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International Buyer Behaviour
Reference: MMK-M-102
Referral Coursework
30th June 2011
Instructions: read the case study and answer the four questions with reference to
Note: The deadline for students to submit referred/deferred coursework
to L105 (Faculty Office) is 4pm, Monday 22nd August 2011.
IBB Referral Coursework 2011
Cross cultural issues
Global brand strategies and local meaning making: contesting ideals of beauty
Case was written by, Joonas Rooka, Helsinki School of Economics, Finland and Hann-Kaisa Desavelle,
Tampere University of Technology, Finland.
Beauty is strongly linked to 'naturalness' which means really a straight-out-of-the-sauna cleanliness'it isn't natural beauty anymore if one needs to work hard for it or use a lot of make up to obtain a
natural look.
Natural beauty is encapsulated in freshness and Nordic luminousness. It is not only about physical
appearance but real naturalness combined with joy and a positive attitude. It is like the Finnish
Elovena girl from the oatmeal porridge package who is hard working, healthy, fresh-faced and
blonde- a real natural Finnish beauty!
The ideal form of this beauty is something that comes about spontaneously, without effort. It needs
to be understood as something that is available to everyone. It does not stem from extreme
measures e.g. dieting, exercise or painful bodily modifications.
A beautiful person doesn’t need to wear any make up either. A real Miss Finland - there is joy and
softness. And she's not being tortured and skinny!
The body and the healthiness of the body are essential aspects of beauty. 'Being fit' translates into
beauty, though only within limits: overt athleticism; 'testosterone babes'; or 'body builders' do not
equate with natural beauty.
Authenticity and genuineness are important features of natural beauty. But they cannot be attained
through photo-shopping and the artificial manipulation of images. This picture [L'Oreal's ad] has
been tampered with ... but all ads are! A photo-shopped woman can sometimes be beautiful but it is
not the same! Silicone doII-like Pamela Anderson or Paris Hilton are just horrible.
What does the above extract tell us' about Finnish women's views of beauty? It illustrates how
Finnish women interpret global media images. The Finnish respondents draw on memories of a
mythic girl, Elovena, from a Finnish oatmeal brand from the 1920s and compare her with the photoshopped global celebrities of the twenty-first century that they see in the media. What we are
interested in here is how consumers draw on both global and local cues to understand beauty ideals.
Using data from Finnish female consumers, we discuss the interrelationship between the specific
cultural context (in this case, Finland) and global advertising messages in understanding what
constitutes beauty.
Beauty consists of a multibillion euro business, broadly encompassing' industries from fast moving
consumer goods, through to cosmetics, healthcare, fashion: and entertainment. Beauty is iconized
by: models and endorsers in global advertising and other media. The global beauty industry has been
criticized for shaping and forming the ideals of beauty, using massive marketing campaigns which
promote almost uniform, and often unrealistic, beauty ideals. Beauty, i.e. physical, bodily
appearance, is also an omnipresent' feature across many other areas of industry and business
Some companies, such as Dove, have, turned the global mainstream conception of beauty to their
advantage. In their campaign for 'Real Beauty', Dove has decisively taken a position against the
production of unrealistic beauty stereotypes with thought-provoking ads and global societal efforts
( Through this highly successful advertising campaign ‘Dove has
taken important steps towards' the creation of alternative beauty conceptions in the global media.
They emphasize the multiplicity of shapes and forms that beauty" take by identifying the
conspicuous' role of photos hopping in advertising and print media in their communications. The
Finnish consumers’ attraction to the, Dove campaign can be understood in terms of equality values;
beauty is' promoted as available to everyone. Everybody can potentially be a model, a role which
has traditionally been restricted to a very few men and women, and conditional on their possessing
certain rare physical qualities. In the last few years a number of Finnish marketers have introduced
their own versions of real beauty campaigns. Some recent examples include the Finnish clothing
retailer Seppala, and a supermarket chain's monthly customer magazine, Pirkka. For example
Seppala's campaign, ' Be the supermodel of your own life', launched in 2006 depicts “young ordinary
women and men modelling in television ads as well as in their catalogue. (
Finnish Consumers Negotiating Beauty
The interpretation of beauty by Finnish women in our data demonstrate interestingly how consumer
draw from global cultural flows, such as international women's magazines, to make sense of their
own everyday lives and identities. The global advertising plays a key role in circulating and streaming
complex repertoires of images around the world. These images are often times played out as role
models and sources of aspiration for consumers, but they are also being contested and negotiated
differently in various cultural surroundings.
