Brand. It’s All Global, Isn’t It?

Brand is such a far reaching term, and its meaning has evolved dramatically over the past decades. Years ago, brand most likely referred to the logo or identifier a company used to distinguish itself in the marketplace, plain and simple. But when consumers began seeing more brands in more marketing venues in similar categories, brand really focused on features and top-of-mind awareness. Then we entered the benefits phase, where brands fought for shelf space and mind share by extolling their benefits and overtly or covertly exposing a competitor’s weakness. Brand battles emerged. Marketing wars ensued. Branding became blood sport, and consumers were the innocent bystanders, caught up in the confusion and cajoling.

Not to sound elementary, but with the advent of the internet and the online space, brand, brands, and branding changed forever. Brand was not just a name; it became an experience. Brands were no longer foisted on consumers, as they had to fight across multiple sales, distribution, and communications channels and compete for their lives with a much more discerning consumer public who was in control like never before. Branding evolved to new heights with technology, customer insights, behaviors, innovation, content opportunities and endless consumer touch points.

So what does my attempt at distilling the history of brand, brands and branding into a few paragraphs have to do with global brand? In my opinion, it has everything to do with global brand. Here’s why. I offer that any brand in today’s internet-fueled, mobile-accessed, instant-gratification world is global—even if it’s not on the internet. Today, consumers judge brands on their last brand experience irrespective of where the brand interaction takes place, whether in person, on a smart phone or a PC.

Here’s my personal example of how a local brand and my experience makes it global. I love peppermint coffee. Weird, but I do. Local grocery stores and even specialty foods/coffee houses in my hometown of Bloomington, Illinois offer it only during the holiday season and even then in limited quantities. It sells quickly. If I don’t get there early, it’s gone—and I like peppermint coffee every day. I drink at least four cups daily which means I was running out by mid-year, if not earlier. I had to do something.

I shopped online and looked beyond the border of central Illinois, and in less than three minutes, found a great source in Georgia where I can get five pounds at a time shipped to my home, with the click of a button from over 550 miles away. My peppermint coffee comes to me, I am happy (as is my wife, who is no longer on a never-ending run to the store) and I have it year round, never to run out again. The small store from where it comes in Georgia may be local to the residents there, but it’s a global brand to me—which in turn makes it local and personal and highly relevant.

This month at IHAF, we are focusing on Global Brand as a topic. I would suggest to you whether your company operates in a city, state, region, or single country that your brand (every brand, in fact) is global because customers don’t put boundaries on brands or experiences. Only brands do.

How does your brand fare in this broader, non-geographic sense? Please share how your brand is meeting global demand as we kick off our conversation at IHAF this month.

Mark Gibson is Assistant Vice President of Creative Services at State Farm, overseeing a 180-person in-house agency for the nation’s largest insurer of homes and cars.

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