How global brands complete

Douglas B. Holt, John A. Quelch, Earl L. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

397 Scopus citations


It's time to rethink global branding. More than two decades ago, Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt argued that corporations should grow by selling standardized products all over the world. But consumers in most countries had trouble relating to generic products, so executives instead strove for global scale on backstage activities such as production while customizing product features and selling techniques to local tastes. Such "glocal" strategies now rule marketing. Global branding has lost more luster recently because transnational companies have been under siege, with brands like Coca-Cola and Nike becoming lightning rods for antiglobalization protests. The instinctive reaction of most transnational companies has been to try to fly below the radar. But global brands can't escape notice. In fact, most transnational corporations don't realize that because of their power and pervasiveness, people view them differently than they do other firms. In a research project involving 3,300 consumers in 41 countries, the authors found that most people choose one global brand over another because of differences in the brands' global qualities. Rather than ignore the global characteristics of their brands, firms must learn to manage those characteristics. That's critical, because future growth for most companies will likely come from foreign markets. Consumers base preferences on three dimensions of global brands-quality (signaled by a company's global stature); the cultural myths that brands author; and firms' efforts to address social problems. The authors also found that it didn't matter to consumers whether the brands they bought were American - a remarkable finding considering that the study was conducted when anti-American sentiment in many nations was on the rise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)68-75+136
JournalHarvard Business Review
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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