The Whats and Hows of Global Brands

Courtesy of woodleywonderworks

I was invited to a sharing session yesterday afternoon by David Shaw, Director at Effective Brands and a former marketing stalwart at both Lenovo and HP. Founded by Marc De Swaan Arons, the company embarked on a worldwide global brand study seven-years ago which now includes close to 100 global brands with a database of about 40,000 marketers. In the study, the branding consultancy focused on global marketing challenges and possible solutions to overcome them.

Here are some of the key highlights which I picked up.

Challenges in Global Marketing

So what are some of the challenges faced by global marketers?

1) Lack of alignment. This seems to be a common point, when HQ and local offices do not see eye-to-eye.

2) Internal focus. Internal politics and turf wars are a major sapper of time and energy, leading to inward looking corporate cultures that are damaging.

3) Lack of quality. This is a problem more prevalent in developing countries which may have different notions of high standards vis-a-vis HQ.

4) Lack of roll-out speed. I am sure you all heard of time-to-market, and this sometimes becomes awkward in a behemoth-sized global organisation.

5) Personal friction. This can be caused by cultural differences, attitudes, and styles of working.

6) Pockets of excellence. What this means is learning tends to be concentrated locally without valuable lessons being shared globally.

The WHATs of a Brand

Many organisations pay attention to the Whats of the brand, which include the following:
- Insight
- Vision
- Strategy
- Innovation
- Communication
- Activation

Unfortunately, this isn't enough most of the time, because of failures in implementation. Just having an exciting and far sighted goal for the future won't get you to global branding nirvana.

The Solution? Getting the HOWs Right

Effective Brands suggests that the real drivers of global marketing effectiveness comes from applying the HOWs to the WHATs. For this, they developed a global brand mix which encompasses the following:

1) Connect. Building understanding and interdependance between global, regional and local operating units. Alignment could be achieved perhaps with a "buddy country" concept.

2) Inspire. Creating an energising passion and culture around the brand vision. Everybody should become a brand evangelist and have a sense of brand stewardship.

3) Focus. The alignment of strategy, targets and rewards to clear deliverables in marketing. One needs to look at the KPIs, which are often top-line, bottom-line and market share indicators.

4) Organise. Developing the right structures, systems, processes and roles to align behaviours in the right manner. These should encompass looking and leveraging of commonalities, and positioning them appropriately depending on whether they are at the global, regional or local levels.

5) Build. Harvesting, learning and leveraging skills across the globe. This is critical in the net-enabled world, and should include research on best practices within the organisation that can be shared across. They should cover meetings, tools and behaviours that work, as well as the right recruitment strategy.

You can find out more about the approach taken for this model at their website here.

Tips for Global & Regional Marketers

Towards the end of the session, we broke out into different groups to brainstorm over some possible ideas to tackle the challenges of global marketing. It was pretty interesting and enlightening for me to hear different practical tips on what can be done. Some of the key ones include the following:

1) Rotating key personnel around to ensure that the right person is in the right job. Postings can help one to understand what one's counterpart faces on a daily basis, and improve mutual understanding.

2) Having a sparring partner from another team in a different market.

3) Staying true to the core values of one's brand and not being distracted. This also relates to brand consistency and focus.

4) Being driven by facts rather than stories and hearsay. This is especially relevant in the age of social media, where rumours and gossips abound.

5) Creating opportunities for global teams of marketers to meet - probably more virtually nowadays in light of the economic crisis - and using them to clarify roles and responsibilities while cultivating relationships.

6) Learning from organisational elements which lead to either successes or failures.

7) Listening, learning and building trust. Sometimes, this may include "stealing ideas with pride" so long as they are customised in the right manner without infringing IP rules.

8) Communicating the brand's touchpoints to one's local peers. This pertains to internal brand marketing and is critically important as your most important market is probably your own colleagues in regional and local offices.

9) Finally, one should make time for inspiration. Do not be too caught in firefighting to forget about the matters.

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