It’s 2023, which means your brand and your products can reach further than ever before. With international consumers using an average of 7.5 social media platforms daily and making an estimated 20.8% of retail purchases online in 2023, targeting global markets just makes sense. But global branding also demands finesse – it’s about knowing how to stay true to your brand’s core values, look, and feel while adapting aspects of your brand to be relevant to your in-country audience.
WHY GLOBAL BRANDING?
Global brands are often thought of as retail and service giants with a recognizable worldwide presence. Think Starbucks, Coca-Cola, IKEA. But in reality, any brand can successfully go global with strategic thinking and a solid global brand strategy – especially as social media and internet usage shrink borders and draw the world closer than ever before. Global branding is, at its core, about making sure you fortify your brand with the necessary tools to thrive in other markets. And in order to do that, you’ll need to focus on being globally consistent while remaining locally relevant.
THE 60/40 RULE
Successful global brands have a clear positioning that distinguishes them from other brands – and a clear look and feel that’s easily recognizable. These brands also know how to adapt, adding just the right amount of local flavor to resonate in each market.
A good global brand management strategy is to follow the 60/40 rule. Retain 60% consistency globally, and allow 40% to be adaptable for local markets. This means knowing your brand’s core values and key design elements so that you can stay true to what matters most for your brand globally (the 60%), while meeting audiences on their level through adapted imagery, messaging, and local relevance (the 40%).
GO GLOBAL, THINK LOCAL
Adapting your brand for global audiences is no small task. Some companies attempt a method of little change, simply translating materials, overlooking visual elements, and hoping their brand image will resonate abroad. But this can be problematic, especially if brand elements – like certain colors, symbols, or images – don’t carry the same meaning among international audiences. On the other hand, changing your branding materials significantly for each new market is a huge drain on resources and time. Before you know it, your brand essence is diluted, veering away from your core truths. When launching any global branding efforts, consider the following.
KNOW THE NON-NEGOTIABLES
It’s crucial to be clear on a brand’s non-negotiables. These elements are central to your core values and company vision. To adapt them would have a significant impact on brand perception. These core elements can include:
- The problem a brand solves for its core audience
- Mission, vision, and purpose
- Brand look and feel
- Logo and logo variations
- Intended tone – serious, playful, funny, etc
HONE IN ON ADAPTABLE ELEMENTS
Once non-negotiables are established, you can then work to identify branding elements that are adaptable for global audiences. What works in one country won’t necessarily resonate in another. The goal is to give your target audience something that looks like it was created just for them in their language, which will set you apart from your competitors in that country while remaining true to your brand.
Here are three common elements (though certainly not all of them) to consider in adapting your brand for global audiences:
Tone. As mentioned above, tone of voice is a key element for your brand. But the nuances of tone can be adapted. Take, for example, a brand like Mimecast that values humor. Humor should remain part of the brand and travel across borders, but the way it comes to life will vary across markets. What the French find funny might offend someone in the UK. And British humor might fall flat in front of a US audience. Work with in-market experts who can tailor your messaging to resonate in each of your global markets.
Imagery and design. These elements are often overlooked and can significantly hinder connection to your audience. For example, incorporating local landmarks where appropriate will help your audience feel more connected. Or adjusting a graphic element, say, from a coffee cup to a dallah, can go a long way in connecting to an Arabic-speaking locale. To avoid visual communication flubs, enlist the help of creative media localization experts, who can assess creative marketing assets and adapt where needed.
Your communication strategy. Domestically, you may have established a presence with a logo that is easily recognizable – but that may not be the case in your target global audiences. Messaging should be modified to reflect the level of brand awareness in each locale, ranging from building brand recognition to fostering emotional connection to giving your audience a reason to believe. The approach you take will depend on your in-country audience’s familiarity (or lack thereof) with your brand.
GLOBAL BRANDING SERVICE MENU MUST-HAVES
Before you engage with a marketing localization partner to handle brand management efforts, look at their service toolkit for these industry-standard offerings to minimize redundancy and maximize your dollar. And, most importantly, balance global brand identity with local relevance:
Glossaries. The language your brand uses that’s specific to your company, products, or services matters. It’s what makes you stand out from your competitors in each locale. Consistent taglines, product names, and key terms across all your brand assets are a key element of brand recognition. A glossary of terms will keep your brand and language consistent, ensuring that your brand terms remain clear in every iteration, in every country.
Translation memories. Ensure consistency at the sentence level (and tally up savings) with translation memories (TMs). These databases are where your localized text lives, and they enable reuse of previously approved localized content. Bonus points if you find a localization partner skilled at maximizing a TM’s capability for creative marketing content by parsing at the paragraph level. Using TMs this way will save budget in the long run while allowing your marketing copy to be consistent where needed – and creatively adapted for maximum local impact.
Tone of voice guides. Your tone of voice is key to your brand’s personality. It’s not what you say as much as how you say it. A tone of voice guide per language and per market is a powerful tool for anyone working on your content, whether they’re in-country copywriters, local stakeholders, or partner agencies.
Combined, these tools ensure that your marketing localization efforts are thorough without being redundant, saving you budget (and time) down the road.
Building a global brand takes time. And in order to find success, it’ll also require investment – particularly with in-country linguists and specialists who know how to hit the right note abroad. The right partner will help you identify similarities between markets. They’ll enable you to confidently adapt for differences while preserving the uniqueness of your brand both domestically and internationally. And, ultimately, you’ll be able to leverage efficiencies across markets while driving economies of scale.