One of the most prominent ways of approaching beauty in the Finnish discourse was through the
idea of 'naturalness' which was strongly linked to Finnishness, and to Finnish ideals of beauty.
Naturalness has previously been identified as an important form of commercial fashion discourse.
However, this commercialized 'natural look' is not to be equated with naturally transpiring or an
easily obtained state of being, but it is rather another form of beauty ideal which one has to work to
attain. In the Finnish context, on the other hand, naturalness needs to be understood differently; the
ideal form of naturalness is something that comes about spontaneously, without effort.
The natural ideal, which on the superficial level is manifested as a particular type of nondescript
appearance, stems from certain mental characteristics that derive from the Scandinavian-Protestant
world view (i.e. modesty, equality, value of labour).
The emphasis on 'naturalness' in the Finnish beauty discourse can also be seen as rooted in the
prominence of nature and symbols of nature in different spheres of Finnish life. Finns have made
sense of their national identity and homeland through the conceptualization of nature as the
biological and ecological elements (soil, water, air, animals, and plants) in there organic state, i.e.
not affected by human presence. For example, the Finnish national anthem 'Maamme' ('Our Land')
praises the Finnish land and scenery whereas other national anthems in Europe (for instance, France
or Poland) can be seen as rather belligerent. The Finnish euro coins do not feature buildings or
statesmen, but cloudberries and whooper swans. Therefore, considering the beauty narrative as
understood by Finnish women, it is increasingly obvious that consumers' local sociocultural and
historical contexts provide resources for consumers' consumption practices of images and meaning
making from images.
Finish consumers are very familiar with, and often influenced by, Americanized media and popular
culture. They are part of the global marketplace, recognising emotional advertising campaigns;
identifying celebrities and evaluating their public images; and assessing the advertisers' motives in
trying to influence consumers. At the same time, Finnish consumers are also influenced by their own
specific cultural context, with its own sources of social-historical meanings and myths. These local
cultural resources inform Finnish consumers' ways of understanding and making sense of advertising
images. The image of the Elovena-girl, for example, can be traced all the way back to the mythical
female characters prominent both in literature and in arts, such as Lady Aino in the Finnish national
epic Kalevala* and embodied in the national artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela's paintings. Therefore, whilst
the global cultural flows represented by international advertising campaigns do play an important
role in providing symbolic resources and materials for Finnish (and other European) consumers, they
are not the only resources that consumers call on when they interpret beauty ideals from
advertising. Consumers are also embedded in and open to their own cultural context, which
potentially accentuates local interpretations of beauty ideals, such as in the case of the Finnish
women and the above-mentioned ideals which surround' naturalness.
The Finnish cosmetics company Lumene Group provides an interesting and long-term example of a
marketing strategy which incorporated aspects of nature and Nordic beauty. The origin of the
Lumene Group can be traced back over 60 years to 1948, and the Lumene cosmetics line was
introduced in 1970. The cosmetics brand Lumene is the market leader in the Finnish cosmetics
market, and other important markets include Russia, USA, Scandinavia and the Baltic countries.
(About Lumene Group: www.lumenegroup.comjdefault.asp?docld=12987 .) Nature and naturalness
are omnipresent in Lumene group's corporate narrative from mission and vision all the way to R&D.
For example, the company Website describes Lumene's core competence and the origin of the
brand name as, follows:
Only Lumene has the unique know-how and technology for utilizing the most precious parts
of Arctic plants ... Lumene was named after the sparkling blue Lake Lummenne in
Kuhmoinen in the Finnish Lake District. Our inspiration is pure, crystal clear and thrives in
the white summer nights of the North ... Lumene glorifies inner well-being and radiance. It is
clean. Crisp. Pure. Natural. .' (Our story: www.lumene.comjdefault.asp?docld=22447)
* The Finnish national epic compiled by Elias Lennrot from folk poetry in 1835'to 1849.
