• Transform magazine
  • July 18, 2019

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Insights: Localisation Is the key to unlocking relevance and driving growth

Alan Casey - Prophet.jpg

The 2018 Transform Awards Asia-Pacific celebrates excellence in rebranding and brand development. Prophet was one of the winners

In today’s economy, nothing matters more than a customer-first mindset. But even the most customer-obsessed companies falter when they fail to translate their global purpose into localised efforts.

At Prophet, we have identified this obsessive focus on customers and their needs as one of the key pillars of building brand relevance and driving growth. Our research shows that the strongest brands around the world are those that manage to be relentlessly relevant. Everything these brands invest in, create and bring to market is designed to meet important needs in people’s lives. That’s what makes them indispensable.

While localisation has the potential to increase brand relevance and accelerate growth, the best approach will look different for every company and every market. Here are the four essential questions senior management and marketers need to ask: Do I need to localise my brand?

Often the culture, value system or competitive landscape mean that the benefits you want to stand for are not relevant or even have different meaning. For example, investment company T. Rowe Price uses the tagline 'Invest with Confidence' around the world. But the meaning of confidence varies: In Japan, people feel confident when reassured everything is as it should be, while in Hong Kong, confidence comes from access to exclusive information. How the company communicates and delivers on the same brand promise is tailored in these markets.

In an ideal world, companies might localise certain aspects in all markets, but that’s often not practical. Prioritising which specific markets, and which consumer segments within those markets, warrant a localised approach is vital. But, are you clear on who you are targeting in different regions? Do you fully understand the attitudinal differences across markets and the implications for your brand? Developing a robust fact-base about the consumer to identify any potential differences is critical.

Budweiser is one example of a global brand that has managed to use a similar brand positioning but targeting a different audience in a way that fits their lifestyle. Its target in China is younger and more premium, so it has devised fresh retail and digital activations tailored to this audience to draw them into the brand experience beyond the product itself.

There are so many elements that make up a brand strategy and marketing mix. It is hard for companies to know how much change is right. Should you alter your brand promise, product names and logos, the product itself, distribution channels, or simply modify the messaging or visuals? The key is to identify the levers that most impact relevance in the category and market.

Finally, it’s important to be realistic about the capabilities you have both in-house and through your network of partners, to bring a localised strategy to life in an authentic way. “Having a management team that understands the value of both cultures is very important,” says John Kim, CEO at Burger King Japan.

The key to success, after considering all four questions, is finding the mix that best suits your firm, striking a balance between global brand positioning and local elements. For this, you need true consumer insights and an empowered local team to help tailor your approach in meaningful ways. Done right, localisation won’t dilute what makes you special as a global player. In each market, it will augment your strengths and bring the brand to life in the most relevant and credible way possible.

Alan Casey is a partner at Prophet