War of the Words may go on forever
war swings the nationalistic pendulum, it will force the revival of the
nationalistic brands all over'.
Remember that old familiar French bistro with those cozy tables?
There, "Isabelle" twisted her slender body into the chair across
my table, which was graced with a plate of succulent filet mignon, crispy
French fries and a glass of Bordeaux filled to the brim. That's when my
alarm sounded. I suddenly screamed for Freedom Fries and before my dream
girl uttered a single word, I was craving a Freedom kiss.
That bell rang again. Indeed, it was my alarm clock. Time to wake up and
smell the coffee.
The war of words between oversize American cuisine and fatty French gourmet
food is just a big joke, oui monsieur? Suddenly, French wines are being
poured out on the sidewalks.
No one dares to order French fries in a restaurant, and all this because
of France's outspoken criticism of the US-led war on Iraq in the Security
The war of words and name calling - via corporate and product names and
nationalistic posturing - is an ongoing issue, although recently it has
intensified between countries such China vs. Taiwan, Indo-Pak battles,
EU vs. US and even Canada vs. US. A kind of 'us v them' mentality is moving
in fast from all directions.
Globalization of brands is moving much slower than the nationalization
of names and symbologies. Cultures of ideologies are attempting to govern
buying habits and forming a new Cold War of Words with cultural posturing.
American-owned Coca-Cola Co. is getting high-profile boycotts and competition
from Mecca Cola and Qibla Cola. The use of such religious iconic symbols
as branding will not bring Islamic consumers to their knees to pray, but
rather incite the issue of anti-Americanism and quench the media.
Imagine an airline called HolyJet or a football team called The Vaticans.
Parisians rallied hard against Mickey Mouse and the whole Disney movement
- now a cheesy darling. These fights are short lived and they will come
and go with the tide.
However, the real challenge is in the corporate image area, where a new
threshold is emerging and companies are facing new challenges to their
existing corporate personas.
Some of the personas that are poised to be challenged in the coming months
Territorial persona - when a company wants
to project local domination and blend into the local cultural personality.
Names and images for these types of companies convey the geographical
reach of the company, and brands are promoted to meet local customization
of culture. This oldest model of commerce, based on close contact with
the local customer, is the prime foundation of corporate image.
This tried-and-true, old-fashioned corporate image ideal was thrown a
curveball when the internet came onto the scene and companies started
naming themselves after ideas and concepts rather than geography.
The generic, geographically based names like Eastern Products, Western
Products, Blue Ocean or Star Brands and more, simply fell out of favor.
These images were changed into strange, odd combinations to fit domains
and new URLs.
Nationalistic persona - when companies
attempt to evoke a nationalistic feeling through a patriotic name or concept.
These names are either based on the country's name or distinctive national
icons. Images are promoted to show superiority in global export markets.
Every country is blessed with unique, one-of-a-kind products and services
providing the opportunity to capture national symbologies. Think Cuban
cigars, French wines, Egyptian cotton, Hollywood movies, Disney characters,
Swiss banks, Chinese silk, and American chips (not the freedom type, the
Recently, the tech evolution has equalized the national powers, and wine
and fashion are no longer exclusive to France and neither is Hollywood
as it faces competition from entertainment centers like Bollywood.
Today, China makes better products for consumers, and India has a sharper
edge over the US in software development. Great national iconic brands
are being tossed around in international tradeshows. This group has been
under serious pressure and nationalistic symbology may increasingly become
Now, as the war swings the nationalistic pendulum, it will force the revival
of the nationalistic brands all over.
Universal persona - when companies embrace
global customers while still understanding specific local needs. These
powerful brands have cemented global images and global transparencies
that are here, there and everywhere. These companies have user-friendly
names and their brands have mixed in the local lingo and culture of most
of the consuming world. Think Nike, Sony, Disney, etc. Today, less than
1% of global marketers use this strategy, as it requires a major commitment.
This war will challenge the universal persona and force global consumers
to divide and take an ideological position on brand loyalties and buying
patterns. This will make the evolution of brands into the universal arena
sluggish and will reinvent the naming and positioning of products and
services on ideological grounds.
With or without an actual war, the war of words has started, and there
is going to be a major shift in corporate images as companies re-assess
their ideological persona to fit the market while the e-commerce revolution
changes the scene and turns the globe into one simple flat earth.
Freedom Fries and Freedom Toast are just the start of the free debate
of free societies. Furthermore, the French did not even invent the French
kiss - they only liberated the tongues.
© Naseem Javed 2003
Naseem Javed is a New
York-based syndicated columnist, the author of "Naming for Power"
and a corporate naming expert. firstname.lastname@example.org
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