How to Turn Your Local Company into an International Brand

September 8, 2015

in Plan Your Expansion

Authored by Zubin Mowlavi

Sponsored by Sage X3

How to Turn Your Local Company into an International Brand

Building a global brand requires more than just launching a new website, or finding a US distributor. It requires an understanding of your brand’s appeal, and how that appeal will be received in new markets.

In other words, what works in the UK might not work elsewhere. Especially in the US, which is one nation effectively comprised of 50 smaller nations, each with their own dialects, traditions, buying habits, and more.

But fret not—this is not a hurdle to overcome. Rather, it’s an opportunity to test the strength of your brand, your company, and your ability to broaden your scope to reach more audiences. Here’s how:

  1. Establish relevant brand positioning

Before you can consider expanding your current brand, you need to ensure you truly understand your competition and your competitive advantage. Start by asking the following questions:

  • Who are the providers of similar products and services that you sell in the UK?
  • Do these companies have a US presence?
  • What companies are leading your specific marketplace in the US?

For example, if you sell clothing, look at where people currently do most of this business online. It could be from specialty stores, online retailers, or sporting goods stores. If you have a high-end brand and plan on entering a market dominated by discount retailers, you may need to reconsider how you want your brand to be perceived on American shores.  

One example of a US brand shift is from retailer Mossimo Clothing. It launched in the late 1980s as a purveyor of street, urban and sport styles, but quickly expanded its line to include high-end business wear, formal wear, and more.

In the 1990s, Mossimo saw its profits dwindle, despite adding a wider range of items to its lineup. As a result, the company was forced to reevaluate its brand positioning. After striking a deal with major US big box retailer Target, Mossimo was repositioned as a mid-range, accessible clothing line for the masses.

Though it lost a significant portion of its higher-end business, the company received a tremendous boost from the exposure to more markets and demographics, both in the US and internationally.

  1. Find appropriate partnerships

Work with your attorney to protect your intellectual property, filing the appropriate trademark and patent protections in the US and elsewhere, if applicable. Find trade representatives who come recommended from colleagues or state or federal trade offices, since they’re more likely to be reputable.

If you decide to license your product or service name to a manufacturer or provider overseas, exercise tight controls to make sure that the provider is reputable and won’t misuse or misappropriate your name and will adhere to your quality control standards.

  1. Make sure your brand translates

Do you know why US automotive giant Chevrolet never sold its popular Nova model in Spanish-speaking countries? Because in Spanish, the name translates to “No Va”—roughly, “Doesn’t go.”

The same goes for Gerber baby food, which prominently features a cherubic infant on each of its packages. It’s an endearing way to promote your product in the UK and the US, to be sure. But in Africa, where companies put pictures of the product on its label, to account for different tribes and dialects, it was downright frightening.

Not exactly the basis for a winning marketing campaign, is it?

But, we make this extreme point to shed light on a much more grounded one. Sure, the US and UK share a mother tongue, but in the end, our idioms and myriad dialects can cause confusion for marketers, making universal branding a tricky task. In short, the name of your product in the UK might not be received as well in the US.

In addition to ensuring that your brand translates well, consider which colors are favored in various markets. In the US, blues and greens are favored, whereas reds and yellows are frequently used in some Latin American countries and may be appealing and familiar to audience members from those areas.

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