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March 01, 2016

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

Today’s integrated global playing field is forcing companies and entrepreneurs to think differently about how to grow their business. As former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano writes, this dynamic global landscape demands a new kind of thinking, new business models and operations. Companies are thinking more strategically about where their next buyer is located and how they can be reached.

From identifying buyer personas and product differentiation, to creating business objectives and sales forecasts, technology companies can easily set the stage to reaching perhaps their most lucrative international buyer - but they must first think more global when it comes to basic marketing and public relations strategies. Having worked for global brands and as a notorious wanderlust-er, here are my top three steps for entering the international playing field.

Step 1: Establish a Global Brand Identity

While most CMOs understand the value of brand messaging and positioning, oftentimes, they fail to position their brand in such a way that resonates with buyers and business influencers around the world.

CMOs must consider how each aspect of a brand, from its mission, vision and product differentiation, to logo colors, tag-lines and boiler plate, translates into meaningful messages among potential international buyers, from Latin America to Asia.

First, companies must establish a mission that fits into the ethos of individuals located anywhere. For example:

  • IBM’s brand values are “Innovation that matters, for our company and for the world” and “Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships.”

  • Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

  • Microsoft’s mission is “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

These established missions and visions are ones that any company or individual can relate to and, essentially, ones that coincide with a buyer’s own ethos.

Second, businesses must consider how their brands’ marketing slogans will translate into other languages and cultures. For example, when Swedish vacuum cleaner Electrolux entered into the U.S., the company sought to highlight its suction power by giving it a catchy American slogan: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux. Similarly, the French cheese brand Kiri was forced to change its name to Kibi when it entered into the Iranian market because the company’s former name translated as “rotten” or “rank” in Farsi.

As with brand slogan translations, brand colors are equally as important to understanding how your brand is interpreted around the world. For example, yellow represents energy, fun and happiness among Western cultures, but in Asia, this color signifies holiness, power and strength. The color wheel to the right outlines what primary and secondary colors represent in different regions around the world.

Key questions to ask when it comes to global brand positioning include:

  • How can I leverage existing customer success stories to better communicate my brand in other regions?

  • How will my product or service solve a problem outside the U.S. or are there opportunities where my product can solve a new problem in another region?

  • How will my company name or tag name translate into other languages? Do my company values and mission communicate the same way with business influencers in Latin America and Asia?

Step 2: Strategic Marketing and Communications

Building a brand that international influencers can relate to is a great first step, but companies must go beyond that to get in the game. As businesses begin to think how they can reach and engage with stakeholders outside the U.S., an easy way to start is by diversifying your marketing and communications strategy.

From crafting buyer personas and market research, to SEO campaigns, social media engagement and media relations, think how you can reach buyers outside the U.S. For example, target a few international cities with a month-long digital marketing campaign that includes social engagement, paid social advertising or a Google Adwords campaign. Or, when it comes to new product launches or company acquisitions, consider how this news would resonate with buyers in Latin America or Europe and plan media relations campaigns accordingly. Buzzfeed President Greg Coleman said the first step his company took before global expansion was to focus on building out local social media audiences in key markets to first gauge interest.

Step 3: Build and Maintain a Global Team

As IBM’s former CEO said, companies must be global in order to stay competitive, and it all starts with building and nurturing a team to think this way when it comes to innovation, customer service and productivity.

Building out a diverse team of players and partners that can offer different perspectives on how to grow your company is essential. On one end, this means hiring and retaining professionals with unique skillsets that represent multiple cultures and experiences. On the other hand, it means fostering a consistent company culture, one that’s rooted in the very values, mission and vision created from your global brand identity.

From e-newsletters and town halls, to goal setting and highlighting employees on social media and through awards, internal communication tactics will help your team and leadership embrace the right mindset when it comes to daily business operations.Without a doubt, companies must think more strategically about who their next customer is and where they are located. Building a global brand before a company has international customers may sound easier said than done, but with a few basic steps, companies can easily position themselves in key global markets. Want to learn more about how to effectively position and communicate your brand to global stakeholders? Contact us.