For businesses across the world, branding is enormously powerful. It shapes the way a product or service is perceived and accepted in different markets and can make or break a business.
In my time working with large global companies, I’ve learned what makes good branding and how brand association differs across regions. It’s a subject where the rules are constantly developing, with consumer relationships and responses to brands shifting over the years.
What remains unchanged, however, is that building and maintaining a recognizable brand that evokes a positive emotional reaction among target audiences is hugely beneficial. The essential components of every brand include its identity – its visual representation – which usually revolves around a logo, tagline and top-line messaging about what the business is all about. In my own organization, we need to quickly explain to people that we are the ideal partner to help them hire someone anywhere in the world. This is strengthened by our brand image and as a result — how we are perceived based on people’s interactions with it.
Honesty is the best brand policy
You only need to look at any of today’s globally dominant brands, from Apple to Nike, to see how important they are to each success story and how protective every organization is of its brand.
Key to this process are the values people associate with each brand, the associations they are encouraged to make (success, wealth, beauty, style, giving back to others and to their local communities, etc.) and the way brands communicate their message. By investing in their brand, every business aims to maximize its equity, or the value they attach to it. A good way to think about it is to consider what value you attach to a branded product compared to the same product whose brand performs less well. A brand with strong equity will generally stand significantly above rivals.
Among today’s brand-conscious consumers, honesty and authenticity are increasingly important. While larger brands that set out to embody these qualities must live and breathe them day in and day out. If there is any damage done to a brand through poor leadership, larger organizations can often recover, however smaller businesses can face an existential crisis if their brands are tarnished in the eyes of their customers.
Companies often take professional, creative advice in developing and building their brands. In the early stages of development, it can be useful to ask customers and prospects for feedback. Why did they buy your product, for instance? What do they like (and dislike) about your brand?
Collecting this information can help businesses find their voice, iron out any rough edges in their brand positioning and go out into the world with confidence that their business, products and services will resonate with the stakeholders who will determine their success or failure. This can be a long and involved process, but there are many organizations out there who will testify to the value that investing in a brand can deliver.
Brands can face challenges when a business shifts from a domestic setting to the international stage. There are many organizations that have been hugely successful in their home markets with extremely strong brands that have subsequently failed quite spectacularly abroad. Brand alone is no guarantee of success. The likes of Target, Home Depot, Walmart, Best Buy and even Starbucks have either struggled to crack certain markets or had to withdraw entirely, despite having the advantage of well-established and recognizable brands.
For organizations with international ambitions, their approach should depend on what line of business they are in. Taking specialist, local advice is always an investment worth making and can protect brands from making serious and expensive mistakes from the outset. But whatever the market or message, processes such as customer feedback share similarities across many regions. Being able to talk to people from around the globe and see if a brand resonates in another country – or whether its message is lost in translation – can be hugely beneficial.
Despite the potential that exists to invest huge amounts of money on creating, building and maintaining a strong, effective brand, businesses that attach clear and genuine values to their proposition will almost always do better than those who operate behind a veneer of authenticity.