Global brand strategy: How to develop an appealing international brand

By Acclaro
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Global Brand Strategy

Building a global brand is easier than ever in the era of digital transformation. Over the past 15 years, the internet has made it possible to expand internationally without a physical presence in each market. Companies like Airbnb and Uber, for example, have quickly become household names worldwide with their digital-first approach.

Yet you still need a global brand strategy to set you apart from competitors. By doing so, you’ll be able to adapt your products, services, and marketing while maintaining your brand identity.  

What is global branding?

Global branding is the process of developing a uniform brand image that applies regardless of locale. It involves planning how your brand will be positioned and perceived across a variety of international markets to ensure it resonates with audiences. Why? Because different locales have different cultures, preferences, and norms, which can influence your brand development.

Before you create a global brand, you need to determine which elements should be standardized and which should be tailored for different locales. For example, standardized elements may include:

  • Logo design, which ensures worldwide recognition
  • Tagline and slogans, depending on how well they translate into the local language 
  • Brand tone and messaging, depending on the local language and culture

These aspects of your brand are context-dependent. You’ll need to determine what should stay consistent and what should be adjusted for different locales as you develop a global brand strategy. 

This is especially true for marketing, advertising, and brand messaging. That’s because translations may not completely capture the meaning and/or resonate with the target audience. When this happens, the message needs to be transcreated or culturally adapted instead. For example, Airbnb changed its tagline from “Belong Anywhere” to “Live there” for the Chinese market to convey the idea of an immersive experience.

Branding vs. marketing

Before we dive into global brand strategy further, it’s critical to recognize the distinction between “branding” and broader “marketing.”

Branding encompasses your brand’s identity and presentation. It involves identifying the factors that frame how your audience conceptualizes, relates to, and thinks about your brand as an entity. Here are six key questions for framing your brand identity:

  1. What are your brand’s core principles and values? 
  2. Do you have a mission statement?
  3. What is your company’s visual style and aesthetic?
  4. What are the characteristics of your brand’s communication style, for example, editorial tone and voice?
  5. If you could sum up your brand in three adjectives, what would they be? 
  6. What do you want people to feel when they see or hear your brand?

Marketing, on the other hand, refers to the practice of developing strategies, tactics, and tools to deliver your brand messaging to your target audiences. Branding sits at the center of your marketing strategies and guides decision-making across the company.  

Why global branding matters

Your brand is the heart of your marketing efforts. People can form strong psychological connections with brands, even constituting a parasocial relationship. Defining and delineating your brand is integral to laying the foundation for how customers interact with your company. 

A brand that resonates with its audience—their wants, needs, and identity—can result in strong consumer psychosocial ties. For example, Apple’s commitment to innovation, design, and simplicity, helped the tech build a fiercely loyal customer base.  

Simply put, your brand exists beyond your ads, marketing, and even beyond your products. Your brand exhibits iconicity. It’s not only a symbol of your product, but a set of culturally relevant values. It intertwines with customers’’ individuality and group identity.

However, for your brand to resonate with audiences in another locale, you must first understand its culture. You need to determine what local customers value most and how your brand exemplifies those values. For example, let’s say you want to market an instant messaging platform like Slack in Japan. You could focus your brand strategy around the ways the platform promotes harmony and cooperation in the workplace.     

Increase your reach with a smart global branding strategy 

A well-executed global branding strategy allows you to adapt your brand to local markets while maintaining a consistent global identity. This helps you:

  • Build brand awareness by appealing to local preferences
  • Create consistent messaging across languages and cultures
  • Gain a competitive advantage by making it easier to enter new markets and compete with established brands

Microsoft, for example, customizes its products and services to meet local preferences, but still maintains a recognizable brand identity as a friendly, helpful technology partner.      

Leverage your supply chain with a credible global brand 

A well-known global brand often carries more credibility than a lesser-known local brand. This gives you an advantage in negotiations because the other party values your reputation. When local vendors, suppliers, and partners trust your brand, it can help increase:

  • Bargaining power. You may gain more bargaining power when negotiating prices and terms. The other party may be more willing to offer better deals or make concessions to be associated with a well-known brand.   
  • Access to resources. A well-known global brand can give you access to a wider network of resources, including suppliers and partners. This helps you negotiate better deals in new markets.

Continuing with our Microsoft example, the company has built a network of partners worldwide that include resellers, systems integrators, software developers, and hardware manufacturers. Microsoft uses its credibility as a global brand to establish these beneficial relationships in new markets and expand its customer base.

Boost your marketing ROI with a global brand strategy

McKinsey & Company found that 15 to 20 percent of marketing spend can be freed up by focusing on efforts that bring an improved return on investment (ROI). A successful global brand strategy will help you do just that, allowing you to re-invest in global brand marketing.

