PACKAGING DESIGN: On a global mission - Is it to be world domination or local loyalty? Bhavna Mistry reports on differing attitudes toward the think global act local debate

When Mars changed the name of its Marathon chocolate bar to Snickers in the UK in 1990, the brand leapt from the fifth best-selling confectionery in the UK to the third. Now the company is poised to start the process again by repackaging and branding Opal Fruits to Starburst - bringing it in line with the rest of world - and hoping it will reap similar rewards to Snickers, which now boasts worldwide sales of more than pounds 625m.

When Mars changed the name of its Marathon chocolate bar to

Snickers in the UK in 1990, the brand leapt from the fifth best-selling

confectionery in the UK to the third. Now the company is poised to start

the process again by repackaging and branding Opal Fruits to Starburst -

bringing it in line with the rest of world - and hoping it will reap

similar rewards to Snickers, which now boasts worldwide sales of more

than pounds 625m.



With the national newspapers running the name-change story on their

front pages - albeit with a negative slant - the move has triggered a

debate that many FMCG companies are currently battling with: the

conflict between domestic brand loyalty and the pressures of global

strategies. Cadbury Schweppes, Sara Lee and Unilever, as well as Mars,

are just some of those that have been looking at brand globalisation

strategies for the past few years.



Packaging and design are playing an ever-more significant role in this

arena, as at the core of the debate lies communicating the change to

consumers without losing loyalty. It also centres on how far the brand

profile and target markets vary from region to region, and emotions are

riding high among both marketers and designers.



The matter is too complex to consider in terms of who’s right and who’s

wrong, but the various strategies do reveal a wide spectrum of opinion

from both camps.



Each of the companies mentioned has considered the pros and cons of

globalisation for its core business, but according to Jill Marshall,

client services director at Design Bridge, many have overlooked what

implementing such a strategy means in benefits for the consumer. ’This

is what marketers should also be thinking about,’ says Marshall. For

her, the benefits are ’rather thin on the ground in terms of

consumers’.



Small world, big savings



Mars’s line on the issue is typically bullish. ’As a business we wanted

to put more emphasis on our sugar brands, and as a business we’re into

building global brands. On that basis, our view is that having a

globally uniform identity and pack helps our brands in the marketplace.

People are more globally aware and it’s true that the world is becoming

a smaller place,’ states Michelle Frost, Mars’s UK sugar marketing

manager.



Frost cites the success of the Snickers revamp to prove her point, and

goes on to say that it’s a process which is becoming the norm across the

board. ’The Nova car changed its name to Corsa, Fruit and Fibre is now

known as Optima, Munchies are Brekkies, and even Russia has now become

the CIS. Consumers understand it,’ she says.



And her rallying cry is that marketing professionals have a

’responsibility to be more proactive in promoting this type of move and

to present it as positive rather than negative. Change is what it’s

about; it’s what drives our business,’ she asserts.



Holding the middle ground are Unilever and Sara Lee. Both have a ’horses

for courses’ attitude. Unilever’s strategy is based on the notion that

for some brands there are benefits in going global with naming and

packaging, but for others it serves better to take national preferences

into account.



This could be seen as sitting on the fence, but a Unilever spokesman

says: ’Of course there are certain values in having a global brand; it

stands for the same thing in every country, but there’s no such thing as

global foods and we advocate both approaches.’ Sara Lee’s marketing and

development director Kay Downes echoes the Unilever approach.



Thought for food



Design Bridge’s Marshall is more comfortable with the Unilever and Sara

Lee stance than with Mars’s, although the consultancy works on global

pack solutions in its work for Lipton Teas, which sells in the same pack

around the world. ’The same branding is reassuring, but it can mean

different things in different markets. The benefits seem to be mainly

for the companies; they save on costs in economies of scale, and have

fewer people thinking strategically about the brand, but change doesn’t

necessarily have to be about a common branding solution.’



Marshall acknowledges that for some product areas, such as cigarettes,

alcohol and perfume, global packaging works - ’they trade in the same

international currency’. But food is a tricky area, she asserts. ’It’s

much more parochial and regional. Mushy peas haven’t made it south of

the Pennines, so it’s a pretty safe bet they’re not going beyond the

shores of the UK. It’s about regional preferences, and for projects like

Cup a Soup, the regional variations drive the strategy.’



