Every marketer’s goal is to have a strong brand that lends itself easily to the development of brand extensions – mainly because extensions are quicker, easier and less expensive to market, since most of the “heavy lifting” of consumer awareness has already been done. With that said, most marketers consider successful brand extensions to be a question of “fit”, as in, does the extension fit with the brand in terms of quality or product type? But what constitutes “fit” in different cultures?
De Mooij (2011) used the lens of Hofstede’s individualism/collectivism framework to examine how different cultures categorize objects, which in turn, gives us insight into how brand extensions might be perceived. She discovered the following:
Individualistic cultures – people categorize objects according to rules and properties. For example, people in these cultures would easily accept a facial soap product line being extended by different package types (i.e. pump containers or spray foams), since the core property is soap. They would also accept a core property, such as the antibacterial properties of a facial soap, to be extended into additional antibacterial-type products (e.g. acne creams). What they would find incongruent, perhaps, would be a makeup product extension that is formulated to minimize acne.
Collectivist cultures – people categorize objects according to relationships. For example, people in these cultures would accept facial soap product extensions that are related to the face in some fashion (e.g. moisturizers, clarifiers, or masks). What they would find incongruent, perhaps, would be body lotions or pedicure products since neither would be related to the face.
International marketers should bear these categorization differences in mind when developing brand extensions that will extend across both types of cultures. These differences will not only affect messaging, but could affect retail design and packaging as well.
de Mooij, M. (2011). “Cross cultural consumer behavior: a review of research findings”. Journal of International Consumer Marketing. 23, pp. 181-192.