Building a global brand? Here’s some things to consider when trying to keep it consistent the world over.

Your brand is what your customers say it is, and if you’re a global brand, what they say might be in different languages. The biggest challenge? Ensuring the essence of your brand doesn’t get lost in translation.

Consistency does the same thing for brands as it does for people – it builds trust. And even though you’ll never be able to 100% control what people say or think about your brand, consistency can help to influence their opinion. As there are more platforms, markets and audiences to cover than ever before, it’s all the more important that everyone in your team (whether internal, or a partner) knows your brand inside out and upside down (y’know, just in case they’re in Australia).

On its own, this task is already a chunk of a challenge, but it becomes even more of a challenge when the brand is present across different countries and platforms. Combined with the obvious language and cultural differences, brands are creating more marketing assets than ever before, which means there’s a bigger chance of inconstancies popping up across the globe. Different agencies, different interpretations, different individuals, different agendas, is it any wonder that consumers are in danger of seeing radically different brand presentation depending on where they live (or travel)?

Tony Effik, current Senior Vice President of Client Strategy and NBC Universal once said “A brand needs a single view of the world, a single philosophy.”


Breaking Down Borders

Of course, operating across different countries, with different social norms and cultures, often means that the creative that performs well in one country, might well fail in another. For example, the number four doesn’t really mean much here in the UK, but in China, it’s known to be extremely unlucky: This is because the pronunciation of four (四 – sì) sounds similar to the Chinese word for death (死 – sǐ). Who knew? This is even more of a challenge now that anything can be shared across the world thanks to this big swarming cloud we call the internet. The digital age has broken down the borders that previously meant, for example, an ad in Romania would only ever be seen there.

Keith Moor, Chief Marketing Officer at Santander has said, “We have a very clear global brand strategy that’s executed at a local level. To maximise more value, we capitalise on global things like brand consistency, brand identity and global sponsorship. If a product or a proposition works in one market, we’ll work out if it’s right for consumers in another market.”

It can be very tough to get and share insight into how all of the various creative assets are performing if the associated data is not freely available and fed into one central point for analysis. Having this one point for performance analysis, one that is not isolated but is accessible to every region, partner agency and relevant third party, means what works and where, can be readily identified. Whoever is involved in the creative work can communicate and work together based on the same information, hopefully making sure the quality of work is high and, importantly, consistent.

Aerial photographyIt’s Not All Data Driven

But the actual implementation of brand consistency can’t all be data driven. Data will help you to understand how the consumer reacts to different executions, but to maintain consistency, something more is needed.

A brand should have guidelines which outline the key features of the brand, including visual style and application, colours, tone of voice, values,and personality. These guidelines should always be used when creating marketing assets.

These guidelines should be as tight as possible (with a caveat, see below), leaving nothing for individual misinterpretation. Brand colours should be specified, tone of voice examples should be included and everything should be done to establish what is ‘on brand’, and what is not. But, there should be a balance. The guidelines should allow for people to tweak little things to suit their particular region or audience, there should be some room for ‘flex’, but all guided by the brand fundamentals.

A step on from brand guidelines is the inclusion of templates and best practice. These both provide advice and guidance in ‘real world’ situations, so whoever is using them understands the application. This helps to maintain consistency and also, cuts time when creating assets.

As organisations get bigger (and more complicated) it can often be beneficial to have someone, sometimes even a department, to be the nominated brand champion. This can be someone who is universally acknowledged as the owner of the brand, and oversees its application. This not only means there is a point of responsibility and ownership, but means everyone has somewhere to turn to get an approved answer.

For a lot of businesses, they manage to strike that fine balance between adapting to cultural changes, while still maintaining a look, feel and sound that’s true to who they are. With the right guidelines, people and internal structure – a brand can adapt across borders.

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Psst – down here! What are your thoughts on global brand consistency? Tweet us @madebrave.