Global FMCG branding

FMCG is the abbreviation used for Fast Moving Consumer Goods – stuff you buy at a supermarket.  Over the last 15 – 20 years the major FMCG corporations (Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestle, Mars etc) have been aligning their branding across Europe.

The British are convinced it was only them who ‘suffered’ in this alignment; any Brit over the age of 30 will tell you that Marathon bars tasted way better than Snickers now do.  I’m not sure whether the Germans are as nostalgic for Raider bars which now say Twix on them, I suspect culturally Germans tend not to feel as ‘done-to’ as UK residents do; perhaps a reader in Germany can comment and let us know?

This brand alignment makes a lot of sense – one set of ads across a whole ‘common market’, customers can remain brand loyal when they move, brand marketing at international events has an impact on the majority of the viewers etc.  You obviously want to consider the language impacts of words used across multiple territories and it is an expensive exercise so you want to consider which brand is changed in which territory.  Overall though, it is not a bad idea.

Some of these exercises have worked well, others appear to require constant re-assessment.  There was a charming a toilet paper brand in the UK, which turned into something chouchy (I think) and then into something else, in a very short period of time, advertised by a set of cartoon bears.  There is also a brand of kitchen paper towels, advertised in the UK by two cross-dressing men, which changed its name and then again (which may have been back to the original name) at one point called something I associate with coconut, chocolate and Ghanaian beaches – bounty!

The reason I’m contemplating these brand alignment strategies at this time, is that I had expected them to have included the US to an extent, an alignment of brand names across two major customer markets; either changing the name in Europe to match that in the US or the US brand to match that in Europe.  No.  They haven’t.

In the washing powder aisle, I went looking for Ariel or Persil (I wasn’t expecting Fairy as I know that isn’t a brand available outside the UK) or at least the green swirl on the packaging of Ariel or the white box of Persil.  Nope.  No brands I recognised at all for anything used to wash or soften clothes.  The ONLY brand name I recognised was Bounce – those scented tissue things you put into a dryer to soften and scent your clothes.  Lots of brands in bright orange which could have been like Daz, but the word Daz did not appear.

In the household cleaning aisle a very similar experience, except that suddenly the picture of ‘Meister Proper (putzt so sauber, dass man sich drin spiegeln kann – Meister Proper!)’ popped out at me.  He’s called Mr Clean here, which I won’t hold against him.  Having recognised him, I of course had to buy a bottle of his bright yellow all-purpose cleaning liquid: brand recognition at work marketers!  I didn’t check the price tag, I didn’t compare it, I just picked up the bottle and put it into my shopping trolley!

In the cat food section I was similarly surprised.  Surely we all know that 8 out of 10 cats prefer Whiskas – there is even a comedy quiz-show named after that survey on British TV!  Unfortunately those 8 cats will have to settle for something else, as they won’t be able to get Whiskas in the US. No purple coloured dry cat food bags, even with a different name.  The premium cat food brands are on the shelves here – Iams, Hill’s Science Plan and Royal Canin.  They are similarly over priced as in the UK in my opinion, although I haven’t asked 10 US cats to find out which food 8 of them prefer…




  1. Well you can buy Fairy liquid here in Germany – at least in Metro (Cash and carry). As for the nostalgia for the ‘old products’ with new names, it does not seem to happen around Frankfurt but there are stories from the east of Berlin!!

  2. I have now been informed that Whiskas can be bought in the US, I obviously haven’t been to the right shops. The 8 cats can relax again!

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