Growing a business overseas is the goal of various brands. Only, to evolve at an international level is easier said than done.
Every global brand you know of – your Coca Cola’s, your Apple’s, your Nike’s – all started small, and look at them now. All are thriving in their respective markets, and are recognized on every continent.
How you get to the top depends entirely on perspective, as in, how you think of branding as a whole. You see, branding is a lot more than a logo and a snappy slogan.
It’s everything that makes you unique. It’s what audiences think of when you’re not in the room, as Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, famously said.
In this beginner’s guide to global branding, we’re going to be covering all the basics to help get the ball rolling for global success.
We’ll start with what we mean by ‘global branding’ so that you have a complete understanding of its benefits.
What is Global Branding?
Global branding is pretty self-explanatory when you look at the basic definition of branding, generally.
Branding is the various elements that shape your company as you and others see it.
Everything from your brand identity (messaging/appearance), to your marketing output (channels/strategies), to your overall web presence (how visible the brand is online).
It also includes your brand strategies, as in the building blocks of your brand. This includes audience personas through to your tone of voice.
Now, take that definition and turn it up to eleven, doing so will help to define global branding in its simplest form.
Understand that not every brand is what you’d call a global brand, dispute how it looks or how well it’s presented/positioned in its market. To be global is to be greater than the sum of your parts.
Why is it important to brands?
The benefits/perks that come with being a global brand are near impossible to ignore.
And that’s not to discredit the brands that work at a local or domestic level, either. But ask any of these brands if they’d like to be recognised and engaged with overseas, and just listen to the responses.
So, why is global branding so important?
That’s an easy one:
Being a global brand leads to exposure on a grander scale, which can generate you more sales, more leads, more traffic and everything else you champion as a business.
If we can use a sports reference for a second:
It’s the equivalent of going from a lower league to the highest league there is, complete with the admiration and success that comes with it.
Other benefits to global branding include:
- It amplifies brand recognition, globally
- It promotes brand likability, globally
- It establishes and nourishes brand trust, globally
You’ll find that branding has transferable benefits that aid you in future growth too, in that everything is scalable based on what areas you’d like to grow into.
Do you own a coffee company but want to start selling doughnuts on the side? A brand that has earned the trust of people can do that, and do it globally!
Asking the Right Questions About the Brand
To become a global brand you first need to ensure that the base you’ve built is sturdy enough to handle the weight of a global audience.
The first thing you should be looking at is your brand strategy, as it’s this that outlines your end goals and the steps needed to reach said goal. Ask yourself, and other members of your team: are these goals obtainable?
If they aren’t, then some adjustment is required.
Other questions you need to be asking yourself are:
- Who are your customers?
- How do you reach them?
- Who are your competitors?
- What are they doing that you aren’t?
Asking questions about your competitors will help you a lot, more-so if they themselves are working towards launching in other countries. Using the strategies of your competitors as a rough guide of what to/not to do can provide helpful insight.
The kind of insight you might lack as a new business – or a business that is well on their way to global brand status but isn’t breaking through all the way.
Try to be as honest as possible when asking yourself any branding-related questions.
It’s easy to review your brand thinking you’re already set up for global success because of X, Y and Z, but this will only limit your growth potential as it will leave holes in your branding somewhere.
More on that later.
Another Question: Where Will the Brand Be Visible?
When positioning yourself for global success, it’s important to visualize where you see the brand appearing. In other words, how you get your brand out there, and in front of the people who matter.
When it comes to promoting you and your brand, know that there are multiple ways to proceed.
You’re more than likely going to include some sort of digital media in your approach, as it isn’t bound to a single location. Your digital media options include:
- Digital Advertising
- Marketing Kit
Traditional media is still just as viable as it once was before the internet changed everything. Your traditional media options include:
- Print Adverts
- Business Cards
- Marketing Kit
Work out where you’d like the brand to be seen, in line with budgets, strategies, or anything that can play a significant factor.
