Five Tips for Building a Global Brand
It’s official: emerging-market brands are going global. This is especially the case in fashion and technology, where consumer tastes and lifestyles change all the time.
Go to a beach in Thailand, and you’ll find Brazilian Havaianas flip-flops selling for eight times the price of a cheap local product.
Go to an upscale polo event in the UK, and you’ll see a lot of La Martina shirts from Argentina. In a few years’ time Kidzania from Mexico could be the next Disney, and Aigo from China could be the new Samsung. Perhaps another emerging-market brand will claim the biggest prize of all and become the new Apple.
Building a global brand is a tough business, and many companies from emerging markets will fail. Those that succeed will most probably stick to these five rules:
1] Have a clear product focus. Pretty much every great brand in the world bases its identity on a single product. With Coca-Cola it’s soft drinks. With McDonald’s it’s hamburgers. With Ferrari it’s cars. With Nespresso it’s coffee. All these brands have a super-sharp focus and a clear identity. Make too many different products, and the brand gets stretched too thin.
2] Make it different and meaningful. Great global brands stand out, and they make our lives easier, better and cheaper. Nobody wrote an e-mail one day to Steve Jobs saying they needed an iPhone or iPad. And very few business leaders ask themselves “What are my customer headaches?” But this is such a good question. Provide a product or service that solves a customer headache, and you’re on the right track.
3] Invest in communication. Companies don’t build global brands by being shy. They build awareness any way they can—via traditional marketing and advertising, social media and word of mouth. Celebrity endorsements help too. Havaianas shoes appear in the world’s top fashion shows, and members of the UK royal family wear La Martina shirts. So get the word out there—it’s no use having a wonderful product if nobody knows about it.
4] Innovate constantly. Innovation is what keeps a brand alive. Look at Li-Ning, the first Chinese company to make western-style sportswear, which has struggled to develop a global brand. It increased its prices, made a big push into the US and looked for celebrity endorsements, but did not invest enough in product innovation. And I’m not just talking about the product. Everything has to be refreshed all the time: pricing, advertising, communications and the whole business model behind the brand. Don’t become complacent!
5] Stay in touch with your customers and staff. This is absolutely crucial. Your brand is not what you think it is, it’s what your customers think it is. When Havaianas realized that sales fell dramatically if its flip-flops were made abroad, it opened a new plant in south-east Brazil. And listen to your staff, because they also have a big influence on the way your product is perceived. Think of them as ambassadors for your brand.
The next big global brands will come from companies that innovate, invest and show some guts. Most of all, these companies will pour all the emotion they can into their brands. Because consumers will respond to this emotion. And because without emotion, a brand is just a commoditized product.
Watching for the next big global brand over the next few years is going to be a lot of fun. Sure, we’ll still see plenty of top brands coming out of the US, western Europe and Japan. But as the global economy shifts toward emerging markets, we’ll see more global brands coming from these countries too.