How global brands can connect on a local level

Dan Ratner

Dan Ratner is managing director of branding and communications agency, uberbrand. He has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and branding and is passionate about branding as an enabler to fulfil organisational objectives. Working closely with uberbrand’s clients Dan works to understanding the current customer perception in the context of business goals and aspirations. Dan works with well-known Australian brands across a variety of sectors including financial services, travel and education.

The dot-com boom allowed brands to easily access the global market. Thanks to this increased exposure and worldwide awareness, brands can no longer exist in a local bubble. Having a brand purpose that is universally appealing means you’ll be able to better connect with your audience no matter where they are.

For example, the Fred Hollows Foundation’s purpose is to end avoidable blindness, something everyone one can connect with. Or take Apple’s promise of bringing great computers to everyone in the world – that’s a promise to which anyone can agree. However, the reality is that every sub-market is different, with its own cultural and social awareness.

For brands looking to expand their market into new countries or territories this can be challenging. While it’s important to have universal appeal, considering relevant cultural differences is key to making sure your brand is still relevant to the local markets in which you have a presence. Your business will still have the same purpose and goals, but the way you deliver on your brand’s values may change depending on the needs of your particular markets.

Here are a couple of ways you can successfully expand into new markets and remain relevant:

Make sure your brand concept translates culturally

While some cultures may embrace an idea with open arms, others could be left quite confused or annoyed. Take Coke for instance, who uses the universally appealing idea of happiness in their communications. While happiness can be universally understood – what it actually means varies by market. In America, for example, aspirational happiness is portrayed through wealth, success, or freedom. This works really well in that market. Alternatively, Australians respond better to happiness portrayed realistically through satisfaction and even sarcasm. Brand values can be also be used to help translate your brand locally by connecting brand values to the values of the local culture.

For instance, if your brand values perseverance, a value at the heart of Aussie culture, you can create a positive association in the minds of Australian consumers by highlighting this value in your messaging. How a brand talks and acts must also be adjusted to the local market. Generally speaking, an overly boastful or disrespectful brand is unlikely to appeal to audiences in many Asian countries, whereas overly kitsch brands may not appeal to Australians. It’s essential to make sure that you think about how the brand is being communicated for each of its audiences and what they value.

Besides your personality and your values, your visual identity should have universal meaning, rather than local connotations. For example, Pampers’ packaging has a stork on it which, in many Western cultures, is associated with delivering babies. But this didn’t translate well in Japan when they decided to launch the Pampers brand in that market, as they don’t share the same folklore. With a little bit of research, you can avoid making mistakes that will alienate your customer base.

Adapt, but don’t change the brand offering too much across different markets

While taking social and cultural nuances into consideration when moving into new markets is important, it’s also crucial to maintain your brand’s integrity. Consumers are educated and often have pre-conceived expectations based on their experience of, or what’s happening in, overseas markets. For example when Sephora launched in Australia, many Australians were looking forward to the product range and low price-points synonymous with Sephora in Europe and America. When they launched with fewer products and price-matched other competitors, customers were left disappointed. They broke their brand promise and damaged their brand equity in Australia.

So, while you must adapt your brand, you shouldn’t lose sight of what your brand stands for in other countries. If you can ensure your brand translates culturally and your offering is consistent across different markets, you’ll be well on your way to communicating your brand both globally and locally, making meaningful and lasting connections with consumers.

Tags: marketing strategy, brand strategy

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