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Going Global is What Every Business Wants – But How Do You Keep Your Voice?

22 Jun 2020

It’s the goal of every business brand – achieve global domination, have your products reach the masses from one end to the end. In the age of digital technologies, it has never been easier to reach more than your local market online and then slowly phase your products and services into regions that are foreign and new. However, going global houses intrinsic challenges that might not readily present themselves when you first begin the process.

Perhaps the aspect that executives and owners tend to forget is that it’s the message that can easily get lost in translation and fail to connect with a new demographic. Therefore, you should put equal effort into the marketing and brand construction for a new demographic as you’d do in processing and manufacture. Brands derive their value from their voices – what they’re saying and how they are making people feel about their products. That’s the magic you need to keep in your palm as a through line to a new market.

Do We Share Cultural Touchstones?

The first question you should answer is – can my brand voice be heard and understood? This isn’t only a linguistics challenge (perhaps if your brand name is a play on words or if you’re slogan has more than one meanings through wordplay), but a cultural one as well. What hope does a Swedish brand to connect with a customer base in Argentina? What are the value that run their society and how do they see their world and society? How can you align your message with an unknown and new cultural experience?

Before you begin any actual work to expand production to a new market, this is the first hurdle to be overcome and a great deal of research should happen in these early stages. Research should be based in the country you’re trying to sell to and involve professionals that are local nationals – this way you receive honest feedback on what needs to be done, or whether there’s even a reason to break into the new market other than ‘it’s there’.

Are We Sending the Right Message to the Right Customer?

Sometimes the message doesn’t connect, because the company hasn’t done the work to understand their new customer base. Different cultures create different consumer and your ideal buyer persona in your native market can drastically differ from the ideal customer in a new market. A deep dive into local demographics should build a fresh, comprehensive profile of the buyer you need to be targeting - their age, where they live, income, household size, their goals and what they expect in a brand voice and message. The work done at this stage is the clay you use to shape a separate new sound to your brand voice that resonates with local culture.

The ideal buyer persona tunes your company on the precise wavelength of the new market so that who you want to target is able to actually see you and investigate. Without this stage in your future preparations to expand beyond your country, you’ll most likely sink money and then remain under the radar of your target audience.

What’s in a Translation?

So far so good – you’ve learned about the cultural differences, you’ve probably avoided the faux pas that might land you in hot water, and you’ve identified anew your ideal buyer persona. Now it is time to translate your marketing material and be done with it, right? It’s not uncommon to see a company owner who is averse to change and letting things go, resulting in websites that are word-for-word translations – a thorough cancellation and erasure of all the hard work that’s been done up to this point.

The point of translation is not to deliver the information verbatim (otherwise you might just run it through Google Translate and call it a day), but to convey meaning. As we’ve already discussed, the trick is to make your particular products or services appealing for a new culture and this would mean relying on a new register, new syntax and a new dictionary with references that make sense to locals, if not for you. Translation is difficult work and it’s where you should invest the most as a careful translator (preferably a native) will steer you away from making an offensive mistake.

It’s not a kind of viral you want to see yourself become.

What Do Your Regional Teams Have to Say?

The companies that make the transition into global brands have adopted one skill to secure their longevity – listening to their regional teams. Of course, this means you have to hire the right talent on the ground, who not only understand the language and culture, but know what they are doing in their professional field. You should readily ask for input about how to successfully roll out your brand into their market. It’s through these early conversations you might iron out sensitivity issues and rest assured that you are on the right track.

How Do We Not Change Dramatically?

Throughout this lengthy process, there is a risk that you might dilute the brand too much by trying to fit it into a new cultural context and it’s a tight balancing act, which you can manage better by actually creating a brand bible. The brand bible are the guidelines that determine what your brand is and perhaps more importantly what your brand isn’t. A brand bible will emphasise what qualities should be pursued in the introduction of the brand in a new cultural landscape and also provide a way to synergise communication on the variety of communication channels.


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