How to keep your brand and products relevant when expanding overseas
Taking a brand global is a big challenge for any business, but it will prove particularly difficult if you have not prepared for the move by researching your new markets and planning your strategy accordingly.
If your brand, messaging, imagery, product offering and other assets don’t feel relevant to the markets you are entering, your chances of success will diminish greatly. Consumers are unlikely to engage with and buy from businesses that seem alien to them.
With that in mind, here are some of the key priorities that must be remembered to stay relevant and maximise your chances of international success.
Know your market
It’s vital to have a solid understanding of any foreign market you plan to enter before going ahead with your expansion.
The initial research stage should cover local market characteristics that could have an impact on your company’s prospects for success, such as regional economic conditions, competition and seasonal trends.
Perhaps most importantly of all, you need to have a strong grasp of local consumer buying habits, demands and preferences.
To establish and maintain customer relationships, you need to give people what they want. However, consumer interests and priorities can vary greatly across regions, so you must be tuned in to what matters most to the citizens of the country you are entering.
A recent report from the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board highlighted how valuable it can be for businesses to understand the idiosyncrasies of particular markets.
Consumers in nine different countries were asked about what was most important to them when making food purchases. Quality emerged as the most important factor in seven nations, but in China and Japan, food safety was a bigger priority. This was linked to the fact that China has recently experienced a number of food safety scares, while some Japanese consumers have expressed concerns about the agricultural impact of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Food exporters that are aware of these local nuances will be in a stronger position to design, market, package and sell their products successfully.
This serves as an example of just how beneficial it can be for international businesses to know their target locations and customers well before taking products to market.
Get your language right
How you speak to your customers is absolutely vital in demonstrating that you have something worthwhile and useful to offer them, thereby creating the foundations for ongoing relationships.
If you are looking to earn engagement through relevance, you must be able to communicate in a way that feels familiar and natural to your customers. This is one of the first steps to earning trust, which is a key part of converting leads into sales.
Achieving these qualities when communicating in a foreign tongue can be extremely challenging, which is why it’s important to work with a specialist language partner who can provide the local know-how and expertise to tailor your messaging to particular markets.
With effectively localised content, you can feel confident of talking to your customers in a manner that is relevant not only to their local culture and way of speaking, but also to your brand tone of voice and the nature of the product you are selling.
Choose appropriate imagery
Language is a vital tool in your efforts to expand your brand and promote your products and services overseas, but to maximise the effectiveness of your words, it’s necessary to combine them with compelling imagery.
Visual content is a key part of marketing and branding because it has an instant impact on consumers and gives people something bold and distinctive to remember. Just like language, however, your images must be carefully chosen and presented to ensure they have the required impact but also feel relevant and appropriate.
If you are a cosmetics brand entering the Middle Eastern market, for example, there is little sense in sticking with visual assets featuring pale-skinned, light-haired people that you may have used to promote your products in Western countries.
Furthermore, it’s important to be sure that the images you are using are considered appropriate and will not cause any offence in nations where many people have strong religious beliefs.
Getting the combination of your words and your images right is a fundamental step towards establishing brand relevance and building trusting relationships with your customers.
Tailor your product offering
As well as giving close thought to how your business presents and promotes its customer offerings, you might need to think about the relevance and appeal of the products themselves.
One brand that has done this successfully is IKEA. The Swedish furniture retailer has earned global success by offering carefully curated, commercially viable product ranges in particular regions, while maintaining its core brand identity.
Similarly, Danish homewares brand Jysk has built up a network of more than 2,500 stores in approximately 50 countries. It recently entered the United Arab Emirates with a flagship store in Dubai, where it will need to shift its focus away from the heavy duvets and cosy blankets that helped it succeed in Scandinavia.
Getting your product offering right comes back to understanding your target markets and engaging with customers to develop a clear idea of what they want.
With these foundations in place and effective branding, communication and marketing methods to build on them, your business will be well set to make the most of opportunities on the international stage.
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