• David Hardy

4 Steps to Building a Successful International Brand

Updated: Feb 1, 2019

Your business is successful in your domestic market and has established its own brand. You think the products and services marketed under your brand have a wider appeal and want to move into international markets but are unsure about how to best achieve your goal. This blog describes 4 steps to conciser when defining a global strategy for international brand growth.

Think of the process as re-starting your business in each of the overseas territories in which you intend to operate. Many of the steps you took when you started your business in your domestic market are the same as you will need to take when opening a business in an overseas territory, with two major differences. Language and Culture.

You will need to ensure that your brand is successfully translated, in every sense of the word, into each of the overseas territories you intend to operate in to ensure you are locally relevant to the requirements of your new market.

The term "brand" as is often used to mean different things in different contexts. A brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organisation or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer. It is more than that. It is the reputation of the business behind the brand and what its products, services and people stand for.

In successful international brand, your goal is to build an international reputation for high quality products and service excellence. Reputations are hard earned and easily lost. Building a positive reputation involves a making a good first impression, for which there is not a second chance. This first impression is formed by the initial interaction someone has with your company, its products and services. A first impression can be formed face to face, by telephone, email, web, advertising, media, recommendation, and contact with your products or services. Your reputation among your existing and potential customers is built by additional exposure over time. This reputation is as much your brand as your company's name, logo or design style so that they are inextricably linked in the minds of your existing and potential customers.

Your reputation among your existing and potential customers is built by additional exposure over time. This reputation is as much your brand as your company's name, logo or design style so that they are inextricably linked in the minds of your existing and potential customers.
Mercedes Logo
Your company reputation is as much your brand as your logo is...

Do the basics first

Tempting as it may be to choose an overseas territory and dive into it, building a successful international brand requires that you first do your market research and prepare a business plan. Consumers in Greece have different needs to those in Ireland, so too will the needs of consumers in the new territory differ from those in your domestic market. It will benefit you greatly if you can find local resources to help you.

Start by asking yourself these questions in respect of each overseas territory your company intends to operate in:

  • How are my company's products and services relevant?

  • Who are my customers in this market, their demographics, their challenges and their needs?

  • Do my company's products and services make a difference in their lives? Do they enhance their life and lifestyle? Do they solve a requirement?

  • Is my company appropriate to its target customers in this market?

  • Who are my key competitors in this market and what channels do they sell through?

  • Is my company going about its business in the proper way culturally, legally, traditionally for this market?

  • How could the brand, content or approach of sales better suit the buyers in this market culturally?

  • Does my company stand out from the competition for the right reasons?

  • What makes my company unique in the minds of its prospective customers in this marketplace?

It is axiomatic that unless you can answer all the above questions positively, moving into that territory is likely to be unsuccessful. Next here are some suggestions and four steps to consider as part of the strategy and planning process around market growth, taking into account brand specifically:

Step #1. Is there is a demand for your company's products and services?

Proven success in your domestic market is no guarantee that your new target audience will connect in the same way with your products and services. You need to determine whether there is a market for your products and services. If there is a market, ascertain whether that need is not already being fully served by one or more potential competitors. If there are existing competitors what, in the minds of your potential customers, makes your company's products and services different from those of the competitors? If you decide that there is a need for your company's products and services, which is not being supplied by local competitors, find out why that is.

CCS can provide detailed global insights into potential markets, including demographic and economic trends. We also provide initial consultation free of charge. Available through the following link:

Step # 2. Ensure you can supply your product or provision of your service.

Make sure you can get your products to, or have them manufactured within, the new territory. Import and manufacturing regulations in the new territory may be different to those in your domestic market. Levies, taxes and import restrictions. Find out what they are. You must be certain that your products will be reliably and consistency available in the new territory. If you cannot, you risk damaging your brand and your company's reputation.

Check your identity

Step #3. Check your identity

Now that you have established that there is sufficient demand for your company's products or services, and you can reliably and consistently meet that demand, you need to turn your attention to your corporate identity.

You must ensure that your company and product names, style, packaging, and logo are relevant in your new market. In addition, you will need to check that there is not an existing business in the territory with the same, or a very similar name as your company. Even if there is, will you register a subsidiary company in the territory, work through an established re-seller, franchise or open a local office?

