For global content strategists and product leaders, ensuring brand effectiveness across multiple markets has always been a challenge. The digital age has made it more critical, considering the number of channels and borderless platforms where local customers can search for information, compare ranges of products or services and anticipate their experiences before making any final purchasing decision. The impact of branding messages and the overall success of brands have been determined, to a large extent, by how customers perceive and receive them.
Customers are in the driver seat to appreciate and rate the whole brand value eventually whereas marketers are in the passenger seat to guide and define branding efforts from the outset. Triggering locally authentic vibes among local audiences is a race against time as much as a journey throughout an ever-evolving variety of requirements. Creating and fueling local emotions with a global brand is the ultimate challenge of customer centricity in foreign markets considering all their differences, variances and dependencies. It is often a long and winding road where three major phases can be identified along the way as priority targets. These three phases can be viewed as the three Rs that each global brand effectiveness roadmap should incorporate, which is driven by linguistic, cultural, and functional relevance. The following milestones make global brand voices heard, listened to, understood, remembered, and stand out from the competition in local minds.
A global brand voice has to REACH (out to) local customers. When you have to initiate entry into a local market or accelerate growth you have to make your brand shine where it is most natural and intuitive for your customers. Your move must be determined by the minimum requirements that have to be met to connect and integrate your communications with the environment(s) and ecosystem(s) that are most convenient for your customers. A brand voice cannot even be considered if it skips this fairly transactional and sometimes technical phase. Using the channels where the attention of existing or soon-to-be local customers is most likely to be caught requires a decent investment in user research, understanding, and profiling. Your decisions in this area will influence a number of subsequent content related activities such as creation, translation, localization, certification, and delivery. Think about differences between developed and developing markets or between mobile-first and lightly-mobile countries. In all cases, the linguistic and cultural effectiveness of your local tone of brand voice will be tied to the immediate functional effectiveness of your content. Most importantly the centrally created content of your branding campaigns and marketing assets will have to be as scalable and adaptable as possible in order to fit nicely in all requested channels.
A global brand voice has to RESONATE with local customers once it navigates smoothly through the relevant environments and ecosystems. This milestone must be holistically aligned with local norms, standards, conventions, practices, and values which may vary greatly and quickly, also within some markets. It is a moment when a lack of linguistic and cultural effectiveness takes its toll as evidenced in the hall of fame or shame of global brand voices. The way you emphasize a product feature or attribute can meet the expectations or break the actual experience of local customers. For example, branding a car as “the best car on the market place” in each country will mean different things to different people according to what they praise as top-quality criteria. In Germany, the branding voice and marketing campaigns will highlight best-in-class robustness and safety while putting the focus on design and style for Italian customers will come first. Cultural diversity and granularity must be analyzed and addressed thoroughly, at scale, and in the light of product offerings, target audiences, and business objectives. This layer of cultural complexity comes into play in addition to linguistic effectiveness implying the language of customers has to be used at all times. It also proves that brand voices touching and moving customers locally must go beyond words and sometimes undergo an in-depth transformation to appeal to foreign customers. Such a significant transcreation process has recently brought up some controversy and mixed feelings in France. A few Bordeaux wines have been rebranded to better address the Chinese market by relabeling “Château Larteau” into “Château Lapin Impérial” (Imperial Rabbit) for instance. This change has been made merely for export purposes and to be more culturally in line with Chinese traditions and therefore more enticing for Chinese customers. Yet it has been the source of mixed feelings and emotions in France where wine brands are symbols of the national culture and history.
A global brand voice has to lead local customers to REACT. The end goal of marketing communications is to transform reach and resonance for local customers into reactions in the form of decisions and purchases. Reactions should be calls to action. The final milestone turns potential leads into actual customers when localized and tailored brand voices generate local vibes—or are fully immersed in them. Linguistic, cultural, and functional effectiveness must be deeply rooted in the delivered content whether it is a detailed product description, a contact form, or a payment application. Since reactions are expected to be emotional and personal, connections with your brand, at the very least, and hopefully a transactional and sustainable relationship nothing should be underestimated or missed to make local customers feel and act when and where it matters to them. Select words and visuals will make a difference across the board as they convey meanings, nuances, and actions that local customers should perceive without thinking and receive without hesitating. If you ignore best—or lawful—practices when collecting customer data, or offering payment modes, your previous efforts may not pay off. If you engage local customers for a purchase order with a tone that is too formal (or not enough) you may give what they need at some point in time but not how they really like or prefer it. They may still proceed but not come back if they find a better experience a few clicks away. Successful reactions are also about long term satisfaction.