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How Culture Afftects Advertising: the Case of Gucci

In: Business and Management

Submitted By kenty
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The House of Gucci or simply known as Gucci is the biggest selling Italian fashion leather and luxury brand, it has been in existence since 1921, and regularly charts on Interbrand “Top Global 100 brands”. The Gucci Brand operates in the following areas – Africa and the Middle East (11 countries), Asia (14 countries), Australia (2 countries), Central America and the Caribbean (3 countries), Europe (22 countries), North America (3 countries) and South America (1 country). This represents a total of 56 countries in which the Gucci Brand operates. The marketing/PR campaign that I am about to critically analyse is called the Gucci Cruise campaign (for their handbag range), it was launched in 2011 via several media forms: TV, internet and print, the focus of my analysis would be on the print campaign.

Gucci products are held in high esteem by its target audience and caters to a particular high end segment in most countries. It is not what you would consider to be a mass retail brand, very little adaptation is done, if any, across different markets. Gucci is associated with success, class, sophistication and exclusivity worldwide, its brand strength is quite appealing and people are willing to pay a premium price for a perceived premium product. Gucci products are standardised across the globe. I am going examine the intercultural issues of this campaign such as, tastes, customs and norms of Italy the home country and China their largest market in Asia and the strategies implemented in these territories in order to achieve the desired goal and the possible positive/negative effects of the approach used.
Even though the Gucci ‘Cruise’ campaign was standardised across borders in terms of product and price it was interesting to see the shift away from their traditional standardised method of advertising and promotion in so far as different print adverts were shot for the same campaign with one specifically created for the Asian market. “Consumers differ from country to country and accordingly must be reached by communications tailored to their respective countries” Rick et al (1974). Print advertisements are an extremely effective way to reach a mass audience. The advertisements are in print, the use of colour, text and photography are all key factors in ensuring a successful campaign. Shown below side by side are the adverts for the Gucci ‘Cruise’ campaign the contrast in the advertising for this campaign is evident. Shuter (1989), said that the structure of an organization and its rules, reflect the values and traditions of the country in which the organization is situated, giving great importance to the nation and the culture of the country which is evident in this campaign and the adverts for the home market which is Italy.

Figure 1: Asian Market Figure 2: Asian Market Figure 3: Italian Market Figure 4: Italian Market “Culture is more often a source of conflict than of synergy. Cultural differences are a nuisance at best and often a disaster.” (Geert Hofstede). Let us compare both adverts for the two markets using the Hofstede cultural framework analysis. Based on Hofstede’s theory of individualism/collectivist Italy ranks very high in terms of individualism (76) Italians show their success by acquiring status symbols such as a beautiful car, a big house, a yacht and travels to exotic countries which is in keeping with the advert for the Italian market. It is quite brash, colourful, very cinematic and glamorous as opposed to the adverts for the Asian market such as China who scored very low in terms of individualism (20) which shows that they are a very collective society, the adverts are quite simple and the focus seems to be much more on the product as opposed to the lifestyle in the Italian advert. Gucci recognises the worth of the Asian sector, and in particular China, this is why an alternative print campaign was produced for the Asian market, taking into account cultural sensitivities. The model used for the Asian market was popular Chinese actress Li Bing Bing and not the Caucasian models used in the Italian adverts. Using a model of Asian descent would help the target market identify with the brand in a very tangible way, being able to see someone who is of the same ethnic background adds value to the campaign. In Chinese society self-image is defined in terms of “We” as opposed to “I” in Italian society. Using a person of Chinese ethnicity for the Cruise adverts would definitely appeal to the target market in a tangible way, with them identifying her as “one of them”. In most western societies, as is the case with Italy, individualism is highly valued hence the advertising messaging would attempt to appeal more to the individual.
Overall the Marketing Mix of the Gucci Brand and Cruise Campaign is standardised, with the exception of promotion which definitely interacts with intercultural issues. Based on the fact that there is a standard product offered to the Target Markets of the Gucci Brand, this offers consistency of the Brand being offered internationally. This is an appropriate strategy, as the aim of the brand is to be both recognisable by its various markets and to be consistent amongst the relevant markets despite cultural differences. Customers purchase the brand because it is both recognisable and expensive. Gucci therefore maintains its Brand Promise by delivering on these two important aspects to its consumers. This strategy is a key strength and one of Gucci’s core competencies and the reason for their success over the years, Gucci’s ability to be the same across different markets actually serves them best.
Gucci utilises the Monopolistic Advantage Theory (Stephen Hymer 1979) to internationalise, as there is a unique proposition which is inherent to the product they provide. As a Global Enterprise, their Monopolistic Advantage lies in the fact that they can provide their products through superior knowledge through the manufacturing processes, brand name, differentiated product and organisational talent and technology used to create the product being sold. Gucci’s commitment is to ensuring that the brand remains consistent and through the knowledge gathered from relevant markets that the company services. Gucci recognize that their customers value the luxury brand that is sold globally, this has led to Gucci overlooking most intercultural issues in terms of price, product and place, as the brand and the status associated with it transcend culture in the markets that they serve.
Therefore the Monopolistic Advantage is maintained through the Commitment Decisions and the Current Activities of the organisation for the Gucci brand. Based on the country of Origins Effect model which refers to the intangible barriers such as intercultural issues to enter new markets in the form of negative consumer bias towards imported products. I would like to show how Gucci has been able to negate these effects in their campaigns. One theorist, (Schooler 1965), describes the Country of Origin theory as a country having an effect on the consumer’s opinion of the product. This opinion can be either positive or negative based on the products Country of Origin. These attributes related to the product – quality, workmanship, style, dependability, technology as well as the attributes of marketing values – credit or terms, value for money, on time delivery and reputation. Gucci offers a certain standard of workmanship where their products are concerned as well as consistency. In addition, the perception of customers purchasing from a brand like Gucci from Italy (where high quality leather goods are made)is bound to be tipped in Gucci’s favour in the mind of the Gucci customer. The Halo Construct (Israel D. Nebenzah 1997) looks at the customer’s knowledge of a particular country being used as a yardstick to consider the value of the product. The quality of Italian leather goods are perceived by customers to be high in quality, therefore knowledge of this would be transferred onto the Gucci Brand and all of its products. It is essential then in the case of Gucci and the “Gucci Cruise campaign that their products remain standardised and consistent across markets.

