How to Build a Brand Internationally
Advice for small businesses on what it takes to build an international brand, such as crafting a universal message, increasing brand awareness, and registering and re-examining product names and trademarks.By Elizabeth Wasserman | Feb 1, 2010
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Forty years ago, there were only a handful of truly “global brands” and they were made up of only the biggest corporations — Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, IBM, Shell. Then a rash of upstarts came along, such as Nike, Microsoft, Apple, and Honda, and pushed their brand reputation further than their actual sales footprint. But now that barriers to international trade have come down and the Internet has helped small and mid-sized companies compete on the global stage, building an international brand is a realistic goal for more and more businesses.
“Only in the last 10 years has global business become the benchmark for how you do business these days,” says Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer for Landor Associates, a strategic brand and design consultancy that has worked on international branding with such companies as BP, Panasonic, and KFC. “Thanks to the Internet it’s hard to keep your brand just localized. Once you’re on the Web, you’re accessible pretty much anywhere in the world. It doesn’t necessarily make you a global brand but you have to be mindful of the implications.”
The following pages will detail what an international brand is, how to build a brand internationally, and how to build brand awareness in new international markets.
What a Global Brand Is
In starting a new business or seeking to increase growth at your current business by expanding into international markets, establishing and building a brand identity becomes essential.
Branding involves what people think about your business and your products. “Think of a brand as a reputation,” says Paul Williams, founder of the international marketing firm Idea Sandbox, which helps companies build their brands. “Building a reputation in any new market, including overseas, involves a first impression, which comes from the initial interactions someone has with your company, products, and services.”
Businesses can attempt to shape or form the branding of their company or products in many ways, including advertising, media, word-of-mouth, and contact with your products or services. A lot of thought and effort goes into branding, including naming products, designing logos, and ensuring that service is uniform throughout the business. Through continued exposure over time, your brand — or your reputation — is formed with potential and existing customers. “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,” Roth says.
The reason businesses spent time and money developing brand recognition is so that they can charge a premium for a product or service. People will pay more for a brand name product or service if it is recognized as a leader and a trusted brand and they know what they will get. Apple, for example, can charge more for its computers than some other companies because of its brand reputation for offering innovative design and quality electronics. The same can be said about Mercedes or BMW automobiles.
How to Build an International Brand
When businesses try to expand their brand globally, those goals don’t change. But there are several steps you should take to make sure that your products or services will have a market overseas, that you can maintain quality in delivering and/or distributing your goods or services, and that your business or product branding meets cultural expectations — and doesn’t insult anyone — in different parts of the world.
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