My question regards branding, both personal and business. What do you think are ways to brand yourself and your business in multiple countries when the language and the beliefs can be different? How do you brand internationally?
It is great you are thinking about international branding. The Internet almost forces marketers to think internationally, even when their focus is domestic.
With regard to branding, names that describe your product or service (e.g. Books.com) are easy for customers to understand, but can be problematic if the business changes down the road and can be difficult to protect legally. At the other end of the continuum are arbitrary names that are distinctive, memorable and easier to protect legally, but which require more marketing resources to explain.
In either case, it is important to see if these names, when translated in different languages, mean something that is not intended. The most famous example is the Chevy "Nova," which translates as "no go" in Spanish. The same holds true for slogans and symbols.
Companies have three choices when marketing in multiple countries. They can standardize their offerings across borders, which will maintain brand consistency while providing cost efficiencies. They can customize their offerings region by region, which best meets local needs and accommodates cultural differences. However, this risks weakening the brand identity if it means something different in each region -- remember, the Internet lets customers and media cross borders with ease.
The most popular approach is to adapt the marketing mix to local needs and cultures while maintaining the core brand identity. Costco has been very successful in Taiwan by maintaining its brand identity (low prices for bulk quantities) while modifying its offering by including local favorites such as Peking duck pizza and whole, vs. filleted, fish.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MARKETING
UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS
OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESSASK THE EXPERTS E-mail your questions to: www.stthomas.edu/business/schulzeschool/submitquestion.html