The 6 tenets of Branding

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Crafting your company’s brand image is the most crucial process in starting a new successful business and increasing the odds of maintaining it. Sometimes, the value of the brand become worth more than the hard assets of the company itself. By looking at the top global bands, we have defined six basic tenets of branding that apply across all types of businesses.


Be clear and consistent on what your brand is and is not. A solid brand vision leads every decision and action you take.

T-Mobile remained true to its promise of becoming the “Un-Carrier” in wireless, and it lived up to that vision by shying away from the traditional bugging long term contracts and predatory data plan. And it really worked as T-Mobile gained 1.1 million customers after announcing its strategy.


Strategies that break from norms can aspire an entire category to reconsider its behavior. Airbnb and Uber can be a perfect example here.


While it’s tempting to try to be everything to everyone, one of the most impactful ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace is to do one thing well. Vrai & Oro is a jewelry line that shucked the categorical norm of creating marked-up, seasonal items, focusing instead on a limited line of classic, timeless pieces, no gimmicks. The brand name translates to “truth and gold”.

Willingness to fail

Brand leaders must have a metric and key performance indicator to measure precisely the success or failure of each decision they make or campaign the launch and act accordingly to hone in on what is resonating with customers.

A clear, compelling message

Clear and consistent messages lead to clear expectations which lead to customers feeling empowered and loyal. Think about Apple and Disney. These brands stay on message, on strategy and on brand.


Big Ideas 

A revolutionary, innovative idea that evokes emotion can create brand loyalty in unexpected and lasting ways. The Spirits Company Johnnie Walker sponsored a gallery of “artwork not yet created” where ten artists displayed blank canvases, promising to produce incredible work upon them, and challenged buyers to buy the pieces in advance, taking a chance on talent. The auction sold triple the amount expected. By stepping out of its comfort zone with a big idea, Johnnie Walker humanized its brand and showcased the company’s “belief in people’s potential”.




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Brilliant Global Branding in Action!

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Although global branding can be a huge obstacle for companies looking to expand internationally, a few have done an excellent job of maintaining their brand image throughout the globe.

Redbull – Redbull does a fantastic job expanding internationally, by hosting extreme sports events while promoting their product. Not only does this gain attention of their target market, but it also gets the country exposed to the “Redbull lifestyle.” In addition, Redbull maintains consistent unique packaging throughout each of their international markets.

Dunkin Donuts – Dunkin Donuts is near and dear to many here in the United States, but not many know that they have 3,100 stores in as many as 30 countries outside the US. While they may serve boston creme doughnuts here, they alter their recipes to serve to the tastes of each of their international locations. Some notable doughnuts for us were Lebanon’s mango chocolate doughnut, Korea’s grapefruit coolata doughnut, Russia’s dunclairs, and China’s dry pork and seaweed doughnuts.

Nike – Nike’s careful selection of international sponsorships has gained them success globally. For instance, their partnership with Manchester United helped them achieve great popularity in the soccer market, as Manchester United is a beloved favorite of many Barclay’s Premier League fans.

These three strategies got us thinking. Much like Porter’s three generic options for strategic positioning, expanding internationally can be thought about in a similar way. For instance, companies like Redbull or Starbucks will maintain a consistent image throughout each of their global markets. With the help of heavy advertising, great success can be achieved! Other companies like Dunkin Donuts or Dominoes will change their product to meet the preferences of their target markets. Although their product is changed, they will still maintain their distinctive competencies. Lastly, companies like Nike will use local celebrity power to boost their brand. This is not to say there are not other ways to expand internationally! For example, H&M’s secret to success is to improve their online experience.

