Is the earth flat? When it comes to brand emotions, not quite yet

By Alexander Jakubanecs, SNF

29 May 2019 10:20

(updated: 30 April 2020 09:52)

Is the earth flat? When it comes to brand emotions, not quite yet

Companies should account for the social orientation of brand emotions and advertising context in order to build optimal brand equity in East Asian markets.

Multinational corporations have long favored standardization of their brand strategies in order to capitalize on economies of scale, assuming the world has gone flat (Levitt, 1983).

Meanwhile, academic marketing literature presents mixed findings on the impact of the standardization of brand strategy and its elements, such as global brand advertising on corporate performance (Zou & Volz, 2010).

Brand emotions are an important element in the decision to standardize or adapt brand strategy to local markets since consumers use these to evaluate brands (Pham, 1998).

In order to improve our understanding of when to standardize or adapt brand strategies, in cooperation with Telenor Research, we studied which brand emotions are triggered by same ads across the Norwegian and Thai cultures (Jakubanecs et al., 2019; Jakubanecs et al., 2019).

Moreover, we looked at how these emotions influence brand attitudes and purchase intentions in these markets.

There are two major factors that may help us predict the experience of brand emotions across these two cultures.

First, Thai consumers are more collectivist, i.e. closely connected to other people, while Norwegians are more individualist, i.e. loosely connected to others.

Second, East Asians compared to Westerners are more influenced by the surrounding context in their thinking and feeling (Nisbett et al, 2001).

Indeed, our findings show that Thais experience more positive social brand emotions (e.g. friendly feelings, respect) than Norwegians when exposed to the standardized ads.

Further, for Thai consumers such experience is leveraged when the brand is presented in a social (e.g. featuring a group of people) relative to individual context.

Meanwhile, the context does not play any role in the emotional experience of Norwegian consumers. What’s more, while Thais also rely on positive social brand emotions when evaluating and considering to purchase brands, this is not the case for Norwegians.

In order to plan and evaluate strategies managers need to uncover what do consumers associate with their brands in different markets. However, research on the effectiveness of brand elicitation techniques internationally is limited.

In a subsequent study, we find that brand context influences the type and amount of emotions uncovered by one such technique in Thailand but not in Norway. For example, if a brand is presented with a group of people Thai consumers report more social emotions and fewer functional associations compared to when the brand is presented without context.

What does this imply for global brand managers?

First, our findings argue for adaptation of global brand advertising strategies to leverage the impact on performance. Both ads and elicitation techniques employed in East Asia should incorporate important for consumers social context (e.g. family members).

Further, place advertising may be especially effective in East Asia due to the presence of visual context.

Finally, ads in digital channels, lacking physical social context, would need to incorporate references to important social groups in Thailand, while this would be of lesser importance in the West.

Jakubanecs , A., Supphellen, M., Fedorikhin, A., Haugen, H. M., & Sivertstøl, N. 2019. Elicitation of salient brand emotions in Western and East Asian markets: The role of elicitation context. International Journal of Market Research.

Jakubanecs, A., Supphellen, M., Haugen, H. M., & Sivertstøl, N. 2019. Developing brand emotions across cultures: effects of self-construal and context. Journal of Consumer Marketing.

Levitt, T. 1983. The Globalization of Markets. Harvard Business Review, 61(3): 92-102.

Nisbett, R. E., Peng, K. P., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. 2001. Culture and systems of thought: Holistic versus analytic cognition. Psychological Review, 108(2): 291-310.

Pham, M. T. 1998. Representativeness, relevance, and the use of feelings in decision making. Journal of Consumer Research, 25(2): 144-159.

Zou, S., & Volz, Y. Z. 2010. An integrated theory of global advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 29(1): 57-84.

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