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The aim of building a brand is to gain market share and to retain it for the long term. Long term in this case refers to the full length of a marketing campaign. Some campaigns last for a short while such as a social cause to support victims of a natural disaster.
On the other hand, companies that exist in perpetuity musk keep on running marketing campaigns to build market share. Cultural branding is suited for marketing campaigns meant to promote a perpetual product. Usually cultural branding works based on prevailing tensions in the society.
Cultural branding targets the mass-market because tension in the society influences the whole society. When considering marketing strategy options, Porter’s generic strategies come to mind.
A cursory look into the generic strategies suggests that cultural branding fits very well with mass-marketing strategies of cost leadership and differentiation. The aim of this paper is to examine the application of cultural branding in the context Porter’s generic strategies.
In particular, the paper will establish whether cultural branding applies to all generic strategies proposed by Porter or whether the application of cultural branding is unique to mass-marketing strategies. The paper contains three parts.
The first part explores the defining element of cultural branding. The second part reviews Porter’s generic strategies, while the third section looks at the suitability of cultural branding to each of the three generic strategies.
Elements of Cultural Branding
Cultural branding (iconic branding) is one of the major approaches to branding. It varies from cognitive branding in the sense that it draws from the collective cultural attributes of the target market rather than seeking attention from individual consumers.
The other theories of branding include emotional branding and viral branding. Emotional branding aims at finding an emotional connection with a consumer over time so that certain triggers lead to an emotional reinforcement of the appeal of the brand to the consumers.
A good example is the Nokia ring tone. Viral branding on the other hand occurs independently of the marketing campaign. It is almost impossible to know whether a branding effort will go viral before analyzing the results.
Viral branding is ideal for passing on new information about a new product in the fashion and entertainment industry. However, the marketer is not in control of the brand.
Five main issues emerge when exploring the essential elements of cultural branding. The essential elements of cultural branding are context, collective aspirations of the target market, tension and controversy, the need for long-term brand survival, and the requirement for brand reinvention.
Culture is contextual. Every brand that seeks to have a presence in more than one place must take into account the unique cultural differences between various markets.
For instance, a brand can use the outlandish and self-confident persona of most western cultures to ill effect in the more reserved cultures of the East. In short, cultural branding must take into account the context of each market before preparing communication messages.
Secondly, every successful cultural branding campaign must understand the collective desires of the target market. Cultural branding involves finding the unspoken needs of the society based on certain contradictions and then becoming the advocate for these needs.
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Brands build trust by becoming the advocates of these social needs. Failure to understand the social desires and aspirations of the people will lead to failure.
Cultural branding thrives on controversy and resolving contradictions. It aims at finding a rebellious feeling in parts of the population that feel disenfranchised by the political and social direction of the society and giving credibility to the concerns of this group.
In the process, the brand gains visibility as the source of an alternative lifestyle and as the symbol of defiance. For as long as the tension exists, the brand thrives.
The fourth element of a cultural branding is the desire of the brand to endure over time. Cultural branding is very effective for brands that seek to exist in perpetuity. They occupy a historical space in the society, and they have the potential of becoming a defining aspect of culture.
Brands such as Coca Cola have a timeless appeal because of the careful branding of the drink over the years. It represents a historical as well as a cross cultural element to many people in the world.
The final element of cultural branding is reinvention to adapt to the emerging culture in the society. All brands using the cultural branding approach find it necessary to reinvent themselves to fit into new cultural realities. Long-term endurance depends on the ability to adapt to prevailing cultural realities.
For instance, today most brands find it necessary to communicate their environmental credentials because of the global concern for the environment.
In conclusion, using cultural branding as the branding philosophy of an organization requires an understanding of the culture in which the organization operates. This paves the way for a look at Porter’s generic strategies.
Overview Porter’s Generic Strategies
Porter identified a set of market positioning strategies applicable across all industries, hence the name generic strategies. The specific generic strategy is the result of cross-referencing the scope of the target market with the source of competitive advantage for a specific product.
The distinguishing features between these strategies are whether the product targets the mass-market or whether it targets a niche market. The source of competitive advantage may be low cost, or the uniqueness of the product. Therefore, there are four specific generic strategies.
The first one is cost leadership in the mass-market. The second one is differentiation strategy in the mass-market. The third and fourth strategies are cost leadership in a niche market or pursuing differentiation in a niche market. These two latter strategies constitute focus strategies in Porter’s model.
