The Advanced Guide to Global Branding

Branding

Global branding graphic on various coloured shapes

Contents

25 min read

How you grow your business overseas, and in general, relies heavily on your global branding.

The benefits of global branding speak for themselves, but there’s still a lot to learn when it comes to positioning yourself as a top global brand and company.

We say ‘top company’ as the brands that break new ground in foreign lands tend to be those that go above and beyond to get there.

Having a great product or a great service will only get you so far.

To grow further:

You need to ensure your branding is on point if you’re to really break through and raise your brand to the highest level.

You don’t need us to tell you any of this if you run an aspiring business yourself. Still, it’s important to know the finer details.

We want to position your company for global success, and that starts by focusing on your global branding and brand appeal.

Let’s begin with a definition.

What is Global Branding?

The act of global branding involves growing your business internationally, entering new and exciting markets, and becoming a big player on a much larger stage.

Expanding into more countries means there are more people than ever before interacting with you, your business and your brand. Ultimately there are more people buying from, or looking to buy from you.

It means more growth too, as you’re forever pushing yourself beyond your country of origin.

And there are many new considerations you need to give to your brand as a result!

It’s one of the goals that many domestic businesses have, as they can see the benefits in expansion. Some products or services sell better overseas, and these brands know that, it’s why they spend endless amounts of money to break through on the big stage.

The problem is:

Many lack the ability to look within before they look outwards.

And building a global brand, starts by looking inwards at what you already have. Getting your foundation right is the first step in looking to grow a global brand.

People sat around talking about branding

Global Branding Challenges

To be a global brand is to be universal.

To be understood in every language or any culture, which is, easier said than done, posing multiple challenges to you as a result.

The challenges mostly come down to how brands think of branding as a whole. Most think of their brand as a pretty logo and a unique tone of voice.

In reality, that isn’t going to cut it. Especially when you’re looking to grow in overseas territories.

Your brand is everything that makes you, well, you.

So what makes up a brand then?

Your brand is everything from your brand strategy to your brand identity, to your marketing efforts and web presence.

Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Brand Strategy: The long term goals you have in mind for the brand and where you’d like it to be
  • Brand Identity: How you look and the messaging that accompanies to make you unique
  • Marketing: How you promote the brand outright and the channels you use to do it
  • Web Presence: The visibility of the brand online, covering everything from your website and blog, through to social media and video

Understand that branding is pretty intangible in its definition and just how we generally think about it, which explains why so many brands aren’t as clinical as they could be.

It’s something you know, feel, and never takes any time off because of how all-encompassing it is.

That’s branding in a nutshell. But what about global branding?

Well, it’s all of that, but rather than focusing on just your business and audience in one country, you’re thinking about it on a global scale.

Buyers in China are going to be very different from buyers in the USA. Global branding is how you take your brand’s foundation, and apply it successfully in all of your relevant markets.

Think about how hard it is for businesses to get their branding right in a single territory, let alone the entire world!

We’ll be asking you some questions on global branding a little later, for now, we hope this definition (as in what is global branding) is enough to get you looking at things from a new perspective.

A closeup of a globe

Why does Branding Matter on a Global Level?

If you’re asking yourself this question then you should be asking why branding matters, period.

The truth is, your business’ branding always matters.

It matters to the green grocer selling apples down the street to the businessman working out of the 50th floor. Without getting your branding right, global or otherwise, you’re simply just another business with no engaging qualities.

And if you want to grow your brand globally, you need to understand, uncover and build on your most engaging qualities.

Below you’ll find more reasons why branding matters on such a grander scale.

Builds Brand Recognition

Putting your brand in front of as many people as possible is a sure-fire way of increasing brand recognition.

How could it not if you’re doing the right things?

Brand recognition is more than a name too, it’s everything, everything from your logo design to the campaigns you attribute to your continued growth.

Growing brand recognition increases your visibility, putting you in the minds of your audience through and through. It essentially increases the likelihood of them reaching the bottom of your sales funnel.

Builds Likability of Your Brand

Likability leads to customer loyalty, and is probably going to generate more business for you overseas if you can communicate that well.

A lot of the time, showcasing likability involves effectively communicating your brand’s unique value proposition. Which is done by listening to consumer feedback and promoting it well.

Look at testimonials and user generated content on social for the perfect examples. This is where the majority of your audience will interact with you directly.

Try to think about the company from an outsider’s perspective, then ask yourself: what do you think of the message? Would you engage with it?

Anonymous customer reviews are yet another example, only they can be a lot more negative in contrast to the others we’ve mentioned.