Costs of running traditional media do vary from country to country, so make sure you’re conducting all of the research beforehand.
The choices you make here should always be influenced by who you’re looking to target. Use your buyer personas to identify the types of channels they’re typically tuned into.
Do you Need to Accommodate at All?
One of the main issues we see when brands try to go global is they think that they don’t have to change too much on the way up, and that success is guaranteed as long as they do more.
Have these individuals stopped to consider any language barriers, time-zone differences, or anything that could be deemed offensive in certain countries/cultures?
All the global brands we mentioned at the top of the post have, which is why they’ve managed to stay at the top.
You might not think that a difference in time would make much of a difference, but it does when you’re launching social media posts at set times during the day.
Think about it, if you’re announcing something big at 6pm and a main section of your audience is asleep at that time then it might be worth posting it at a time that works for everyone.
This is but one example of what you need to be thinking about if you’re to go global. Other considerations include which version of English you’ll use (British or American), and how complicated your messaging is to understand in terms of the language used.
Universal Language that Encapsulates the Brand
Simplifying your messaging is the best way of appealing to multiple parties in one go.
Think about the language used by a brand like Nike. The ‘Just Do It’ slogan can be found just about everywhere, and it’s so easily translated.
The lesson here is not to overcomplicate things.
Let other parts of the branding carry all the complicated stuff. Sometimes the easiest solutions are right there in front of you!
How to Maintain your International Brand Status
Getting to the top of the mountain is only the beginning, as staying there requires consistency, consistency in everything that’s outlined in your brand strategy document (an essential document if you don’t have one already).
You should be referring to this document constantly – you and the other members of the team who are responsible for getting the brand out there.
Strengthening your brand strategy document (otherwise known as a branding brief), will make sure that there are no wasted motions, and that your branding is on point internally and externally.
Performing regular brand audits will also help you out, highlighting room for improvement if your efforts aren’t landing in the right ways.
Common Global Branding-Related Issues
It goes without saying, but there are pitfalls to global branding. You can avoid most of them by using common sense, although, it’s probably best we name a couple, just to be on the safe side.
One of the most common pitfalls we see is in not thinking about the bigger picture. Getting bogged down in the here and now, or the next few months will only stifle your potential.
Every action taken needs to be in service to your global goals.
It requires a pretty big step up, but if you believe in the brand and its message, then adapting to what’s required shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.
Another big pitfall is thinking that every location is the same, meaning you don’t need to change your marketing/branding that much to accommodate new audiences to accommodate them.
Remember, accommodating to new cultures and locations is beneficial to all involved. Beneficial to you in that it instils a sense of trust, and beneficial to them in that they aren’t insulted as you’re entering new markets.
Moving Forward with Faults
We’ve given this pitfall an entire section of its own for a reason.
If you move forwards with faults then the rest of your branding will suffer in some way, guaranteed.
An example of a branding fault would be an outdated logo you’ve had for years, and have yet to change.
Outdated brands tend to get left behind, which is why you should be looking to either design a new one, or seek the help of a branding agency to sort it out for you.
Again, consistent brand audits will keep you on the right track, just don’t leave any issues or problems to sit for too long, as it could damage your image for good, pushing you to either rebrand or give up on your international aspirations.
The Beginners Guide to Global Branding
Becoming a global brand is a very extensive process, but it does yield incredible results and opportunities for continued growth. It’s why you see so many brands vying for this level of notoriety.
Everything we’ve gone over up to this point should give you a basic understanding of global branding and why it’s the end goal for brands everywhere.
Establishing a branding base should be step number one, followed by working out how you’ll get your name out there. Will you choose a digital approach, a traditional approach, or a hybrid of the two?
Keep in mind that this is only the beginners guide to global branding, the advanced guide goes into much greater detail.
Check it out, and remember to remain open-minded when it comes to branding. Doing so could set you up for global success!
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