International reach with localised relevance
Honestly – is there an international marketer out there who has not seen the necessity to build a truly global brand and yet allow it to have a local flavour? Surely not.
However, how do you decide what the right balance is? Moreover, how do you make it work, especially in the complex B2B environment? Important questions. Because if you get it wrong, you’ll end up with a global brand that is beautifully defined and designed, but not alive anywhere outside your headquarters. Alternatively, at the other extreme, you’ll see a wild mix of local interpretations which might work well in one specific geography but are confusing for anyone who looks at them from outside that territory. Which very likely happens in today’s integrated digitised world.
Where’s that perfect balance?
First, understand your target groups mindset:
- Do they look for international reference because their markets are globally oriented (such as Finance, IT) or is their focus on their own soil (e.g. Agriculture)?
- Are there big international events that play a significant role in that industry’s communication, or is it all regional and local?
- Are they happy to think and read in English or is the local language a must?
Then, consider the spread of different cultures:
- Is it a reasonably close-knit region like DACH (Germany, German-Speaking Switzerland, Austria)?
- Alternatively, do you go virtually anywhere around the world, from Bombay to Boston and Stockholm to Singapore?
Assess the skills and roles of the local teams on the client side:
- Are these subsidiaries staffed with salespeople who do Marketing communications on top of their „real“ duty? Or do you have full-time marketers who have the time and the priority to work with local partners to accurately adapt creative and content to local needs – while still understanding what needs to be maintained for global consistency?
- Is there a clear communicated approval structure for local implementation and a mutual understanding where the responsibilities are for Central and Local teams?
That exercise is a good foundation for any new significant branding and communication concepts. Campaign experience itself shows several essential points in the process of developing and implementing these:
- Make sure the project brief is built on insights and requirements from all relevant regions, but consolidate and prioritise it from a global perspective so that the agency team knows their must-haves and might-be in the objectives and deliverables.
- Get key regions to participate in a core team that decides on strategy and concepts – and let the other local groups know they are represented at Central decisions.
- Ensure the cultural acceptance at a very early stage. BBN’s Culture Check is a proven example: communication experts from around the world evaluate the idea shortlist for local understanding and potential issues. While this is not a representative market survey, it’s quick and easy – and alerts you to risks. Ask a German why “Silver Mist” as a liqueur would never appeal to them, or an American why the tagline “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” for a new line of vacuum cleaners was bound to fail and you know how crucial this step is.
- In the choice of channels and the budget allocations, listen to local specialists and their recommendations on how to reach their audiences. Keep in mind that fast-moving local content, Digital Advertising and PR needs to be managed and steered locally – but following a global strategy.
- When ready to implement, involve the local decision makers first: Present the concepts to them (if possible, share some decision-taking with them such as the choice of the final key visuals on a given creative idea).
- Make sure the local agency partners are on board and well-briefed on the campaign background, targets and priorities for regional roll-out. The more you rely on this global to local procedure, the more essential an international ‘lead’ and local agency set-up that guides the local agencies and ensures their work fits with the global strategy – in turn, taking much of the domestic communication rollout work off the shoulders of the client team.
Above and beyond all of this, a methodology like BBN’s Navigator that links all communication to the brand is vital. Because it secures consistency and regular contributions to your global brand capital across all individual campaigns – whether you choose to express it in Dollars, Yen or Euros.
This is an article from BBN’s Buzz Magazine on B2B marketing without borders.
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