DAN Management Distinguished Lecture in Consumer Behavior, “Global Consumer Culture: Evolution and Impact on Business.”

February 11, 2020

Attila Yaprak

Story by Rob Rombouts

What are the biggest companies in the world? Amazon, Apple, Coca-Cola and McDonalds? What about Alibaba, Huawei, Haier and Tencent?

These are growing brands coming from emerging economies, which are challenging and competing with previously known global brands.

What it means to be a global brand has changed, and how people see themselves in relation to global brands has also changed, said Atilla Yaprak, Professor of Marketing and International Business, in the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University.

On February 28, Yaprak will deliver the DAN Management Distinguished Lecture in Consumer Behavior, “Global Consumer Culture: Evolution and Impact on Business.”

In the past, most brands and companies were nationally or regionally focused, and most consumer behaviour was likewise focused.

With the continuation of globalization and the increase in technological advancements, a new culture of global consumption is developing, and consumers are interested in participating in global events, and purchasing global brands.

Yaprak said that there is an irony or a paradox in this culture, as consumers all over the world are also more interested and possessive of their local cultures. In turn, companies and brands try to present themselves as both global players and local brand icons.

Yaprak will further explore this paradox and what it means for marketers during his lecture in March.

There has been a major change in the stable of global brands, as they are no longer distinctly or only American brands – such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola. Instead, many conglomerates from developing economies, through mergers and acquisitions, now own global brands. And in many cases, consumers may not know that brands are owned by these conglomerates, especially as the companies will try to maintain the sense of brands or products tied to a locale.

As an example, Yaprak points to Godiva Chocolates, founded in Belgium, but now owned by the Turkish Yıldız Holding. Likewise beer brands Stella Artois, Budweiser and Labatt all represent themselves as locale-based products, but are all owned by Belgium-based AB InBev.

Along with purchasing existing brands, many of the growing companies are tapping into growing middle-class markets in developing economies.

The Chinese middle class, Yaprak notes, is estimated to be between 250-350 million people, equivalent to the entire population of the United States. This massive purchasing group can help build regional brands into international powerhouses.

Haier, a Chinese company specializing in small appliances, has seven global brands, including GE Appliances, and has grown to be the number one brand globally in major appliance for ten consecutive years.

Lenovo is another Chinese company which has grown to incorporate other internationally known brands. In 2005, the company purchased IBM’s personal computer business, in 2014, it purchased Motorola Mobility, and in 2017, it purchased Fujitsu’s personal computer business.

Tencent, a Chinese multinational conglomerate, and the eighth largest company in the world by market share, owns WeChat, as well as portions of many video game companies including Ubisoft, Epic Games, Riot Games, Activision and games such as Fortnite.

The international brands help companies show themselves as both local and internationally important, Yaprak said.

Huawei, which overtook Apple as the second-large manufacturer of smartphones in the world, markets itself as a global player, when advertising in the US market, but as a local brand, when advertising in China.

Citing the work of Mark Cleveland, Professor in DAN Management, Yaprak said consumers around the world are acculturating to the new global consumer culture, and firms are responding with various positioning strategies.

In general, Yaprak said consumers around the world will be concerned most about getting a good product as a reasonable price.

Yaprak will deliver the DAN Management Distinguished Lecture in Consumer Behavior on February 28, at 2:00 pm in the McKellar Theatre.