Taking your brand global is an exciting prospect but also a significant challenge. Establishing and growing your brand in your own country is challenging enough, but expanding it into other parts of the world will present hurdles different from any you've experienced before.
One of the principal challenges is maintaining consistency as the brand spreads into other cultures and regions. Being consistent, though, is key to success. That's not to say you should ignore the differences between customers in different markets—you need to meet customer needs while still keeping your brand consistent, which is easier said than done.
Maintaining a strong brand while going global requires substantial research and planning, as well as careful monitoring. Here are 6 branding tips to remember when you're going global.
1. Establish brand guidelines
Before attempting to expand a brand globally, the company should have well-established, consistent brand guidelines. It needs to distribute these guidelines to everyone who will represent the brand in any way and ensure adherence.
What should be included in brand guidelines? They cover the overall definition of the brand, visual style and content style. That's not to say all of these elements need to be included in the same document, but they should all be well-defined. The guideline should define the brand's values, mission and vision statement and include a description of the key messages you want to send, as well as the brand's personality.
These guidelines should include rules for using the company's logos, colors, fonts and any other visual elements. They should also describe its preferred voice and tone, any words that should be used and any to be avoided. The use of these guidelines must be enforced throughout the company to keep the brand consistent. This will be of immense value, since research shows that consistent brands expect to earn 23% more revenue annually than inconsistent brands.
2. Emphasize your values
Your brand guidelines should include a description of company values, but they should be emphasized through every aspect of the global expansion. This strategy consists of both customer-facing and internal elements and will help the brand maintain its essence, even if the details of how the company operates are different in new markets.
Making sure everyone in the company understands its values is crucial to consistency. Brand values can serve as a guidepost when trying to determine whether something is on brand or not. While representations of the brands should still be subject to review, understanding brand values can help keep ideas on track in the early stages.
3. Be aware of culture & language differences
Before expanding into a new region, a company should take time to research any aspects of culture or language that may affect how their brand is perceived. The business should also conduct a legal assessment to avoid inadvertently breaking any rules or regulations.
If your company is seeking to form partnerships and make business acquaintances overseas, it's important to have a thorough understanding of the country's business culture. For example, in Singapore, it's important to talk about any successes as a team effort. The interests of the group as a whole are generally put ahead of individual interests there—something you'd want to keep in mind if you were trying to create a mutually beneficial partnership.
When translating a brand into another language and culture, miscommunications are easily possible.
If a company doesn't take sufficient precautions, it risks making a faux pas that could damage the brand. KFC fell victim to this issue when it expanded into China in the 80s. The company translated its slogan "finger-lickin' good" to "eat your fingers off." While KFC eventually recovered from the mistake, this slogan did not send the right message.
4. Keep it customer-focused
While you need to maintain brand consistency, you also need to ensure that you communicate your brand in a way that will resonate with the new customers you're attempting to reach. You may need to make small adjustments to better appeal to customers in different regions, as well.
Determining what you can change to appeal to a new set of customers and what you can't alter without sacrificing brand consistency is critical.
KFC provides us another example—but this time, in a positive way. In the 70s, KFC created a campaign in Japan called "Kentucky for Christmas" that encouraged Japanese customers to go to KFC on the holiday.
The campaign was a huge success because it capitalized on the fact that there weren't many established Christmas traditions in the country. KFC still catered to one of the traditions that did exist in Japan, however, by including a special cake in its Christmas meal bundles.
5. Optimize your approval process
Companies should have an established approval process in place before expanding globally. This process helps employees to easily submit materials and enables company leadership to ensure brand consistency.
A complicated process can lead to off-brand materials slipping through the cracks. Once they do, these misbranded materials can spread, because people who see them will assume they're acceptable.
Using a brand templating platform like Lucidpress can streamline the approval process, which encourages employees to get quick approval of their materials and move their projects forward.
6. Promote consistent internal communications
To orchestrate a global brand expansion, a company needs a strong internal communications system to ensure that all offices, departments and employees are on the same page.
You need a reliable communications system to inform everyone in the company of updates to branding guidelines, information about new products, details about new promotional products and more. Internal disconnect creates a risk of brand inconsistency.
Businesses should create an internal communications plan that includes information about communication objectives, target audiences, available channels and more. They must then monitor their progress to ensure that their internal communications are effective.
Also, everyone within a company who needs access to logos and other brand materials should have access to them. Using a cloud-based system like Lucidpress (through which employees can download logos from anywhere at any time) can resolve this issue seamlessly.
Expanding a brand globally is, of course, no small feat. A global brand has many moving parts that all face different challenges based on their location. Despite these differences, the branding must be consistent throughout the entire company.
Achieving this kind of cohesiveness requires a well-defined brand and open communication about what the brand is to everyone in the company. That information and meaning can then be communicated effectively to customers across the globe.