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Is Your Brand Export Ready?

Can you simply take a blueprint and replicate homegrown success in a foreign marketplace? It can be done, however, you need to consider these critical points to keep you out of trouble.


See, Touch, Feel & Smell


You can only rely on the visual aspects of your brand so much. You have to consider the delivery of your product or service and examine the cultural aspects of that delivery.  


You’ll learn quickly that ‘branding’ is not all about pretty pictures, so don’t focus solely on your intangibles. Your tangible brand elements such as offices, showrooms, packaging design, salespeople, sales process, language style, use of humour and even scent are all crucial in your brand marketing.


Sorry Isn’t Good Enough


How we judge information is based on our cultural background, education and life experiences. What we perceive as high or low value in our market can be quite different in other countries. There’s no substitute for research. 

You need to get on the ground to ensure your brand will be positioned appropriately. First impressions still count and it will waste your energy and budget to apologise to either your investors or market after the fact.


Price Points & Piggybacking

The greatest threat to your success when launching in an international market is not being accepted at your target price point. You might have the right visual cues to indicate your price point, but without evidence to support that promise, are you worth the risk?


Luxury brands can command a particular price because they're associated with themes that people aspire to. You don’t have to be in the market for a Rolls-Royce to know its price or prestige.

Perceived value is the result of comparative value.


What are the local brands that you can develop alliances with or that can endorse you? Endorsements come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Consider product, celebrity and event endorsement. Even old brands that have had continued success over many decades continue to piggyback on other brands to maintain status. 


The decision for Rolex to sponsor Formula 1 is strategic and not something they’ve thought was ‘nice to do’. Red Bull has taken brand alignment and endorsement to another level. It’s perceived to be the leader in most categories of high adrenalin sports. Not bad for a carbonated beverage.


Do your homework and choose the best brand partnership options in your target market. Piggybacking on the credibility of a known brand is not a sign of weakness, it’s smart business.


Operational Culture: Lost in Translation?

An area of failure in the translation of a brand comes in the delivery of the product or service. Both the executive and marketing teams from the country of origin need to fully appreciate the markets they’re trading in. You can’t rely on the marketing strategy alone to sell in your country of export. 


Cultural differences may require you to adjust your administrative, operational and sales processes to trade smoothly. Marketing efforts will be futile if trust is lost in the delivery. Your brand is nothing without the support of appropriate day-to-day operations.


Naming & Nomenclature - Looking 10 Years & Beyond

Ensuring both the spelling and sound (pronunciation) of your trading and product names are a vital step in your export strategy. Ensure they’re not offensive or associated with something that will be detrimental.  


As part of your brand naming strategy will you need to align the sound and look of your name in accordance with your target price point and market position? For example does it need to evoke an image of luxury, technical capability or budget price? Will it need to sound friendly, assertive or take a middle ground?


Prepare for Growth

If you look at true international brands, particularly European automobile brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi - they use letter/number combinations to delineate models and price points. 

Their cars are marketed globally so they don’t have time to continually develop unique names that work in each export market. The other advantage in recycling model names is the easier management of intellectual property.


Plan for expansion at the outset to ensure growth is not hindered in any way.


The Four Indispensable Rules for Designing a USP for Export Markets


  1. Understand how the market ticks. What does the society value, what do they consider to be luxury, what do they consider to be budget? What do people value? The rule is never assume anything.

  2. You have to get on the ground and see for yourself. Understand the culture, the people and what they’re receptive to. The process you used to design your unique selling proposition in your country of origin needs to be applied to those markets you wish to export to.

  3. Divide by region and country, not by continent. When developing your strategy, you can’t ask ‘how will we market in Asia?‘  There are eleven countries in South East Asia alone, each with differing cultures, religions, histories and values. Get to know the particular countries and regions you’ll be operating in.

  4. Test your USP in your target markets. Just as you would run focus groups in your home market, you need to test your approach as best you can in your export market and make adjustments where you can prior to launch. You can’t expect perfection, however, you can make sure it’s a success if you prepare.



Three Critical Points for International Brand Management


  1. The key to effective export brand management is trusting that your local partners such as advertising agencies can translate your brand to suit the target environment.

  2. Traditional brand guidelines are not effective unless they clearly articulate your brand values, competitive difference and positioning objectives.

  3. Instead of trying to dictate what you presume will work, collaborate with your partners on how to translate your brand values into the different forms of marketing and advertising you need for that region and allow for cultural nuances.



© Hamish Chadwick 2015, All Rights Reserved.

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