Quality, choice and opportunity; global brands, adapted for local markets. These are some of the attributes that have made American brands - be it in automobiles, clothes, fast food, soft drinks or pharmaceuticals - what they are in the world. Choice and opportunity play a critical role not only for consumers, but also for the market. These were common strings that ran through a programme on "Famous American brands".
What is it that helps American brands succeed? As speakers pointed out, American brands are born and nurtured in a crucible of immigrant population and an eclectic economy, which confer on them a huge advantage. And, by the time they are taken overseas by the manufacturers, issues of quality, consistency and logistics have been settled.
According to Dr Richard Haynes, Consul General, US Consulate, Chennai, American brands are developed in an unprotected environment that makes them extremely competitive. They are also highly flexible. For instance, soft drinks associating themselves with sports that are not known or are not popular in their home markets, like cricket in India.
American brands, he said, marketed reliability and non-discrimination. They provided consumers with a choice and opportunity to exercise their choice; they valued consumers through marketing.
Dr Haynes said any discussion on American brands included seeking regulations so that rules were transparent and everyone knew what the rules were. It was important for regulatory authorities to provide protection to foreign trading partners in terms of intellectual property and quality of financial flows.
Mr David E. Friedman, Chairman, American Chamber of Commerce, Chennai, said no American brand is more famous, more aspirational than America itself. For all its problems, America still is a brand associated with freedom, aspiration and economic success. It is the Number One immigrant destination and there is no greater testimony than this. "It is a brand that has given birth to these brands," he said.
Mr Friedman, who is Managing Director and President, Ford India Ltd, said all the famous American brands carried with them certain embodiments of the brand that is America. The presence of famous American brands in a market such as India brought with it positive aspects such as corporate governance and responsibility, civic values, environment protection, no to corruption and equal opportunities.
Mr Ravi Candadai, Consul for Public Affairs, US Consulate General, Chennai, instanced how global American brands had adapted themselves to local markets - a KFC outlet in Kandy, Sri Lanka, selling `biriyani' and Pizza Hut in India serving chicken `tikka'.
Mr Vineet Kumar Kapila, Vice-President - Operations, Coca-Cola India, said strong lineage did not guarantee success. Multi-nationals in India had to adapt their operations across categories to local conditions, realities and then build an appropriate business model.
India is a price sensitive market and volumes in the consumer goods segment are at the bottom of the price-point category, be it with detergents and soaps, or even soft drinks. The Indian market is also highly responsive to value for money positioning, with small pack sizes being more popular. Coke, therefore, dropped prices to "affordable levels" and thus was able to push up sales. It had adopted a high volume business model through low price points.
The company had started selling Georgia and Georgia Gold coffee and tea through vending machines. It had introduced these in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Delhi and Kolkata, on a limited scale. Issues of quality of water and investment on the vending machines by the retailers had to be sorted out before the branded coffee and tea could be rolled out across the country.
Mr Vinay Piparsania, Vice-President - Marketing, Sales and Service, Ford India, said the company's marketing strategy involved selling on emotions - creating desirability and appeal through customer touch points, and continuously evolving product and brand. The company aimed to create an experience rather than a sale.
The day-long programme was organised by the US Commercial Service, US Consulate, Chennai; Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, Tamil Nadu branch, Chennai; American Chamber of Commerce; and American International School, Chennai.