Top Ten Lessons from Global Brands
Thanks to the power of the internet, the business world is getting smaller. Through the global reach of the World Wide Web, a consumer can purchase clothes from France, wine from California, sponges from Greece and artwork from Italy – all from their couch in Idaho. For an entrepreneur, the siren call to build a global brand can be strong; from a lowly office space in a small town, it is entirely possible to build a company that spans the globe and create a financial empire.
Through this article, we’ll discover the top ten lessons that from successful global brands: 1) brand name is important, 2) find common ground, 3) act globally, think locally, 4) identify the competition, 5) domestic marketing still matters, 6) maximize the power of the internet, 7) keep strategies simple, 8) create partnerships, 9) be adaptable, and 10) use feedback and data.
1. BRAND NAME IS IMPORTANT
Travelling abroad brings a wealth of new experiences and challenges. Discovering new foods, trying something new, perhaps learning (or wishing you had learned) a new language – it all can be exhilarating and exciting. Regardless of how enthusiastic you are about your newfound love of exotic living, there is an oddly comforting feeling when you spot a sign for a business that is from your home country. You may not even go in, but just knowing that a piece of the familiar is there can bring about a small measure of peace of mind.
If you are considering branching out into the global marketplace, there are a few key points about brand name that are extremely important. One of the primary concerns about developing a brand name for a global marketplace is to ensure that the name has universal appeal. Find the commonalities among people of all cultures and incorporate those ideas into choosing the right name for your company. In addition, make sure that the name you choose is easily understood on a global scale. If the name will require additional translation or explanation, it is probably not the right name. Finally, ensure that the name does not get lost in translation. The word preservatives, for example, means additives to food that help prolong the lifespan of a product. That same word, préservatifs in French, however, means condom – a vast difference.
Choosing a global brand name can be challenging, but is often the most recognizable piece of information a company can broadcast. Ensuring that the name is appropriate in multiple languages, has a universal appeal and can be understood by a majority of the world’s audiences is the first step in building a global economy. Once the name has been chosen, commit to building that brand on the global scale.
2. FIND COMMON GROUND
Even though the communities of the world are vastly different from one another, there are some commonalities of themes that unite people across the globe. Themes such as love, family and friendship reach beyond national borders and touch people – regardless of ethnicity or rationality. These ‘generic’ themes can center on the love of good food, the celebrations of life or the beauty of friendship. Families in Poland can identify with sitting down to eat a holiday meal, just like the families in France, China or Australia. Use the symbols and expressions of these common themes to promote the message of the company. By building your brand around these themes, it identifies to potential customers the values that the company deems important and helps to solidify the brand association with those themes.
Using the common themes that have global appeal, your company can begin to develop a relationship with the customer. BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands study has shown that customers are more likely to buy from someone with whom they have a trusted relationship already established. This idea can be seen in the difference between Apple and Samsung. When put into a head-to-head lineup, the differences between the two companies are negligible. However, Apple out performs Samsung in sales every year. What is the secret ingredient that Samsung is lacking? Brand recognition and trust. Apple is a part of the vernacular now, and with the iPod, iPhone, iPad, they seem to have cornered the market on how to connect with the audience. Regardless of the minimal differences, people will repeatedly choose Apple because they are more familiar with the name.
Find a common ground element that you can build your company around, and then maximize the opportunities to connect with the larger global market.
3. ACT GLOBALLY, THINK LOCALLY
While building a global company, it is easy to dismiss the local markets in favor of creating a world-dominator. Be careful not to fall into the trap of ignoring what happens in the smaller, more central local markets and spending all your time and money to build a universally approved company. Even though you have developed a globally themed company, there are benefits to maintaining a local market mentality.
One of the biggest challenges a global company faces is the balancing act between global and local marketing efforts. Local markets can change within a matter of blocks, or miles. During the 2014 World Cup, McDonald’s demonstrated their continued mastery of the act globally; think locally philosophy with their GOL! FIFA World Cup campaign. By incorporating regular people around the world performing soccer tricks in their neighborhood, they created a feeling of community – not only with the neighborhood scenes in the commercial, but with the company that unites the world through hamburgers and an appreciation of soccer. Their campaign was global: it showed people from different cultures, in all walks of life; and it was local: small town feeling celebrates the everyday joy of soccer. Your company can create that same appeal by developing your company for the global market but maintaining the local connection.
4. IDENTIFY COMPETITION
In many instances, it is easy to identify the competition in business. An office supply store, for example, will immediately understand that their direct competition is the office supply store down the road. The competition may not be as easy to identify or understand when your company turns global.
MasterCard and Visa, the credit card companies, may appear to be in competition with each other for customers. The rewards programs, lowering of interest rates and other incentives to select one company over another all work to entice the consumer to choose a particular company’s credit card offering. In reality, the true competition for these companies is cash and checks. In recent years, the non-credit card users have been losing ground, but historically cash trumps credit.
The differences between cultures may present competition sources that surprise you. As your company prepares to enter the global market, look for cross market competition. By identifying who the competitors are, your company can prepare a marketing strategy to demonstrate key differences that will set your company apart. Correctly identifying the competition can help your company make the transition to a global empire smoothly.
5. DOMESTIC MARKETING STILL MATTERS
As mentioned earlier, it is important to act globally but think locally. The domestic marketing of your company is still essential for continued success. One way to maintain a strong domestic presence is by making sure that the company’s marketing efforts are translated properly into local/national languages (or ensuring that translation support is available).
