Have Brand, Will Travel

I have had the opportunity to live on both coasts of the U.S. as well as two countries. Living away from where I grew up, I learned not all the comforts of home are available all the places you go. We all have our favorite local brands and can’t imagine living without them. Afterall a favorite restaurant or boutique store is part of what defines our identity and gives meaning to our everyday lives.

While living in Los Angeles, I was disappointed that Tastykakes were not (and are still not) available in California.  My favorite soft drink, Peach Snapple is not readily available in England.  Now back on this side of the pond, I miss some of the English brands such as Vimto, a mixed berry cordial and TM Lewin a men’s clothing store.

In today’s global economy with hyper connectivity most items can be ordered online, or at least that is the assumption. Further, I would argue most people think big brands are international and most are.

Brands have various reasons for deciding to expand to a new region or country, but what do they need to consider?

Here are three useful tips before launching into a new market.

  1. Consider the culture

    It is critical to know as much as possible about the new market or territory you are entering. What are the demographics? Who are the competitors? Are there customs or laws you need to consider? Is there a need to adjust your product?

    Just look at McDonald’s offerings around the globe. In America, a McCurry may not sound appealing, but in India it makes perfect sense.  Or a McLobster in Canada. This strategy doesn’t always work, as McDonald’s seems to have lost the battle in Greece where competitor Goodys has beaten them to the punch by offering a more local menu. To have an appeal in China, the Oreo brand created flavor innovations like green tea and vanilla ice cream.

    When going into markets where English is not the spoken language it is essential to understand what your name may mean or you could end up being lost in translation. When the ADA attempted to expand its successful “Got Milk?” campaign into Mexico, it instead accidentally asked “Are You Lactating?” Not sure the French would embrace Gerber’s baby food when it can translate to mean “vomit.” While Swedish vacuum maker Electrolux’s slogan translated to “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux.” Opps. Not sure Americans would embrace the Polish candy bar, Fartbar, even though in Polish it translates to “lucky bar.”

  2. Consider the audience

    In addition to the culture, you need to understand the people you are marketing to. People in different locales have different ways of consuming or interacting with brands. For example, Best Buy failed in Europe because consumers there preferred to shop at small stores rather than large ones.

    When eBay first tried to enter the Chinese market it was no match for China’s TaoBao as eBay failed to take note of Chinese customers’ preference to develop trust through their own interactions rather than acting on ratings from other users. TaoBao accomplished this through a seller’s online status and built-in instant messaging so customers could communicate easily and directly.

  3. Stay true to your brand

    While it may be important to account for differences in a culture or audience, it is even more important to stay true to your brand. While you may tweak products or services for different markets, preserving the essence of your brand is essential. If you focus on being consistent, you will maintain the integrity of your brand wherever you may go.