By Kashif Naqshbandi
The moment you’re ready to expand your business is arguably one of the most exciting—and perhaps daunting—moments in your professional life. However, it’s one thing to have the resources necessary to go global, but to actually overcome the challenges that brings and achieve the kind of global success you need abroad is another matter entirely.
Whether you’re growing your presence regionally or gearing up to take your first steps on the international stage—and no matter how long you’ve been in business—one thing that remains certain is this: you need to maintain the brand voice and identity you’ve worked so hard to establish and build over time.
The challenges of going global
Keeping that unique voice consistent across regions and countries can be tricky, but this is essential if you want to expand your business without diluting your brand. From cultural differences to varying belief systems, different legal procedures to linguistic nuances, going global can be a real marketing minefield for any businesses expanding its operations.
So how can a business avoid these potential hurdles? It starts with awareness of the main challenges you’ll face along the way; accept and prepare for the fact that, just because your advertising was an undeniable hit at home, doesn’t mean it’ll be effective elsewhere in the world.
For example, when industry titan Procter & Gamble decided to start selling Pampers in Japan, the image of a stork delivering an infant was lost on its new audience. Why? That imagery and what it implies is part of U.S.—not Japanese—folklore. Rolling up your sleeves and doing the legwork early on in your expansion strategy will save you not only time and money, but a few faux pas too.
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How to maintain your brand voice
When it comes to crafting a truly successful brand, creating the right voice to reach and attract your audience is crucial. It’s essentially the personification of your brand—the distinctive way you want your brand to present itself not only to current and potential customers, but to the competition too. Before you decide to share your brand across the globe, you need to have absolute confidence in the strength of that brand voice. Here are a couple of key points to consider before pushing the big red button:
1. Review your customer personas
It’s wasteful to spend time and resources on curating a brand voice if you haven’t yet understood exactly who your ideal customer is and what they want from the brand. Enter, customer personas. If you’re up and running as a business, you should already have these firmly in place; when you’re thinking about expanding into foreign markets, take the time to review them to help you get to know your new audience.
To get started, ask the same type of questions you’d typically cover for domestic markets:
Demographics: This includes your ideal customer’s age, where they live, their income, and household size.
Expectations: Find out what customers want in terms of tone of voice, overall brand identity, and your product or service. If you don’t know what their expectations are, you won’t be able to meet them.
Goals: Think about what customers want to achieve and how your brand can help them achieve it.
2. Don’t get lost in translation
Real translation is about far more than word-for-word definitions; it’s about capturing the sense of what’s being said and expressing it in another language and appealing to a different culture. Translation hiccups can be a source of amusement for the entire internet, but there’s nothing funny about the damage this kind of blunder can do to your brand from a marketing and PR perspective, so invest in the talents of a strong native speaker right off the bat. This is one area where you don’t want to cut corners.
3. Have a unique voice
Consider bolstering your efforts by bringing an expert consultant on board who really understands the market, language, and culture you’re looking to expand into. You’ll need someone with an insider perspective to help you appreciate what kind of competition you’ll be up against, and set your brand apart from the crowd.
Ask yourself: Is your brand voice really unique? There are a few points to keep in mind here. First, think of three words that describe your brand. Do these keywords work in the context of the new markets you’re looking to break into? Do they carry the same meaning? Do they translate well? If you answer “I don’t know” to any of these, then return to your customer personas and take your research a little deeper.
4. Trust your regional teams
Nobody knows your global audience quite like the people you’ve got on the ground in those regions. Before you sign off on any fresh marketing efforts, talk to employees operating in-country. They’ll be able to flag any potential cultural issues before they actually become issues, and give you peace of mind before launching a brand or campaign. Ensure you get a diversity of opinions from your regional experts.
5. Lock it down
No matter how long you’ve been in business, it’s vital that you create guidelines to cement your brand’s identity and maintain consistency across all communications and customer touch points. When you’re addressing a global audience, it becomes doubly important. Create and continuously review a style guide that everyone in your organization has access to and that covers marketing across all your regions.
About the Author
Post by: Kashif Naqshbandi
Kashif Naqshbandi is Chief Marketing Officer at Nelson Frank and comes with over 20 years’ experience within the recruitment industry. He takes the lead on product brand marketing strategies including market development, candidate acquisition, client and lead generation, and customer experience.
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