You must also ensure that your company's intellectual property rights are protected in the new territory. That may require you to register them in the new territory. Take advice from a local intellectual property lawyer or local government supported business support organisation and make the necessary registrations. This will be harder to achieve once you have already grown a market and have more competitors.

In particular:

  • Ensure that your product names make sense to the customers in your new markets. This includes both in their English form and in the local language. If necessary, rename your products to ensure that the product name is appropriate and relevant to the local market. Work with someone locally who can help ensure that your product name is correctly and effectively communicated to the local market. Someone with authority and domain knowledge.

  • Even if you speak the local language, hire a suitably qualified and experienced native speaker to translate and proof read your documents.

  • Ensure that your logo and any symbols you use have the same meaning in the new market as they do in your domestic market and do not cause offence. Use colours that are culturally appropriate to the new market.

Colours and packaging designed to make your product stand out in your domestic market may convey an incorrect meaning or may even be offensive in the new market. Take advice from a local marketing or design firm or trusted affiliate.

You may need to modify brand colours to suit certain markets

While packaging helps to differentiate your company's products, take care that it does not prevent proper merchandising. You should also ensure that your product labeling contains all the information required to be given by local regulations. These requirements may differ from territory to territory. Find out what the local standards are, and ensure your packaging contains all the any necessary regulatory information. Ensure that your labeling and packaging also meet local transportation requirements.

Step #4. Communicate & build awareness

Adjusting manner and tone for the culture...

The manner and tone in which you engage with your potential and new customers is as important as the words you use. It is important to adopt a tone appropriate to your market. Manner and tone will come across to customers through your packaging, advertising, website, through your sales people, and the way your company's phone is answered. What is acceptable in New York City may be inappropriate in Asia, or middle eastern countries. Use local resources to help you find and adopt a culturally appropriate tone and types of interaction for your new market.

Study the competition...

Study what the competition and other businesses are doing and note the tone of their communications. What may have seemed witty in your domestic market may be misunderstood or have no relevance in your new market.

Get specialist support...

CCS help with comprehensive whole-of-market, global reviews of potential new territories and we provide initial advice and proposals for free.

You may be looking to define a market opportunity in a specific country, or assess the best approach to international sales strategy. We are focused on business to business sales models and help to define the opportunity and use software tools to facilitate decision making, drive efficiency and grow sales.

You can book a consultation meeting at a time that best suits your diary here:

Relevant messaging...

The key to building brand awareness and sales is the same around the globe. It is to craft and communicate a message that is relevant to the needs and wants of your existing and potential customers. Ideally in a way that solves a need or challenge.. You must deliver your message:

  • In the places they are receptive to it;

  • In terms they can relate to and understand; and

  • Through the channels that will reach your potential customers.

If you did it thoroughly, the research you did in Step 1 should provide most of what you need to know to deliver your message successfully.

Online Presence...

You need to modify your online presence. While the suffix ".com" is universal, to be relevant to local customers in the new market, you may need to register a website with the new territory's domain, for example ".ru" for Russian Federation or ".th" for Thailand.

You will translate the local website into the local language and SEO will need to be replicated for each locality, both on and off-site, so including the work being done on blogs, guest posting, building back-links.

You must also be on the social media your target market uses. Therefore understanding trends and establishing new and correct social media platforms in each marketplace. As an example Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are banned in China... So you would be seeking to replicate appropriate social media content on the popular channels within this market - Sina Weibo (Twitter) Toudou Youku (YouTube) .etc.

You can also consider appointing a business translator to directly manage social media posting with cultural considerations, page translations blogging for you on a regular basis. This is a practical step as it consolidates costs and it's simple to budget - based on pricing per word or page...

Its possible to also find a translator with copy-writing or journalistic skills. Who can also help on appropriate content for your target market in each territory... Probably the subject for another blog!

In summary - some ideas to help plan new markets and build a brand in a way that is locally relevant and that creates a positive reputation for your company.

Build an international brand in a way that is locally relevant and that creates a positive reputation for your company

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