Although the standard definition of an international brand is simply a product known and used in more than one country, businesses are aware that there is a lot more to that definition.
Prior to going global, every enterprise must ask itself a series of questions to determine the viability of an excursion which will involve taking a brand to the precipice of internationalisation for the first time. International branding involves introducing an idea into a new market, and, if carried out without making apt, well-informed adaptations, this venture could potentially lead to calamitous consequences.
Domestically-situated businesses considering this venture in the aspirations to go global must modify many methods and practices in order to better suit the new market.
The brand itself must also accordingly undergo minor, yet important changes as a reflection of the fact that the enterprise is no longer operating under a singular set of commerce rules. Apart from differences in the marketing and commerce sectors, the fact that a company may be operating under different time zones, legal systems and languages, perhaps even across continents, demonstrates the impending complexities the organisation must prepare for.
This article looks over three critically important cues which will aid your enterprise in developing a successful international brand, capable of manoeuvring its way through the highly competitive yet opportunistic waters of the global marketplace.
For an international mind set, act domestic
The fact of the matter is, in order to promote a business across a foreign nation, an organization is required to fully understand the country, its ways, and its consumers. Learn the factors and elements which shape that country’s market, so that the brand can be moulded accordingly for the perfect fit.
This highly progressive strategy would not be possible to implement without understanding that in order to develop an existing brand in a new market, a company must begin from square one all over again. This is how “brand localization” works. Consumers and partners alike prefer to work with organizations whose brand image has been reshaped to work in greater symbiosis with the local business environment. This involves incorporating cultural and language contexts into your brand.
Paul Veness, founder and managing director of Endpoint, endorses this ideology. He emphasises that globally popular brands such as Starbucks, Apple and Adidas are where they are today because they perform exhaustive studies and analyses of any foreign market they hope to enter. By doing so, they have the most effective impact on the local culture, and are also prepared for the impact local culture will have on them. A localisation strategy is therefore necessary to adopt to guarantee authentic communication with the local market.
Pay attention to the differences
It is also true that while the likes of Coca-Cola, Samsung and Toyota are recognized by one brand name, one logo, and one vision, they are also perceived differently in different countries. The product range, the marketing approach and the overall brand identity are all tailored differently for different countries.
The fascinating thing to note here is that regardless of the brand identity being subjected to mild changes across international markets, the adaptations all originate from a unified vision, and that vision is always prominent in the product itself. When trying to achieve this fine balance, Martin Roll, founder of the Martin Roll Company, advises “treading the standardisation-customisation continuum.” The most successful and eagerly accepted brands in the international market are those which preserve their characteristic brand identity whilst superimposing particular brand elements which are likelier to appeal to the local tastes and preferences.
The management of an international brand therefore necessitates the art of juggling uniformity with unique differences, as companies endeavour to appeal to a range of diverse consumer bases. A fine example of this art is demonstrated by how Volvo is perceived in the United States as an economic family car, whereas in China, consumers view it as an upscale, expensive brand. Volvo utilises this information while marketing and launching new models across international markets in a uniform yet modified manner.
Don’t forget to notice the similarities
It has thus been established that localising the brand is the foremost and most essential step of the process. Yet, businesses must be careful when aligning their thinking to the global mind set, in order to not begin seeing the world as one uniform demographic. Once a brand goes international, the world will see and experience it differently, and this feedback is immensely valuable as it fuels future success. But certain things needn’t be changed.
For instance, in 2003, McDonald’s endeavoured to revive the brand image by introducing its first global advertising campaign. In order to win greater support and attract newer audiences, McDonald’s then worked towards establishing itself as a globally accessible brand, regardless of location. The company’s “I’m lovin’ it” was a smash success, as it was received by mass appeal and support in a number of different countries.
Bill Lamar, the then chief marketing officer attributed the popularity of this motto to the fact that it could be translated effectively and straightforwardly in a variety of different languages and cultures, and still retain its essence.
The reason behind this phenomenally successfully campaign was McDonald’s conceptualising a singular idea which would resonate with millions of people by addressing their similarities, regardless of nationality, culture or faith. Some themes or ideas bring people together, and brands wishing to go global must focus their efforts towards implementing such ideas into their brand. However, note that McDonald’s still needed to translate the words and sometimes the theme in some countries where otherwise the core meaning would have been lost.
Evolving your brand
Where globalisation has turned the world into a global village in which countries thousands of miles away seem both physically and digitally accessible, it has also led to the creation of physical and digital communities. This means that people are able to now fully experience the national identity of a country that is not natively their own.
This perspective sheds light on the fact that all brands must be international in the sense that they must be able to resonate with numerous diverse demographics and markets. Although it is recommended to institute this ideology from the kick-off, it is never too late for established businesses to start making changes in order to become globally renowned.
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