully by capitalizing on their localness, and leveraging it to create unique value. However, most of the examples Ger gives (cheeses in France, Turkish baths in Turkey) are in product categories local to the market in which they originate. She does not discuss the case wherein a local company is trying to compete in a foreign product category. Many times it is a detriment to the local company to have their brand perceived as local in these product categories, or at the minimum it is a mixed blessing. This is because in many emerging markets there is a history of poor product quality from local brands in many product categories, in addition to the fact that foreign brands seem to have a glamour that local brands cannot compete with in many product categories (Alden, Steenkamp and Batra 1999).



Citation:

Giana M. Eckhardt (2003) ,"Building a Local Brand in a Foreign Product Category in India: the Role of Cultural Interpretations", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, eds. Darach Turley and Stephen Brown, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 9-10.

European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6, 2003      Pages 9-10

BUILDING A LOCAL BRAND IN A FOREIGN PRODUCT CATEGORY IN INDIA: THE ROLE OF CULTURAL INTERPRETATIONS

Giana M. Eckhardt, Australian Graduate School of Management, Australia

ABSTRACT -

Ger (1999) suggests that local companies can compete against foreign companies successfully by capitalizing on their localness, and leveraging it to create unique value. However, most of the examples Ger gives (cheeses in France, Turkish baths in Turkey) are in product categories local to the market in which they originate. She does not discuss the case wherein a local company is trying to compete in a foreign product category. Many times it is a detriment to the local company to have their brand perceived as local in these product categories, or at the minimum it is a mixed blessing. This is because in many emerging markets there is a history of poor product quality from local brands in many product categories, in addition to the fact that foreign brands seem to have a glamour that local brands cannot compete with in many product categories (Alden, Steenkamp and Batra 1999).

To address this gap in the literatureBhow a local company competing in a foreign product category can shape its brand imageBwe embark upon an interpretive study of how consumers interpret local brands in a foreign category and also how local marketers are going about developing these brans.

Depth interviews from both consumer and manager key informants are reported as well as observational and photographic data. One month was spent immersed in the fieldsitesBin Andhra Pradesh, a state in southern IndiaBin late 2001. Depth interviews took place with 13 key consumer informants in their homesB7 in Hyderabad (the capital city) and 6 in the Bhimavaram region (a rural area). Interviews were also conducted with the Pizza Point management. The managers spoken to were general managers, who had responsibility for marketing activities.

The brand as freedom from culinary tradition. Three themes that emerge from the data surrounding Pizza Point brand meaning interpretation and development are discussed. First, the Pizza Point brand representing freedom from culinary tradition for many consumers, which is positive for most of the consumers interviewed, and a main driver of patronage. This is true for both the actual food and the nature of the space in the restaurant.

The Pizza Point brand represents freedom from culinary tradition in the following ways: through the sanctioning of social interaction that occur within the restaurant that can be contrasted against traditional eating normsBgroups of friends eating together in addition to families, groups of opposite sexes eating together, and the consumer being able to sit for a long period of time not eating much but rather chatting. The food itself also contributes to this, in that the respondents feel as if they are "breaking the rules" and experiencing something non-Indian by eating there.

Freedom from tradition is an important cultural category used by consumers when they are making sense of the Pizza Point brand. This is enhanced to a certain degree by the activities of management, as the restaurant space is designed to be conducive to #hanging out’ and English is used in the signage, for example. The participant’s responses suggest, however, that this important cultural category of freedom from culinary tradition is linked to the product category of pizza in general, and that they have come to this interpretation of pizza independently of marketing efforts on the part of Pizza Point.

The brand as affordable and palatable. At the same time as it is driving patronage, the company is trying to push against the foreign and exotic image so as to appear affordable and palatable to its consumers. Many respondents who did not patronize Pizza Point had very developed unenthusiastic interpretations of the brand, primarily because of the idea that the food itself was too foreign and the price was out of their price range, although this was not the case on both counts. Additionally, management reported lower sales turnovers than they had anticipated when they first opened.

Again in this theme, both the nature of the social space and the actual food are contributing to consumer’s interpretation of the brand as not being affordable or palatable in terms of the food being able to be a meal and fill a person up. The restaurant is seen as a place where people go for celebrations, or to be seen by others as "posh," but not where one would go for a casual meal.

