It’s ‘Open Mic’ night!
In this packed-out session, we have 16 global brand, marketing and business experts – each sharing their insights on what it takes to achieve success on the global stage…
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Forge Data-Driven Experiences
We now live in an environment where we have unprecedented access to consumer behaviours, emotions, and intentions in a highly granular way, from a wide variety of first and third party data sources.
This gives brands the opportunity to move beyond the use of data for basic targeting and instead use it to shape the customer experience. Alongside this, Artificial Intelligence is advancing at such a rapid rate that we will soon see the ability for companies to engage with consumers in a highly personalised way.
Brands, therefore, need to rapidly acquire a deep understanding of the psychology of effective customer experiences. Data literate behavioural scientists are needed to identify and design the customer journeys that generate profitable growth.
At the same time brands will find the boundaries of personalisation – too far one way and customers are ‘creeped out,’ too far the other way and customers feel as if they are not seen or understood.
Fundamentally, we now need to better understand the humans behind the data.
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Speak Their Language – Everywhere
Many companies underestimate the complexity of going global. They know they want to grow, and global expansion is usually a good avenue for them. The problem comes when they fail to create a proper launch strategy.
Globalization is usually not part of their plan. Many companies create their content in English without considering if that content and messaging will be relevant in their global markets. They overlook important related elements such as graphics, colors, images, measurements and more. They also forget to include all of their channels in their planning – things like video, customer support, user-generated content, social media, and mobile.
As customer communication evolves with the trend toward greater personalization, remember that nothing is more personal than language. Companies should not expect to engage with customers effectively if they aren’t speaking their language across every touchpoint.
The key to global success lies in partnering with a trusted globalization advisor who can help to develop the right strategy and execution plan for taking a business global.
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Director, Global Localization Team at Dell
Which Socks Are You Wearing?
I know, it sounds like common sense, but often corporations overlook this very simple truth. They get so wrapped up in the belief that their product has a broad appeal that they forget to listen to their regional counterparts. Or worse, the belief has become so ingrained in the corporate mindset that the regions either believe it themselves or have given up on relaying the same old message and often want to avoid being seen as holding up progress on a new campaign.
Let’s take something we all are familiar with – socks.
An American might not give much thought to what socks they put on in the morning, outside of not wearing sports socks with slacks; but in Japan, socks are a big deal, they are going to be seen when you go for a traditional lunch or enter someone’s home. There are stores in Japan that sell just socks. Who knew?
Invest time in your relationship with regional counterparts, seek outside guidance, and spend time learning the culture of your biggest markets.
Don’t be “that guy” that wears holey socks to dinner with a Japanese client.
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Embrace Change – Invest In It
With the accelerated pace of technical advancement and business transformation facing every industry and geography, we are confronted with an unprecedented reality that change has become the new normal in business. However, we can’t forget that in order to change our businesses, we must also become proactive personal change agents ourselves.
Many companies often focus on the internal changes that need to happen in order to transform the company, while neglecting the human, cultural changes that must occur in tandem. The right approach to dealing with incoming change is to change before you have to, versus waiting until it is too late. Disrupting ourselves, and the status quo, is difficult and uncomfortable, but in this new reality of business – necessary. Successful leaders will invest in employee development, put in the hard work to support cultural transformation, and inspire purpose within the entire company.
Don’t fear change, find a way to embrace the opportunity it presents each of us – otherwise, you risk missing out on all that is possible both personally and professionally in this age of disruption.
I think this quote sums it up quite nicely:
“It is vital that we are equipped with the humility to understand that changing the world and keeping innovation alive require that we change ourselves.” – Whitney Johnson, Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work.
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Market Maturity: Play Global, Act Local
Bynder is active in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Australia, and we have a different strategic approach for each market – and many times, for each country. However, looking beyond the cultural nuances and language barriers, every region also has a different market maturity.
Of course, there are many similarities in these markets regarding stages of the buying process; however, there are big differences when creating relevant content. For example, we offer a cloud-based solution for marketing and brand management. In the US, cloud technology benefits are widely recognized making it a very mature market for us, whereas businesses in Europe are battling lower budgets and are still hesitant about the cloud in general – therefore we are still in an educational stage.
Knowledge of local culture and market climate is therefore very important in establishing a reliable global brand, which is why it is important to me to work with a very international marketing team.
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Questions Are The Answer
It may not be the sexiest part of the branding process, but brand research is one of the most often overlooked, yet powerful keys to global success.
