Why is Global Branding So Hard? And So Worth It?

Why is Global Branding So Hard? And So Worth It?
July 20, 2016
With Michael and Renato
Branding is one of the most common concepts in marketing, but it's also one of the hardest to define. And when you consider branding from a global perspective, it's even far more complex. In fact, there is no universal approach you can take to guarantee a successful global branding strategy. But the value and importance of a company's brand reputation--and its local voice, no matter where it's heard--are more than worth the effort involved in building a strong worldwide brand. Join Renato and Michael as they discuss ways global branding has changed in recent years--and ways it's also returned to its roots.
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Speaker Transcript
Renato Hi. I’m Renato Beninatto.
Michael And I’m Michael Stevens.
Renato Michael, let’s talk about brands.
Michael Let’s talk about brands. We mentioned it in the opening of the show and most people just nod and smile when they hear the word brand but I’ve been wondering, do we really know what a brand is and what we’re talking about here.
Renato A brand is a fascinating topic because everybody has an opinion about it.
Michael There are some phrases that go along with…yeah, yeah…
Renato But everybody has an opinion and there is no real right way of doing it and this is one of the challenges I’ve had working as a consultant over the years is that people approach us who work with these issues frequently ad they want, like, wat is the rule, what is the right approach, what is the right way of handling global branding. And it’s not that easy.
Michael Yeah and there are processes but even we get to the process and the ways people do it, what is a brand?
Renato I think that a concept that goes very well or is very close to branding is voice; it’s a combination of image and voice but since we deal with words the voice part is more important than the image. So, it has to do with perception, it has to do with emotion, it has to do with value. The big difference, the classic example is you go to the supermarket and you have side by side the store brand and the brand-brand and most of the people will buy the famous brand even though if you look at the label the manufacturer is the same, the number of the product, the SKU, is exactly the same.
Michael When I started my sales career I worked for a company in business machines, copiers is what we call them, literally came off the same manufacturing line as our competitor and we sold it for 30% more.
Renato You sold it for more?
Michael We sold it for more than our competitor because we had the brand name.
Renato Exactly. So, the thing with brand is it has that emotional aspect that you are part of a group. You can buy a Louis Vuitton bag in China, the real one from the same manufacturer, for a fraction of the price. I’m not talking about the fake Rolex or Lolex, I’m not talking about the imitation part, but if you look at the raw materials involved in creating a product and the value that the brand puts on top of that is fascinating.
Michael So, one of the definitions I’ve found here is it’s the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products; an effective brand strategy gives you a major edge in competitive markets.
Renato I always think of that alphabet with brands that they use the first letter of the brand, like you have the M for McDonalds or the Starbucks logo and you can show this to children who are not literate yet, who have not learned to read or write yet and they can spell the whole alphabet just by looking at the icons of the brands; it’s amazing. So, brand is very, very powerful and it affects us from a very, very early age.
Michael Yes. We’ve already mentioned two things about the power of brands. One of them is that it distinguishes you. So, the supermarket example you gave, where people are likely to buy your product if you have a stronger band. Second thing is you can charge more if you have a good brand.
Renato Absolutely, the value element. Perceived value; because it doesn’t make any difference if it is really more quality or less quality, if the product is the same you aggregate value to this perception of quality or perception of security and guarantee. When I was at Common Sense Advisory my partner, Don DePalma, wrote this report “Can’t Read Won’t Buy” and it was based on a survey that we did with people all over the world and one of the most common behaviors that we saw is that when it came to generic products, non-branded products translation was important because people wanted to know what they were buying. But, when it came to brands, the translation didn’t even need to be there sometimes because they trusted the brand so much.
Michael We’re in this age of global brands where you go to a lot of global cities, there’s a Starbucks in almost every one so you know you can get a particular type of coffee; there’s a value judgment whether you think that’s good or bad…
Renato It’s at all levels it’s Starbucks but it’s also the luxury brands. You go to the luxury neighborhood of any city, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aries, Paris, London, San Francisco, and you are going to find exactly the same stores there. But, that doesn’t apply only for the luxury part, it applies also even for this fast fashion, Zara, Agent M, and these are strong brands that have been able to become global, Uniqlo the Japanese brand, they’re global and they address the value expectations of people all over the market. But the question here for us is how does that affect our communications strategy, how does a global brand communicate with their global clients or global consumers?
Michael I’ve heard some companies say “we’re not a brand, we’re a culture. Therefore we create the content in English and then we just push it out, we’re less concerned about, we don’t want to be completely irrelevant and talk about holidays and the basics that don’t exist in places, but they’re not so concerned about really hitting people where they’re at as far as language goes, whereas other companies take different approaches.
Renato Yes. I think there is an element of pre-sales and after-sales when we talk about brand. So, the pre-sale part, what happens before the consumer buys your brand, communication is very relevant, perception is relevant.
Michael So, this is like getting spam emails, what are some pre-sales activities when you talk about that?
Renato Pre-sales is everything, it’s marketing, it’s advertising, it’s campaigns, it’s social media, email, any channel, so it’s everything that happens before the purchase. Anything that happens before the purchase has the attention of the corporations of the brands because this is what generates revenue; this is what is going to have an impact in the performance of the company.

