The importance of brand consistency when expanding your business overseas
Overrated marketing myth or champion for success?
Expanding a brand when a company is growing overseas can be problematic. A brand which has developed in one country will often have to be adapted to suit the new target market due to cultural, religious and commercial differences, whilst still retaining the brand vision. Consistency is key when it comes to creating an outstanding and well-recognised brand. The vision, values and mission of a brand need to be closely aligned with its execution in order to create a lasting impression on all customers.
One of the most common misconceptions about brand consistency is the belief that aesthetic concerns are all that matter: millions are spent each year on the styling of logos and the creation of marketing collateral such as presentations, leaflets, websites and business cards. However, it is crucial to focus a vast amount of time and thought on creating a distinct message which permeates throughout all branding. Clear, consistent communication which reflects the brand’s strategy is of paramount importance, as this will help not only to gain the attraction of potential customers but also to strengthen the trust of existing customers and promote brand loyalty. The experience business strategist Alexander Jutkowitz explained this point perfectly when he elaborated on why big brands including Apple have such impressive repeat business rates: “…because being a loyal fan of the brand reassures them that they are succeeding in being a certain kind of person. People expect convenience from a transaction, but what they crave is meaning.”[i]
Clients’ expectation of consistent and meaningful branding is spreading into the social sphere, too. Every little mishap or unsatisfying experience with a brand can inspire viral backlash with the potential to damn or even destroy a brand’s reputation. Many large companies have succeeded in avoiding this. Take for example McDonalds, who acknowledged the need for cultural adaptations when expanding in India, yet kept their unmistakeable branding and core values of offering great food and encouraging diversity at the heart of their expansion. They did so by adapting their standard menu, doing away with their signature beef products to offer Muslim and Hindi customers the vegetarian options and certified halal meats they demanded. A slightly less successful story comes courtesy of KFC when they expanded into China. Instead of adapting and translating their slogan “finger-lickin’ good” to suit the Chinese language and culture variations, they used a direct translation which read “Eat your fingers off”. This, of course, left a large proportion of the Chinese population confused and frightened and had a negative effect on their brand in China. This could have been easily prevented by using a professional translation agency.
These anecdotal successes and failures both go to show the importance of adapting your brand when expanding overseas, as well as how localising your materials and brand message for resident populations is key to preserving a brand’s image abroad. Language Service Providers play an important role in helping companies understand and target their new market, and can advise on how to ensure brand consistency in line with suitability to international expectations, cultures and values.
[i]Jutkowitz, A (2015 February 16) Marketing Is Dead, and Loyalty Killed It. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/02/marketing-is-dead-and-loyalty-killed-it
[ii] Image courtesy of EdgeThreeSixty under the following copyright license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/