In order to effectively position your brand in the competitive landscape, you first have to understand how it’s perceived – by external and internal stakeholders alike. These perceptions may not be pleasing, but an honest portrait of your brand is essential if you want to correct what’s holding you back.
Rigorous, in-depth research is the only way to paint this portrait.
External brand research is essential to understanding what your customers think about your brand. What words are they most likely to choose when describing your brand? What common themes rise to the top in your analysis of interview responses? Just as important, however, is internal brand research. You have to know how your employees perceive your brand if you hope to achieve global success. A brand’s positioning and promise are only as effective as the employees who embody them.
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Empowerment – Not Control
To achieve global success, marketers must empower their local teams to drive in-market engagement. Ultimately, global customer experiences are a collection of universal and extremely local micro-moments. However, the mix for one geographic market or customer segment will not be right for another. To create effective micro-moments, marketers must balance local relevance and global consistency when making decisions.
Winning global marketers have mastered a governance model that accommodates this, something Stefan Tornquist at eConsultancy dubbed the “hub and spoke” model. Through this, marketers maintain central governance while relying on local talent to customize plans. They empower in-market teams to create content and manage programs locally, but require a certain level and cadence of corporate approvals.
To enable the use of the “hub and spoke” model, you must plan for and invest in digital maturity. Technology and process management are key to a leader’s ability to maintain global standards in brand management, omnichannel content, and measurement.
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Younger Brands Do it Better
To identify best practices in global digital operations, the analysts at CSA Research visit thousands of brand websites each year, cataloging languages, navigation schemes, and social media use (among other things). Of the 2,657 globally prominent websites tracked in 2016, 12 companies supported customer experience in 45+ languages. Among this hyperglobal group, Microsoft is the oldest brand. There are plenty of 100-year-old brand websites with 30 or more languages, such as Ford, Nestle, and Nikon. Why are none of these greybeard companies using 60, 80, or 120 languages online?
Structural differences in international operations play a part – old-school distribution entails in-country subsidiaries and partners. Digital delivery of products and services makes it a whole lot easier for Facebook and VK to go global, compared to Honda or GSK. But this year we noticed something else. There’s a big difference in how young brands design their global customer experience.
Rather than post a unique set of pages for each country or language – a publishing nightmare – digital-era companies build websites as apps, with user controls for country, language, and other settings. This streamlines global content production, making digital operations scalable and cost-efficient.
Eleven of the 12 brands with 45 or more languages use this approach. Such best practices can help even the oldest brand rapidly scale digital operations across languages and markets.
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The Audience Is Always Right
There are more tools, channels and ‘hacks’ for Marketers than ever. While many believe this phenomenon is of great value to marketers – myself included – the ‘shiny objects’ often distract from a powerful, necessary step in any marketing plan: audience research.
As opposed to biasing to the marketing tactics that resonate best for you (and taking advantage of the myriad of tools available), I’ve found repeated success with our teams by pausing our ship-test-learn methodology long enough to truly define our audience’s locations, pain points and how we best solve for them.
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Find Your Onboard Influencers
In my experience, organizations tend to overlook their own people.
We have entered into the era of the “influencer”. And instead of finding influence within their own teams, most companies are paying for it. I think that this is a poor use of their marketing budgets. It is similar to paying for PPC ads and running your entire marketing strategy around those ads. Once you stop paying for them, they go away. Working with influencers is no different.
The other part of working with influencers that is not working is that there are no real restrictions. When we work with talent agencies to shoot commercials, the talent is not allowed to work with competing businesses during the time that their commercials air. With influencers, no such restrictions have been put into place.
The alternative is to promote your business through your team. Find out their stories, what they care about, and use those things to boost the company and its reputation. Over time your reach will increase without having to continuously pay for it.
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Director of Strategy at Avenue
It Starts – And Succeeds – From Within
In my experience, the key to global success, which is often overlooked by executives, is the importance of involving the entire organization in the development of the corporate strategy. Too many try building it in a silo and then wonder why the organization is not all rowing in the same direction once the edict has been passed down.
This is because global alignment (buy in) and understanding (including the understanding “how do I contribute?”) come not through hearing the strategy repeated at town halls, nor reading it in executive presentations. In fact, alignment and buy-in come mostly through the process of engaging employees and allowing them to have a thumbprint on the strategy in some way – so that they can internalize it and make it personally actionable and practical.
Sorry to be cliche, but I often think about this quote by Benjamin Franklin when reminding CEOs and other executives of why it’s important to engage and involve their employee base in strategy development:
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
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Understand, Then Engage
Holistic customer understanding and effective localization come up more often than not. These factors are key drivers and enablers that are sometimes still considered as options or afterthoughts. However, these requirements must be met upfront to deliver international experiences and delight customers globally. This plays out more than ever in the digital age as products, services, and properties must be designed, localized, and deployed for customers collectively and individually.
