How to think and act like a global brand as a small business

- October 13, 2022 4 MIN READ

With small businesses now able to access a global audience, many are throwing their hat in the international ring to boost sales and brand awareness. However, competing with huge global brands brings its own set of challenges for small and medium-sized businesses. Shayne Tilley, Head of Marketing at 99designs by Vista explains how small businesses can think and act like a global brand.

There’s a reason some of the most successful brands are also global brands. These businesses have spent countless hours ensuring that their branding stays true to who they are, while still appealing to customers all over the world.

Through the rise of accessible eCommerce and digital platforms, servicing a global market is now also a real prospect for many small businesses. And as the world gets smaller thanks to social media, there’s more eyes on your brand than ever before. These days it’s not uncommon for the smallest of businesses to ‘go viral’ overnight and suddenly have thousands of orders ringing in from around the world.

However, creating a brand that is relevant to a broad range of markets is not without its challenges. Building a truly ‘culture-neutral’ brand is almost impossible. You can’t please everyone, as they say, but you can take certain steps to ensure your brand is hitting the right notes with as many international audiences as possible.

How to think and act like a global brand

Whether you intend to officially launch into other markets one day, or service customers around the world from your home market, starting to think and act like the most successful global brands is a great recipe for success.

expanding to global markets is good for business

Always start with thorough research

No matter what size your business is or where you’re operating, you can’t expect customers to automatically embrace what you’re selling. Global brands are successful because of the leg work they do to understand the nuances of new markets before launching into them.

Different cultures have different associations with things like colours and imagery. Brand names and slogans also sound and read differently across languages. By understanding these variations, they present themselves in a way that is relevant and appealing to each audience, while still remaining true to their brand identity.

This approach is relevant regardless of whether you plan to take your business global or not. No matter the market, you have to speak your customers’ visual language. A Gen Z audience is going to have different consumer behaviour than an older audience, and a community of thrill-seeking, extreme sports fans is going to have alternative needs to those seeking a more zen, mindful experience. How your brand looks, sounds and communicates is partially defined by those who you want to reach.

The more you can consider the needs of your customers, the more likely you are to build a relationship with them. This relationship translates quickly into trust, which can mean they not only become repeat customers, but recommend you to their friends or via social media too.

Brand value, loyalty, identity, perception, awareness and marketing

Consistency is key

If you’ve ever been overseas and encountered a familiar brand, you’ll quickly notice that their visual identity is easily identifiable, regardless of whether it might have been translated into a different language or even given a localised brand name. There’s a reason UK burger chain Burger King reminds you of Hungry Jacks, and Smiths chips look suspiciously similar to the Lay’s chips in the US. While they may have different names to accommodate their locations, their iconic brand colours, form, fonts and imagery remain the same.

This consistency in design is one of, if not the most, important consideration when building a brand. It helps an audience recognise and build associations with your brand – wherever they may encounter it. This means all your visual elements, such as logo, colours, form and imagery must maintain a cohesive look and feel across all parts of your brand, from your website and social media, to your product packaging.

This also means making sure you are maintaining consistency in your mission and vision as a business too. Be strong and committed to your values, and communicate about them often with your audiences. This is how you build a brand that will stick in a customer’s mind – by showing them that your brand is relatable, reliable and one they can trust. Take Patagonia, for example. This brand is loud and proud about its mission to save the planet in everything it does and as a result has built a dedicated global community of brand devotees who resonate with these values.

man using website builder to create website homepage

Deliver a five star web experience

While customers from different markets might discover you through social media, if their interest in your brand is piqued, their next stop will be your website.

Nothing kills a sale quicker than a poorly designed website. So if you want these customers to stick around, make sure your online store is simple, easy to navigate, up to date and, most importantly, consistent with the rest of your brand identity. Especially for customers visiting from a different county, you want to make the overall experience from first visit to purchase as smooth as possible, free of distractions and clutter that may confuse or alienate them.

Additionally, if you notice that your brand is resonating with a particular market, and you have the resources to do so, engaging a localisation expert to translate your website and make nuanced adaptations according to local culture and consumer behaviours will go a long way to making that market feel even more welcomed by your brand.

While it’s never been easier to expand your business across borders, it’s still not an easy task. But staying true to your brand and putting your audiences at the heart of your decisions, just as the most successful global brands do, will see you winning the hearts and minds of your customers, wherever they are in the world.

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