A successful global brand will carefully craft their reputation built on trust and authenticity, and strike the right balance between having global appeal and local relevance. To find success, you must recognise the importance of your customer’s identities around the world, and implement different brand and marketing strategies which establish your brand as a reliable and unique global player.
What does it take to build a successful global brand?
When you think about the global brands that you know – Starbucks, Apple, Ikea, Coca Cola – what unites them? They all have clearly defined intentions and a brand identity which appeals to customers in all parts of the world.
To explore what it takes to build a global brand, we should delve into the building blocks of the word ‘brand’ itself:
- Company name
- Brand name
Success involves interpreting all these elements through an international lens – a task which involves careful research, a deep understanding of your target market, and a reliable international network.
What are the benefits of having a global brand?
- From a financial standpoint, launching your brand into the international market creates incredible sales opportunities, promises growth, and allows you to establish your reputation all over the world.
- There is a belief in developing countries that international brands, especially Western ones, offer higher-quality products and services – this gives your company a ready-made advantage.
- Especially if you provide a seasonal product or service, setting up shop in a different country can balance market fluctuations.
- Just as studying abroad helps you expand your worldview, conducting international business gives you a better understanding of the wider market and provides your brand with inspiration from many parts of the world.
4 steps to building a successful international brand
Even if you have achieved success in the domestic market, you cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all branding strategy and simply translate it into a different language. The key to building brand awareness around the world is intuitive local execution and, as any good translator knows, the work takes into account cultural nuances as well as just the words themselves.
1. Understand the culture of your customers
Before reaching out to new markets, you must identify and understand your target audience and gauge whether they will be receptive to your message and brand promise. Reach out to those on the ground with experience in the local market, to avoid faux-pas in elements such as symbolism, translations, and cultural or religious attitudes. Being aware of cross-cultural nuances can elevate your brand to global success, but ignoring them can ruin your reputation before you’ve even started.
2. Research the consumer culture of your overseas market
It is vital to conduct market research in each overseas territory you are targeting. Consumers around the world have different needs, desires, and spending habits, and what generates great returns in one place will fall flat in another. For example, consumers in countries where individualism is valued (such as the U.S.) have a tendency to shop around online and offline for the best price, seek out the newest trends, and value high customer service. Whereas customers in countries with a collectivist mindset (like Turkey) tend to stick with trusted retailers, prioritise a brand’s reputation over its novelty, and prefer to see the product in person before buying.
You should identify your competitors in each overseas market, as well as which brands your target consumers are loyal to. What distinguishes your brand and your products and services? What kind of experience can you provide?
3. Adjust your marketing strategy
Because of the different consumer cultures across the globe, you must adapt your marketing strategies and find out which channels and mediums your customers have access to.
To reach consumers who prefer a brick-and-mortar purchasing experience, investing in real-estate or physical marketing will prove a success, whereas a witty social media campaign may fall flat. But for target customers who tend towards digital services, their phones and computers are your real estate. In this case, a lifecycle marketing strategy with personalised notifications can nudge potential customers towards the next purchasing milestone. If social media is your customers’ preferred channel for interacting with brands, then you should research which networks are most popular. A social advertising strategy can encompass traditional adverts, microcontent, and even influencer marketing.
4. Support your brand through good operations
So, your brand identity is complete, your marketing is appealing and culturally appropriate, and you have discovered a niche in the domestic market. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Growing a successful international company involves working with an international team throughout all operations – not just in marketing, but in sales, HR, and logistics.
HR management should be able to create a global talent database, quickly source the best candidates when overseas vacancies arise, and train international employees. Ethnocentricity has no place in a global brand and an international perspective will contribute much to your business.
Overseas logistics can be very complex and differ from your domestic market, especially in less developed countries. Before you embark on any overseas entrepreneurial efforts, you should make sure that local infrastructure, manufacturing and distribution, as well as tariffs, time zones and bureaucracy make your venture a viable prospect. Having local connections will greatly help you.
In a wider context, you should be aware of differences in work culture. Countries like the U.S. and U.K. have a task-based work culture, where competence, reliability and efficiency are held in high regard, and management often delegates responsibility to speed up the decision-making process. Others like the U.A.E. and India have a relationship-based work culture where close social relationships are valued highly, and where decisions are made only by the leadership. These differing work cultures can cause frustration, but it is important to acknowledge them and meet in the middle to create a cohesive multicultural team.
What mistakes to avoid when building global brands
There are several faux-pas that you should avoid in order to not alienate your customer base or inadvertently warp your brand identity. Consulting with a local market specialist and qualified native speaker can help you avoid any embarrassment or damage to your reputation.
Make sure that your brand or company name does not sound strange, or worst case, offensive, in the local language. Nothing cries ‘lack of awareness’ like bad translations, and customers cannot possibly perceive your brand as authentic if you have not even consulted a local translator before entering their market. Ignorance of language and cultural nuances can lead to such situations as Pepsi’s Chinese launch with the ill-informed slogan ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’, which translated as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’ – not a good first impression in a culture where ancestors are deified.
In countries where fewer people can read, images assume greater importance. Gerber learned that the hard way after an attempt to sell baby food in Africa. The brand did not take into account that product packaging typically depicts what is inside, and did not adapt their U.S. packaging, which had a picture of a baby on the label. This led Gerber’s African customers to believe that the food contained babies, causing the company’s sales to drop dramatically.
Cultural sensitivities are found even in the simplest of elements, for example in the colours you choose for your brand: in the U.S. red signifies danger, whereas in China it speaks of good fortune and celebration; and in France purple implies freedom and peace, but in India it is identified with unhappiness. To avoid creating an unwelcome impression on those you aim to attract, consult with a local expert.
Religious or cultural awareness
Before marketing and selling any products, your brand needs to be aware of and respect religious or cultural sensitivities. These can include the perception of gender roles, dress codes, an aversion to certain food, or alcohol bans. You run the risk of offending your overseas customer base or even causing legal trouble.
How to build and organize a global brand strategy
With all that said, it is important to set out long and short-term branding strategies. International outreach should be a foundational part of your strategy from the outset. We have devised a 5-step guide to creating the right global brand strategy for your business.
1. After selecting an overseas territory for expansion, conduct research into your target audience, their preferences and consumer habits.
2. Determine your brand’s current position in the local marketplace. This includes identifying your competitors and analysing their relative strengths and weaknesses.
3. Work out what makes your brand unique or desired, and create a positioning statement based on your value proposition and goals to establish strong a emotional and functional connection with your target audience.
4. Find good partners abroad. From HR specialists to logistics experts to intellectual property attorneys, an experienced international team will allow your brand to prosper.
5. Maintain the consistency and recognisability of your business at home, whilst simultaneously fostering the brand flexibility needed to remain relevant in the busy global marketplace. This is the key to building a successful international brand.