In our global world, it’s amazing to think that, not too long ago, branching out your company’s reach was pretty much unheard-of. Still, even though things like faster travel and mass communications have made international business feasible, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Some brands try to go beyond borders and fail. Others manage, but only just, never really realizing their full potential.
So how can a brand successfully go global? Here’s some advice from business experts:
- Make sure you have what it takes. According to this interesting article from the Wharton School of Business, successful global brands have a few common characteristics:
– A consistent, easy-to-pronounce name
– The brand’s message is the same around the world
– Similar prices in all markets
– Addresses the same needs of consumers
– Similar packaging and advertising worldwide
Forbes’ 2016 Most Valuable Brands ranking confirms the list: The ten most successful brands can easily be described this way, from Apple (#1), to Facebook (#5), to McDonald’s (#9).
If your business or product doesn’t fit into most of these categories, you may want to reconsider going global, or think about strategies like rebranding, conducting market studies and surveys, and working out a budget.
- Pre-plan. If your brand has the potential to go global, experts advise planning your marketing and communications strategies before you take things to the next level. For example, these two sources recommend meeting with translators, localization experts, and other major players in your brand’s global launch, to establish a glossary, translation memory, and style guide before doing any media or advertising abroad.
And Prof. Dieter Georg Herbst warns that it’s also extremely important that everyone involved be clear about how the brand’s image is going to be portrayed internationally.
- Be clear about who’s doing what. Herbst also points out that things will go a lot more smoothly if everyone involved in managing your global brand knows who is responsible for what, and whether certain things will be handled locally or at the main company headquarters. He also advises that a contact person involved in global brand management be established in every country where your brand has a presence.
- Be willing to change. You may think that your business can pretty much operate the same way anywhere, but you may be wrong. No matter how much you believe in your brand, and no matter how successful it’s been in its country of origin, it’s important to bear in mind that different markets have different preferences, expectations, and needs. Take KFC, whose approximately 1500 overseas restaurants have varied menus based on local tastes, traditions, and trends. For example, their food in China gets spicier as you approach regions where the native cuisine is spicier, as well.
McDonald’s is another brand that’s come to be known for its varied menu choices in different countries. Here in France, for example, McDonald’s recently featured a New York Street Food-themed special menu, which shows someone definitely has their finger on the pulse of French foodie culture: Food trucks and American treats like burgers and cheesecake are currently all the rage.
Food isn’t the only area where this adaptation comes into play, of course. This article compares the different international Disneyland theme parks. …Okay, the article does admittedly go into food a lot – but then again, the fact that wine is served only at Disneyland Paris says a lot about adapting to local cultural and consumer expectations, n’est-ce pas?
Or check out this interesting exploration of how Amazon Prime membership prices and features differ around the world (I am so jealous of Japanese subscribers, who get to schedule deliveries!).
Ultimately, a brand’s chance of global success requires a magic mix of rule-setting and the flexibility necessary to adapt to local markets. Could your company thrive globally?