Branding Strategies on International Markets

When a company is planning to enter some international market and is looking for a suitable strategy to brand its products there, it’s always very important to appraise all the nuances in order to make the right decision. There are three possible variations of how to brand your products on the foreign market and you should choose one basic strategy which is most suitable in your particular case.

The strategy of international brand

Company operating in the international market don’t make a broad adaptation of its offers, brands and marketing to different local conditions. So, a brand, designed for domestic market is used on external markets in the same form. Such a strategy is suitable for companies whose brands and products are truly unique and they don’t face any serious competition on foreign markets. For example, Microsoft Corporation.

The strategy of global brand

Company that uses this strategy don’t adapt the concept of branding to possible national differences and use same brand name, logo and slogan all over the world (like Intel Corporation did at the beginning of its operation). Market proposal, brand positioning and communications are identical. So, everything is originally developed for the multinational audience. Branding operations standardization leads to significant economies in terms of investments needed.

The strategy of transnational brand

Company using this strategy develops individual concepts of branding for each of foreign markets it’s interested in. Not only brand name, but also market proposals and marketing events are specially adapted to local conditions. Nevertheless, the concept of corporate brand is quite visible and it works as a framework, which guides local adaptation. So, a brand can be positioned different ways and an appropriate price can be settled and trade policies used. High investments needed to match all local requirements, as well as the absence of benefits of standardization are negative aspects in this case.

Implementation of branding strategy involves certain difficulties. Constant adaptation is important because of changing conditions and dynamic development of the market. In addition, these three main strategies are hardly seen in their purest form in practice. In reality we are dealing with a lot of options and a wide variety of hybrid forms. Nevertheless, these strategies provide a good starting point and help to characterize a general direction of brand strategy.

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The Best Branding Strategy – Make a Real Connection

What is it that makes some brands connect so well with their audiences? We could learn something about building brands for organizations by also asking, What is it that makes some people connect so well with other people? In many ways, organizations are like individuals. Each has its own specific “fingerprint” — strengths, character, and personality — that makes it unique and recognizable. It’s how we get to know our friends and understand what it is about them that we like. In a world where no one has time to carefully weigh all available brand options, this fingerprint acts as shorthand to help us sort through the maze, a very real point of value at a time when it is increasingly difficult to tell one product or service from another. When an organization’s brand fingerprint is clearly defined and articulated so that customers, shareholders, distributors, employees, and partners consistently feel they “know” the organization and know what to expect from it, magic happens.

This is when high emotional engagement occurs. This is when “raving fans” and customer loyalty are created. This is when organizations gain sustainable competitive advantage. Discovering and communicating this brand fingerprint helps organizations bring strategic focus to the power of their brand — giving brands a meaningful and recognizable shorthand that helps cut through the noise and clutter to connect with people.

Brand fingerprint process

Following a process to help uncover the organization’s brand fingerprint will ensure that the intangible attributes assigned to the brand — assets like integrity and innovation — are translated into a visual, tangible representation to which audiences can relate. The process has two phases, strategy and visual translation. It works like this:

Phase I. Strategy

Step 1. Finding your brand values, character, and personality
Step 2. Understanding the competitive landscape
Step 3. Determining your position in the marketplace
Step 4. Developing your value proposition

Phase II. Visual Translation

Step 1. Developing the brand mood
Step 2. Determining the key brand elements
Step 3. Developing the brand roadmap

Phase I. Strategy

The strategy phase can be compared to traditional methods of brand development and is based on core values. The difference here is that the exercises used in the facilitated sessions with company decision makers are designed not only to uncover brand values and attributes, but to gather information in a way that it will be useful for development of the visual translation of the brand. Pairing the creative team with decision makers at the very beginning of brand strategy development is essential in gathering input that will be critical to visual translation.

This is important since experts say that 80% of what we learn comes to us visually, and customers will most likely see brands long before they understand the strategy. There are many benefits of considering how the brand will be communicated visually at the strategy stage. Some of these benefits include: – translation of intangible company assets and attributes into tangible representations that truly reflect the company’s core values – avoidance of possible disconnects when logos, websites, and print materials are developed – development of marketing materials that really communicate key messages – deeper understanding and long-term recall of brand messages by customer audiences – consistency of brand messages over time

Phase II: Visual Translation

The visual translation phase takes all of the information gathered in the strategy phase and translates it into a visual form that people can see and relate to — the visible brand fingerprint. A clear and accurate brand fingerprint can communicate assets like integrity, zero defects, and innovation and make them palpable. Visible. Understandable. Audiences will know at a glance “who” the organization is, what it is saying to them, and why they should buy, react, or be moved. And it will be real, it will be authentic, and it will stand the test of time — because what people see represents the synthesis of the brand strategy.