Design Bridge has produced packaging for three European Cup-a-Soup

variants, where the target markets are poles apart. ’The solution is to

do with the heritage of the different brands. Batchelors is fighting

own-label, and Cup-a-Soup is not a registered trade mark. In the UK it

has been advertised historically as a warm, cosy brand, but the Dutch

ads feature macho builders stopping for a Cup-a-Soup big drink. The

packs reflect the different perceptions and markets,’ says Marshall.



Simon Gore, director at Brown Inc, which created the global packaging

for ice-stick brand Calippo, cites a French example of the power of

national nuances when it comes to names: ’A French lemonade called

Pschitt always gets a laugh when we’re talking to clients about

rebranding. But it’s followed by a deadly hush when the penny drops and

they think: ’Don’t let that happen to my brand’.’



The pitfalls of global branding are picked up on by Satkar Gidda,

marketing director at Siebert Head: ’If you get a name to work across

the global marketplace, that’s great. But you have to be aware that the

product you’re looking to make global may have a name which is used and

registered somewhere in the world in another sector.’



Foreign currency



Another drawback is the cost of rebranding; Opal Fruits will have to go

through three transitional stages in six months, before adopting its new

in-house designed livery. Andy Knowles, partner at Jones Knowles

Ritchie, recently redesigned Labatt Ice labels to appeal to a younger UK

market than it is traditionally marketed to anywhere else in the world.

This bucks the trend by making a global design, regional.



’It does all come down to costs in the end. For Mars, it’s a sensible

and financially astute move because it has the financial clout to carry

it off efficiently and consistently. But for other strong, national

brands, they work powerfully because they’re built on national

preferences,’ says Knowles. ’One of the real advantages global brands

have over nationally strong brands is that supermarket own-labels won’t

even get a look-in,’ he adds.



But despite these drawbacks, Cadbury Schweppes’ European brands director

Paul Troy is unequivocal in his view that if it doesn’t have the

potential to be globally consistent in the way it looks, it isn’t a

global brand.



’Eighteen months ago, we had upward of six strategies in our European

markets. Now we have one. When consumers meet the Schweppes brand in any

country, they meet the same brand with exactly the same

representation.



The initiative has now been adopted globally and benefits include the

fact that for the first time we have a powerful umbrella ad featuring

the same end frame, giving one voice to the Schweppes brand across more

than 20 countries.



’It has been design-led, in that this couldn’t have happened without us

putting the consistent packaging - designed by Newell and Sorrell - into

place across those countries,’ he adds. ’But you have to have a global

brand to achieve that, and we have brands where we employ local

strategies for local brands like Tango. For designers, achieving the

commonality in pack designs to work across the world is the ultimate

accolade, because good design travels.’



And Troy’s final words have a faint echo of Frost’s comment that the

world is indeed a smaller place: ’To walk onto a plane or into a bar

anywhere in the world and see the Schweppes brand remaining consistent

is reassuring.



It makes the world a safer place. But I would say that, wouldn’t I?’



Satkar Gidda is speaking at the RetailPack 97 conference and exhibition,

being held at Olympia on October 14-16.



THE ADVANTAGES



- Beating the own-label



Because of the high recognition of global brands, this is one area where

a supermarket’s own-label won’t be able to compete. No matter how

similar lookalikes are, if you’re in an unfamiliar place you’ll go for

the tried and tested when it comes to brands



- Cost



Having one global design lowers production and manufacturing costs



- Single focus strategy



A single marketing team working globally on a brand means you’ll save on

staff numbers, as well as increasing the strategic focus by having one

team channelling the brand



- Higher consumer recognition across national boundaries



Your pack will be recognised on-shelf by travellers and natives alike -

a significant advantage as the world gets smaller



THE DISADVANTAGES



- Cost



Although you will eventually see decreasing costs (see advantages), you

need a massive budget to start off with to effectively implement a

global branding strategy



- Loss of regional nuances



Each regional market has will have different visual and verbal languages

so what may work very well in one country could fall flat in another

because the perceived messages are different



- Hit and miss targeting



This will depend on the sector you’re working in, but many products have

widely differing consumers - your product may be bought by burly workmen

in one country, while in another, its appeal may rest mainly with the

housewife. To target two or more markets effectively, you will need to

vary your visual monikers.