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Brand Gaga

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Can celebrities be considered brands? Many researchers and marketers have defined brand and branding as the consumers’ perception of a product, service, or corporation. Brands are, however, not solely limited to these three. According to Gerrie Lim (2005), celebrities can also be considered brands, “there is an intriguing relationship between global celebrity culture and the phenomenon of branding. There is a sense of wonderment in the way certain people have become com-modified into products”. Many celebrities can be considered brands as a result of all the emotions, thoughts, images, history,  and gossip that surround them and they way they became internationally known. However, the way that lady gaga rose from obscurity to fame makes her an interesting brand to study. “As far as breakout musicians go, few artists have had quite the zero-awareness to ubiquity time- warp of Lady Gaga. As far as brands go, few marketers of any kind have leveraged social media the way she has to drive sales of their core product – in her case, albums and digital singles”. (Hampp, 2010, p. 42)

So how did Lady Gaga raise her awareness so quickly and how did she leverage her social media? The first fundamental element of her brand is the community that she built. Gaga’s niche was the gay consumers who became the root from which she blew up. If she failed to grow more famous, she still had loyal gay community supporting her with their large income. Despite the fact that she has become very famous now, she still is devoted to her gay fans. Gaga’s message was that it is acceptable to be different and people should be themselves no matter what. This message didn’t only appeal to her first niche, it resonated with nearly everyone.

When it comes to social media, Gaga has the power to make her messages seem personal even though she communicates with millions of people. For instance, she called her fans the “Little Monsters”, and tattooed this nickname on her arm, and then posted the picture with the caption “Look what I did last night. Little monsters forever, on the arm that holds my mic”.

Gaga’s social media strategy is very smart. She tends to understand people’s fears, motivations, and desires and uses this understanding to make her communication more effective and personal. She seems to have tapped into three human needs: having a personal identity and loving oneself, being understood and accepted, and being a part of something bigger than oneself, such as her campaign for gay rights and HIV prevention. These messages are consistent with all her social media outlets and the rest of her brand. Lindstrom posits, “Consistency! Consistency! Consistency! This is the mantra for success”. Last but not the least, her outrageous costumes, the way she portrays herself as a unique artists, and the fact that she puts herself constantly in the news are all features that made her a marketing phenomenon and a master at personal branding.

Lady Gaga’s blend of talent, smartness, and drive has empowered her to shape her brand into what it is today. She is not just book smart; she appears to be clever enough to read society well and sense what matters and appeals to people, and what will make them talk.

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Lost in Translation!

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When branding globally, it’s key to understand not only a company’s culture, but their language. Below we investigate seven different marketing blunders that could have been avoided with a more careful approach toward the studying of their target country’s language and culture.

  1. When Pepsi entered the Chinese market it launched with the slogan ‘Pepsi Brings You Back to Life’. Unfortunately, the company failed to realize that the phrase had been translated as ‘Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave’. Not an ideal blunder in a country where reverence for ancestors is an important part of the culture.
  2. When entering China, Coca-Cola first rendered their name as Ke-kou-ke-la. To Coca-Cola’s dismay, many signs had been printed until they realized the phrase could be translated to “bite the wax tadpole,” or “female horse stuffed with wax,” depending on the dialect. Coke eventually found a decent phonetic equivalent, “ko-kou-ko-le,” which can be loosely translated as “happiness in the mouth.”
  3. Electrolux, a Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer, forgot to do their homework when entering the American market. In one of their ad campaigns, they used the slogan “nothing sucks like Electrolux,” not realizing the meaning in American slang.
  4.  When the now defunct Braniff airlines decided they wanted to appeal to first class customers, they created a campaign to promote their leather upholstery in Mexico. Unfortunately the tag line ‘Fly In Leather’ literally translated as ‘Fly Naked’.
  5. Schweppes Tonic Water, when launching their product in Italy, translated their name into Schweppes Toilet Water.
  6. The American slogan for Salem cigarettes, “Salem—Feeling Free,” got translated in the Japanese market into “When smoking Salem, you feel so refreshed that your mind seems to be free and empty.”
  7. Coors Light’s ad campaigns are highly popular and admit I get a kick out of watching their goofy commercials.  Coors decided they would use the same popular slogan, “Turn it Loose”, in Spanish to catch the attention of the Hispanic population.  It just so happens that in Spanish this slogan translates to “Suffer from Diarrhea”.  Ouch, that one hurt.  Something as simple as a language translation can quickly kill an ad campaign.
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How Does Sephora Contours its Brand

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Women are always fond of having best friends. The female bestie, diamonds, shoes, and bags are among their dearest pals. But, you know what else is considered as a woman’s best friend? Sephora. There’s a reason why we said Sephora and not makeup, it’s because of the distinctive approach that Sephora uses to merchandising that it has become an alternative to the word makeup. Sephora’s branches worldwide have the same store atmosphere that make every lady feels like she’s in heaven. The distinctive uniforms of the staff, their flawless makeup, the nightclub furniture, and the upbeat music create a laid back, consumer empowering atmosphere that isn’t found in any other store.

