In this article, you will learn about the strategies that marketers use to build brand equity. But first, let’s discuss the difference between branding and marketing, and how they are related to each other.
It is a misconception that branding and marketing are the same thing. This is absolutely untrue.
Marketing is the act of promoting a product in order to earn revenue. Marketers push out a message, usually telling the consumer why their product is better than a competitor’s product.
Branding is completely different.
Branding should occur before a marketing strategy ever begins. Branding is not the act of pushing out a message. On the contrary, it is the pulling in of a message. It is listening to the consumer, and using that information to build a brand strategy.
A company’s brand strategy must be based on the goals of the company. Without brand strategy, the company will eventually fail. Brand strategy is the blueprint that explains the who, how, what, and when of how a company plans on communicating their product. The stronger the brand strategy, the higher brand equity that could result.
Developing a brand strategy usually follows the same steps.
1. Align the Brand With the Business Model.
2. Be Consistent…ALWAYS!
3. Connect Emotionally With the Consumer.
4. Reward Loyalty While Cultivating New Customers.
5. Measure Brand Strategy.
6. Remain Flexible.
7. Keep an Eye on Competitors.
Align The Brand With The Business Model
Remember what a brand is. The brand is not the product. It is not the logo, packaging, or company name. It is how a company’s consumers view the company, and it details how the company makes the consumer feel.
If one company is selling a particular product, the chances are that another company is selling the same product. The goal of branding is figuring out what makes one company’s product better than the other, and using the information to build the brand strategy.
Think of your favorite brands.
What message does the brand convey?
What do you want in a brand?
Louis Vuitton makes more than just handbags. They also sell clothing, shoes, and other accessories. They almost always sell out of all their products, as people are willing to buy whatever carries the Louis Vuitton label.
Because of the way Louis Vuitton positions itself in the market, they sell all of their products for prices much higher than comparable brands that have a lower level of brand equity.
Louis Vuitton = Luxury and Quality
That is their brand.
Let’s think of some other brands that equate to a specific feeling.
Apple = Well Designed and Innovative
Volvo = Safe
Walmart = Affordable
Do you understand how a brand aligns with a specific want or desire? That is the goal of aligning a brand with the company’s business model.
The message of the brand should completely overcome a marketing team. When developing a branding strategy, the team should eat, drink, and sleep that message. When discussing the brand’s message, ask whether or not the message still aligns with what the consumer wants from the company.
Louis Vuitton’s message is luxury.
Imagine if Louis Vuitton all of a sudden started selling inexpensive vinyl purses. What would happen to their message?
One season the company may want to describe its message as innovative and fun, but it still falls back on the overall message, which is luxury. To stay true to the brand, the company cannot veer from its original message.
A successful branding strategy can take years to be perfected. Once the brand message is established, use that message consistently over and over again. Think about your favorite brands; many of them have stood the test of time, which means the brand remained consistent through the years.
You don’t have to use the same words to convey the same message. But you do want to stay on message, while finding a way to remain relevant in the market. Remember, how does a brand want to be perceived by its customers? It takes a lot of work to retain existing customers, while also gaining new ones. So, ensure that the message stays consistent, which will keep the brand strategy current.
Connect Emotionally With The Consumer
If you had a choice of whether a consumer thinks about your brand rationally or emotionally, which would you choose?
You would choose emotionally.
Think about it. A rational customer walks into a Louis Vuitton store and asks to see the large Speedy Bag. She looks it over, looks at herself in the mirror holding it, and shows her friend the classic handbag. Then she says, “It is too expensive.” That is the rational customer.
In walks the emotional customer. She walks up to the counter and asks to see the same handbag. She also looks it over, looks at herself in the mirror, and shows it to her friend. Then she says, “I will take it! Even though I already have the smaller Speedy Handbag, I must have this one, as well!” That is the emotional customer, and I think we can agree that a company would prefer the emotional customer to the rational one.
Are there any brands that you are emotionally attached to? Will you buy that brand no matter what?
How do you justify paying more for a product just for its label?
Finding a way to connect to your customer on an emotional level is key. What does your brand say? Does it make the consumer feel safe? Does it make them feel glamorous? Learning this type of customer behavior is often done when the actual sales occur. Employees should ask customers how their brand makes them feel. On social media, the same questions can be asked. Learn how your customer perceives you, and capitalize on that feeling.
