The Marketing Strategist:

Five Tips for Building a Multinational Brand

July 25, 2012

Successfully developing and implementing a multinational brand is hard work. But it is easier if you strive for simplicity and clarity in the messaging, take a local approach to implementing it across regions and divisions, and get your senior executives and employees to be active participants in living the brand. Here are five tips for successfully building a multinational brand:
  • Know the difference between reputation and brand. Reputation is a helpful lead-in to a discussion about brand, because both senior executives and younger employees, especially in services, understand reputation, whereas brand can be a bit abstract. However, the big difference between reputation and brand is that there’s nothing forward-looking in reputation; it’s based on what happened in the past. Reputation doesn’t tell the audience anything about what the company wants to be in the future. On the other hand, a well-developed brand offers a picture of how the company sees the future and what services it might offer to the customer. It’s a promise.
  • Keep the brand messages clear, simple, and consistent. A simple brand will ensure understanding and use across geographies and cultures. When the branding is so much about behavior, as it inevitably is in a people-based services organization, then a global rollout of the brand across many cultures is a terrifyingly complex project. If you have complex messaging on top of this, your branding will fail. Brand is one of those things where time spent upfront crafting it, crystallizing it, and working hard to make it simple is important. And it pays off enormously.
  • Get executive engagement and support. Members of the executive team have to do more than simply say they support the brand; they must display leadership and commitment in actively rolling it out. They have to understand the brand, talk about it, and make sure that employees also understand it. If you don’t build the messaging into the fabric of the organization, the value of your brand will be temporary.
  • Include employees in the process. For a services company, the employees are the brand; they deliver the brand messages. So making the brand about the employees is the most important first step in building a brand. To do this, you’ve got to be very clear about what the brand is and what it stands for. Then you have to include employees in the process; when they are included and feel ownership of the messaging, they are more likely to act as brand ambassadors.
  • Plan globally, implement locally. Certain elements of the brand must be centralized. For example, there clearly needs to be recognition across nations that this is one brand, but resident sensitivities and nuances must be recognized in the local deployment of the brand. There are a lot of marketers around the world who are driven by highly centralized marketing teams, but this approach rarely works in a services environment. You have to listen to what works locally and respect the local customers. For example, English is a very rich language and some attributes, when expressed in English as a single word, will not translate directly into many foreign languages. Therefore a phrase or explanation or even a story may be necessary to aid local understanding.
Even small changes can make a brand much more powerful locally. So put your feet on the ground in each location where you operate and listen to marketing, sales, and, most importantly, your customers. Read How to Successfully Build a Multinational Brand, Professional Services and Solutions, 2011 Brand Tracking Study, and How Business Themes Help Drive Revenue.

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