Going global with your business opens new doors and brings countless opportunities but launching a brand across borders is no small feat. It pays to prepare.
Your brand not only represents your products and services but conveys your presence and communicates how you wish to be seen in the world. It symbolizes your promise to your customers. Branding defines the essence, values and personality of your organization’s products and services.
A brand allows customers to identify products and services across multiple markets. An effective brand appeals to the values and preferences of its customers in the target market. Brand recognition contributes to brand loyalty or trust among customers.
In return for brand loyalty from customers, brands assure the buyer that the product or service will confer the benefits associated with and expected from the brand. Brand equity results from quality products and services that generate goodwill and motivate people to buy from the brand’s organization instead of its competitors.
A brand is essentially a short cut, it is a way for a customer to get an instant recognition on what the promise is of a product or service and how that will benefit them.
Hayes Roth, Chief Marketing Officer of Landor Associates
A brand identity is how an organization wants its name, communication style, logo and other visual elements to be perceived by the world. Brand identity reflects the way an organization wants others to perceive its brands. It does not necessarily reflect how the brand is actually perceived by current and potential customers.
Key elements of brand identity
- Meet the purpose and objectives of the organization
- Meet the needs of the target market for the brand
- Define key brand characteristics to be communicated
- Highlight the benefits of the products or services associated with the brand
Brand identity is often built with a creative brief that defines an organization’s vision, its target audience, the objectives and its key thought or idea. Some marketers also use mood boards, a collection of images, materials and text that depict the brand concept. These tools help them define the brand identity and adjust it for new markets, if needed. Examples of creative briefs can be found online.
Successful branding requires alignment of branding components: the brand name, the name of its products and services, other pieces of the brand’s identity and the quality products and services. Successful branding translates into products and services that are:
- Easy to identify
- Provide optimum value for the price
- Widely available
Alan Dib, author of The 1-Page Marketing Plan, argues that new or small businesses benefit most from developing quality products and services and that they should not commit resources to building a brand until that is accomplished.
The brand name provides potential international customers with information about the service or product, and can help them form an immediate impression about the organization. When a brand name is carefully selected, it distinguishes an organization’s service or product from a competitor’s. As well, it can send out a strong message about the organization’s marketing position or corporate personality.
Ideally, a brand name should be:
- Short and simple
- Easy to spell, pronounce and remember
- Pronounceable in only one way
- Reflect the benefits of the product or service
- Suited to packaging and labelling or to any form of advertising
- Unlikely to become dated
- Legally available for use
International organizations take a variety of approaches to finding the right brand name. One approach is to simply invent a new word. Consider Kodak. Invented by founder George Eastman, the name Kodak (a word without a meaning) was deemed to be easy to pronounce and was non-offensive in the organization’s target markets.
Another strategy is to use a name that can be easily translated into different languages, such as Mr. Clean. Around the world, the iconic Mr. Clean character is known as Maestro Limpio in Mexico and Monsieur Propre in France.
The stakeholders involved in selecting the international brand name would benefit from the insights and guidance of individuals who are fluent in the international market’s language and culture.
The design of a logo consists of a logomark which is a symbol or mark (e.g. Nike’s well known “swoosh” symbol) and/or a logotype which is made up of words or the name of a business (e.g. Disney’s well-known logotype).
A logo is designed to create an identity. It is the product’s identifiable symbol used in conjunction with the brand name to gain recognition and differentiate it from similar products.
Popular brand logos are legally protected because they possess what is called brand equity, which is perceived quality and value. For instance, the Coca-Cola logo has high brand awareness and, therefore, high brand equity.
Protecting the Brand
With mainstream access to laser printers, scanners and computer graphics software, the ability to mass produce fake labels, trademarks and other brand-related documentation is widely available – even with limited budgets. These activities can rob legitimate brand owners of considerable revenue.
In this period of fast and easy duplication, there are a number of risks to a brand when organizations break into international markets. Intellectual property is especially vulnerable with some businesses forced to share trade secrets to remain viable. Organizations must be prepared to protect their brand to fully take advantage of the globalization of markets.
Brand collateral needs to be protected according to Intellectual Property (IP) laws of the source and target markets. The type of collateral that needs protection in the new international market typically includes trademarks, patents and Internet domain names.
During this procedure, the organization also ensures that the selected name and design do not infringe on the IP of existing brands.
Another way to protect the brand is to establish guidelines about how it is used. Brand guidelines are like an operator’s manual. The guidelines are created for anyone, internally or externally, who uses the brand’s collateral. The goal of the guidelines is to protect the image of the organization by promoting proper and consistent use of the brand identity.
Branding for new markets
Before entering a new foreign market, an organization must determine if its source brand is appropriate for the new target market and consider some key questions:
- Does the current brand suit the culture and its values?
- Is the image used in the logo offensive in any way?
- Does the wording of the slogan make sense?
Bring key stakeholders together to review these questions and determine if brand changes are needed. Stakeholders can include representatives from the executive marketing, sales and research and development teams, distributors, agents or hired consultants in the target market.
To be thorough, consider consulting a foreign agent or representative or working with a distributor or retailer based in and familiar with the needs of the foreign target market.
Research on the target market and audience as well existing competitor brands will generate data on laws, business practices and cultural traditions that will help determine if the brand will have a positive impact.
As globalization of the economy increases, some marketers believe that the best option is to build a global brand—one that is used in all markets.
The benefit of a global brand is that new products can be introduced and new markets opened at less cost. It also provides economies of scale. A global brand can be tailored for each local market through advertising, distribution, pricing purchasing experiences and after-sales support.