Brand propositions – internationalization v localization

All brands operate on an increasingly international stage – thanks to a great extent to the internet. Whether the brand seeks to perform internationally or not is a commercial decision for the organisation behind it. But as more and more brands choose to operate in lucrative global markets, the spotlight is thrown on the brands’ preparedness for the challenges presented.

The first challenge is how far the brand should be internationalized. Most major brands have already taken this decision very seriously. A careful analysis will show if the brand’s core values have international appeal in the major world markets. Beyond these deep core values are a set equally important subsidiary values that go to make up the brand’s proposition. A key issue for international branding is the struggle to be all things to all people. To strive for one brand proposition is likely to result in an anodyne, toothless offer at best.

Let us be clear, I am taking about brand propositions not about values: brand values are intrinsic and should only change slowly over time if they are to be credible. What is fundamental, is that some brand values will be more important in certain markets than in others. Let’s take the obvious example of a brand’s national heritage. A UK brand’s ‘britishness’ may be unimportant in its home market, but may be extremely important in certain export markets while being irrelevant in others. This does not mean the values change – you cannot easily change your heritage – but its prominence and strength as part of the proposition will change from market to market.

It may be useful to consider the ‘Key’ model:

Brand propositions and the key modelThe ‘core’ brand values – what the brand is fundamentally about can be thought of as the shaft of a key. These are the foundations of the proposition and relatively unchanging and are usually emotionally rooted..

Branding key - subsidiary brand valuesThen we have a set of subsidiary, but nonetheless important brand values. These are often the most visible elements of the proposition. They are normally associated with more declarative and pragmatic dimensions of the brand offer.

Branding key model 3These brand values will also be reflected by values in the respective markets. The proposition must carry values that are important to its audience.

Branding key model 5However, these brand values, while they may be common across the majority of markets will not carry the same importance in each. Where environmental credentials may be very important to one market, they may be less important in another. Size may be reassuring to one country but irrelevant to another.

Branding key model 6To be successful, the brand must adjust its proposition from market to market. Let me emphasise, the brand’s values do not change, but the proposition must recognise the difference in relative importance of these values to the local markets. The values are international but the propositions can be local to varying degrees. The key is still the same just cut slightly differently to fit the lock.


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