8 JUNE 2017

Local focus is essential for brands to succeed in global markets

Worldwide, we’re experiencing an unparalleled flow of goods and information than ever before.

While popular assumptions that brands must take a global view to succeed in international marketplaces prevail, the data shows exactly the opposite is true: for brands to truly make money globally, their approaches must be localized.

While it is surprising to some CMO’s that their brands should gear their efforts locally to support global growth, slipups from major international names (think Lancôme, IKEAFord amongst others) reveal just how important it is to ensure cultural alignment with target overseas customers and clients.

With BrandTravel™, localization is often misunderstood.  Believed to be merely the translation of texts from language and region to another, this narrow perspective hinders the more holistic view necessary as brands will otherwise miss the nuances of packaging, colour, pack size, brand name and other intellectual properties that will undermine their success if not considered.

There are countless examples of large corporates being lost-in-translation when it comes to their marketing campaigns.  Whether Pepsi spooking Chinese customers with their unintentional “bring your ancestors back from the dead” slogan, Clairol’s “manure” mist stick in the German market or even Starbucks’ initial failure to translate their Gingerbread Latte to Lebkuchen latte for their many German enthusiasts, cultural and communication failures are rampant as brands cross into foreign markets.

That’s not to say that some international brands don’t get it right.  Disney is an excellent example of a company that’s very intentional, such as with its new Shanghai resort, aiming to set the tone by blending Disney’s culture with local Chinese aspects.  These include offering traditional Chinese foods in its park restaurants, demonstrating Disney’s focus on making its park experience “authentically Disney” yet, “distinctly Chinese.”

McDonald’s is another organization that understands the value of localisation, offering its classic menu while offering distinct cultural food favourites within its regions throughout the world.  You won’t find a veggie burger at McDonald’s in the US, but there are several vegetarian options for the Indian market.

So what are the keys to success for brands expanding their footprint globally?

  • focus on localizing your communications and mindset
  • understand the nuances and context of the target culture
  • be prepared to try lots of experiments, as rapid prototyping helps derisk the localization

Companies stand to make huge sums from global markets when they check their assumptions that the world is like it is at home.  Challenging these will pay great dividends.

(Picture Credit: SAP.com)

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