Eight essentials for a successful global marketing rebrand

Yasutaka Mizutani unpacks the ingredients to a smooth global marketing rebrand from the importance of tech to being mindful of the language you use.

Epic marketing translation fails aren’t difficult to find. ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’ translates into one of the Chinese languages as ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back to life’. And HSBC’s ‘Assume Nothing’ slogan translates in various languages as ‘Do Nothing’ – not exactly the image they were trying to convey. 

But with all the incredible automated translation and machine learning tools we have access to, no one ever makes these mistakes now, right? Well, not quite. Automated translation tools just aren’t there yet – they need human intervention to check for accuracy. The ability to gain insight into cultural and societal interpretation is another challenge altogether. 

As a native Japanese speaker based in the UK, I’ve lived and worked in countries including Japan, Singapore and Austria, and I think of myself as spanning Asian and European cultures. What inspires and helps me is a deeper understanding of local business practices, cultural behaviours and expectations. 

Overseas markets bring new opportunities, a chance to benefit from a wider talent pool, to expand market share and differentiate your business. They also bring complexity for marketers tasked with building a consistent brand which spans countries and cultures. 

We’ve recently launched a brand repositioning here at Colt Technology Services – a business with employees, customers and partners across Europe, Asia and the US. Here are seven ingredients we learnt about what makes a successful global marketing rebrand: 

1. Brand should go hand-in-hand with strategy 

Brand purpose is the ‘why’ behind your existence and connects your employees, customers, partners and their emotions. Your brand also represents a corporate-wide vision that drives business performance, sustainability, company culture, customer experience and relationships, so aligning corporate strategy with your brand is critical. 

2. Assign and nurture your brand ambassadors 

Local brand ambassadors are absolutely critical in the entire process of devising and rolling out new brand messaging. This group of people will tell you what messaging and campaign strategy works in their region and what doesn’t. It’s important to spend time refining the language you’re using, with local brand ambassadors providing insight into cultural and language sensitivities, checking cultural suitability and consistency. 

3. Use your in-house talent 

Branding agencies can truly add value, innovative thinking and strategic advice, but don’t risk overlooking your internal talent. Your marketing team has a deep understanding of your business and a sharp instinct for what’s more likely to work, while your  in-house training team is invaluable in devising and delivering training in multiple languages across the organisation, to educate and enthuse your employees. 

4. Use technology to connect everyone, remotely and in-person 

In the UK alone, more than three-quarters of businesses have embraced hybrid working. Launching brand repositioning to employees located across geographies when some work remotely, some are on-site and others work from different locations – perhaps at customer sites or out in the field - is a challenge. Reaching all employees across all our geographies requires creativity, and smart use of collaborative software tools. 

In my experience, it’s always great for leaders to be visible and accessible, so if your leaders can visit countries in-person, employees appreciate it and are likely to understand and engage with your new brand messaging. You can support this for remote employees with pre-recorded content and consider live broadcasts that work across different time zones. 

At our recent brand repositioning, we visited employees in Japan, Singapore, India, Romania, Italy, France, Germany, the UK, Spain and the USA, and used Facebook Workplace, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Virtual Party Booths and our social channels to connect people and generate excitement. 

5. Accessibility first

No matter how inclusive you’ve tried to be with your brand messaging and visual identity, if you’re not making it accessible, then you’re excluding around 15% of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organisation. 

When it comes to accessibility, we might think of mobility impairments or visual impairments – globally, more than 2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment, finds the World Health Organisation, but there are many more barriers to accessibility, such as auditory barriers, seizures and those related to neurodiversity.  Accessible communications training is incredibly valuable and will help you prioritise accessibility across all your markets. 

6. Test the messaging with your customers  

Your customers are your brand advocates. If they don’t understand how you’re describing your business – if it just doesn’t resonate with them – at best, it’ll stop them from recommending you. At worst, it will isolate them and leave them disconnected and disenfranchised from your brand. Create in-person and digital channels to gather feedback across all your regions.

7. Step away from the jargon 

There’s nothing we B2B marketers like more than an acronym served with some technical jargon. Funny how it seems to work in all languages, isn’t it? Y2K may seem like a distant memory, but G2G and BRB are ubiquitous in emails and messaging. Then there are industry-wide acronyms and company-specific technical terms that you very quickly fall into the trap of using – and expect everyone to understand you. They won’t, they don’t, they’ll be too embarrassed to ask, and they’ll experience massive FOMO. And you’ve instantly excluded a large chunk of your audience. 

Ban the jargon. You won’t regret it. 

8. Proud of your ESG achievements? Then share them 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen lots of B2B brands adjust their brand messaging to reflect a warmer sentiment and a friendlier tone of voice. This messaging often includes values and goals around sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion. A 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer study of 14,000 consumers in 14 countries found almost two-thirds of respondents were more attracted to brands that focus on ‘making the world a better place’.  Robust, measurable ESG commitment is no longer a nice to have but a business imperative. 

Different countries have different regulations and priorities, but consistent goals and transparent metrics are vital across every region. And if you have them, share them. 

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