Anything that is after sales, which is support, maintenance, repairs, client engagement, training, these are activities that have less budget, they’re not that important. After I got you in, you’re here to stay…
Michael You are kind of a cost to me now!
Renato Exactly. You go from an investment to a cost! So, this affects the global communication strategy in multiple ways. Here is where the buzz words in our environment come up, the concept of translation, transcreation, original content development, these are three different ways of addressing content depending on what is your strategy, what is your budget, and how you are going to…
Michael So, what are some of the things these companies do to have a successful brand?
Renato I started by saying that people expect that there is a right way of doing it. There is no right way of doing it so you can take different approaches in how you communicate. I like to look at things from a historical perspective. How did we do it before there was the Internet; how did we do it before there were computers? What is the source of global branding? If I go back a long, long time ago what happened is that you would have headquarters and the speed was totally different but you would have headquarters marketing define a concept, define a campaign, share this with the different local markets, send in brochures and things like that and each regional market, each local market would carry on their own strategy.
Michael I’ve heard them called geos sometimes; each geo has the …
Renato They would have their own… and by the way, we need to separate things here. First of all there is a completely different approach for consumer products than there is for business to business. In terms of consumer products, everything needs to be hyper-local, your McDonalds sandwiches are different in different markets. Your personal items like toothpaste…
Michael That’s a trend, too though that’s changed, as far as I understand, the story of McDonalds, when they entered China, they took years to enter China and when asked “why has it taken you so long to break into that market?” the manager of that region said “it’s because we need to teach them how to make potatoes”. And so I think there has been a shift where, now, you go into McDonalds somewhere else in the world and you see different sandwiches or different things but, originally, brands were just pushing everything out and saying “hey deal with it” whether we’re American, whether we’re coming to Europe to the US; that’s what makes us special, is we’re different.
Renato Yes, and you would see. But, originally, you would have local advertising companies that would be working with the international brands in the local markets to communicate locally. Today, advertising is owned by these three huge global conglomerates that own all the communication channels all over the world and you can seldom escape the cookie-cutter approach that is the same for everybody

So, what I wanted to share was this idea that at one point you say “okay, I will centralize marketing and we’re going to send the same message to everybody all over the world and we’re going to get this content that we create translated, it’s the website let’s translate the website. Then people say “well, translating doesn’t sound very natural; let’s do some transcreation; let’s adapt this content and have it re-written to be more salesy in the local market.”
Michael And the big difference as I understand to separate those two is translation you’re being true to the source and quality is gauged on did you get it grammatically correct, are the terms correct, is it the right grammar. Whereas, marketization or transcreation you leave the source.
Renato You convey the message. But then you can’t use translation memory; you can’t use the technology. It’s a conundrum. But, what I see now that is happening for certain verticals where the individual behavior, and this is the key element in defining a strategy, Michael, is: what is the behavior of the buyer? Does the behavior of the buyer vary by geography for my type of service? A good example is travel.