Rather than creating separate campaigns for different markets, you can launch one campaign that fits every region. As a result, you’ll have lower marketing costs. It also helps you maintain a consistent brand message and identity. This creates more powerful connections with customers, and increases your reach, engagement, and ultimately revenue.   

Challenges of global brand expansion

Despite the many benefits, global expansion still involves numerous obstacles. Here’s a look at three challenges you need to address as you develop a strategy for global brand development.   

Cultural differences and local preferences

Habits, preferences, and expectations differ between cultures. That’s why branding that is highly effective in one market may falter in another. You may also need to compete with established local brands.  

For example, Prowly, a Polish public relations (PR) software company, struggled initially in the U.S. market because the platform lacked a media database. However, local competitors developed a feature that American PR agents expect. In response to local preferences, Prowly later added a media base feature to its platform.

Local laws and regulations

Local laws and regulations can affect how you market your brand and position your products or services.

Airbnb, for example, had to change the way it does business in some European markets because of its impact on local housing markets. Berlin banned short-term rentals via platforms like Airbnb. Paris and Amsterdam established 120 and 30-day limits, respectively.

Managing global teams

It’s imperative to work with marketing localization specialists who live in the locale you’re targeting with your global brand strategy. Having people from the target locale on your team helps you better understand the culture, language, and nuances of the area. This is essential for creating an effective and successful global brand strategy.

However, language barriers, local workplace norms, and different time zones can impact the ways global teams work together. You’ll need clear communication and project management processes to ensure everyone adheres to the same guidelines. 

How to develop a global branding strategy

Now that you know more about the benefits and challenges of creating a global brand, let’s look at how to develop a global branding strategy. Here are six tips to help you get started.

Start with strategic planning

Define your brand identity, goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), and ways of monitoring performance. To ensure consistency, adopt a system that links global brand strategies to local strategies for each market. There are two ways to do this:

  • Top-down. Global brand strategy guides local brand strategies. Local teams can add or modify elements to adapt the approach to their particular context.
  • Bottom-up. Global brand strategy derives from each locale’s brand strategy. Global brand managers group country strategies according to similarities like market maturity or competitive context. This is done while keeping common elements across all regions.

Research new markets 

Always conduct market research for every new locale you’re expanding into. This will help you identify each market’s particularities and define how to position your brand in different regions. You can use SWOT Analysis or Porter’s Strength Study frameworks to analyze competitive scenarios and relationships between customers, competitors, suppliers, and other players in each location.

Maintain a strong brand identity in different markets

Determine which core brand elements should remain consistent. This may include your logo, colors, and any other characteristic that sets your brand apart. While you need to tailor your branding for different locales, it must maintain a cohesive identity to ensure global recognition.

Define your local brand positioning

Using market research, determine how to distinguish the brand from competitors in each market. Local strategies must include adequate brand positioning, taking each region’s specifics into account.  

For example, Samsung positions itself as a premium brand that offers high-end products with cutting-edge technology in the United States. In emerging markets like India, the brand positions itself as a more affordable option, offering reliable and durable products at lower price points.

Find local partners to gain consumer trust and build local relationships

Partnering with local businesses such as suppliers, distributors, small partner brands and ad agencies can reduce costs and increase brand appeal. You’ll be better positioned to negotiate contracts, and gain public trust by association.

For example, Google partnered with Jio, an Indian telecommunications company to expand the country’s digital ecosystem. The partnership aims to create affordable smartphones and improve internet access across India.

Develop internal processes to keep your team connected and integrated 

Your organization’s internal structure also affects its success. If managers can’t communicate guidelines to local teams, your global strategy is irrelevant. Therefore, you must define an internal communication strategy between teams from different regions. Set up communication channels, promote events, and hold periodic meetings to foster a collaborative culture between teams.

Launch your global brand with Acclaro 

Developing a global brand strategy involves much more than adapting your marketing. It’s about deciding which brand elements remain consistent and which ones should be tailored to each market. Do it right, and you’ll create a global brand that appeals to buyers, regardless of location.    

At Acclaro, we work with you to develop a global strategy that preserves the core of your brand identity while addressing the unique considerations of each market. Using our industry knowledge and cultural expertise, we’ll help you meet local preferences while maintaining the integrity of your brand.

Want to learn more about how Acclaro can help you launch your brand globally? Get started today.

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  • Determine your target audience 
  • Define a compelling brand style and tone
  • Comply with local regulations and customs
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Download a copy of our ebook today and learn how to adapt and translate your marketing campaigns across cultures.

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