The benefits of developing the visual components of the brand directly from strategy exercises include:

– a brand mood that will communicate to customers on an emotional level, because the design is based on authentic aspects of the brand’s character and personality – because the mood is a direct translation of strategy jointly developed by company decision makers and creative team, there are no unpleasant surprises at the design stage – the main visual components of the brand will look and feel “real” and will become the pillars upon which other marketing materials will be built – there will be no need for new themes, visual approaches, or deviations from the established visual translation. Brand equity builds with consistency. This is a cost-effective benefit.

Brand communication

Being true to the organization’s authentic brand is how trust, loyalty, and sustainable relationships are developed between the organization and its audiences. Great graphics and cool animation aren’t effective if they don’t accurately communicate the company’s character or brand. Something’s amiss if the organization is not clear and consistent about how it is presenting itself in front of its publics. If the organization’s brand and its image are not aligned, “brand schizophrenia” occurs, which significantly affects the quality of the relationship and level of trust with valued audiences, including customers and employees. Both lose trust in companies when they don’t know what to expect. With brand strategy and visuals clearly articulated in a unique brand “fingerprint,” organizations can make a real connection with their audiences. Once established, this connection enables them to communicate compelling value, promote long-term recall of brand messages, and foster the trust, loyalty, and emotional attachment that sustain relationships.

Building Effective Brand Strategy Through Product Design

The world of product design is changing. For those companies intent on making products that are enthusiastically received and championed over time, it’s no longer enough to simply design them so they function well and are aesthetically pleasing. For a product to have stickiness in today’s market it must reach consumers on a deeper level.

Today’s new breed of product designers understand that the key to successful, long lasting products lies, not just in the look and feel of them, not just in the function of them, but in the entire experience, from the first contact in the store, to the product’s ultimate disposal. At every stage, the experience should be meaningful and positive for the consumer, fulfilling aspirations and emotions.

This trend in design, called “experience design”, underscores, at its most basic level, the folly of taking a reliable, aesthetically pleasing product and putting it in an aggressively sealed clam pack that’s nearly impossible to open. It looks askance at such brand killers as poor customer service, badly written instructions and missing peripherals, such as batteries or mounting screws.

Frustrating and angering the customer should never be part of the consumer experience at any level. Unfortunately, these negative touch points can occur anywhere, from misleading advertising, to poor merchandising, to difficulties in disposing of the product.

Accomplishing an effective brand experience means reaching across disciplines. The marketing manager must be on the same page with the product designer as well as the customer service manager, the supply chain manager, and the retailer; all parties must work in concert to achieve the same goal by the same brand strategy.

The brand strategy, the overarching plan to manage the consumer’s experience of the product is at the heart of experience design. But who conceives of and directs this strategy?

The most effective brand strategies flourish in the fertile soil of collaboration. The gardener of this soil is the corporate executive in charge of product development. But just as a good gardener will nurture the many different plants in his garden, giving them the light and nourishment they need to blossom, the good corporate brand strategist will recognize the talents and abilities of his team while marshalling them toward a common goal based on an agreed upon brand strategy.

Working in teams is essential to effective brand strategy, teams at every level. A more apt analogy may be to a league, a confederation of teams, a team of teams, working together to achieve a positive experience for the consumer with the product. There’s the marketing team, the merchandising team, the design team, the retailers, the shareholders, etc. If any one of these teams is not working effectively with the others the strategy bogs down.

This can present a significant challenge to the brand strategist, particularly when some of their teams are independent entities with their own agendas. So it is incumbent on the brand strategist to get complete buy-in from all his teams, which means communicating a coherent brand strategy, one with the power to move even the most stubborn holdout.

To accomplish this, the brand strategist should work with the design team to anchor the strategy in the firm bedrock of consumer experience. One needs to know how the consumer interacts with and feels about the product (or if the product is yet to be developed, similar products).

Today’s product design firms routinely call on anthropologists to observe and evaluate consumer interactions with their products to discover ways to improve them, to fulfill aspirations and connect with positive emotions. This is not done in a vacuum.

Traditional focus groups too often rely on a false environment, a corporate meeting room, a few words of advice, a video presentation, which does not observe the consumer interacting with the product in a natural way.

Anthropological field work – observing consumer interaction with the product in their own environment – tells a much deeper story. Imagine following the consumer through their first experience with a product, from finding a description of it online, to driving to the store, to searching the aisles for it, to purchasing it, unpacking it, assembling it and using it.

Were there any negative touch points? Did the online description create the proper aspirations and expectations? Was the store conveniently located? Was the product properly categorized and easy to find? Was the price right? Was the product easy to get out of the package? Were the instructions adequate? Did it come with the necessary peripherals? Did the appearance of it elicit positive associations? Was the function of it intuitive? Did it function according to expectations?

