Global brands are the businesses recognized all around the world - Facebook, Pepsi, Mercedes-Benz, Apple, Chanel, Netflix and Rolex, to name just a few. Usually operating within one dominant domestic market and holding shares in numerous, diverse local markets, these enterprises reap the highly lucrative rewards of being household names in multiple countries.
Tapping into numerous markets doesn’t come easy however. It requires working across different cultures and languages, where a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t appeal to the diverse values and behaviours of different local audiences. There is also the added challenge of navigating how thousands of employees are communicating a company’s brand vision - particularly in an age where one tweet can pose a risk to decades of investment in global brand management strategies.
But what is a global branding? Why is it so important to the success of international corporations, and what strategies can your business take to build a successful global brand strategy?
Global branding: a definition
A global brand identity includes values, voice and purpose, alongside all the visual design elements. This goes beyond logo design, and covers everything from expected elements like color palettes, imagery and fonts, to external implementation of identity in stationery, social media posts, billboard ads and product packaging.
The key is creating a strong brand is rooted in consistency. Consistently communicating who your brand is, and how it looks and feels, makes your business instantly recognisable and memorable to target audiences. In today’s digitally noisy markets, where consumers can receive many brand messages a day, standing out from the crowd with a consistent, strong brand is more important than ever.
At a global level, this notion of consistency becomes more difficult. An international business needs to maintain a strong brand identity originating from its headquarters or dominant market, and simultaneously ensure relevance to diverse local audiences. Each market has its own behaviors, cultural nuances and consumer trends, so requires specialized variations of this original brand identity. For instance, the global marketing strategy of brands like Nike takes into account that the messaging and imagery which works in the UK is unlikely to have the same impact or appeal in China.
With this in mind, all successful global brand strategy leaders, from Calvin Klein to Microsoft, know that while some corporate identity elements such as brand values and logos must remain consistent across all countries, local departments also need to be given enough power to adapt products and messaging to appeal to their consumers. It’s a fine balancing act between creating a shared brand experience worldwide and being adaptable enough to remain relevant in each specific country.
So, what are the key ways businesses are able to build and organize an effective global brand strategy?
Network, don’t transmit
For many American corporations in the 80s and 90s, standardized advertising and products helped establish strong brands that thrived across the world. This all changed following a global backlash against American imperialism in the early 2000s, with large global brands such as Coca-Cola being forced to take a more localized branding approach in different countries. International marketing positioning of this style helped branding move away from a top-down transmitter model, to a more connected network model, which is still largely present today.
In this structure, a head office no longer serves to deliver one-way messaging and uniform brand assets to its markets. Instead, it provides branding framework such as guidelines, key assets and style guides to facilitate collective resources and offer up sources of inspiration. This ensures that the brand identity and vision comes across in every country, but international divisions can use local context such as influencers, language and visuals to make sure a brand’s messaging lands with its audience.
Global branding examples of the network approach include Nike’s tick and “Just Do It” mantra being as recognisable in France as it is in Brazil, or McDonald’s Golden Arches and happiness values being resonating equally in New Zealand as they do in the US.
By empowering local markets and providing them with best practice examples, a network-based global brand strategy translates corporate brands into local markets, and also provides a head office with global inspiration from various markets, making brand-building a richer and more dynamic experience.
Create relevant content
To connect with consumers, brands need to match their content management to an audience’s attitudes, values and beliefs. The more people can identify with a brand’s message, the greater the emotional connection formed between the brand and the individual, resulting in both brand loyalty and increased sales.
Globally, the variation in what people believe in, or are motivated by, is almost endless, so how can company content remain relevant and consistent at the same time? Airbnb - valued at $38 billion with operations in 191 countries and regions, has a global brand strategy that offers up some key answers.
At the heart of Airbnb’s global brand strategy is that as a brand, it thinks, acts and behaves a global citizen. As a starting point, this means speaking new localized languages to be able to communicate effectively in different environments. To provide content in 26 different languages, AirBnB use a highly sophisticated translation management tool that ensures the brand’s content is accessible to as many people as possible.
Overcoming language barriers via smart use of tech isn’t the only key global brand strategy flexed by the industry disruptor: Airbnb also uses local insights and key cultural movements that speak to native populations. In the lead up to the legalization of same-sex marriage in Australia in December 2017, Airbnb used its “Belong Anywhere” tagline to launch the “Until We All Belong” campaign, a series of online and print adverts that raised awareness for the need to support the pending marriage equality bill. Speaking directly to its Australian followers, the campaign simultaneously emphasised Airbnb’s brand value of belonging, as well as providing a new platform for its global brand visuals.
Adapting brand content with context is integral to Airbnb’s international branding strategies - whether shining a light on local hosts around the world or publishing travel guides for different target audiences, this contributes to how it manages to achieve worldwide appeal and grow its global brand value at the same time.
Give employees tools for global brand positioning
The best candidates for helping cultivate a brand’s local appeal and building branding strategies for international marketing success are those on the ground - the employees living and breathing the culture that a business needs to fit into. Alongside providing vital insights, these individuals are the people communicating your brand world on a daily basis, whether sending emails, delivering pitches or creating contracts. Making sure these team members have all the tools they need to implement your brand consistently, from anywhere in the world, is another major global brand strategy for success.
For instance, PANDORA, known world-wide for its contemporary jewellery designs, sells its products in more than 100 countries across 7,900 points of sales. This global presence matched with rapid growth called for a stronger focus on brand integrity and consistency of both internal and external communications.
However, brand managers were becoming increasingly aware of the escalating challenge of monitoring whether or not employees were using on-brand documents and digital assets in each of their stores and offices.
Templafy worked with Pandora to help centralize its content creation, providing employees with the cloud-hosted tools they needed to easily create on-brand communications. This ranged from dynamic, best practice templates which automatically pulled through brand compliant assets such as logos, color palettes and formatting, as well as personalized document details such as location, employee information and language settings.
With integrations to Pandora’s Digital Asset Management software, employees can access any image, template or logo they needed from Templafy’s easy-to-use interface in the Microsoft Office programmes they were already working in. The company’s latest assets are easily uploaded to Templafy’s Library, so brand managers can know employees are always using the company’s latest assets and helping build on the brand’s value each day from all over the world. Employees using off-brand elements such as rogue Google images or the wrong fonts are alerted and offered alternative replacements at the click of a button.
Changes such as new seasonal marketing campaign links, imagery and email signatures are rolled out enterprise-wide by brand managers at the click of a button, completely forgoing expensive IT resources and keeping each local division up-to-date with the most current brand objectives and brand visuals.