To maintain a strong brand identity overseas your goal as a business should be to adapt rather than compromise how your brand appears and communicates in new markets. The secret to successful global expansion is to look before you leap by completing due diligence:
1. Ensure you have a market
Research the market or markets you hope to move into carefully to understand if there is a similar audience for your product or service. If they exist, look at your competition in the market. Is there something about your offering and brand identity that makes you stand out from them? If you do not find any direct competition it is important to ask why? Are there laws or regulations that prevent businesses like yours operating in that market? Is the market lacking necessary infrastructure?
2. Be relevant
Once you know there is a market there, you need to get to know your new target audience. Do their motivations differ from your domestic audience? From a brand perspective can you communicate with them in a similar way? Is there anything about your product or service that may be viewed as inappropriate or offensive? While maintaining the essential elements, plan to establish a brand position that is relevant to the needs of the target audience in that country.
3. Localise don’t translate
Revisit all the physical elements of your brand when planning a move into an overseas market, particularly if they speak a different language. Learn from the international marketing fails of others by not translating anything directly. Work with a specialist localisation business to help you correctly adapt the elements that make up your brand to your target market. There is plenty to consider:
Logo: Does it use colours or symbols that may be unlucky or offensive? Is it similar to an existing company in that market or does it contain any symbols that may be culturally inappropriate in that region?
Product names and slogans: There are a myriad of examples by household names who made marketing mistakes when it came to translating product names and related slogans. Don’t rely on online translation tools and always consult a native speaker.
Communications: Similarly, tailor all communication to your local audience. You do not have to lose the essence of your brand identity, just adapt it. If your brand tone on social media is casual, keep that but within the context of your new market.
4. Make sure you can deliver
There are a multitude of logistics to consider when it comes to expanding into a new country. From domain registration to ensuring you can get your product to or manufactured in your new market, there is a lot to plan. Research local laws and regulations related to your industry and ensure your goods comply with local standards. It is best to work with your legal and accounting professionals on this.
5. Consider expat employees
Once you understand the lay of the land and have made the decision to proceed there is the question of how you expand? If you plan to open an office or manufacturing plant, you may wish to inject your company’s values and common practices in the form of internal branding. An effective way to do this may be by having a senior member of your team move to the destination country on an expatriate basis. If you do send an employee to work as an expat, protect their health and wellbeing with international health insurance while they are overseas.
International expansion isn’t easy but with the right preparation and planning, you can see success as an SME without damaging how your brand is perceived.