These ideals are embodied in the products and marketing strategies. For example, Lumene uses
Finnish berries and plants such as cloudberries or plantain as raw materials in some of their leading
product lines. In addition, elements of nature are reflected in product names such as 'Arctic Duet
Mineral eye shadow', 'Cranberry Kiss lipstick', 'Berryfun lipgloss', 'Lumene Blueberry mascaras',
'Organic Linen' or 'Arctic Aqua' skincare line. Advertising campaigns also draw strongly on the
'natural' and 'Nordic' aspects of beauty both in written and visual terms. The Lumene slogan or
tagline for international markets is 'The Secret of Arctic Nature' and for the domestic market it is
'The Secret of Nordic Nature'. The international Website promotes Lumene Blueberry Mascaras by
'Dramatic Volume with the force of nature'. In the Finnish market, the campaign for the new Natural
Code product line calls for using 'Nature's Code for Beauty' with the help of 100 per cent Finnish
plantain. The visual marketing material is strongly based on landscapes depicting, for example,
elements of water, forest, berries and plants. Also, an interesting point to take into consideration is
that until very recently the diverse advertising campaigns used almost exclusively blonde endorsers,
who were traditionally seen as the reflection of Finnish or Nordic beauty.
Based on the previous discussion which identified the importance of naturalness and symbols of
nature in the negotiation of the meaning of beauty by Finnish consumers, one could easily conclude
that Lumene achieves unanimous acceptance among the Finnish consumers. Even though highly
successful in Finland, consumers' interpretation of the Finnish company as inspired by Nordic natural
beauty is not uniformly positive.
Well this is just like ... Lumene always aims at that kind of really boring ads where there’s
always some blondie who is so Scandinavian looking that she is like not wearing any makeup at all. I think it is so boring! (Henna, 25)
Well this is just so boring [referring to Lumene's ad]. (Sini,26)
It is important to emphasize that the various negotiation processes used to arrive at notions of the
Finnish ideal of beauty involve contradictory aspects. The same consumers who praise 'naturalness'
as being the founding principle of their beauty conception can partly disclaim it even within their
own beauty discourses, e.g. by seeing the emphasis on Scandinavian blonde beauty in the Lumene
campaign as boring.
Therefore, however common and every day the notions of Finnish beauty might be, including its
dimensions such as naturalness, these notions need to be understood as multi-layered and partly
contradictory conceptions that can disguise diverse cultural meanings. From here, we can see that
beauty remains a rather fluid notion with constantly changing interpretations,
as well as often being contradictory but not necessarily mutually exclusive constructions. Diverse
ideals and ideologies related to beauty circulate in mass mediated culture as 'raw' ingredients' that
consumers draw upon to construct their identities. Consumers in their everyday lives are not merely
exposed to beauty and its ideals, but they are performing beauty by reproducing, negotiating,
mirroring, contesting: reformulating, and transmitting voluntarily or involuntarily symbolically related actions including make-up and hairstyles, dressing-up, brand choices, and leisure activities.
The Globalisation of Beauty Ideals?
So should we see the Finnish consumers as victims of Western or American cultural imperialism
propelled by the entertainment media? It has been widely argued that globalization has become
synonymous with the formation of uniform consumption habits, homogenizing tastes and ultimately
the erasure of local cultures to the point where we can almost start talking about a global consumer
culture - at least at the superficial level in, terms of visual signs. In this argument the mass media, or
the 'mediascape' (e.g. advertising, television, film industry, leisure activities, sports, literature, and
news), is seen as a key vehicle in spreading global cultural flows such as trends, fashion or music. The
mass-mediated messages, including advertising, tend to promote relatively unified, typically
Westernized or Americanized, tastes and norms around a variety of domains, activities, industries
and products. Therefore, many Western and other consumers can be seen as acculturated into the
global cultural flows in addition to their local cultural environment. People all over the world seem
to be consuming the same foods, watching the same TV shows and movies, listening to the same
music, and wearing the same clothing and make-up brands.
Does this mean that the notions about what constitutes 'beauty' are also coalescing around the
What do you think?
This case is written on the basis of the authors' previous work where full references can be found:
Rokka, J., Desavelle, H-K & Mikkonen, I. (2008), Negotiating beauty: Local readings of global cultural
flows, Latin American Advances in Consumer Research, vol. 2.
Think about current ad campaigns (or examples given in the text) can you find interesting illustration
where the campaign plays on global or local myths, symbolic endorsers, metaphors, and discourses?
What makes you interpret them as global rather than global?
Do you find them compelling, explain why or why not?
Are other forms of media intertwined in these advertising campaigns e.g. films, music, television,
current societal issues?