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Monday, 27 April, 1998, 11:56 GMT 12:56 UK
Global branding chews up Opal Fruits
opal fruits
The sweet formerly known as Opal Fruits
The last packets of Opal Fruits sweets are disappearing from the shelves of British shops forever.

Not because they have been discontinued, but because the manufacturers, Mars, have decided the sweets should be called the same name in Britain as they are in the rest of the world, Starburst.

Opal Fruits is not the first famous British brand name that Mars has axed in favour of a more internationally better-known one.

Marathon became the less athletic-sounding Snickers a few years ago. The changes are part of a trend towards what has been called global branding.

One product, one name

But why would a company throw away a brand name it has spent millions of pounds, and in the case of Opal Fruits nearly 40 years, to establish in the public's mind.

Although Mars is spending 10m to publicise the Opal Fruits' name change it hopes to ultimately save money from uniting the sweets under the Starburst name.

Many consumers were bemused and irritated when Marathon was renamed
By having one universal brand name for a product a firm can save costs by producing a single global advertising and marketing campaign for all countries.

A single name also makes it easier for consumers to recognise a familiar brand when they are abroad.

The Branding Manager of Opal Fruits, Steve Reid, says global branding is a natural consequence of the proliferation of international media such as satellite TV and the Internet.

"The media really doesn't recognise national boundaries any more. Therefore if you have a product available in more than one country it makes sense that you should call that product the same in all those countries," he said.

Bitter sweet

However, some commentators believe that global branding can be counter-productive.

They argue advertising campaigns produced with one national market in mind may alienate consumers in another country.

Similarly a bland international campaign that seeks to minimise cultural differences and appeal to everyone may not work as well as well-targeted localised advertising for each different market.

Mr Reid acknowledges this is a potential danger. "If we need to make different advertising in different countries in order to be cutting edge then we will do that," he said.

BBC News
Radio 5Live's Guy Ruddle reports on global branding
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