One of the best things that distinguishes Sephora is the luxury they give to their customers to try high end products without going through the stiff interaction that other beauty counters have. Ladies are given the freedom to hop from brand to brand, try products out at their leisure, get a splash of wow from makeup experts, and get free samples of whatever they want. Isn’t that awesome?

Sephora has its way of finding, and choosing the top emerging brands in the world. Unlike many retailers that have only private label assortments and one product line, Sephora acts as a cosmetic broker and can leverage the most thrilling lines from whichever brands. Also, Sephora’s has core competence exclusively selling exceptional top-brand products. In this commercial, we see that Sephora isn’t solely a makeup store. It is much much more than this. It is a conglomeration of skin care products, hair products, fragrances, brushes, accessories and more.

Among many other things that make Sephora stand out is their designated “Beauty Workshop” stations. Customers can watch tutorial videos and practice with Virtual Artist in order to learn professionally the more complex make-up applications like contouring for example. Furthermore, their mobile application gained a lot of recognition from digital innovation think tank ranking Sephora as top retailer brand.

The app allows users to get alerts about sales, new products, events, and to access the Sephora Virtual Artist. When in-store the user can use Apple Pay, scan a product to learn more about its reviews and ratings, and check how many loyalty reward points a product can give. Last but not the least, Sephora is very known for its gripping loyalty program that offers great awards like products, makeovers, makeup classes, and sampling new products. The program allows consumers to upraise to VIB (Very Important Beauty Insider) or to the VIB Rouge status with great associated benefits.

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McDonald’s India’s Token Orange Sauce

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A big portion of Global Branding is product development. McDonald’s, as a global firm, is the king of shaping their product toward their targeted market. In the video below, we get to watch American’s reactions to McDonald’s India. The outcome is quite interesting.

View here.

Chicken Maharaja Mac – Note how some of the main comments were regarding the choice of protein and spices. In the Hindu religion, cows are a sacred animal, making the typical American beef patty a bad choice for entering India. Some of the Americans reacted to the “orange sauce” as having a distinct flavor that they couldn’t quite place.

McAloo Tiki – Many Indians are vegetarian, so potato is quite often used as a substitute for meat. In general, the Americans noted that they couldn’t discern the flavor profile of this sandwich. One American even noted the heavy amount of onion used in this sandwich.

Spicy Chicken Wrap – This McDonald’s India dish is the most similar to America’s menu. The importance of maintaining your brand image must come through in your products. Although many of the reactions contained comments about the elevated spice level of this dish, they definitely noted that the wrap was “American sized” and most likely to be served on the McDonald’s America menu.

McSpicy Paneer – This sandwich is derived from a heavily spiced Indian cheese dish called Paneer. One of my favorite Indian dishes is called Shahi Paneer, which is this cheese in a tomato based curry sauce. The patty here is made of this cheese, which most Americans would find unusual.

Our Comments – Overall, we think that McDonald’s does a great job in developing their product to cater toward the Indian market. A huge part of culture is food, so being able to change to adapt to different culture’s foods is key in McDonald’s Global Branding strategy. Not how the advertising doesn’t change at all. One of our favorite comments from this video was “I still love how they put the Mc in front of everything.” It’s important for McDonald’s to stick true to their branding even after changing their product.


