International Business Strategies

Brand Consistency Online: Reaching a Global Audience

As companies expand into global markets, they're quickly confronted with the marketing challenge of brand consistency.

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September 30, 2016


As companies expand into global markets, they’re quickly confronted with the marketing challenge of brand consistency.

Questions abound for these companies. Can a brand maintain its personality and integrity—critical ingredients that were likely forged in a Western, English-speaking market—when entering foreign countries and serving new customers? How do nuances such as language and culture impact the communication and perception of that identity? Are slogans and iconography best left “universal” and leveraged worldwide, or should variations exist, depending on the market?

Brands must be flexible, particularly in global markets. They must swiftly adapt to dynamic market conditions, clearly present their differentiating characteristics from local competitors, and be consistent enough to be recognizable to consumers no matter where they might be—online or off.

A Tricky Balancing Act

Marketers have long advocated for well-managed brand consistency across global markets. In fact, McKinsey & Company research suggests that brands that embrace this strategy are 20% more successful than those that don’t.

Why? Ultimately, it comes down to consumer comfort. As global content distribution company Mimeo recently wrote, “When penetrating markets new and old, the value of a strong brand identity is immeasurable. It communicates an immediate subconscious trust in your products, which can positively impact conversions.”

This isn’t easy to achieve—even for a Top 20 Fortune Global 500 company like General Motors. As Tim Mahoney, CMO of Global Chevrolet and Global Marketing Operations Leader at GM, recently told Forbes:

“One of the biggest challenges I’ve had is steering a global brand like Chevrolet and making sure the brand is both relevant and consistent across the 115 countries where we operate,” Mahoney said. He later added: “This is a balancing act because you want to be as consistent as possible while also being locally relevant. … (K)nowing when to shift between the two is critically important.”

On one hand, brands that are “dogmatic” about brand consistency won’t optimize their sales in some markets because they won’t have local relevancy, Mahoney explained. On the other hand, brands that allow “too much local adaption” become increasingly difficult to recognize from market to market, he said.

Brand Consistency: MotionPoint’s Approach

For more than 15 years, MotionPoint has collaborated with hundreds of companies to help them enter new markets in ways that preserve the integrity and verve of their brands, while engaging local consumers in culturally-authentic ways. We start by proving online experiences and offline content for these international shoppers in their languages of choice. (Check out our blog to discover what to look for when hiring a reputable website translation partner.) But we don’t stop with website translation.

MotionPoint’s technology and processes were built to ensure brand consistency across a company’s entire global online experience, in whichever languages they choose. One of the most important ways we do this is by creating and maintaining a brand glossary, or a repository of a company’s preferred brand-related translations and translated creative copywriting.

We also maintain dedicated translation teams. These professionals, who remain with our customers’ projects for months (or years) on end, ensure that a brand’s content and marketing messaging is consistently and accurately presented across all global websites, in all languages. This is a compelling differentiator within our industry.

However, as GM’s Tim Mahoney mentioned, companies must strike a delicate balance between consistency and customization to maximize returns in global markets. MotionPoint accommodates this need by offering powerful solutions that allow for a company’s local marketing teams (or other collaborators, including MotionPoint global marketing specialists) to customize the contents of a global website through localizations.

We’ve found that this freedom should never be used to make drastic or sudden changes to a local website. Rather, it’s best for companies to act incrementally and make small, smart changes to its localized content through testing.

Local marketing teams should consider the translated site they’ve inherited as a canvas of sorts, with a fantastic and consistent foundation laid out for them to customize. These customizations could come in the form of localized promotions, graphics, regionally-resonant verbiage and more.

Applying these localizations should always start with a hypothesis—either based on data, or on a cultural or market-specific nuance. Focusing on this hypothesis ensures that changes are made prudently, and that clear, trackable KPIs are created for efficient and smart testing.

We’ve also found that incremental changes help identify the true factors that might affect the optimization process. For instance: In some markets, highlighting specific product categories more prominently than others can boost engagement and conversions. (This is because these products are more important in some global markets than others.) By making judicious, methodical changes to the global website to accommodate this need, companies can more easily measure their impact.

Case In Point

Considering these customizations and their consistency also matters. For example, we operate the Spanish version of a website for a healthcare company; the site permits users to log in to a portal system. In the sprit of linguistic consistency, the company wanted to translate the title of this helpful portal program.

At first glance, this makes sense; after all, the translated name of the program would be theoretically easier to understand and remember for Spanish speakers. However, we soon discovered that despite the portal’s widget being predominantly displayed on the Spanish site’s home page, local users did not interact with the login widget.

Why? The branding for the portal’s English name was so potent, local users were searching on-site for the English name of the portal system, not the Spanish one. Further, the company’s employees continued to refer to the portal’s English name while interacting with Spanish-speaking customers.

We moved quickly to close this performance gap, but the lesson was clear: Paying attention to, and testing, the balance between brand consistency and market-specific localization is critical.

Wrapping Up

As companies expand into new markets and consider their global branding efforts, it’s often challenging to anticipate cultural nuances and the market-specific needs for localized content. Without reliable data and experience to test and make decisions, the process can become needlessly iterative and costly.

But MotionPoint’s flexible platform and experts can help. We’ll get you into the international markets where you need to be … and help preserve the integrity of your brand, in whatever languages those market speak. Contact us to learn more.

Last updated on September 30, 2016
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