Basically anything that puts an actual voice to what you’re promoting will go a long way in your global branding efforts. More so if you can monitor voices from the countries you’re building momentum in.

Doing so will inform you on what’s working well and room for future improvement.

When it comes to your global branding strategy, and global branding, generally. The brands that keep tabs on their audience will almost always rise to the top.

Builds Trust for Your Brand

Being likeable as a global brand comes with another benefit:

Trust.

Audiences that trust in you, the message, the marketing, and everything in between, are more likely to keep coming back to your brand. Or mention you to others, rather than turning to one of your competitors.

Trust has a lot to do with how much your audience knows about you.

Brands that keep everything they do close to the chest, rarely promoting any of the work they do, or the people/businesses they help, aren’t nearly as trusted.

Typically, you need to show examples of trust before others follow suit, which is where testimonials, reviews and sharing UGC come in real handy.

Two people high-fiving each other in a meeting

Branding Has Transferable Benefits

Building a solid branding base allows you to build on top of it to meet your global goals.

With a solid brand identity in place, you can begin to launch in new areas, fully knowing that what you’ve created up until this point already resonates with people.

Look at fast food companies like McDonalds, Taco Bell, Subway and Five Guys. All are companies that started out in one country before branching out and becoming these global powers.

Sure, the branding has changed over time, but the core messaging is mostly unchanged. The messaging is also universal, in that is isn’t limited by language barriers thanks to every aspect of the branding relaying the appropriate information.

And that’s not to say that this transition is an easy one.

A bigger audience requires a bigger branding effort all round if you’re to plant your flag in other parts of the world and have it stay there. This applies to every member of the team too, from marketing managers to interns.

Below you’ll find 8 important questions to consider when building a global business and how your branding fits into that.

Do you Already Have the Branding Basics in Place?

The basics play into what we were just talking about in terms of establishing a base. How strong your base is will typically determine how simple the transition is from being successful in one country to the next.

Most importantly, if you find that parts of your branding isn’t firing as intended, then you need to sort it out before you begin to build outwards.

Let’s begin with your brand strategy, as it’s your strategies that anchor/guide every decision you make.

Brand Strategy

Your brand strategy is super important to nail down as it details where you want the brand to go and the various steps needed to reach that end goal.

What your brand strategy will look like depends on the market you’re in and who you’re looking to target. Still, every brand strategy should look towards the future, at where you want to be long-term.

If your strategies are at all confusing to you or other members of the team — or the goals are far too unrealistic in your current state, then your strategy will need to be adjusted before you proceed.

Game pieces that spell out 'Who Are You'

Brand Identity

Your brand identity is everything that shapes the visual nature of the brand, be it the colours used, the designs, your logo, the messaging, your values etc.

The look and feel of what you’re presenting tends to be what audiences connect with and remember most. So you need to make sure that your identity is as solid as possible.

Also, could your messaging be interpreted as something else in another country? Is your logo free of any religious connotations?

These are the types of questions you need to be asking yourself.

Online Presence

Having a strong online presence is essential if you’re to become a global brand.

The easier it is for people to find you online, the better. Which is why you need to ensure your digital brand is as discoverable as possible. Your website, your social media, your blog, your videos. All of it needs to be perfected so that it connects with your target audience.

A website with 404 pages, social media posts with typos, and videos shot in the wrong aspect ratio. Things like this will need to be sorted ahead of time, so that there are no holes in your game.

Who are Your Customers?

Sure, most brands say they have global aspirations. But how many know whether or not there’s interest in what they’re offering exactly?

To be a global brand you need global customers.

Having a rough idea of who they are isn’t going to cut it. You need to have a deep understanding of who they are, where they come from, what they typically do in their spare time, etc. The more details you can outline, the better.

There’s multiple ways to identify global customers, with creating customer personas and performing analysis on your global competitors being two of the best.

Customer personas will help outline who your audiences are right down to their likes, dislikes and motivations. Effective buyer personas should be based on your existing target market, as well as your prospective customer.

Again, understanding what works already can be scaled to meet your global aspirations.

How do you Plan to Reach Them?

So you know who your customers are. Now you need to work out how to reach them. Reach them and get them to engage with you in the ways you want.

A difficult task indeed when you consider the number of unique markets there are out there, each with a very unique set of wants and needs. Look at B2B markets, for example.

Businesses looking to work with other businesses tend to look for a more intricate answer to the problems they might be facing.

This is where creative content such as blogs and ebooks can make a real difference, as you’re offering something of value, while indirectly marketing yourself right in front of your audience!

For brands looking to market themselves to individual customers, not all buyers are the same either. Globally, there’s a lot more to consider.

