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Start Locally, Brand Globally

By Sonjui L. Kumar Email By Sonjui L. Kumar
August 2012
Start Locally, Brand Globally

Prior to the 1990s, there were only a handful of global brands, such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and IBM, to name a few. However, the Internet surge, along with the opening up of dozens of international markets in the last 15 years, has created an opportunity for even the smallest company to consider creating a global brand. Branding, in its simplest form, is recognition—recognition of your company and recognition of the products and services that you offer. Creating a recognizable brand gives you easier access to new markets and allows you to charge a premium for a better-known commodity. 

Most of the traditional global brands, such as Pepsi, Nike, and Starbucks, started locally but were then able to market themselves to Asia, Africa, and Europe just as effectively. Many technology companies now brand themselves internationally from inception, brands such as Facebook and Google. Here are some tips from the experts on how to go about making your business a global brand:
• Plan, plan, and then plan some more. Have a clear plan as to how your business will become well-known globally. Make sure there is a market for your goods or services at an international level. Establish the means for delivering those goods or services to those markets with the same quality and effectiveness. Identify the components of your business that will remain constant across borders and those that will vary. Understand that each market will have certain preferences and cultural peculiarities that will need to be researched and accommodated. Preferably, the plan should be laid out before your business begins entering each new market.
• Decide on a brand management system. You may want a centralized or local brand management system, or a combination of the two. Managing a brand locally can have many advantages, like allowing you to tap into local resources and cultures for brand recognition, and customizing of names, logos, and products for each market. However, a decentralized system can also result in the loss of a coherent message. Centralized brand management is certainly simpler operationally; however, the brand may never connect with local markets. For example, marketing a company that has been around for 25 years as old and established may work in the U.S., but Europeans would consider such a business to be a relative newcomer.
• Be vigilant. Maintaining an international brand requires a great deal more vigilance and awareness than maintaining a brand in one or two locations. External, as well as internal, factors can jeopardize the goodwill and resilience of a brand. If competition is a factor, a globally branded company must naturally monitor a greater number of markets with a wide variety of distribution channels. In Africa or Asia, a local presence may be needed to identify competitive brands that are not utilizing media outlets to advertise. It may also be necessary to establish monitoring systems that are unique to each market. Internal factors such as uniform delivery of goods and services is also an important component in maintaining a good global brand. In fact, a poorly run local operation can quickly damage a good brand.
• Review names and logos. Just like any other aspect of doing business internationally, make sure that brand names and logos are thoroughly vetted by locals before a full market release. The wrong meaning, sound, or colors can quickly doom the best of brands in a new environment. Also, make sure that your domain names and trademarks have been registered in all the markets in which you are doing business. 

The global markets offer increasing opportunities for all businesses. Creating a brand that is recognized in those markets is a process that requires planning and forethought to accomplish effectively. 

[Business Insights is hosted by the Law Firm of Kumar, Prabhu, Patel & Banerjee, LLC. Sonjui L. Kumar is a founding member and partner of the firm. Her areas of practice include general corporate law, complex commercial transactions, and trust and estate planning.]

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