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Branding: Just Ask...

Global Brand Strategy And Consistent Brand Messaging

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Global Brand Strategy McDonald's

We are happy to answer marketing questions of all types here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today, Jennifer, a business reporter in New York, New York asks several questions on brand management and how companies can maintain a consistent brand message across diverse markets… 

1. Explain brand management and why it’s important to effective brand messaging?

Brands promise relevant differentiated benefits to their customers. Put another way, they make unique value propositions. In this way, they increase brand preference and purchase intent. But the promises must be delivered on consistently over time at every point of customer contact. This is where brand management comes in. Not only is brand management responsible for the brand messaging but also for the organization’s (and product’s) delivery against the brand promise. This requires active management.

2. How can a company maintain a consistent brand message, while tailoring its communication to local markets, whether they be regional or global?

Messages need to be tested in each market and in every language to gauge the following:

  • How understandable the message is
  • How believable the message is
  • Whether the message translates properly to the other language
  • Whether the message is still unique and compelling (purchase motivating) in the new market

Then, changes should be made accordingly, while remaining as consistent as possible with the global brand essence and positioning.

3. Brad, how has your role as a brand consultant versus your years within a corporate marketing department changed your views about successful brand management?

Hallmark, while not perfect, largely understood marketing. It was, to a large degree, a marketing driven organization. In working with hundreds of other organizations as a brand consultant since leaving Hallmark twelve years ago, I have come to understand that many organizations and organizational leaders do not really understand what brand management or marketing are. Some think it is just about designing a logo or writing a tagline. Others think it is largely sales support. Some only invite marketing to the table after the products and product lines have been developed. Many organizations are completely unsophisticated when it comes to marketing research. And because of these things, many organizations do not value marketing or marketers very highly. And they do not use them in the most productive ways, such as to arrive at customer insight through research, assist in product development, build emotionality into brands, develop integrated marketing campaigns or rally employees in support of the brand’s promise. When working with these types of organizations, brand management and marketing education becomes an important part of each project that we deliver.

4. What are the steps a company must take before introducing a product or service into new markets?

They must understand the customer need(s) that the product or service will address through qualitative research. They must test the product concept for purchase intent and marketplace gap (quantitative research). They should conduct volumetric forecasting to understand how big the market could be (based on the concept testing against a normative database). They should develop a full-blown business plan with pro forma financial statements and an integrated marketing plan. And, they should “market test” the product in a tightly defined market first. To be even safer, they could roll the product out regionally before introducing it nationally or globally.

5. What are some critical elements that must be in place for a company to overcome language and cultural differences when expanding into international markets?

The company should conduct “attitude & usage” studies in the markets they intend to enter to understand product purchase and usage behavior and to gain an understanding of how big the markets could be. They should have people on staff that speak the languages or at least hire highly competent translators and they should never rely on automated translation programs to translate messaging. They should also hire local people to manage their businesses in those countries and cultures.

6. What are the keys to success of companies that have built and maintained brand equity in foreign markets?

They must understand the cultures first. They must understand how people think. They must understand how they shop. They must understand how developed the product/service categories are in the countries in question. They must understand product usage behavior. And they must understand the meaning of specific words and phrases.

7. In this global marketplace, how can a company ensure the essence of its brand while adapting its message to local language and cultural norms and values?

The essence of a brand should remain the same over time and globally. Other than that, anything else about the brand may need to adapt to the local culture. The brand may need to be repositioned slightly. The marketing campaign almost certainly will need to be developed with the specific market in mind. Product packaging is very likely to change based upon what is normal and appealing in the particular culture. Colors may need to change due to previously unexpected meanings or connotations. And all words and messages will need to be checked for unintended meanings, double meanings, etc.

Have a question related to branding? Just Ask The Blake Project

For Evolving Marketers And Brands: The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, May 2-4, 2016 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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