Reward Loyalty While Cultivating New Customers
Developing a brand that has a loyal customer base is a wonderful thing. But your brand cannot just sit on its laurels. It is time to reward these customers. Remember, these loyal customers will tell their friends and family about your brand, and they will discuss it on social media. Rewarding these customers will keep them coming back, which will result in more profits.
Louis Vuitton sends thank you notes to their customers.
Mercedes Benz gives free jackets with every car sold.
BMW gives each new owner a BMW branded key ring.
These types of rewards not only keep brand loyalty, it further markets the brand.
When considering a loyalty program, the brand has to consider both existing customers and new ones. Some companies offer discounts to new customers, not realizing they are failing to acknowledge their existing ones. These loyal customers could take this act as a slight, which would be very damaging to the brand.
Customers want to feel appreciated. When deciding on a loyalty program, keep existing customers in mind when you search for ways to attract new ones. Since you know existing customers already like your product, you must find a way to reward them for this loyalty.
Remember that loyalty = trust.
Customer loyalty is closely related to a humans need for emotion. People want to be loyal. Use this knowledge to your advantage by offering incentives for those who are loyal to your brand.
Measure Brand Strategy
A marketing team can produce an incredible brand strategy campaign, but without measuring its efficacy, no one will know whether the campaign was a success. As new campaigns are implemented, ROI must be measured. If ROI isn’t increasing, then the company hasn’t given the customer the proper message.
Return on Investment
Throughout the campaign process, the marketers must consistently monitor analytics. This includes online analytics, which can determine whether the brand is receiving good word of mouth. Have organic searches increased? Are more people talking about the brand, sharing it with their friends?
The three key metrics to measure brand strategy are:
Interaction – Are customers interacting with the brand? This could mean walking into a store, or clicking on a link. It is the first measurable step.
Engagement – How engaged are customers with the brand? Are they asking questions? Are they requesting additional information? This is the second measurable step.
Participation – This final step is the most important one. This one seals the deal. Participating means the customer wants to buy.
Marketers must always be flexible. Trends wax and wane, and if one is not flexible, they will be unable to ride the waves. Being flexible also allows the marketer to be creative.
Remember our earlier discussion of the Old Spice brand? We discussed how the brand was old and tired — a brand that no young man would want to wear. After all, who wants to smell like their grandfather?
Well, a marketing team was able to ride the waves and be creative, and by doing so, produced one of the most successful brand campaigns in recent history. Thinking out of the box really paid off.
Another great example of remaining flexible is the card game, “Cards Against Humanity.”
This product was definitely a risk. The tagline for the game is “a party game for horrible people.” Sounds pleasant, right?
The game itself was so incredibly simple. The product was a small black box, filled with the game cards. And the game itself is incredibly fun, and a great game to play with friends.
Much of the success of the game can be contributed to its brand positioning. Consider the brand positioning statement:
“Cards Against Humanity is a party game for horrible people. Unlike most of the party games you’ve played before, Cards Against Humanity is as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.”
How often do you see a brand openly insult its customers?
Well, in this case the risk paid off.
And the company continued to take risks, choosing to have some fun with its customers. On one Black Friday, Cards Against Humanity sent cow poop to over 30,000 customers.
And people paid for it!
On another Black Friday, they raised their prices by $5. Why not — right?
Cards Against Humanity is an excellent example of a brand strategy that is completely opposite what one might expect. By doing the unexpected, their gamble paid off.
Keep An Eye On Competitors
When you see competitors creeping up, use the opportunity to improve your brand’s strategy. Watch them. Learn what works for them, and what doesn’t. After all, you are in the same business; so what works for them, will probably work for you, as well.
For example, for many years American car companies ignored what their foreign counterparts were doing, and just built cars the way they had for years.
Then suddenly, the Honda Accord was the most popular car in America. And it was quickly followed by Toyota. These foreign car companies were manufacturing cars that were more fuel-efficient than their American counterparts, and proved to be a better value.
American car companies learned from this mistake, and started manufacturing fuel-efficient cars, as well.
So, what did you learn in this article?
