“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and less than five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently. “ (Warren Buffett)
Whether it’s a tweet, a post on your Facebook wall, a video upload, or a simple online transaction, the reality is that your brand is on air 24/7. In this golden digital age, brands are afforded the opportunity to have a global presence without necessarily having a real global footprint. This arguably raises the question of whether the definition of a “global brand” needs to be reevaluated — a debate best saved for another day.
More certain, however, are the common issues faced by every global brand marketer: Consistency, compliance, connection and communication.
As the number of people that touch your brand grows, it becomes more and more important to protect your brand equity and ensure that your brand promise is clear and consistent — regardless of geography or who is broadcasting it. While it takes blood, sweat, tears and generally years to build a brand’s reputation, nowadays it’s all too easy to damage it Take the infamous Chrysler Twitter scandal, where an agency employee used the company’s corporate Twitter account to post a tweet that used expletives and criticized Detroit drivers. A single Tweet was powerful enough to undermine Detroit’s reputation as America’s motor city and Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” campaign.
A common misperception is that consistency equals boring and standardized, but having consistent message delivery as part of your brand strategy doesn’t translate into uninspiring briefs to a creative agency and it doesn’t mean that a global brand has to roll out the same communication in each market. Having guardrails, however, provide stakeholders with clear direction and vision — and coupled with consumer insight, can lead to incredibly powerful communication. The issue faced by global custodians however, is the time and effort required to put these guardrails in place.
Mention the word legal and you’ve often lost half your audience. However, compliance or the lack thereof can pose a serious threat to global brands. The Bogart Estate recently sued Burberry for posting an image of Humphrey Bogart wearing a trench coat in the film “Casablanca” on their Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn had a difficult summer last year when it faced lawsuits over breach of user privacy law. Every single area associated with the development, marketing and ultimately the sale of any brand or service is subject to the adherence to a myriad of rules and regulations. Multiply this by the number of markets in which a global brand operates in and you begin to get a picture of how significant a challenge this can be and how critical it is to manage this effectively and efficiently.
Even the most iconic and well-known brands around the world have a stronger connection to their point of origin than to any other market they are present in. Coca-Cola is one of the most recognized brands in the world, but its roots are still firmly based in America. The further away a brand moves from its epicenter, the harder it has to work to connect with its audience both internally (employees, agencies, etc.) and its customers.
Hitting the communication or “glocalization” sweet spot is surely the ultimate goal of all global brands. Realizing this goal, however takes some doing. Coca-Cola recognizes and respects local culture and have adapted their products and tailored their communication strategy accordingly. Through the adoption of this approach, they have strengthened rather than diluted their commitment to “Inspiring Happiness” around the world and continue to delight their global consumers with products as well as communication that are consistent, compelling and connected.