Add Seaweed to Your Brand

 

When it comes to branding – whether personal or for your business – there’s no one-size-fits-all formula.

Even monolithic companies who invest every bit as much in their brand as their product (like Apple or Virgin), have to make changes to their wares based on the environment they happen to find themselves in.

It happens everywhere, and you notice it a lot more when traveling.

Car companies sell different models in different parts of the world. Computer manufacturers will release new products in some markets before others. Mobile devices and mobile plans have incredible diversity based on where you are in the world.

The humble potato chip can be a ‘chip’ or a ‘crisp,’ and worldwide you can find it in a ginormous pantheon of flavors (my favorite here in Thailand is Nori Seaweed).

Being able to fit in with a local culture (be it a corporate culture, a culture based on shared beliefs or a culture partitioned by national borders) is not selling out or giving in to outside forces, but rather bending a bit so that people from different backgrounds with wildly different tastes can still take in and appreciate the fundamental principles of whatever good, service or idea you happen to be selling.

Frito-Lay (the parent company of Lay’s) could have said ‘screw this, Sour Cream n’ Onion is where it’s at, and if they don’t like it, they don’t deserve to eat our delicious chips,’ but instead they said ‘well, they don’t seem to like the same old American fare, so let’s put some seaweed on it and see where we get with that.’

Because of this willingness to adapt and evolve based on outside preferences and ideas, Lay’s are frickin’ everywhere in Thailand, and many more Thai people are eating their chips.

Take a look at your brand for a moment: is it solid enough to hold its own, but malleable enough to adapt to new environments? Are you able to keep you key values intact while being open to change?

If not, why?

17 comments

  1. I’m with you, mostly. I do believe that there are some things that just can’t change without turning into a whole other thing. Flexibility is a key of every business and individual, but some values sometimes are just too different. You should go for it anyway, no question about it.

    • I would argue there’s always SOMETHING that can be done to bend without losing the core values of what you’re promoting. It’s just a matter of finding the right keys to turn.

  2. But I have to agree, that Nori Seaweed is the best Lays’ flavor in Thailand. What funny is that they even went as far as trying to be on the “Green Tea” bandwagon like any other cosmetics, drinks or herbal toothpaste brands and produced Lays’ Green Tea.

    Yep, it was a miss.

  3. Ok, Colin, task’s done! I read through all the archive, finally got to a post where there’s no “Next” link. As I’ve told you already, you’ve done wonders in my philosophy and my own discovery for development. Thanks again :D

  4. I think one of the most interesting parts about ‘branding’ is it’s not completely up to you. You can try to craft the message that you ‘send out’ but you don’t have any control on how some people ‘receive’ that message. Everyone interprets things differently. It’s important to be able to be “malleable” (as you said) in order to adapt to different people’s perceptions of your brand.

    • Well said, “it isn’t up to you”. You can try all day to sell a double cheeseburger to a devout vegan. Yeah you might break a few but you’re better off tailoring it to them. Then again, if you’re a burger joint then you shouldn’t be marketing to them anyways.

    • This is true. All a brander can do is frame things so that they are more likely to be taken a certain way, but there are myriad ways for that structure to go wrong, and in many cases that might even be for the best (especially when it comes to flexibility…as humans we’re not too bad at adapting).

  5. Great points in the article Colin! Another thing I noticed was how immediately recognizable that the bag was a bag of Lay’s chips, though “Lay’s” is written in Thai. It’s cool to see many global brands modify their worded logos for local markets, yet still keep it recognizable – happens a lot in China/East Asia and the Middle East where the Roman script is either unintelligible to a ton of people or laws mandate local language use!

  6. Great points in the article Colin! Another thing I noticed was how immediately recognizable that the bag was a bag of Lay’s chips, though “Lay’s” is written in Thai. It’s cool to see many global brands modify their worded logos for local markets, yet still keep it recognizable – happens a lot in China/East Asia and the Middle East where the Roman script is either unintelligible to a ton of people or laws mandate local language use!

  7. In China, all the Lay potato chips were meat flavored. They sure love meat of just about anything over there. Also, I had to change the way I dressed, applied makeup, posed and use different photos in my portfolio to work in China. I think that may be the reason I didn’t work for the first 3 weeks because I was figuring out how to adapt to the market. Glad you’re all settled into Thailand. Can’t wait to hear more stories!

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  9. Really good point. When Starbucks first entered the New Zealand market in the late 90s, they refused to put 2 very typical NZ-style coffees “long black & flat whites” on their menu. They went so far as to instruct their staff to tell customers that that we were wrong and that those coffees do not exist!

    There was a huge backlash in the media and after a year, they added it to their menu. Adapt to the customer/culture, not the other way round.

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