Chris Riley’s Take on Global Brands – Nike, Apple, Samsung and Beyond

Chris Riley’s Take on Global Brands – Nike, Apple, Samsung and Beyond

September 18, 2014

The University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), hosted a forum entitled “Nike, Apple, Samsung and Beyond: The Changing Nature of Global Brands” at the ULAB Auditorium.   Chris Riley, one of the world’s leading strategic thinkers on brand and communications, was the forum’s main speaker. Chris has worked as a strategist and researcher in advertising, design and marketing since 1983.

Chris discussed how companies from different countries create brands and what shifts are taking place that would affect global brands. According to him, each brand is like a unique story which makes a company unique from others. He pointed that Nike, Apple and Samsung became great global brands because they are great story tellers.

Chris explained the similarities between Nike and Apple in creating their global brands.

  1. Both companies exhibit great discipline. Contrary to what people think, it was not fun and games working at Apple and Nike. These companies are incredibly organized, reliable and cost effective businesses.  They have great discipline. This is because these companies believe that quality is important which is achieved by doing things repeatedly until one gets it right.
  1. Both companies have a consistent approach to marketing. One official in Apple once said: “We really like strategic but we really, really, really like execution.”  Strategic people should be able to work with people who will execute the strategy over and over again – the ones who make the advertisements, the packaging.  A consumer usually will fall in love with people who do work to a high standard.  A high standard is achieved by consistently paying attention to quality.
  1. Both companies are committed to the creative process. The creative process is hard.  The first thing you write is not the best thing you write.  Hence, you need to write it again and again.  There are actually two kinds of companies.  The first type is a marketing company.  Since they put the marketing process first, they want things to be predictable – what will be the sales in October.  Proctor and Gamble is amazing in doing that.  They make sure that there are agreements at the end of meetings.  The second type of company is the creative company where there is a lot of failure.  The first thing you write is not the best thing.  The creative companies do not compromise to meet the deadline, do not care for consensus in meetings, they just want to get things right. They want everyone in the world to love their products. Creative companies have charismatic leaders.  Marketing companies have managers.                                                                                                                                                                                                   Related: Death of the Creative Genius
  1. Both companies are committed to both successes and failures. Apple had many failed products.  The iPhone did not go well in the beginning.  There were limited apps in the beginning because it was a closed system.  Nobody remembers the first macs – very expensive and hard to operate.  But now, we know only the narrative of successes.  Nike and Apple are committed to both success and failures.  They know that failures are needed to achieve success.
  1. Both companies are connected to popular culture. Nike and Apple pay attention to popular culture.  They analyze: What does it mean?  Why is it interesting?  What does it tell you about the world?  People nowadays are interested in the real deal, the authenticity.  People are curious about other cultures.  They saw a bit about Korean in Gangnam Style and found it interesting.  As Gangnam Style broke records, in meeting rooms of Nike and Apple, executives are discussing it. 
  1. Both companies are competitive. In the 2012 Olympic Games, there was another Olympics going on – but a contest among brands like Nike versus Puma.  Brands sponsor athletes and when the athletes they sponsor win, medals are given and the brand inscribed in the athlete’s uniform is shown. The brand gets to win together with the athlete.  Puma did not have as much money as Nike to sponsor great athletes.  So, Puma first supported footballer Pele of Brazil.  The second thing Puma did was to support the Jamaican bobsled team in the Winter Olympic Games.  The team lost but got media exposure.  When they came to London Olympics in 2012, they supported Bolt and other top runners from Latin America.  As a result, Puma won against Nike in the London Olympics.
  1. Both companies are committed to a global strategy. The strategy is about knowing who you are.  When Nike went to Europe, they were told that “Just Do It” will not work in Europe.  It is like being told off in France. It means nothing in Germany. Nike explained to the Europeans that Nike does not wish to fit into their culture.  Nike instead intend to subvert it.  It did not want to be British.  It intend to stay American. It wanted to find out why being American was interesting to them.  Elvis Presley was not turned into a British guy.  But, he was liked in Britain.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Related: Brand Breakout – How Emerging Market Brands Will Go Global                                                                                                                                                              
  1. Both companies are skilled in storytelling. Nike makes shoes, which is not that different from shoes of Puma or Adidas.  But, the shoes of Nike come with a story.  It is not just buying shoes, it is buying a story or context.  Nike creates a context about the product making it a high context brand.  The story and the history are important to the consumer.  Maybe if I trained hard, I will win.  Maybe I can be rebellious if I perform well on game day.  Nike is about the story, then about the product. Apple is the opposite, it is low-context.  It spends most of its time telling stories about the product.  Apple has the mantra – help people get the most of their products.  So, in Apple, they spend time to explain what the product is, what it does and how to buy it.
  1. Both companies know the power of word of mouth. Apple knew that out there in the world, there were around 30 people who were willing to watch long videos about its products and its launches.  Even if it will cost a lot to produce lengthy videos for a few people, Apple knows that these people who watch their videos will write pieces on their products.  Some people are incredibly engaged in what you do. When they write, the effect will be viral like the word of mouth.
  2. Both companies know that the story creates the market. Apple since Steve left has lost the story.  Its stock has lost half its value.  People in China do not think that Apple is not cool anymore.  Apple lost its story. It is looking expensive and that it wants to control you.  People are feeling that the company no longer cares about them. It is a damaging story.

Chris Riley also talks about the shifts that are taking place globally that would affect brands.

  1. Shifts in strategy in building global brands. Samsung is successful in the way Asian companies are successful.  They build their companies by quietly working, coming from the ground up.  Because they are humble and do not want to convince the world that they are great, they believe in building relationships.  They learn more about their markets as a consequence.  They respect their host countries; they learn the language of their hosts. Samsung wants to earn your respect.  Being local and part of the community is the way things are going.  Samsung does not seem like a global brand but seems to fit into Dhaka.
  1. Shifts in storytelling in the digital age. Television was the dominant medium before. It favors simplicity and a big global narrative.  It does not deal well with complexity.  The digital media works well with complexity. i.e., with multiple competing narratives.  Children have the ability to navigate competing narratives and put in their own narratives.  Hence, children learn more and this is the consumer of tomorrow.                                              Related:  Storytelling to Shape Your Business
  1. Shifts towards the majority world. The story of the Olympic Games is about becoming Jamaican for the British.  The British used to dominate Jamaica during colonial times.  But now, Jamaica dominated the London Olympics.  Hence, there is a change in popular culture.  London has been transformed from being the headquarters of the empire into a city that welcomes and invites the world.

In 2016, the Olympics will be held in Rio de Janiero.  It will be clear here that the West is no longer the most dominant culture in the world.  It is the Olympics of the majority world.  Brazil has a point to make; they have one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

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