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Intel’s Super Bowl Commercial: Tom Brady Everyday

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The question of how to be an American is no longer asked on Reddit and Yahoo or answered in the halls of Congress. This question has become better dealt with in the Super Bowl media center and the boardrooms above Madison Avenue. Likewise, the social, cultural, and political intersection of the United States is no longer to be found in Times Square or out on Route 66. It is wherever the Super Bowl is being held. Yes, the NFL shield has become the most enduring, recognizable symbol of America’s greatest assets, values, and traditions. It is one of the very few sports that are so deeply woven into the fabric of American culture. No wonder why it has become a cottage industry for media companies beside Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Intel’s 2017 Super Bowl commercial featuring the New England Patriots’ quarterback, Tom Brady, was a very interesting one, at least for two marketers who hold branding near and dear to their hearts.

Intel used the Super Bowl as a medium of broadcasting their message to the entirety of America, shaping their commercial toward the wants of a classic American. By making Tom Brady look epic doing normal, everyday activities, Intel has essentially conveyed the message that its product will do the same for the viewer and anyone who purchases. This is the staple of the American Dream.

View the commercial here.

“As if Tom Brady needed any more help looking amazing…” the video caption said. Intel presented the four-time Super Bowl champ (five-time champ now) apically brushing his teeth, whipping up a batch of pancakes and eating one off the floor. Making the QB look heroic doing everyday “boring” activities proved that with Intel 360° Technology, you can make anything look epic. Literally anything. That’s the story the tech brand was telling in its 5 million dollar ad. “People typically show the athlete in the uniform and on the field, we wanted to do something different. We’re making these everyday things look heroic and interesting because that’s what our technology does. The idea is, if we can make him look epic brushing his teeth, wait until you see how we can use the technology in the game.” said Steve Fund, SVP and CMO at Intel.

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Post-Trip Thoughts

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First off, it has been awesome reading my classmates’ posts about their trip and hearing some of their reflections and thoughts about the various aspects of the trip. I really enjoyed experiencing this incredible, life-changing trip across the world with them. The knowledge and insights I gained on this trip could not have been gained in the classroom, and I cannot emphasize that fact enough.

As I mentioned in past posts, one aspect of the Chinese culture that I found most interesting and slightly surprising was how superficial they were. I knew that the Chinese people were more superficial than most, however I did not really realize how much about the “show” they were. For example, the shopping malls there are incredibly extravagant. The most popular brands there are some of the most exclusive brands in the world. These brands all have pretty large logos, and all of their merchandise has that logo on it (obviously). It is extremely important to the people that their peers see that they have a Louie Vuitton bag or an Audi A8. Also, another small thing I noticed was that almost every entrance, even a private driveway by the airport for the president, is extremely extravagant so that people KNOW that the entrance is for someone greater than them. It says quite a bit about the Chinese culture. There is no true sense of individuality, as these extravagant things are what define who you are in the culture. These things represent how successful you are in your career, which is the true value you bring to the world. Now, don’t get me wrong, Americans are very superficial as well and we have plenty of cultural issues. However, this trip to China has showed me what true superficiality and what it’s true deeper meaning is to some cultures.

Also, as all of you know, it is extremely hard to miss the talks of China in the news right now. I read an incredibly interesting article today in the New York Times that I strongly would recommend you read. It is one of the best articles I have read this summer, and is the best article I have read on this issue. See the link below!

It was clear that the country needed to give the currency more flexibility and to reinvigorate exports. If officials did not act, China risked deeper turmoil at home, threatening the stability of the government. I find this especially interesting since there was so much talk about this issue on our trip. I find it even more interesting because none of the officials we asked about this issue were open to discussing or admitting that they thought China intentionally devalued the currency. The article is really a great read, and includes some really great graphics to explain the situation, so please let me know you thoughts, as I am sure I would learn plenty!

Now that the trip is over, I still am continuing to read up on Chinese culture and business issues on that side of the pacific. I really would like to go back and stay for a longer period of time to learn even more about their culture and the corporate business environment there. There is still so much for me to learn and I cannot wait to tackle that mountain. Thanks for a great trip everybody!

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Back From China and Happy to Be Home

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Oh I cannot tell you the feeling of coming back home after a long trip. It feels great to eat my home cooked meals, to sleep in my comfortable bed, and to shower in peace and serenity.

