Another notable example of 'cultural branding' is the branding of 'Guinness' in Ireland. Throughout their advertisements, we are told various stories of how Guinness was formed by Arthur Guinness in 1759. We are told how it is very much a part of our culture and has seen the most important times in our history. It relates to our sporting culture when we see advertisements of Gaelic hurling matches and also touches on emigration with the advertisement of the son buying All-Ireland tickets for his father. They also offered guided tours around the famous Guinness Storehouse to visitors, which enable the consumer to feel apart of the brand and understand their story. These are examples of marketing firms using the theory of culture to brand their products in successful ways. They appeal to what matters most to Irish consumers - cultural values and the importance of 'being Irish'.
The likes of the Jacob's advertisements for Fig Rolls is another example of culture being used as a marketing tool. A form of Irish culture has influenced all the famous advertisements for this brand. This can be seen clearly with ad's such as the cartoon Dublin schoolgirl talking about how "Aliens put the fig in the Fig Roll". This is set in a very old fashioned school. This appeals to both the young and older consumer through the aspect of the schoolchild and the old-fashioned school appearance. The ad also mentions the fact that the brand has been "Ireland's favourite for over 100 years!". This again makes the brand feel like it is part of the consumers history and heritage and creates a very strong brand image for the consumer.
Bord na Mona are another company that use culture as an effective marketing tool. The brand was established in 1946 and has always branded their products as typically Irish. This can be seen in their advertisements such as "The Planter's Daughter". In this ad they use a poem by the famous Irish poet Austin Clarke being read out while the famous Irish Trad band 'The Dubliners' composed the music playing in the background. This appeals to the Irish consumer's cultural values in various ways.
According to allbusiness.com, demographics can be defined as population statistics with regard to socio-economic factors such as age, income, nationality, sex, occupation, education, family size, and the like. Advertisers often define their target market in terms of demographics; thus, demographics are a very important aspect of media planning in matching the media with the market. Each demographic category is broken down according to its characteristics.
The famine was by far the most significant turning point in the demographics of the country, as not only did Ireland's population not grow for the next century, it continued a slow decline, the result of which is that Ireland has a significantly smaller population today then would be expected for a western European country of its size.
According to statistics from the CSO.ie, only in the mid-20th century did Ireland's population start to grow once more, but emigration was still common until the economic boom of the 1990s. After this point, immigration far outweighed emigration and many former Irish Emigrants returned home. These changing demographics meant that there was a need for Irish marketers to possibly brand their products differently in order to appeal to a rise in foreign nationals now living in Ireland. This diagram below shows the main non-national groups living in Ireland today.
An example of this can be clearly seen with the Evening Herald. According to a JNRS survey for the year 2007, The Evening Herald currently holds the joint 2nd highest market share of readers in Ireland. It has changed its brand image to keep up with the changing trends in Irelands demographics by, in 2006, including a Polish section in its paper every Wednesday. It has helped increase sales of the paper by 3000 issues a week and according to their editor, Stephen Rae, they are looking at introducing a pull-out for the 40,000 Chinesse speaking people living in Ireland too.(The Guardian, 12th March 2006). This has shown the brands ability to react to change in their markets demographics to ensure their brand remains at the top and successful.
V. Local Brands vs. Global Brands
As I discussed previously, the Irish people have always had a strong sense of belonging and pride in being Irish. For the 1st time in a long time, more and more Irish people are now staying in Ireland rather than opting to emigrate. This offers the local brands or Irish brands a better opportunity to establish themselves in their respective markets when competing against the global brands coming into that market.
According to a report published in association with A.C. Nielsen in 2005, it confirmed the top 100 brands in consumer goods in Ireland. In the top 20 brands, 9 of them were local brands. It also showed that of the top 20 brands with the highest advertising to sales ratio, only one was Irish. According to Fanning (2006), the main conclusion that can be taken from this is that Irish brands continue to do well even though they are being outspent in terms of advertising by the multinational brands. This is again down to the cultural values that Irish consumers hold towards Irish-owned products.
Some examples of how local Irish products fared against multinational products in the same category in this report are Tayto, who came 6th on the list. Their main rivals Walkers came in at 20th. Jacobs Biscuits came in at 3rd whereas their closest rivals McVities came in at 12th and Ballygowan came in . These brands have been classified by Fanning (2006) as 'Iconic Brands', which means that they are brands that are much loved by Irish people and are regared as uniquely and quintessentailly Irish. An important point to note is that as a small country, most small local brands would find it very hard to compete with multinational brands due to advertising costs and the reputation the multinational brands would have already built up. These local brands need to find an area where they can appeal to the consumer on a cheaper level. The answer again is culture. These brands have all attached themselves to Irish culture and made themselves part of our heritage.
Another example of how a local brand has obtained a bigger market share than a global brand can be seen with a brand like Brennan's Bread against the brand Hovis. Brennan's Bread have for many years advertised their product with ad's featuring "Old Mr. Brennan' talking about his youth and how Brennan's Bread use old age recipes and tradition is making the fresshest and highest quality bread in Ireland. And of course you can be sure its "Todays bread today". This type of brand is classified by Fanning (2006) as a 'Classic Brand', which means it has stood the test of time and are regarded as high quality brands.