Gucci has been successful over the years using the same promotional strategy, so one might ask why change, even though the culture of the super-rich segment of the world seems to have more in common with one another as opposed to their own culture (Keegan 2007). I believe the campaign took intercultural issues into consideration especially, with a shift in the world’s economy, with countries such as India and China growing in stature and economic presence it would be wise to be aware of the growing bargaining power of such nations. It would be economic suicide to alienate these markets because of the tremendous potential for future growth, as these markets continue flourish while most mature markets have stagnated. In summarising Gucci and the Gucci Cruise campaign based on my analysis the type of products and the type of customers they serve, the brand outweighs most, if not all intercultural issues across the globe because of the brand strength and what it signifies to that specific group of customers they target. It is in Gucci’s best interest and a major reason for their success that their products are standardised across markets. Based on my analysis of the marketing mix promotion varies based on the market but I do believe a greater number of additional areas of the marketing mix will have to be adapted in the future if they are to remain competitive especially for the emerging markets such as such as India and Brazil where the culture is quite different from the home market Italy.
In conclusion it may be strategically and practically necessary for global brands to adapt their products to suits cultural norms and customs in most cases e.g. religion, language and taste these are some of the main issues but in some instances, based on the product on offer and the target market you serve, authenticity and standardisation may actually be what is required and in demand for success across markets and I believe this is the case with Gucci and the Gucci Cruise campaign. As others markets develop and even surpass traditional markets which are in a mature and even declining stage Gucci will come under more scrutiny and pressure to adapt their marketing mix beyond promotion, in order to cater to different markets or run the risk of being unable to sustain their competitive advantage thus maintaining the right balance between standardisation vs. adaptation is the key to continued success.

Keegan W. & M Green, (2007) Global Marketing Prentice Hall
Chee H & Harris R (1998), Global Marketing Stratergy, Pitman
Van Riel, C and Fombrun, C (2007) Essentials of Corporate Communications. Abingdon: Routledge
Belch ,G. & Michael Belch (2004) Advertising & Promotion. An Integrated Marketing Communications Perspective.New York: McGraw-Hill Gucci Annual Report [Online] Available at Accessed 22nd March 2013 LVMH Annual Report [ Online] Accessed 25th nMarch 2013 Accessed 20 th March 2013 Top ten brands [Online] Accessed 20 th March 2013…...

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