Brands associated with high quality make the most inroads among consumers around the world, according to a paper published in the Journal of International Business Studies in January 2003. “How Perceived Brand Globalness Creates Brand Value” presents research that measured, in the United States and Korea, how a brand's perception as “global” affects customers' inclination to buy. Co-author Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp, a professor of marketing and international marketing research at Tilburg University, the Netherlands, summarizes the findings, “If a brand is perceived to be global, that creates value in the mind of consumers. Most of the value creation is through the fact that consumers ascribe products that are global to be of good quality.”
A second pathway is through the prestige that accompanies a global brand. But quality dominates, representing more than 90% of the increased desirability of global brands among the 247 Americans and 370 Koreans surveyed. Prestige, adds co-author Rajeev Batra, S.S. Kresge Professor of Marketing at the University of Michigan Business School, can be transient. “When [global brands] are seen as novel, they may have high prestige, but when that novelty goes away, the prestige goes down. Also, prestige is a phenomenon that certain segments, like young people, tune into, but may be less significant for the vast market.”
Marketers should understand that when global brands are desirable, it is not simply because they are global, but rather because their globalness implies other traits, such as quality and prestige. “There's a certain cachet of quality that comes with being available around the world, but it's not automatic,” says third co-author, Dana L. Alden, a professor of marketing at the University of Hawaii. “The brands that tend to be successful around the world tend to be of higher quality and are promoted as such.”
The researchers also found some “ethnocentric” consumers who eschewed global products because of their globalness. How many ethnocentrics there are in a given market, Steenkamp conjectures, would vary by nation and depend on the particular product market. Foods, for example, are a culturally important product category and would likely experience more ethnocentrism than high-tech durables or personal care products.
But quality products can also mitigate these ethnocentric attitudes. Consider McDonald's operating in France, a nation with strong ethnocentric attitudes toward its culturally important food industry.