Cost leadership in any industry takes two forms. A producer may choose to offer products at average industry prices in order to earn a small profit, or it may choose to offer the products at prices lower than the industry average to gain market share. Either way, the main objective of cost leadership is offering the most attractive product in a certain category at the lowest price.
Differentiation strategy involves selling products that have unique attributes valued by consumers. For a producer to succeed in a marketing campaign using the differentiation strategy, the product must have an attribute or a set of attributes that competitors cannot copy.
This can come from leadership in research, access to proprietary technologies, patent and copyright protection, or an insurmountable brand value.
Focus strategies on the other hand require a unique understanding of a niche market. In the case of cost leadership under the focus strategy, the producers aim at offering the lowest prices for a product supplied to a unique niche. This can come from the unique relationships developed over time or being the sole supplier to a large consumer.
Choosing cost leadership under focus strategy presupposes the potential of competitors to offer the same product. Product differentiation under the niche strategy requires a producer to supply a unique type of product to a selection of consumers at a premium price. The basic rules that apply to the differentiation strategy also apply.
Some of the similarities that accompany the choice of a cultural branding as an organization’s branding philosophy and the choice of a generic strategy include the deliberate identification of a market to serve, and the need to understand market demand.
Suitability of Cultural Branding to Each Generic Strategy
The main similarity between cost leadership and cultural branding is the mass-market orientation of the two approaches. Cultural branding works best within a mass culture because it seeks to tap into the cultural aspects of a target market. Cultural branding however is not limited to the sources of competitive advantage unique to cost leadership.
This means that a product marketed through cultural branding may or may not use cost leadership as a source of competitive advantage. The second similarity between cultural branding and cost leadership is the need to understand consumer needs in order to fulfill them.
Each approach requires a deep understanding of consumer needs. Cost leadership concentrates on the buying behavior of the target consumers, and their minimum quality requirements.
Cultural branding concentrates on influencing buying behavior by using cultural elements in the marketing campaign. In conclusion, the relationship between cultural branding and cost leadership is closest in the area of mass-marketing.
The relationship between cultural branding and product differentiation is similar in several ways to the relationship between cultural branding and cost leadership. First, differentiation is a mass-market strategy just as cultural branding targets the mass-market.
In some ways, the relationship is stronger because cultural branding aims at appealing to a section of the overall population that finds expression in the specific cultural elements propagated through a cultural branding effort. Cultural branding suffers from shifts in culture and the emergence of new subcultures. Similarly, products that pursue differentiation also suffer from changes in consumer tastes and preferences.
Competitors can replicate the sources of competitive advantage propagated through differentiation in the same way that they can leverage the cultural elements that support a cultural branding campaign.
The main difference between cultural branding and differentiation is that cultural branding targets a whole culture despite the fact that the product may reach a small part of the overall market. Differentiation calls for the use of optimized promotion methods to reach high potential markets within a target population.
Almost everyone in a particular region can identify with an iconic brand in stronger ways than they will identify with a differentiated product pursuing another branding strategy.
Cultural branding seems incongruent to focus strategies. The reason for this is that focus strategies target a very specific market niche. Cultural branding may seem too outlandish for a highly targeted product. After all, cultural branding makes more sense when used in mass-marketing strategies.
The distinction between cost leadership and differentiation within the niche-based strategies are trivial in the context of branding. The use of cultural branding in conjunction with focus strategies may occur if the product seeks to use cultural elements in its marketing campaigns.
The brand may not attain an iconic status in popular culture, but it can reach a niche market using these brand elements. In this sense, this is a modified use of cultural branding. Similarly, cultural branding may apply in the case of focus strategies if the product serves a subculture. A case in point is the Harley Davidson bikes and the hippie subculture.
The disparities in the application of cultural branding in the context of Porter’s generic strategies come from the inherent differences between branding and market positioning.
While the overall objective of branding is to earn a position within the choices of consumers, the aim of the generic strategies is to position the company to take advantage of this position. The conclusions from the analysis include the following.
First, cultural branding is consistent with mass-marketing strategies depending on the nature of the product. The fact that the cultural branding aims at linking product attributes to the cultural elements of a society presupposes mass-marketing, since culture is a mass phenomenon.
Secondly, cultural branding may apply to focus strategies provided the brand communication efforts focus on the niches. In this sense, cultural branding will serve to sensitize the target niche about the unique attributes of the product.
This will work best if the cultural branding effort focuses on a subculture. Otherwise, cultural branding may be too expensive for a niche actor.
The conclusion of the stated thesis of this paper is that cultural branding is not unique to mass-marketing strategies. However, it has a better fit to mass-marketing strategies.
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