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5 steps to consider when branding for a global stage

Successfully building a global brand identity capable of transcending culture, geography and language is the new Holy Grail for marketers. Paul Stafford, co-founder of DesignStudio examines the key steps to ensure your B2B brand will transcend these barriers

Understanding your global audience & cultural attitudes
Brand immersion highlights the differences and core similarities in cultural attitudes towards a brand.

When working with Airbnb on its rebrand, our immersion process consisted of a global audit of more than 13 cities across four continents, as well as 120 internal interviews. Through this we were submerged into an amazing story with concurrent themes of belonging and an emotional sense of affection. It was this story that provided the essence for all brand expression.

Emotive storytelling for a B2B audience
Creating a brand identity has, and always will be underpinned by storytelling: Developing a core brand story that is emotive and compelling to build a consistent brand image. For me, this is not only the difference between graphic design and branding, but a game-changer when it comes to helping brands succeed globally.

People are driven by emotion. Whilst functional and rational matters of price, quality and time, are important to B2B brands, these are factors where it’s far harder to differentiate your brand from the competition. Recent research completed by Google and CEB shows that emotional values play a much more important role in the decision making process for B2B decision makers. If audiences believe and connect with its message, brands will be far better placed to transcend barriers.

Research global meaning and cultural context
Brands must be acutely aware of both linguistic quirks and visual translations to ensure its message is clearly communicated to every audience.

Colour, typography, symbols and names are all subject to cultural connotations and it is important to test all elements through cultural filters to ensure that messages are conveyed effectively in different territories. Conducting an in-depth semiotic study of how the brand name resonates globally and culturally can help avoid costly mistakes in the future.

Symbol based branding versus brand naming
Some of the world’s biggest brands, such as Nike and Apple have opted to be identifiable outside of language through creating a powerful universal marque that acts as a recognisable symbol. However that’s not to say that a strong brand name cannot do the same thing. Combined with a strong product, over time a brand name can encompass its own meanings and values that transcend the original word. Google is a great example as its name has become synonymous with online search.

Organisations and Audiences
There is less distinction these days between branding for B2B or B2C. Instead it is important to consider O&A: Organisations and Audiences. Customers are now active participants in brand creation, from leaving reviews to suggesting new product implementations. Listening to the customers’ voice is important and allowing them to play a part in your brand can help create an emotional bond, transcending products or services.