23 January 2019

Research pick: Giving Napoleon wings - "A comparative study on global commercial advertisement perceptions – British and French viewers’ responses to Red Bull"

The seminal research on the concept of product globalization was published by Levitt in 1983. And yet, business, branding, and marketing researchers are yet to settle on a clear understanding of how an international product is perceived by people from different parts of the world. A product, such as the caffeinated soft drink, Red Bull, may well be considered an international brand but how is this originally Austrian product and its associated “cartoon character”, really perceived by people in France and Great Britain, for example? Researchers from Germany writing in the International Journal of Comparative Management hoped to find out.

Kerstin Bremser and Véronique Goehlich of the Department of International Business, in the Faculty of Business and Law, at Pforzheim University, Nadine Walter of the University’s Department of International Marketing carried out an exploratory study. They found through their analyses of viewers’ perceptions of advertisements that cultural background affects a person’s feelings towards the marketing character associated with this soft drink and in addition the articulation and style of the background music are perceived in different ways by the British and French respondents to the research.

The team points out that celebrity endorsement is often a strong factor in marketing products, but in the case of Red Bull, it uses more traditional advertising, especially on television, where cartoon-like advertisements that centre on the slogan that ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ is the focus rather than an association with a famous person who purportedly imbibes the drink. The advertisements are standardised between nations but for the language of any narration or written word display. That said, Red Bull used Napoleon as a famous character in their advertising campaign for 2012 and there would likely be a very different perception of that between the British and the French.

However, the team found that although the perception of Napoleon is very different, the branding and sloganising of the campaign transcended these cultural differences. The same famous person can still convey the same meaning to the consumer despite their feelings, positive, negative, indifferent, to that celebrity, in this case, a controversial historical figure.

Bremser, K., Walter, N. and Goehlich, V. (2018) ‘A comparative study on global commercial advertisement perceptions – British and French viewers’ responses to Red Bull’, Int. J. Comparative Management, Vol. 1, No. 4, pp.333–354.
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