The way you consume travel for the Chinese, the Japanese, the American, the Canadian, the South American, the European, they are very different. The European has six to eight weeks of vacation a year, they see travel very differently from an American who has two weeks’ vacation and no money, so it’s a completely different buying behavior. And that affects how you communicate to people.
Michael And this relates to one of our previous podcasts because you can get the data, now, from customers to make good decisions. The one we did about hospitality.
Renato Absolutely. So the point that I wanted to make is that one of the trends I see is that we’re moving away from certain verticals, away from translation and transcreation into original content creation. So, we’re going back to basics, back to the root, the historical perspective.
Michael Because good content is good content.
Renato Good content is developed in the local language, locally. So, what we are seeing now is that some companies are building briefings at the headquarters “This is the spirit of the campaign; this is what we want to do” and then they deploy it to the markets and the markets create that content based on the briefing.
Michael Yes. There was an example I heard recently about Skybound Entertainment. These are they guys who created the Walking Dead and they have a new show coming out, I believe it’s called Five Years, or Four Years, one of the two, and it’s about the Apocalypse and they wrote the script in English and when they wanted to go global with it they actually just turned it over to the different regions and they’re re-writing this TV show for them.
Renato Well, TV is a fertile example. You have The Bridge, the Swedish/Danish drama, fantastic by the way if you haven’t seen it. So, it works very well in any border environment, but the original series is on a bridge between Sweden and Denmark, and where there is a lot of commonality between the two languages, so you have a language component in the drama, but then when they transpose that to the US it’s in the border between Mexico and the United States, or when they do it between England and France, they use the Chunnel.
Michael And so these companies that are really successful in brand are realizing good content is at the core; they’re creating that and they’re taking the data and driving the decisions of what gets created, where it gets created. For somebody who’s working on these projects, could it be a translator, could it be an editor, what’s key for them to keep in mind as they serve these clients?
Renato I think that first of all is understand the message that wants to be conveyed and what is the role of the content that you are preparing, I’m not going to say translate, transcreate…
Michael Whether it’s editing, whatever it is.
Renato One of the things, for example, if you look at a website, a very simple example, one of the classic things, there’s a big difference between the titles in a webpage and the paragraphs, the text. Why? Because usually the titles are calls to action, you read that first, and this is how you capture the interest of the reader to read the rest of the information. So, the way the effort you put in conveying the message of a title in a website must be harder, must be more focused and more meaningful than the effort that you put in the paragraph that is just below there. So, I know cases of clients that hire transcreators just to translate the titles, and they let regular translators translate the bulk of the text.

But one other approach that I wanted to mention is this concept of original content creation which is, like I said, back to basics, back to history. You let the local market have decision to the process again. And it reminds me of a book that I loved reading back in the ‘90s; it was called the Global Paradox by John Naisbitt. I think I mentioned it to you.
Michael Yes, and I dug up a quote for you from it. He said the bigger the world economy the more powerful its smallest players.
Renato Exactly. So, it’s called the Global Paradox. Some parts of the language industry are afraid there is going to be less translation…
Michael One language to rule them all. Speak English, or Chinese or…
Renato The paradox is that the more the economy is globalized, more people want to have information in their own language and this is why, sometimes, I struggle with the concept of why is Catalan so big in Spain; why do they want to secede from Spain if they are inside the European Union which is a bigger unit? But, again, you have your local identity, you want to go back and revert to your ancestral languages and behaviors and culture. So, as you said in the beginning, brand is about culture. So, a culture is something that is very local, is very passionate, it’s part of your core.
Michael Yes, and this phenomenon we definitely see content as core in it and the creation of content, and also there’s a bottom-up nature to it that it’s millions of individuals bringing about globalization and what the needs are when companies globalize; not companies dictating what people need.
Renato So let’s wrap this up by saying what is your main take away of this conversation, Michael?
Michael Good content is good content. If companies can get their best content out there by translating it, they’ll continue to do that in my belief. They may transcreate it, but the real winners are realizing creating it in-market and having an efficient cost-effective way to do it is really the way things are going. Your take-away should be different than mine, so it’s okay.
Renato So, I think that one of the key learnings in looking at global brands is that we don’t have a right way and one only way of doing things. There are different approaches, there are different strategies, there are different owners of the problem ,and there are different budget owners, so there is stuff that you can do for free; there is stuff that you can do that will cost you a lot of money. We did a show with Canva that is making marketing messaging very cheap, and it can be global, you can have multiple people, you can create a marketing campaign for your small company in a few minutes.
Michael A beautiful, beautiful piece you can make.
Renato And you can get that translated into as many languages as you want through different channels in the market. So, I think that the fantastic images that we have about brands and when we think about big brands and the ranking of brands like Apple and Exxon and McDonalds, the top brands in the world and the value that they have, they created this value by being able to sell locally everywhere in the world.
Michael Yes, and in the past that may have just been because of distribution, and now everyone has access to distribution, so how do you pull your brand out of the mix and be special with that? So, good. Thanks for listening. We’re glad to have you.

End of conversation

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