China was such a great experience for me because I learned a lot about their everyday culture and their corporate culture. Interacting with many Chinese students and adults helped me expand my horizons and understand a new perspective of how they live their lives. One of the main concepts I struggled to understand was their conservative culture. Although I am from Saudi Arabia, I am pretty Westernized in the sense that I love to talk about contraversial topics, about current global issues, and discuss anything that has to do with political or economic conflicts.

I was hoping to get the insight of the Chinese on US- China relations, but I was fairly disappointed when I didn’t. I felt as though the conferences did not promote open and honest discussions, but rather a fake-fairytale dream relationship between US and China. The conferences we went to made it seem that the relations were overly optimistic and perfectly sound, but we all know the truth here. One thing that frustrated me most was when Americans would try to take the conversation to a deeper level and mention the issues between the two countries, the people on the panel would respond very cunningly by avoiding the topic or trying to make it seem more positive.

We all have differences, and the Chinese and US definitely does too. A suggestion to political leaders of both US and China is that they should come to reality with their struggles. They should acknowledge their problems, and their differences — and a solution, or numerous solutions can be discussed. However, if we just brush off our differences and act like they never happened, or be in denial of what is actually going on between the two countries, then no problem can ever be solved that way.

From this trip, I have learned to embrace and understand a different culture. This way, I have managed to see life through their eyes and their perspectives. Although I do have a lot of disagreements with the Chinese government principles  I have come to terms with it, and I’ve also embraced their differences because it gave me a new experience to see events, obstacles and issues in a different light.

Thank you for keeping up with my journey so far.

I hope to find time to write to you soon, as I have been very busy with my family during Ramadan. It is a religious holiday where all people of my religion fast from dawn to dusk. Pretty cool isn’t it?

I’ll keep you updated.



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World Strides US & China Conference

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Hey guys,

So I went to a US-China conference last night in one of Shanghai’s most prestigious universities called Fudan. It was really interesting to meet all types of Chinese students who constantly hope for bright futures and mass successes. It was also very intriguing to meet the young students and have a one on one interaction with them.

The classroom I was assigned to had a very wide and open space which allowed for a lot of interaction between both the Chinese and US students. We talked about cultural differences and our different point of views and it was very interesting to open my eyes to a whole new experience of how others perceive the world.

Whenever we did activities together, the debrief questions always got somewhat personal. The Chineese students had a very hard time opening up about their perceptions about the Chinese government whereas the Americans were very open about all the economic and political/race issues that go on in the US. When I speak my mind, I find it very easy to share my opinions with others – but I learned that other people, specifically Chinese, like to be a little more reserved with their thoughts and perceptions.

Furthermore, because I am a very direct person, I always find the need to be as straight forward as possible. This is due to the fact that I am a very low context person, I like to get straight to the point – I find it hard to resonate with people who beat around the bush. But I learned to respect their high context culture because I don’t want to have a “be like me” bias. Low context or High Context — no option is better than the other, it is just a matter of preference and culture. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in China is that people don’t always have to be open with their thoughts, opinions, perceptions, and it doesn’t make you any better than others who are more kept to themselves about their true feelings and emotions. It just depends on how a person prefers to speak to another, and if there are differences, then they must be accepted and embraced.

Speaking of cultural differences, my proctor considered the American culture as “friendly” and the Chinese culture as “Not Friendly.” Although I am not Chinese, I got personally offended by his statement. It’s not that Chinese are not friendly, they are just more reserved and kept to themselves when it comes to a first time encounter with another person. The value of this story is that one should always respect different types of cultures and understand why people act the way they do. Americans were not born and raised the same way the Chinese were: the culture is different, the environment is different, and the political “ruling” of choice is definitely unique from one another.

My final thoughts are that we should not stereotype a certain race as “not friendly”, we must understand why people perceive them that way and change our minds about them. Also, be careful of the ethnocentric bias, Americans are Americans and Chinese are Chinese – no one is better than the other, and definitely no one is more “friendly” than the other.

That is all.

My flight is tomorrow, I’ll update you as soon as possible.



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