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Local Branding in Foreign Markets

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Local Branding in a Foreign Product

Category in an Emerging Market


Giana M. Eckhardt

Submitted March 2005

Accepted July 2005

Journal of International Marketing

© 2005, American Marketing Association

Vol. 13, No. 4, 2005, pp. 57-79

ISSN 1069-031X (print)

1547-7215 (electronic)

It is unclear how local brands competing in product categories

that consumers perceive as foreign should be managed in

emerging markets. An interpretive research approach investigating

consumer perceptions and managerial development of a

local pizza brand in India reveals that consumers experience

these brands as foreign. The author discusses implications for

brand management.

There is a burgeoning literature suggesting that consumers in

emerging markets can have the agency and influence to

change and, in some cases, determine brand meaning for

global brands (e.g., Eckhardt and Mahi 2004; Prahalad and

Lieberthal 1998). In addition, foreign product categories can

be interpreted in many ways by consumers in emerging markets

in response to their particular cultural and economic

circumstances, including representing ideals, such as Westernization

or gender equality, rather than or in addition to

the officially sanctioned meanings (Eckhardt and Houston

2002; Wilk 1990). When local companies take advantage of

the popularity of many foreign product categories with certain

market niches to develop their own brands, they often

struggle with how to incorporate these local cultural interpretations

or, in some cases, how to dispel them. All of this

suggests that the role of consumer interpretation of both the

product category and the specific brand will have a substantial

impact on a local company's ability to imbue its brand (in

a foreign product category) with desired meanings in emerging


In this article, I investigate the process of how local interpretation

influences and, to a certain extent, dictates how local

marketers can develop a brand image. This study answers

recent calls for in-depth research to understand local brands

in the current globalization context (Schuiling and Kapferer

2004). By collecting data from local consumers as to how

they form their impressions of a foreign product category and

a specific brand and by collecting data from the management

of the local firm that is trying to develop a brand presence in

this foreign product category, I can observe the interactions

between local consumer interpretation and brand development.

I conduct an in-depth examination of the foreign product

category of pizza and the local brand Pizza Point, and I

58 Giana M. Eckhardt

report the results of an interpretive study in rural Andhra

Pradesh, a state in southern India.

The issue of what constitutes a local and a foreign product

category or brand from a consumer's perspective is complex.

For example, Saimee (1994) points out that it is becoming

more difficult for the consumer to ascertain the country of

origin of a product because many so-called foreign products

are actually made in the country in which they are being

marketed. It is even questionable whether country of origin

is relevant to the consumer at all anymore. In a recent article,

Samiee, Shimp, and Sharma (2005) point out that consumers

have only a modest knowledge of the country of origin of

brands, suggesting that this variable has less influence on

judgments and behavior than prior literature would suggest.

My definition of local and foreign encompasses consumer

perceptions of what is local and foreign rather than the reality

of the site of production or even the site of corporate


For the purposes of this study, I define "local" as the consumer's

perception that the product category or brand originates

from the local area. For the Andhra Pradesh consumers

in the study, the local area is defined as Andhra Pradesh.

These consumers did not think of local products or brands as

Indian products or brands but rather as Andhran products or

brands. This is typical within India because the country is so

diverse culturally and religiously and became a unified

country only



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