VI. Ethics and Social Responsibility
We learned in class that ethics are an individual's personal beliefs about right and wrong behaviour. Ethics can vary depending on religion, culture, family background etc. They are formed by numerous factors that include family influences, life experiences and personal beliefs. It could be said that organizations don't have ethics as such but look to perform in the market place ethically for fear of damaging their brand image. Social responsibility within a firm includes the set of obligations that an organization has to protect and contribute to the society in which it functions.
We can see this in practice with various brands in Ireland. With Tesco Ireland we see their social responsibility in action with their "Computers for Schools" initiative. This was were Tesco Ireland joined forces with various schools in local communities and gave out vouchers to customers. These vouchers were then given to the schools and computers were then given back in return. It has been extremely successful since it was launched in 1998 and enters its 10th year this year. On Tesco Ireland's website, they provide a detailed description of what their corporate social responsibility entails and means to them. This shows that this brand has acknowledged the importance of good ethics and social responsibility in the Irish market place and how it can help them over their competitors.
We also see a brand acknowledge their social responsibility with the Irish brand Club Energise. According to Fanning (2006), this brand has been one of biggest success stories of a new product launch in Ireland in the last five years. Despite aiming its product at one of the most powerful and successful brands in the Irish market, Lucozade, the brand achieved around 20% of the market in its inaugural year. This was due partly to their initiative with the Gaelic Players Association whereby a percentage of each case sold was give to the GPA to ensure the future of Gaelic games in Ireland. By using important market research, C&C found that Club Energise Sport showed a 7:1 rate of return on advertising investment to the brand owner (The Sunday Business Post, 15th May, 2005).
VII. Challenges and Threats to Branding in Ireland
With the economy currently in a recession, the main challenge facing many brands in Ireland is the price-conscious consumer. When a recession takes place in a country, a lot of consumer's original values and beliefs tend to be pushed to one side, as price becomes a main factor in their purchase decision. This is where the debate of own label vs. brand labels comes into play. The likes of Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes and Tescos own brands could possibly become more attractive to the consumer due to their price when compared to the price of some brand labels. Brands like Dunnes and Tescos will also be now competing on price with the likes of recent new entrants into the market, e.g. German super discount chains Aldi and Lidl, fiercer than ever. According to an article written by Paul Cullen (The Irish Times, Friday the 12th September 2008), "Consumers can cut their grocery bills by up to one-third by shopping in Lidl and Aldi".
He does however say that these price gaps are closing in between the organizations. He also says "Savings of up to 33.9 per cent can be achieved by purchasing a basket of 34 own-brand goods in Lidl or Aldi rather than in the Irish chain stores". These types of reports would obviously make the brands like Dunnes and Tesco Ireland sit up and take notice and formulate a strategy to compete. It has been reported by John Mulligan (The Irish Indepentent, 17 January 2008) that the discount chain's market share has increased from 6,8% last year to 7.1% this year. This shows that the Irish consumer has already begun the change over from local Irish brands to lesser-known foreign brands due to price alone. It is also reported in the same article that Aldi and Lidl are looking to expand their presence in the Irish market by increasing their store numbers around the country.
It is important for the manufacturers to understand some very important factors when considering how to deal with this issue. The first would be not to cut back on the quality of their product. This might seem an option to the manufacturer as a way to cut back on costs so that they can reduce their products price in order for them to compete with the own-label products. However this is a very dangerous tactic to use because if the consumer notices that the quality has deteriorated in their favourite brand, the company may have lost that customer for good. Any brand that has survived through a recession in Ireland has always kept the same quality in their product and also not compromised on price either. Brands like Brennan's Bread, Lyon's Tea and Tayto have all been through a difficult economic time with their product and yet these products still remained market leaders during this time and remain market leaders in their category today. It would be a good idea for brands in Ireland today to look at what these previous brands did to ensure their survival during tough economic times.
In conclusion, I have found that branding is a strength in Irish marketing practice. By looking at and assessing various brands in the Irish market, I have found that the brand image they convey to the consumer is a very positive one. This has been achieved through the marketing firms and marketing departments understanding basic marketing theory and consumer behaviour and using this knowledge to help them create strong brands. It is also important to note that various Irish brands have done exceptionally well in the Irish market considering our small population and generally small firm size when compared to that of the multi-national global brands.
With sterling examples like the cases of Guinness, Club Energise, Bord na Mona and ESB, it is clear to see that these brands have all used Irish culture as one of their main marketing tools. This has proved to be a very powerful and successful marketing tool in the Irish market. When the Irish consumer can really identify with the brands background or heritage it almost automatically favours these brands over other less well branded products. This is a core strength in the success of branding in Irish marketing practice over the years.
However, it is important to note that these companies cannot rely on culture alone as a marketing tool to convey their brand image. In a world where consumers are becoming more and more educated and aware of various new media vehicles like the Internet, companies may need to re-invest in their brand image quite regularly and also acquire feedback on how their advertisements are being perceived by the public. This will give the company a good overview as to where their brand stands in the market and what they need to do to compete competitively against their rivals.
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