Even as notions of culinary tourism are driving demand, Pizza Point management would like to play down some of these notions of pizza as a status giving product as the business cannot be sustained with a special occasion only positioning. Next we look at how management has tried to shape the brand in response to local realities in an attempt to tread the line between the above two tensions.

Product transformation does not equal brand transformation. Paradoxes such as the transformation of the actual product from something non-local to something local (the pizza would be unrecognizable to non-Indians), yet this transformation being inadequate to transform the brand from something foreign to something Indian are explored in this theme.

One of the easiest ways for a marketer to localize a brand is to localize the actual product. In this case, where the local marketer is localizing a product considered foreign, t is not contributing toward the interpretation of the brand as local as would be expected. Even though the actual pizza is almost entirely Indian in terms of ingredients and would be unrecognizable as pizza outside India, consumers still see it as foreign in terms of how the food tastes (it is still thought of as tasting Western), its price (potentially unaffordable), and the purpose of the food (not a meal). Again, these interpretations are related to the product category of pizza and the nature of the social space surrounding the actual consumption of pizza, and there are scant ways for the Pizza Point management to localize their actual product any more than they already have and still call it pizza in an attempt to alter these perceptions.

We set out to discover how consumers interpret a local brand in a foreign product category and what the important cultural categories associated with brand interpretation of this local brand in a foreign product category are. It emerged that consumers make sense of the brand primarily with reference to the traits associated with the product category, even in light of localization efforts and the fact that the actual product is not much more expensive than local foods. We also sought to shed light on how local marketers establish their brand image in a foreign product category, and how this process interacts with the important cultural categories of the product category, as defined by consumers. In the case of Pizza Point, we saw that management would like the brand to be much more localized and not thought of in such a glamorous manner, but so far this pursuit had not been fruitful as consumers seem to have the idea of pizza as status giving deeply embedded in their brand interpretations.

All of this suggests a new model of how local marketers operating in foreign product categories can compete in terms of developing their branding and positioning strategies is needed in the global marketing literature. This research has been a first step toward identifying the limitations in the existing literature and models and suggesting roads forward for exploring these complex issues further. The approach taken in this work was one of discovery, its intent to portray novel and rich ideas concerning an underconceptualized area of the global marketing literature. The results have important implications for many of the leading global branding theories espoused in the literature today. This work has identified some important factors in the constraints local marketers face related to brand perception and development, and hopefully researchers will investigate these further in future research to eventually develop a richer model of global and local brand theory.

REFERENCES

Alden, Dana L., Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp and Rajeev Batra (1999), "Brand positioning through advertising in Asia, North America and Europe: The role of global consumer culture," Journal of Marketing, 63(1), 75-87.

Ger, Guliz (1999), "Localizing in the global village: Local firms competing in global markets," California Management Review, 41(4), 64-83.

----------------------------------------

Authors

Giana M. Eckhardt, Australian Graduate School of Management, Australia



Volume

E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 6 | 2003



Share Proceeding

Featured papers

See More

Featured

J11. The Myth of Return – Success or Failure? Consumer Identity and Belonging in the Case of Repatriate Migrants

Sonja N. Kralj, University of Augsburg, Germany
Michael Paul, University of Augsburg, Germany

Read More

Featured

Moral Arguments Are Most Persuasive in Changing Attitudes of Opponents of Genetically Modified Foods

Sydney Scott, Washington University, USA
Yoel Inbar, University of Toronto, Canada
Paul Rozin, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Read More

Featured

Promoting Well-being and Combating Harassment in the Academy

Ekant Veer, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Zeynep Arsel, Concordia University, Canada
June Cotte, Ivey Business School
Jenna Drenten, Loyola University Chicago, USA
Markus Geisler, York University, Canada
Lauren Gurrieri, RMIT University
Julie L. Ozanne, University of Melbourne, Australia
Nicholas Pendarvis, California State University Los Angeles, USA
Andrea Prothero, University College Dublin
Minita Sanghvi, Skidmore College
Rajiv Vaidyanathan, University of Minnesota Duluth, USA
Stacy Wood, North Carolina State University

Read More

Engage with Us

Becoming an Association for Consumer Research member is simple. Membership in ACR is relatively inexpensive, but brings significant benefits to its members.