An anthropologist working with a design firm can get answers to these questions. Working with the corporate brand strategist, the design team can help devise ways to enhance the consumer experience at every level. They can make suggestions that can be picked up and analyzed by the marketing team, the merchandising team, and others, on the way to designing an overall brand strategy with the power to move all players.

So while the brand strategist will work with many teams in his effort to create his strategy, one of the first teams he will want to consult with is the design team. Product design in many cases becomes the catalyst to develop a coherent and powerful brand strategy.

Product design is so much more than it used to be. Today’s product design firms are working on a much broader canvas, incorporating the philosophy of experience design to help companies design products that connect with the consumer’s emotions and aspirations. After all, delighting the customer is the key to successful, long lasting products, and the way to a better bottom line.

A Branding Strategy Is More Than Just Looking Good

When hired as General Manager by the Chicago Cubs in 1981, George Dallas Green asserted at his opening press conference as well as every press conference thereafter that he was a baseball authority and expert. He spoke the truth. He played professional major league baseball for many years and managed major league teams for many years.

It wasn’t long before Chicago sportswriters, broadcasters, and local dignitaries came to label Green as an authority and expert on baseball. Newspaper articles routinely described him as a baseball expert or something similar.

What Dallas Green did back then was develop and implement a Branding Strategy. He positioned himself as not just one of the several major league baseball managers and general managers, but differentiated himself more so as an expert and an authority on baseball. He didn’t change his appearance. He didn’t need to be something other than what he was because his experience spoke for itself. It was a great branding marketing strategy at a time when the Cubs needed it.

Like the Cubs back then, today most small businesses need a great marketing strategy or business development plan to survive the economic ups and downs.

In my experience, a common consulting activity or action when addressing the business development needs of a small business involved connecting my client with an outside marketing or advertising agency. Usually, small businesses don’t have the resources or talent internally to provide the marketing needs or to develop the strategies required.

Typically, here’s how the process would go. Potential marketing or advertising agencies were invited to a fact finding and exploration meeting with the business owner, myself, and selected others. The outside agency would return in a week or so to present their plan. Virtually without exception, the strategy the outside agency would present was one of Branding or Re-Branding the client’s business.

Branding remains at top of the marketing and advertising buzz today. And rightfully so! Branding is a powerful and effective marketing process when designed and implemented properly.

However, after observing scores of Branding presentations by marketing and advertising firms, it is apparent to me that only a very few marketing and advertising firms really understand and know what a Branding Strategy is all about. In fact, most of the time the presentations I observed were not Branding Strategies at all, but more precisely Makeover Plans.

Sure the Branding Strategy may employ a new look, new logo, new colors, new tag lines, and so on. But the Branding Strategy needs to do more than change appearance.

The Branding Strategy translates the Company’s Vision and Goals into Strategic and Tactical actions and behaviors. New internal processes or procedures may be necessary. The Branding Strategy will establish and/or reinforce the Company’s Perception and Position in the marketplace.

Part of the Branding Strategy involves taking the Core Concepts and Core Competencies of a business and then identifying a singular concept, service, feature, or benefit that the business can claim that sets it apart from its competitors. That’s Competitors, not Alternatives.

There may be a number of alternatives for a person looking to replace the air conditioning unit, or to build an addition to the home, or to move to new home, or to replace the transmission, or to build a new deck. The alternatives range from the top quality and established brand name product and service providers to what is affectionately labeled as a Chuck in a Truck. The latter cannot be viewed as a competitor to a business that is among the former.

In most every market in the United States, there are usually about five or six established brand name product and service providers in each business category. Any one of the five or six would consider the others as true competitors. One of the primary objectives of the Branding Strategy must be more than to differentiate the company from its true competitors. The Branding Strategy must establish what separates the company from the others.

How? The Branding Strategy identifies or establishes a Singular Market Position that will separate the company from the others. The Singular Market Position or separation factor must be something tangible or concrete rather than abstract. Quality, Value, and Service are abstract, not really tangible or concrete. They are perceptions. More importantly, they are expectations particularly if the business is among the top providers.

Once the separation factor is determined or identified, then all the strategies and tactics associated with the marketing and promotion of the Branding Strategy will reinforce the Singular Market Position to everyone in the company’s Target Market. It is not just differentiation, but distinction and separation from the company’s competitors.

To illustrate, if the business is one of six short haul trucking companies in the market that is considered among the top alternatives, then most likely each company provides Quality, Value and Service. The six differentiate themselves by the color of their trucks. If one of the competitors has red trucks, the Branding Strategy surely would not be to have red trucks as well. So what could separate the company from the others? The answer usually comes from asking what the company does better or more often than the others. A look at the customer base may discover that the company has a number of electronics manufacturers or suppliers on the list. That discovery becomes the separation factor. The Branding Strategy centers on the claim that the company is the electronics products transportation experts of choice. The advertising and promotion programs reinforce the claim routinely.