The marketing strategies that work well in the UK might not be as effective in MENA countries.

It’s something you need to plan for.

Multiple coloured pins on a world map

Who are your Global Competitors?

Three things are certain in life, death, taxes and you having competition in business. Only the number of competitors you have tends to multiple by hundreds, if not thousands, when building a global business.

And this is something you need to prepare for. Some of your competitors will already be higher than you on the pecking order, and that’s fine.

It’s fine because they’re essentially providing you a blueprint. One that outlines what works well and what doesn’t in appealing to the same audience!

What you learn from your global competition is almost priceless in that way, as it serves as a constant reference point for your own strategies and plans.

When studying the competition, make a note of:

  • The language used in the messaging
  • What strategies they use to market themselves
  • The type of content they create
  • What they post on their blog
  • Which keywords do they rank for
  • How active they are on social media

Things like this, you can take and repurpose for your own brand fully knowing that it works. Again, performing an audit on your competitors will also highlight the gaps in their own game.

Gaps that you then fill and benefit greatly from!

Studying what type of language your global competitors use is a big one. As this is one a lot of brands seem to struggle with.

Look at the language used in communications, on the website, and in any print media. Are they being overly simplistic? Or are they relying more on the visuals to carry the messaging?

Answering these questions will clue you in on how they overcome alienating any specific markets and cultures.

people pointing at a laptop

Global Branding: Where will your Brand be Visible?

Visibility is a key piece of the global branding puzzle.

We’d go as far as to say that it’s a lot more difficult to work out your brand touchpoints than it is to identify your customers.

There’s just so many options to pick and choose from in the modern day thanks to technology. And that’s without mentioning what physical options you still have available.

That being said, if you’ve studied your competitors correctly, and created your customer personas, then you should have a rough idea of how you can make your brand visible to a global audience.

Try to avoid choosing what you think might work. Your decisions should be backed by fact, not empirical data.

Ignoring that fact will only burn through your budgets and bring you no closer to global brand status.

Digital Media

You’ll always need to leverage some sort of digital media to reach your target customers. Having a website and accounts on relevant social media channels goes back to what we were saying about having a strong digital presence.

Remember, the easier you are to find, the better.

Under digital media, brands have multiple ways to reach audiences:

  • Website
  • Digital Advertising
  • Videos
  • Social Media
  • Content
  • Marketing Kit

Having a website and a presence on social media are more of a requirement than a suggestion. Think of digital advertising, videos, content and marketing kits as additional support that double down on your message, generating fresh leads in the process.

It’s safe to say that a large majority of your customers will discover your brand for the first time through a screen.

Even if they find you through traditional media, chances are they’ll still plug your name into Google to learn more.

Physical Media

You know that saying, “print isn’t dead”? Yeah, that applies to global branding too.

Digital media might be where brands are spending the majority of their budgets, but there’s still a place for physical media — or ‘traditional media’ as some refer to it as.

Traditional media is a one-way form of communication. Meaning it’s not nearly as trackable as digital media, a two-way form of communication. Still, what it lacks in data-capture it more than makes up for in impact.

Like with digital media, we’ve brought examples to help you reach your global audience:

  • Billboards
  • Print Adverts
  • Flyers
  • Brochures
  • Business Cards
  • Marketing Kit

Can’t decide which is best and have a large budget?

Try a hybrid approach where you mix the two together for maximum effectiveness.

You’ll still need to decide which will connect with your audience, of course. For example, not everyone will see an ad for your brand in a magazine compared to a billboard on a busy street.

When in doubt, revert back to your customer personas. They should help identify what the types of media they’d interact with, and which has a higher chance of influencing them to engage with you.

A world flag outside of a building

What Language and Geographical Considerations do you Need to Make?

Accommodating to foreign audiences simply comes with the territory if you’re to become a global brand.

Using regional slang words and phrases might work on a local level, but when you’re engaging a wider base, not everyone is going to get it. It might even be deemed offensive in certain cultures.

To avoid this, be sure to check the meaning behind certain words, phrases and images before you go sharing them with the world.

Not checking these things beforehand could damage your brand image and reputation permanently. Forcing you to either rebrand and start again or move on completely.

We should mention that the odd mistake won’t always come to such extremes. For example, one of KFC’s first attempts at launching in China resulted in their finger-lickin’ good” slogan being presented as “eat your fingers off” which many found to be quite funny, albeit confusing.

British English or American English

Here’s a language consideration that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it should be:

When communicating with your audience in a text-based format, will you be using British English or American English?

We’re a UK-based creative agency so we’re a little biased.

