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Tue, Mar 01, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Big brands go for global makeovers

IDENTITY CRISIS From MTV and McDonald's who are `lovin' it' to `I Am What I Am' Reebok, a number of the world's biggest brands are remodelling themselves


McDonald's is teaming up with MTV to tell the world they're "lovin' it," Reebok has sports and entertainment stars pledging "I Am What I Am," while Coca-Cola is on the hunt for a message to send across the globe.

Some of the world's biggest brands are reintroducing themselves on the global stage -- using marketing campaigns with catch-all slogans to sell their products to a worldwide audience, irrespective of borders, culture or even religion.

"The goal is to be more consistent and bring back some bigness to brand Coca-Cola," spokesman Kelly Brooks said of the company's plan to spend an additional US$350 million to US$400 million this year on marketing that will shift from local ads to campaigns that could span an entire continent.

It is the Coca-Cola Co's "attempt to restore its global iconic status," Brooks said. The soft drink giant's last truly worldwide campaign was its "Always" slogan used from 1993 to 1999.

Advertising experts say that after years of regional or countrywide campaigns, marketers are homing in on the belief that needs and wants -- particularly for food, drink and clothing -- are little different around the globe. Selling a lifestyle is easier now that more people can aspire to the same one.

"The global teenager is very similar, the needs are converging around the world, this now allows companies to make this trade-off in favor of big campaigns," said Nader Tavassoli, a marketing professor at the London Business School. "Before that, companies incurred the costs of tailoring a lot of their campaigns locally because needs were truly different -- but needs are converging."

Many big companies -- particularly those based in the US -- have been looking for ways to maximize their resources in the face of tougher competition and have identified the merging global culture as one place to do that, said Andy Corcoran, an advertising professor at Lincoln University in northern England.

"They are able, because people know who they are, to take a position, to make their brand fit those global needs and wants," Corcoran said. "They can take that across the world."

The success of McDonald's Corp's "I'm lovin' it" campaign, one of the first global blockbusters, has provided a template.

Conceived by the German ad agency Heye & Partners in 2003, the unified message -- with only small alterations for local tastes and customs -- has bolstered the global identity of the fast-food chain.

Under pressure from concerns about obesity and complaints that its menu was unhealthy, McDonald's chose the right moment to go global, said Stephen Cheliotis, chairman of the Superbrands Council, an industry group.

"It's not surprising that they wanted to do this campaign to say, look we are still here, we have changed our focus, we have listened to our customers but we are still the biggest and we are still the best," Cheliotis said.

McDonald's global marketing chief Larry Light acknowledges that the campaign was a response to the company losing its way -- and its customers.

"We had to change our voice. We needed to contemporize and modernize our brand, we had lost relevance for the consumer. The world had changed, we stood still," Light said in London this month, where he launched the partnership with music broadcaster MTV that extends the "I'm lovin' it" campaign.

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