The distinction between brand propositions and brand values.

When I’m working with organisations looking to internationalize their brands to do business in foreign markets, we often have to spend some time considering the distinction between the ‘brand proposition’ and the ‘brand values’. The brand proposition (or offer) should be flexible to suit the culture and social mores of the individual markets. Even within what may seem like geographically close markets, the emphasis of various dimensions of the offer may need to shift. For example, a few years ago I was involved in the launch in the UK of a range of US fitness equipment. The launch was successful and the decision was made to roll it out over Europe. The client believed the same brand offer was appropriate across the target countries. However, research showed subtle differences in each country’s attitudes to exercise. The British wanted to be fit and lose weight, the French were more interested in looking good, while the Germans wanted to be strong and fit.

International branding

If you wish to learn more about surprising cultural differences, I thoroughly recommend Geert Hofstede’s excellent book, Cultures and Organizations – Software of the Mind. Or take a look at his personal site http://stuwww.uvt.nl/~csmeets/.

The further you venture from your own culture, the more prepared you may need to be to change the emphasis of the offer – the brand ‘proposition’ may need to change.

This is where the distinction comes between the brand proposition and the brand values – propositions may change, but values are more static. It may be helpful to think of the values as more strategic, while the offer is more tactical. Consider the parallels with diplomacy – where a nation’s values should remain the same across its foreign policy, the way its diplomats deal with different countries with different cultures, regimes and attitudes will vary greatly.

The brand offer is pragmatic – amenable to persuasion, argument and declarative proof. Brand values are fundamentally emotional – they are to do with a meta-knowledge we have about a brand; a different ontology that is less accessible to change by argument.

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