1. You learned that branding is completely separate from marketing.
2. You learned that keeping a consistent message is key to brand strategy.
3. You learned that you would rather have an emotional customer than a rational one.
4. You learned that loyalty goes both ways, and that by rewarding customers, you will get loyalty in return.
Building a Global and International Brand
There are over seven billion people in the world, with English being the third most widely spoken language. That is a lot of people, and an enormous possible audience for a new global brand.
Once a brand has become a success domestically, it is time to investigate whether the brand could be launched internationally. A great deal of market research is required before taking on this enormous step; but it could result in a very successful global brand. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages, as with any branding strategy.
Before a decision can be made whether or not a brand should be launched globally, the marketing team must do their due diligence to determine whether the product could realistically be successful overseas. And overseas is a broad term, consisting of many different countries and types of consumers, as well as many different languages and cultures. Often global launches require some re-branding, in order to meet the exact wants and needs of the global consumer.
What types of brands do best globally? Take a look at the top global brands:
1. Apple – USA
2. Samsung – Korea
3. Google – USA
4. Microsoft – USA
5. Verizon – USA
6. AT&T – USA
7. Amazon.com – USA
8. GE – USA
9. China Mobile – China
10. Walmart – USA
Almost all of these brands are technology-based, as well as being American companies. But that doesn’t mean brands from other industries won’t be successful.
So, how does a company plan for a successful international brand launch?
Here are some of the top methods:
1. Research which markets have the most potential.
2. Learn about your target customer in these markets.
3. Determine your brand’s global voice.
4. Assess how your brand will perform globally.
5. Transfer brand values to new international employees.
6. Investigate international SEO practices.
7. Monitor the global brand.
Research Which Markets Have The Most Potential
This sounds obvious, but a comprehensive study must be done to determine which markets would be most open to the brand. What might be appropriate for one market could be totally inappropriate for another. It is often helpful to hire an international branding expert to help you better understand how a brand will fit in a particular country’s culture.
Market research must be able to spot any unique or under-served trends, how the brand will be able to differentiate itself in the global market, as well as the best way to position the brand.
Since a brand will need to cater to different countries, it is important the marketing team understands how each country will affect the brand’s market positioning. What makes a product a success in one country, might make in fail in another.
Marketers should take the time to visit all of their potential markets, and spend some time living and working in them. It will give them an opportunity to gain local contacts, as well as develop a greater understanding of the country, and how they conduct business.
For example, in Japanese culture, speaking the language isn’t enough; you must know how to conduct business the Japanese way. By living in a potential market, one can learn about the culture of the country, and be able to understand what might be seen as offensive.
It also gives the marketing team an opportunity to meet and develop local talent. If your brand wants to expand to Tokyo, you want to use the best talent possible. Many brands have failed overseas, because they see Americans as having a poor attitude, who immediately feel they are better than their global counterparts.
Most major global brands are American.
Which foreign brands do you use?
Are there any foreign brands that you trust more than an American brand?
Learn About Your Target Customer In These Markets
Who is the targeted global consumer? What are their needs and wants, and how do they compare to the needs and wants of the domestic consumer? What languages do they speak, and are their cultures willing to accept the brand?
Yes, this sounds easy. But as a marketer, you know the customer relationship is key; after all, they define the brand. Not all customers want the same thing. They all have different needs and wants, and the marketing team must be able to address those needs moving into the global market.
Have you ever traveled overseas and wished you could find certain American brands?
If so, which brands did you miss?
Since global markets have so many variables, it is nearly impossible to identify one single consumer profile. A brand wishing to expand must be willing to target multiple profiles for each of the different markets it wishes to expand in. The U.S.’s largest trading partners are Canada, Mexico, China, and Europe, but global branding expands into almost every country on the planet.
Depending on the product, a brand can reach a consumer almost anywhere in the world. This is dependent on local distribution channels, but as global companies grow, they can become large enough to establish their own distribution channels.
Make sure time is spent with new customers, and get to know them, just as you would with a domestic customer. Understand their needs, their environment, and most importantly, their challenges. Find out what their perceptions are of your brand, and use that information to guide your brand strategy.