Customers are impressed by global companies, but they want to buy from a local connection. This does not mean that a global company can’t succeed – it simply means that a locally marketed company will have a higher chance for success when the customer feels as though it is a local company. Local companies are engaged in the local scene – through specialized marketing, regional specialties and other location specific details are important to a company’s domestic marketing efforts. This can be seen in the addition of locally relevant items to menus (lobster sandwiches at McDonald’s in Maine, for example), or the highlighting of special events in a town.
6. MAXIMIZE THE POWER OF THE INTERNET
Global recognition is becoming easier through the power of the internet. With the rising popularity of smart phones, tablets and other internet-capable technology, having an internet presence is essential. For the global company, harnessing the internet to boost corporate recognition can help to establish a global presence. Through strategic marketing efforts, targeted campaigns can highlight new products, the development of additional services being offered, or the opening of new locations – all online. Those efforts can even be handled by someone who is nowhere near the actual business location; all due to the power of the internet. The days of having to send someone to a specific location to start advertising are over – marketing is done in a whole new way. An entrepreneur who wants to take advantage of the global economy can easily insert their company into the global fray.
In addition, the internet allows companies to become global without having to establish global offices. A small warehouse with an internet connection and access to shipping companies can send their products around the world easily. Customer service centers make 24-hour help lines possible, and email marketing offers companies a way to connect with customers in a meaningful way that helps the customer remain engaged with the company. The internet has increased the opportunities for a company to become a global force, without excessive additional costs.
7. KEEP STRATEGIES SIMPLE
With the overwhelming amount of data, marketing, information and noise that fills the world; people are still unmistakably drawn to simplicity. Studies have shown that in a choice between two logos, the simpler design always wins. People are drawn to simplicity, even if they aren’t aware of it. Regardless of geography, age or gender, there is an overwhelming search for simplicity in both technology and interpersonal relationships. When a company can offer their customers simplicity, the customer knows that they will be happier, and that will spill over into their everyday life. In essence, simplicity = happiness. A mistake that companies often fall into when considering the leap towards a global company is the development of complicated strategy that become cumbersome and laborious. A close evaluation of the companies who have managed to become successful entrepreneurs reveals that more than anything, simplicity is important.
Across the board, simplicity must be introduced in customer service interactions, policies and procedures, marketing efforts and more. Simplicity does not mean that the services or products being offered are simple – it means that the company has gone to great lengths to ensure that the customer can quickly and easily interact with the company in a meaningful way. This use of simplicity is a relationship building tool that results in a higher percentage of customer satisfaction and return business. It is clear: the companies that employ simplicity tend to win.
8. CREATE GLOBAL/LOCAL PARTNERSHIPS
The local market is rich in opportunities for a company to develop partnerships. Humanitarian efforts, local suppliers, resources are all areas that a company can use to connect with a community. Applying that same technique on a global scale can benefit your company as you seek to go global. Find global initiatives that coincide with the mission of your company and form partnerships. Within those partnerships, establish local divisions that can work to further the global cause and further build community and connection.
If your company mission is to help educate people about the benefits of eating healthy, a global initiative may be the sourcing of clean drinking water. By promoting the cause of water, your company is helping to highlight a need, establishing itself as a trusted source of information and assistance, doing humanitarian work and building brand recognition as a company that is concerned about the world. Those connections can be beneficial on several levels: it helps the cause, it helps the world and it can lead to financial increase for your company. Find ways to partner with global and/or local organizations that you can relate to.
9. BE ADAPTABLE
In spite of the pre-launch research, the hours laboriously studying logos and ad campaigns, the market research and surveys that were done, sometimes marketing strategies are a flop. Perhaps it is the product that needs to be modified to accommodate a different cultural need, or the company needs to change its focus. Whatever the reason, the company that is able to adapt to meet the needs of the market will be more likely to succeed.
If your company is poised to go global, you have likely spent much-needed cash to invest in laying the groundwork for the new endeavor. It can be difficult to admit that the plan isn’t working, and that the company needs to make adaptations. Those adaptations, however, can be the difference between a company who ‘tried to go global’ and a company who ‘went global’. McDonald’s built their company on the business of selling good food, quickly and inexpensively. When the market began to shift, however, McDonald’s recognized the need to shift as well, and began to add healthier options to their menu. Roads are littered with the shells of empty restaurants that refused to adapt to the new demands of the market – and ultimately went out of business.
Don’t be afraid to adapt to meet the changing needs of the world. Reinvent yourself, as needed, to continue to be relevant and competitive in the global marketplace.
10. USE FEEDBACK AND DATA
As with any new venture, it is essential to occasionally take stock of how the company is doing. Exploring global options with a company may open opportunities that were never considered before, or it may demonstrate ways that the company can improve and grow. Regardless of the goal of the global focus, make sure to ask for customer feedback along the way. Short surveys, email responses, phone calls to customers and other methods of collecting customer data are all vital to growing a global company. Using the information from feedback is especially important as the company considers the global marketing efforts – what is received in one market may not be working in another. Finding the balance between global and local campaigns and mastering the cross cultural approach can test a company’s endurance and perseverance. Regular check-ups of the company will help to determine the success (or failure) of methods and give guidance for future strategies.