We recognise and are attracted to authenticity. Whether consciously, just knowing it when we see it, or on a subconscious level, feeling drawn to a particular person, product, service or brand.
This connection to authentic people and companies becomes even stronger, when our experience with them shows us their values are similar or in alignment with our own.
As the global marketplace grows, the importance of maintaining this authenticity grows with it.
Below you’ll find a few tips to ensure your brand and marketing remains authentic, while appealing in foreign markets. We’ve been privileged in helping some great people and companies expand internationally, and have found the following tips to be relevant regardless of industry.
Before starting this process let’s ensure you clearly understand and connect with your company’s brand values. Are they precisely defined and communicated in your current markets? It’s vitally important for this stage to be tight before moving forward. You need to be intimately aware of what your company stands for, before you can consider trying to clearly communicate it, let alone in a way that will appeal to other cultures. Ensure your brand values are documented and understood by your team.
Research and understand your new target market. Start general then narrow it down. So, you’re expanding into India, great – What do you know of the customs, culture and beliefs? Do your brand colours mean the same thing in India as they do in your home country? What specific area/s within India you will be targeting? Who within that area is an ideal client for you? Why? What’s their daily life like? What and who’s important to them? What are their preferred ways of communicating? The list goes on…
Once you understand both your brand values and your country of expansion, it’s time to discover how your brand message is interpreted there, and what it means in that culture. It may be necessary to change how you explain those values in order to be authentic to them in another country.
Communication And Customer Experience
Elisa Steele, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Skype, and I had a great conversation on this topic – I loved what she shared in relation to how Skype cross cultural borders, while staying authentic to their brand values:
“It gets back to the concept of listening, Skype is inherently social, it’s all about communicating with each other. And so we are very open and transparent in talking with our users in a social environment.
We listen a lot in social channels, we respond a lot in dialogue all day long with our users. And then we have a team who’s based in London, that if there are things our users have questions about, or it’s not working, or they don’t know what to do, we have a place where we can send them and they can have an interaction with us to get them on track.
The global nature of the brand is our privilege and the beauty of what Skype’s all about, and then we have to step up to making sure that we give users the forums which they can talk with us if they need us and they can also share their stories because that’s really important to us and it’s important to them.”
The tone and language of your brand messaging may need to be adjusted, sometimes quite dramatically, depending the differences between country of origin and new area of expansion. Modify what you say and how you say it to ensure it resonates in the target culture.
For example the tone and words used in a successful brand and marketing campaign in Russia can easily come across as abrupt, cold and arrogant to the US market. On the opposite side of the scale trying to connect with your target market in Russia using what’s been successful in the US may easily be portrayed as light weight or worse, disingenuous and fake.
Your visual communication and images also need to be taken into consideration, to be the right fit for each country. An image being used for elderly care by a company in the UK is seen by their market to show a joyous elderly lady with much more life ahead of her. This same image has been reported as giving a very different message to the US market. There it’s been interpreted as showing someone far older than necessary, with to many facial lines, someone the target market doesn’t connect to.
Keep in mind the advertising mediums, offers/discounts you select will also be interpreted differently depending on culture.
Creating true, authentic consistency in your brand values is incorporated into the way you conduct your business and treat people.
Through your brand and marketing communications, you’ve created an expectation in the mind of your potential client as to what sort of customer experience they will have in dealing with you. I can’t emphasise strongly enough how important it is that this experience (at each and every stage) is in alignment with your brand values. These values and messages played a key part in gaining their attention and trust in the first place, meeting and/or exceeding their expectations is only possible with that continued level of authenticity.
Live it, breathe it and be true to your brand and your purpose – people will be attracted to and resonate with that integrity.