But you’d be surprised to learn how many brands use American English in an attempt to market themselves to American consumers and businesses. And the crazy thing is, it actually works.

Which you choose to run with will depend on a variety of factors, such as who you’re targeting, and the type of content you’re producing.

Opening a New Office in the Right Location

Have enough money in the bank and you’ll no doubt want to open ship in another location overseas. A natural reaction to have if you run a global brand on the rise.

Still, you wouldn’t just open this location anywhere, would you?

No, there are important factors to consider, such as:

  • How well you know the country
  • The cost of renting there
  • The cost of travelling there
  • The number of employees you have
  • If it’s a culture fit or not
  • The difference in time zones
  • If you have customers there

All are very important questions. After all, some countries will be a much better fit than others depending on the type of brand you are.

For example, cutting edge brands on the forefront of innovation typically open shop in city’s like Austin or Berlin. Areas known for its incubating success in the tech, IT and SaaS sector.

A digital clock in motion

Time Zones Can Interrupt Things

Another geography-based consideration is the varying time zones that will influence as and when you complete certain tasks.

Tasks that might include:

Speaking with international clients, or publishing content at certain times during the day.

There aren’t many ways to work around time differences. You just accept it and find ways to work around it.

Automating a lot of your work is one of the easiest ways to do it. Platforms like ActiveCampaign and Hootsuite are fantastic for scheduling things like newsletters and social media posts in advance.

For communicating with clients verbally, Zoom is always a viable option. Sure, you’ll need to arrange a time that suits both parties, but the fact that you can communicate this way at all is beneficial.

Global Branding: How Will you Maintain Consistency?

Getting to the top of that global mountain is a lot easier than staying there.

There’s value in maintaining consistency. For starters, it tells everyone that encounters your brand that you’re the real deal, a name that cares about making an impression.

Why else should you care about maintaining brand consistency?

That’s easy:

  • It clarifies what your brand stands for and your offering
  • It builds trust and familiarity between audience and brand
  • It gives any global teams a shared identity and direction
  • It grows brand equity against your global competitors
  • It prevents people from misinterpreting your brand

There are a few ways to maintain consistency as a global brand. Continue reading below to find out how you do this.

Outline Brand Guidelines to Follow

If your global branding strategy is as comprehensive as it should be, then you should already have a brand guidelines document handy.

Brand guidelines are great for getting everyone in the business on the right page. They also help define exactly what you want your company’s identity, vision and personality to be.

All of the following should be included within this document:

  • Brand Voice
  • Brand Colours
  • Brand Mission
  • Brand Logo Info

Referring to these guidelines ensures that the message is coming across loud and clear on a consistent basis. Every member of the team should have a copy of this document, especially new starters, who might not be as aware of these things.

When in doubt check the brand guidelines.

'This Must Be The Place' written in neon lights on a wall

Internal Branding is Important

Branding matters both internally and externally.

You see, brand consistency is more than a customer-oriented term. By making both your internal and external branding compatible, you ensure that your messages remain consistent and authentic.

You can strengthen internal branding in several ways.

You could align your onboarding/training programmes with your brand values to educate new employees on your goals. Or, if you want something a little simpler:

Embed the important aspects of the brand throughout your office via posters and signage.

Doing so will remind them that they’re all working towards something bigger!

You could take this a step further by actively encouraging your team to champion the brand on platforms such as LinkedIn. Them sharing content from your brand page will go a long way in establishing trust.

It shows your customers how committed you are. Plus, some of their connections or followers might see it and choose to engage with you!

Perform Regular Brand Audits

To maintain consistency, and confirm that your global branding strategy is firing on all fronts, you need to be running regular spot checks on the brand as a whole.

A brand audit looks at all aspects of your branding, both internal and external, outlining your strengths and/or weaknesses.

We won’t go into great detail on this as we have a blog on brand audits which you can read here.

Just know that performing these audits often will keep your brand fit and healthy, not to mention, consistent.

What Should you Look for in an Agency Partner?

To become a global business, sometimes you need a helping hand in the branding department. This is where a branding agency enters the picture.

Branding agencies will help strengthen the various aspects of your branding in-line-with who you are, what you believe in, and what you hope to achieve.

However, not every agency you come across will have the skills or the wherewithal to help set you up for success. Finding the right agency partner will make the world of difference.

Do they Practice what they Preach?

To find an agency partner that understands your wants and needs you first need to ensure that they can their output is up to set standard.

A global standard.

Get a good look at their website, their logo, their messaging, and their content. You can tell within the first 30 seconds whether or not they’re worth getting in touch with. An agency with a memorable visual identity, engaging content, and plenty of clients, are those you should want to work with.