Or, if the business is one of six residential roofing companies in the market that is considered among the top alternatives, then, like the truckers, each of the six provides Quality, Value, and Service as well as has different colored trucks and nifty logos. So what could separate the one from the others? Just like the truckers, the work history and customer base is likely to reveal what the company does the most and maybe more often than the others. So this company could be the clay tile roof experts, or singles and shakes roof experts, or metal roofs expert. That choice becomes the separation factor of the Branding Strategy. The advertising and promotion programs reinforce the claim routinely.

In short, the purpose or objective of the Branding Strategy is to alter the competitive arena in the company’s favor by setting the company apart from the others in its class, and then advertising and promoting the separating product or service until the message of the Brand is known and repeated by all who matter and more.

The Importance of Brand Strategy

What is a Brand? Put simply, it defines the identity of an organisation, product or service. It’s more than just names and logos. The identity needs to be based on a unique idea and told through a compelling story. It needs to connect with potential customers and form positive emotional bonds. The idea needs to be distinctive from the competition and relevant to the target markets worldview. It also needs to be authentic, meaning that it’s not enough to simply make empty claims. The organisation needs to actually live its brand.

Brands increase the value of products and services by differentiating them from the competition, creating positive mental associations and forming emotional relationships with the customer. Philip Kotler from the Kellogg School of Management famously said that “if you are not a brand, you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner.”

Competing on price may increase short-term sales, but is a dangerous strategy for anyone serious about building a profitable, sustainable business. Brands provide businesses with the means to free themselves from constant price competition, increase the value of their services, reduce their marketing costs and develop long-term customer loyalty.

Building a successful, sustainable brand requires careful planning and consistency. It needs a strategy. Brand strategy is the plan that defines defines the ideas and stories behind the brands, the structure and relationship of the brands within the organisation and the core identifying elements. These can include elements such as company and product names, tone of voice, logo’s, colour schemes etc. It also provides the framework for implementing the brands throughout the organisations operations and for using them to efficiently work towards the businesses goals. It’s not just a cosmetic exercise; it’s a key element of business strategy.

With a clear strategy in place, managers can make appropriate, co-ordinated, informed decisions not just in marketing, but in all departments from product development through to customer service and recruitment. This process of embodying the brand idea throughout the organisation is what we call branding.

The beauty of branding is that by telling your customers authentic, compelling stories, you not only make your goods more attractive and valuable, you give your customers something to talk about. Humans naturally love to tell and share stories. By giving them good stories to tell, you gain access to what is by far the cheapest and most effective form of promotion – word of mouth.

Few organisations manage to achieve the full benefits of word of mouth, and worse still, for many organisations it spreads more negative stories than positive. To compensate for a lack of positive word of mouth, organisations spend huge sums of money on ineffective marketing exercises. Without an effective brand strategy these exercises are often unfocussed, inconsistent and unauthentic. Consequently, they rarely pay for themselves, let alone make a profit.

So what is the role of marketing? To a large extent, branding is the antithesis of marketing. Branding is the most effective way of generating positive word of mouth, making it both cheaper and more effective than traditional marketing techniques.

Marketing without a clear brand strategy is a chaotic, costly exercise that in essence is little more than shouting and showing off about your products and services. People don’t like or trust show-offs. If you want to make an impact, you need to talk to them like grown ups. With exposure to thousands of marketing messages every day, consumers have become largely immune to meaningless promotional messages, filtering them out and filing them in their mental recycle bins.

However, there is still a place for marketing and in many cases, marketing is part of the branding process as it provides a means by which to spread the brand story. This explains why there is so much confusion regarding the difference between them. Marketing used to be about the promotion of products and services. Successful marketing now focuses on the promotion of brands.

If an organisation developed a perfect brand idea but did nothing to promote it, then no one would ever have heard about it. The story would never spread and the strategy would be unsuccessful. It’s therefore important to combine the strengths of both branding and marketing in order to reach your target market.

The most successful organisations combine a confident and forward thinking idea with a robust and organised strategy. They then use carefully targeted marketing to help get their story out. The success of their brands means that as time goes on, the need for formal marketing reduces and the effectiveness of any existing marketing increases, thus paving the way for increased profits and organisational growth.

In conclusion, brands are a key element of building profitable businesses with long-term sustainability. When executed well, they increase sales, add value to products and services and reduce marketing costs. They also give focus to a business, boost staff morale and increase share value.

Building successful brands is not simply a cosmetic exercise. They need to be consistent, true to the organisation and embodied throughout their activities. This is only possible when a clear brand strategy is in place to act as a framework for their implementation, and to ensure that they are always working towards the business goals. Marketing has its place as a tool for promoting brands, but once they have made a connection with the core of their target market, successful brands can sell themselves through word of mouth.