You must fully understand and engage with customers in a way that reflects who they are, what they do, and where they move. All facets must be considered. It avoids making assumptions and helps plan subsequent localization and deployment efforts.
Localization must be executed according to crafted experiences that are simple, relevant, and memorable. It is focused on speaking the language of customers; which encompasses the words, styles, visuals, and ecosystems that are naturally meaningful to them. While translation remains important, digital globalization requires going way above and beyond.
Agile localization needs world readiness and granularity. Both challenges require organizational and process enhancements within globalizing organizations in addition to leveraging technology. Calls to action often cover globalization leadership, alignment, and governance both locally and globally.
There is no success outside without excellence inside…
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Cultural Awareness: Humble Listening Pays
When expanding your brand globally, being aware of local cultural differences is vital in your marketing and at every touch point. Sometimes, marketers are more concerned about global consistency of their brand voice than about making sure their voice resonates with local audiences.
Entering a new market with humility and the wisdom to listen to local experts can save you millions. LEGO, for example, have nailed this approach: their customer service team want to make every interaction with their main customers, children and their parents, fun, engaging and playful. But while they address parents by their first name, as it’s common in the English-speaking world, it would feel inappropriate to most German customers. Adapting to this, LEGO use ‘Herr’ and ‘Frau’ along with the surname in their German brand communications when addressing adults.
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Don’t Just Do Global – Be Global
Having traveled the world working with some of the world’s largest companies for over 30 years, and being a 1.5 Million Miler on Delta Airlines alone, I feel that I have a very good sense of what is key to global success. It is something that is so overlooked in today’s social media world. This is, namely; strong personal relationships developed via face-to-face meetings and interactions.
I hear content this and content that and it makes me nauseous. Yes, content has a place, but without strong relationships, it is very difficult to be successful on either a global or local basis.
Knowing people personally and being able to judge what their needs or wants are, then satisfying these with individualized solutions is what it’s all about. Furthermore, by having a connection, it makes it much easier to get around the gatekeepers and have your message be heard.
My message is that if you want to be successful globally, don’t be afraid of getting on a plane and meeting people face-to-face. You’d be surprised at what it will do for your business!
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Organisational Perception Is Reality
How translation, localisation, and global content are viewed within your organisation (i.e. as a cost, or as a revenue enabler linked to global growth goals), can be the key to successful expansion and surpassing internal challenges.
If they are viewed as a revenue enabler and closely tied to international expansion goals, then the conversation – and results – become very different.
If you are unsure about how you can change the dialog around global content for the better at your organisation, I highly recommend you seek the assistance of a language service provider.
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Keepin’ it Real
I have learned that “be true to yourself” are not just wise words to live by personally, but also can be applied to represent your corporate identity and values.
When I joined Microsoft in the Spring of 1991, I walked in – Seattle-born and raised, with an English degree from Washington State University in my pocket, and straight
into a multicultural world with a diversity of assumptions, challenges, educations, and languages. But, what we all shared was the idea that we could change the world with new ways of connecting people and ideas.
My chance to have an impact on the world came when I took on the role of creating a new discipline; today called Global Readiness. Global Readiness started with just making sure we got our geographic renderings correct – today it’s grown into a team of experts that ask deep, careful questions about how our brand and our products show up. Are we accurate but also impartial? Does our brand show up in an honest and authentic way? Do our products reflect our values, respectful of all?
In global readiness, staying true to the values of the local marketplace is always foremost in my decision making, balanced with seeking the best, most authentic local market contexts. Representations of people are some of the more challenging, and intricate, areas to ensure authentic representation. One campaign that did a brilliant job is Dolce&Gabbana’s Learn Italian Hand Gestures, embracing culture-of-origin while also being interesting on a global stage. Even so, the comments (while NSFW) provoked further thought about how culture can be more broadly inclusive than might be readily recognized. The symbolism of hand gestures is an area rife with the potential to go sideways very quickly, but I would give this spot a “two thumbs up” – in the context of ‘approval’ vs ‘up yours,’ of course.
If cultural symbolism is not true to self, it can be construed as cultural appropriation instead of appreciation – which will provide you the kind of brand visibility that you don’t want. Especially in a digital world; where any misstep is just a snap and a chat away from infamy. Authenticity, done well, can be a competitive differentiator and a major advantage.