Put it this way:

You wouldn’t ask an agency with a clunky website to create a website for your brand, would you?

Someone texting on their phone

Are they Easy to Get in Touch with?

Try messaging the agency, either through the site or through social media. See how they respond and pay attention to how long it takes for them to get back to you.

Doing this will give you a rough idea of how they communicate and how important your partnership is to them.

Another thing to note down is how much they understand you, your industry, and your global branding plans. Do they get where your brand is currently positioned and where you hope to go?

Because that’s a red flag if they don’t.

Have they Worked with Similar Brands?

Be sure to get a good look at the brands they’ve worked with in the past, the markets they operate in, and what they did for them. You can usually find information like this on an ‘Our Work‘ page.

Instagram is another way to find this sort of info, with most agencies using the social media platform as a defacto portfolio page.

Look at the quality of the work and assess. Doing so will give you a rough idea of what the final product will look like. Plus, it provides more insight on their approach, which can be tough to gauge without working with them outright.

It goes without saying, but an agency that only works with local businesses might not have the experience to meet your global branding expectations in the same way a global agency would.

Which brings us to our final point.

Are they Equally as Driven in Going Global?

If an agency truly gets you, it’s probably because they themselves are a global business.

How do you know if a branding agency is an international brand?

They’ll usually tell you on the site. Either directly, or indirectly via the brands they’ve already worked with.

Global agencies understand what it takes to operate on a much higher frequency. They know this first hand, having successfully implemented similar global branding strategies of their own.

The knowledge they have goes beyond that of other agencies. Which puts you in a prime position as you’re guaranteeing that the work will take you places.

Various country flags floating together

What are the Common Pitfalls to Global Branding?

It all sounds so simple, but there are still pitfalls to be aware of. Pitfalls that need to be navigated if you’re to gain global status and retain it for the foreseeable future.

Some of these pitfalls are easily avoided, such as making sure that your branding is on point before you begin implementing your global branding strategy.

Others, will require some adjustment.

Take not looking far enough in advance, for example, a pitfall that will limit your brand’s overall potential in front of a global audience.

Global Branding: Not Thinking Big Picture

For some, simply having global business status is enough.

These brands aren’t thinking about the long term once they’ve ‘made it.’ Not having a long-term goal, other than to be recognised on a global scale, will lead to problems further down the line.

Brands that make it to the top with no idea what to do next won’t stay there long.

What’s that saying, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’?

You need to be thinking about the bigger picture for the benefit of the brand as a whole. Doing so will keep you on the right track and teach you to approach any problems that appear with creative solutions.

Here’s why you need to think big picture:

  • It keeps the brand evolving
  • It outlines problems and solutions
  • It encourages you to be open-minded
  • It allows you to manage your time better

Thinking Everything’s the Same in Every Location

Another pitfall is where brands think that every market or individual is the same in every location. Sure, there might be similarities, but there are far too many variables for you to be so stubborn.

As mentioned, brands need to consider the barriers to entry. Language barriers and time differences matter, and should be considered when marketing your brand around the world.

Brand trust depends on it.

Remember, something that reads well in English might not have the same meaning in Mandarin, for example. You could offend your audiences, thus pushing them in the direction of a global competitor.

Moving Forward with Global Branding Faults

Branding is your foundation, the stronger it is, the easier you’ll find it is to connect with your audiences.

To find faults, perform a brand audit. Your audits will highlight areas for improvement in the brand, such as an outdated logo, or messaging that doesn’t reflect your brand values as well as it should.

Try to be as honest as possible when performing a brand audit, and make sure you provide action points to any faults you find.

By moving forward with faults in your branding, you leave holes in your business that a competitor will fill.

We can’t stress the importance of running a brand audit enough.

The Advanced Guide to Global Branding

Building a global business is no easy task, but getting your branding right from the get-go will go a long way in establishing that foundation. A foundation that you can constantly build on top of.

Understand that branding is but one piece of the global puzzle. Remember, branding is a lot more than you think. It’s everything from your identity to your marketing efforts.

To become a global brand you need to constantly be thinking about the big picture. Which is where a well defined and detailed global branding strategy will come in real handy.

This strategy will make sure the brand is consistent in the areas that matter, as you enter new markets. It will also outline how you can remain a threat to your competitors, regardless of the industry you operate in.

If you need help with your global branding strategy, or help with a logo that connects internationally, then look no further than Canny.

We’re a global agency that understands what it takes to operate on a much higher frequency. With our help, you’ll not only go global, you’ll also stay global for many years to come!

Let’s put your brand on the map.

Get in touch to find out more.