Gain Local Advantage by Globalizing your Brand

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As companies spend millions of dollars to ensure that their global brands are localized accurately and communicated effectively in different foreign languages for the markets they operate in, Nicholas Goh, CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd reveals that a more cost-effective option of localizing or creating market-specific brands may be open to the company, depending on its ultimate global brand strategy.

As companies spend millions of dollars to ensure that their global brands are localized accurately and communicated effectively in different foreign languages for the markets they operate in, Nicholas Goh, CEO of Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd reveals that a more cost-effective option of localizing or creating market-specific brands may be open to the company, depending on its ultimate global brand strategy.

Language is very often one of the first stumbling blocks for many cross-border businesses entering into new markets. A brand is a name used to identify and distinguish a specific business, product or service. Companies need to ensure that careful brand surveys are performed and that they communicate their brand values effectively in new markets, and yet maintain the consistency and essence of their brand image. In the world of content localization and translation, it may be easier said than done to localize a brand name, convey the same meaning, and not let it lose its originally-intended spirit.

It is even more challenging when we try to communicate a brand's emotional values in a foreign language. This requires getting across the brand's personality and positioning with precision, ensuring that we select the best use of words in the foreign languages. As studies have shown, consumers often make purchase decisions based on a product or service's emotional rather than functional values, conveying a product's or service's emotional values is arguably even more important than conveying its functional values. In addition, it is also critically important to take into account the local beliefs (taboos etc.), religions, trends and cultural context for new markets.

For example, in Japan, the numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky numbers. Buildings often do not have floors labelled fourth or ninth, and residents may even avoid the numbers in conversation. Why? Because the Japanese words for them sound a lot like their words for 'death' and 'pain'.

Similarly, in the Chinese culture, the colour Red is considered good luck and is often used as corporate colours for company logos, product packaging as well as brochures.

Brand Anew

As a business expands globally, maintaining brand consistency across markets may not guarantee desired results. At times, it may not be such a bad idea to localize an international brand altogether instead of relying on a 'passive' translation process. Renaming a brand to something specific to the local market can be a value-add process as it provides an opportunity to recast the brand in the new market, and create a unique global-local image that enhances the original brand equity.

Global corporations like Pepsi Co, Starbucks and Nestlé are already creating market-specific brands, and sometimes even products, to take advantage of local preference.

For example, Pepsi is Pecsi in Buenos Aires because "Pecsi" has been the regular order of its locals for decades. Starbucks had to change the name of their Gingerbread Latte in Germany to Lebkuchen Latte before it sold like hot cakes - the German name for the flavour of gingerbread is "lebkuchen". Nestlé, too, came up with 3-in-1 coffee for China to make it easier for Chinese consumers, who are mostly tea-drinkers, to try out Nestlé's coffee.

Intimate Advantages

Rebranding or introducing products based on market segmentation - not just between countries, but also by areas within large countries such as China - brings a host of advantages.

Brand Value and Identity

Rebranding, or localized products or services, gives the company an opportunity to design for its target audience. The process allows the company time to study its market, perhaps solicit for feedback through focus groups or surveys, and develop or modify its brand to suit the market complete with a go-to-market strategy.

1.    Shows the company cares enough to speak the local language.
2.    Allows greater product differentiation to meet local consumers' needs.
3.    Gains greater identity with the local audience

Production or Service Efficiency

Communicating brand values is just part of the challenge. With wider reach across different markets comes the need to localize corporate and marketing material, sales kits, packaging, manuals, etc. Market-specific rebranding, or product or service introduction, allows these materials to be developed in-market.

1.    Removes the need to provide product information in multiple languages.
2.    Allows addressing of local idiosyncrasies, and eliminates communication errors.
3.    Ensures proper usage and safe handling of products by local consumers.
4.    Lowers production costs, and reduces the need to launch service recovery campaigns.

Edge Over Home-grown Brands

All these local brand, product or service advantages ultimately strengthens the brand's competitiveness against local products or services.

Boost toward Success

While introducing localized products is easier to implement, changing a company's brand name is a huge undertaking. However, the change is worth considering if the company is to make a greater impact in local markets. The brand redefinition and repositioning could just be the initial and brightest spark that propels the company into quantum success.

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