Determine Your Brand’s Global Voice
A brand will have a voice, a domestic voice. Building on this voice, what would need to be changed to make it appropriate for the global market? Different languages and cultures often use different tones, and it is important to work with a global branding expert to ensure no offensive cultural mistakes are made.
How might an American product be marketed in an Asian country?
How might an American product be marketed in a Muslim country?
Assess How Your Brand Will Perform Globally
How will a brand perform globally? Meaning, take a look at the brand logo, colors and packaging, and determine whether or not it would be a match for the global market. Certain fonts might not be appropriate in other cultures. It is important to look at the brand through the eyes of the local population.
The name of the brand can be English, but all additional messages should be in the local language. Think of the largest global brands, such as Coke, Pepsi and Apple. They all are recognizable by their English name.
That said, marketers must remember that worldwide, it is estimated that only 27% of customers speak English. However, certain countries, such as South Korea, have an Internet access rate of 99%, with most shopping online frequently.
Transfer Brand Values To New International Employees
A business will want to transfer company values to their new international employees. Every person in the company, as well as the international chain, must be experienced and have the brand’s objectives in mind. New employees should know the global market well, and be able to assist with any language or cultural issue that arises. A company can work with international trade associations to find suitable people.
In the global marketplace, a company will work with many different people who often speak different languages and have different cultural ideas. Knowing this ahead of time is the best way to form trusting relationships. If possible, learn the local language, or at least some key words. Become knowledgeable about the local culture. It will help show that you have a commitment to them.
Investigate International SEO Practices
SEO in one country may be different than in another country. While Google is used in most countries, Asian countries often use a different one. The company website should be altered to better match the requirements of the target market. In order to prevent inoffensive content, a company must work with someone locally to ensure all local customs are respected and followed.
One of the easiest ways to identify which countries and languages have the most potential is by using keyword research.
Monitor The Global Brand
Once a brand has been launched, it must be monitored just how a domestic brand would be monitored. Social media should be used to engage with customers, and a transparent two-way communication policy should be used. When customers give comments, be sure to be responsive and open to recommendations.
Often the best way to learn about global brand expansion is to study case studies of companies and brands that have been successful with their global outreach.
One such company is Starbucks, which has over 21,000 stores in 65 different countries. Starbucks works because it is consistent. You can expect the same experience in London as you would in Perth. That is the ultimate in global branding. The same consumer is targeted in each country, which lends to this consistency. Starbucks places its focus on the upper scale segment of coffee drinkers, providing a comfortable experience, as opposed to a convenient one.
And no discussion of global branding can be without McDonald’s.
McDonald’s brand is all about the American way of life. Big Mac’s, French fries, and Coca-Cola scream USA, which is often desired overseas. Many cultures look up to America and try to emulate our behavior. So when McDonald’s decided to go global, they were welcomed with open arms.
At the same time, McDonald’s wanted to slightly adjust its brand to better suit the local markets and customs. They did this by offering local foods, but in the fast food model that made McDonald’s a household name.
In France, the McDonald’s serves the Croque McDo, which is Ham and Emmental cheese on toasted sweet bread.
In India, where they don’t eat beef, McDonald’s serves the McAloo Tikki Burger, a potato and chickpea patty, tomatoes, onions, and tomato mayonnaise.
In Israel, they serve the McKebab, a Kebab on flatbread.
By bowing to local flavors and customs, McDonald’s found a way to adapt to social norms, while retaining its global brand.
Coca-Cola is another American brand that has been incredibly successful globally. The Coca-Cola logo is one of the most recognizable in the world, and is now sold in more than 200 countries.
Coca-Cola maintains its consistency, using the same taste in every market. The only difference is that in the U.S., Coke is made with corn syrup. Overseas, Coke uses real sugar. But everything else, the logo, shape of the bottle, and the labeling are the same.
Globalization can be a very lucrative undertaking for many brands. However, dealing with those in foreign lands can often be a tricky endeavor. To be successful, the brand must find a way to adapt to foreign markets while keeping the brands message consistent.
So, what did you learn in this article?
1. You learned that what works in the U.S. may not work in other countries.
2. You learned in order to successfully launch a global brand, local customs must be understood and followed.
3. You learned that a brand’s global voice should be similar to its domestic voice.
4. You learned that global brands could be monitored the same way domestic products are, including through social media.