Four paths to successful global branding

It is unlikely that the debate between standardization vs. localization in terms of global branding is going to abate any time soon. Stories about successful standardization are pushed to the side by tales of fabulous failures using the same approach. Aaker (1999), in his famous Harvard Business Review article, argued that standardization was alluring and potentially successful if companies followed certain guidelines.

Aaker identified four possible international business models that would significantly increase the odds of success if a company chooses to pursue the standardization route.

Business management team – in this approach, a senior leadership team is responsible for keeping the standardization consistent and eliminating local team bias. The top leadership level of the team assures minimal organizational barriers. As Aaker notes, this approach works best if the top managers are marketing or branding people.

Brand champion – in this approach, a senior executive (usually the CEO) acts as the brand’s primary advocate (and driver of the brand’s personality and focus). This person is responsible for determining how the brand is defined as well as how it can be extended into complementary products. Because of the high level of leadership involved with this approach, again, there are few organizational barriers.

Global brand manager – in this approach, the manager is not top-level leadership, but a level below. Aaker notes that this approach is often used in companies with powerful regional and country management, which requires the global brand manager to be extremely skilled in combating local bias as well as spurring unified efforts across countries.

Global brand team – in this approach, brand advocates are recruited from “different parts of the world, different stages of brand development, and different competitive contexts.” Aaker notes that this approach requires the team members to be willing to set aside their local bias when necessary. However, the true key to success with this approach is the presence of a strong leader that keeps the team focused and productive.

While there is no magic bullet to successfully implementing a standardized global brand, Aaker offers several proven business models that can minimize failure.


Aaker, D., Joachimsthaler, E. (1999). “The lure of global branding.” Harvard Business Review. November-December, 1999.


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