Build a Strong Brand Culture
A brand’s culture is made up of the values and norms that represent the brand. Products, in turn, reflect the brand’s personality. Brand culture communicates a company’s core business proposition and a compelling reason for buying its products or services. Culture helps consumers to form long-term, mutually beneficial, emotional, and functional associations with your brand. A strong global brand culture is one that transcends countries and cultures to create strong consumer relationships. Building a strong and consistent brand culture that remains familiar to consumers in all world markets is, therefore, a major priority.
Before a foundation for your brand can be established, its core attributes, personality, and positioning (how consumers perceive the brand in terms of low vs. high quality, cost, and features etc) must be determined by evaluating internal strengths and weaknesses as well as your target market, consumers, consumption habits, and competitors. In addition, macro-level external factors such as political, cultural, environmental, social and technological environments along with changing consumer trends will need to be considered. Accounting for all these details in one worldwide brand is not an easy task and only a few out of the millions attempting to achieve this feat actually succeed.
The best way to globally communicate your brand identity and distinct positioning messages is via standardized packaging graphics.
For instance, irrespective of global location, Coke represents ‘happiness’, Pepsi and Nike represent ‘individuality’, Red bull evokes a sense of ‘adventure’ while Apple is synonymous with ‘innovation’.
Select the ‘Right’ Brand Name
A brand name is an essential distinguishing feature of a brand. It gives your brand its identity, triggers recall and recognition and helps create trust relationships with customers. Finding a multi-lingual product/service brand name that is unique and equally successful across countries and cultures is not as easy as it sounds. Development of a fitting brand name is integral to your brand’s global success; therefore in-depth research must be undertaken before a decision is reached.
Ideally, your brand name should be simple, relevant to the product or service in question, easily pronounceable, (preferably) must have no inherent meaning and should not require translation. Made-up words such as ‘Pepsi’ and ‘Tesco’ are some of the most successful brands in the world today. Furthermore, the name must be free of negative connotations and should not even slightly replicate or resemble any existing brand names.
Embarrassing situations for brands such as Nokia’s ‘Lumia’ (literally meaning ‘prostitute’ in Spanish) and the failure of French drink ‘Pschitt’ in the American market exemplify the importance of name selection in global branding. Once decided upon, your brand name should not change over time, as this tends to confuse the customers and can be detrimental to overall brand equity. That being said, changing the name slightly to cater to different markets around the world may not be as negative as one might think.
Think Local, Act Global; The Glocal Phenomenon
Adapting products/services to meet local needs and tastes is essential to building a unified, global brand. For a global brand to be successful, it must retain its autonomy while also adhering to local sensitivities. Brand values and culture should be evident in all markets, and the actual marketing efforts might need to be different, as some concepts don’t always translate between cultures.
Starbucks has achieved its global standing as the world’s biggest coffee company because of its ‘glocalization’ efforts. It has different menus for each country and is constantly working to add variety to its international offerings. Some localization examples include tiny-sized beverages for the Japanese market (because they prefer smaller sizes), the special ‘Marshmallow Mocha’ and ‘Moka Praline’ available only in its France and Spain stores and a drastic move away from its coffee-centric ways in China, whereby it launched a tea-themed Starbucks location in Shenzhen with nine new tea drinks along with traditional Chinese cookies in response to the demands of local consumers. Furthermore, it has opened a number of ‘concept stores’ in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and sells products geared exclusively to each respective region.
Richard Branson of the diverse and successful ‘Virgin’ brand has partnered with Indian producer/director Shekhar Kapoor and writer Deepak Chopra to start a venture that will publish and market comic books based on Indian mythologies.
McDonald’s serves as a classic example of a brand that has done an extraordinary job in this regard. It has tweaked its products to cater to various tastes based on geographic, ethnic, religious and cultural differences (‘McAloo’ and ‘McIbérica burgers to satisfy the needs and preferences of the Indian and Spanish markets, respectively). You must also take into account legal restrictions that pertain to specific regions (with respect to sale, advertising, packaging requirements etc) to avoid reputation-damaging legislative action. ‘Ax’ deodorant’s advertising campaigns in the US, for example, are very different from the ones in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, though they have the same underlying theme.
It is however very important to maintain standards in all respective markets, as negative perceptions about quality comprise once created spread like an uncontrollable virus and can cause irrecoverable blows to your brand’s global appeal. Many brands have had to spend millions to revamp their images following such incidents. Nike serves as a historic example, as its violation of child labor laws led millions of consumers worldwide to boycott its products.