THINKING ON A BICYCLE: Gearing your Brand Globally

By Jonte Goldwater

Whether you are a multinational or a recently funded startup, taking a brand across borders presents challenges, some shared, and some unique to your size, industry and funding round.

My background as a marketer with global spirits brands saw me entrenched, London-based, in some fairly large, established companies. Now, on the other side of the fence and back home in New Zealand, I see the other side of the equation. It’s a perspective that’s been made all the better through our work with start ups and businesses on the cusp of explosive growth.

The Kiwi factor, combined with the realities of the market in today’s climate and the massive changes in technology and consumer behaviour make for a different kind of beast when it comes to brands going global. But what I learned in my years as a corporate critter remains foundational; when it comes to setting up a strong brand there is nothing more important than gearing a system to manage your brand assets; in effect, your crown jewels.

So here’s my list of the must-haves to make a brand sing the the world over…

  1. A brand DNA and portfolio blueprint that everyone, in all markets, understand.
  2. Practical guidelines around the user of assets that are pressure tested across the full experience spectrum.
  3. Consideration and thought have gone into the different stakeholders that will interact with the brand so that the right tools and formats are developed to enable specific users.
  4. A clear plan on control vs flexibility; the balance between what’s centralised and what isn’t is an important one, and needs to be reflected in local agency set up, distribution strategies, pricing, data and A&P models.
  5. A deliberate and carefully managed market development strategy, usually focusing on cities rather than entire countries, with set timeframes against measurable success metrics.
Get your brand story, purpose and DNA locked in and written down. Invest in brand guidelines and a brand governance process so that no matter the country, your brand talks and looks the same.

Looking at this list you might think this is a bit beyond your grasp if you’re a small but rapidly growing business. And in many cases you’d be right – it demands a global team, with loads of support and loads of experience.

So what do you do if the global team is you and funds are stretched as it is? When you need some solid runs on the board to get to that next round of funding, or you have any number of priorities pressing on the purse?

The first cab of the rank for me, before any funding round, is the establishment of a qualified and diverse board or advisory group with a track record in both your industry and the growth of a global brand.

The next is the establishment of a clear business plan that links your ‘size of prize’ opportunity to your growth funding runway. Your cost of CAPEX and OPEX linked to your growth rate is a critical consideration which will direct your market development strategy. To enter a significant international market and enable the right channels to sell your product you might need a giant factory to make the stuff at the volumes required. That costs a lot of money and comes with a lot of risks. You probably don’t want to do that.

From a brand perspective, there are a few things that you can do early on to safeguard yourself further down the track. Get your brand story, purpose and DNA locked in and written down. Invest in brand guidelines and a brand governance process so that no matter the country, your brand talks and looks the same.

Invest in your data-stack and your performance marketing planning.

And most importantly, appoint one global brand agency who can safeguard and partner you to ensure that every team, in every country stays true to the magic that was set up in the first place.

Then be ready to be the brand police, because everyone will want to change it pleading market uniqueness. So my last tip would be to buckle up. The ride’s a long but fruitful one!