Apple. Microsoft. Starbucks.
It seems that wherever you go, these brands have a strong presence and a large share of the consumer market. Although most companies start out in one country (or, on a micro level, in the founder’s garage), many have expanded to become some of the world’s most beloved brands.
The journey from garage to global success may have differed from company to company, but the most successful global brands have a common set of characteristics that take into consideration factors like local markets, a unique brand identity, and consistent, high-quality products and services.
Here’s a breakdown of each of these factors and how global brands can use them to succeed.
Connecting with the local audience
Localization can apply both to marketing and to the product itself. Think about how the menus at McDonald’s differ around the world.
In the U.S., McDonald’s is known for selling cheeseburgers such as the Big Mac. However, in India, out of respect for the country’s primary religions, McDonald’s offers veggie and chicken options instead of beef or pork. Similarly, in Korea, McDonald’s offers a bulgogi (Korean beef) burger and a shrimp burger to cater to consumer taste. Brands enjoy greater success on a global scale by adapting to what consumers in a certain country or region prefer.
When it comes to marketing, global brands adapt their campaigns to include the target audience’s language, as well as relevant images and graphics that reflect the audience’s demographics and geography. For example, a clothing retailer will use different fashion models for a campaign in China than it would for a campaign in the UK. Culturally-sensitive translations and localizations can establish a brand’s authority in a region and show that they’re taking their audience into consideration.
Earning the trust of a local audience helps a brand enhance both its local and global reputation, while increase word-of-mouth referrals on the ground.
Creating a unique brand identity
Brand identity is how a brand wants to be perceived by consumers. It may include the brand’s mission, visual elements such as logos, and the company’s value proposition.
For example, Toms Shoes is known for its generous item donations with every purchase and can connect with global consumers who appreciate that philanthropic mission. Apple has become synonymous with “innovation,” exemplified by its slogan “Think Different.” Cultivating these identities helps brands move beyond being just a product or service to become a lifestyle, a mission, or a movement that people want to be associated with.
In addition, many brand logos are recognizable around the world - an apple with a bite taken out of it (Apple), the golden arches (McDonald’s), and the “swoosh” (Nike), for example. Logos exist as a quick, visual identifier for the company, and the best logos for global brands have universal appeal. This is why many successful global brands have logos that rely on images rather than text.
Maintaining quality and consistency across all markets
As with localization, consistency should also occur at the product or marketing level. For example, when you book a room at a Hilton hotel, you expect a certain standard of service, quality, and cleanliness, no matter where the hotel is located. If you buy a Subaru, you expect the car to be the same in the US or in Germany as it is in Japan. And of course, an iPhone is an iPhone.
With marketing, maintaining the same visuals - color patterns, logos, and fonts - will make the brand consistent across different countries, even if there are some variations in translation and localization for the individual campaigns.
Another way to think about global brands is that they are brands with a conglomeration of local and regional audiences unified under one umbrella product or idea. A brand can successfully enter new markets, attract followers, and establish a global presence by balancing an integrated brand identity with respect and consideration for local markets.