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Three Tips for Branding Internationally

March 10th, 2020

One of the most important facets of marketing is building a strong, recognizable brand. International companies like McDonald’s, Walmart, and Google all have logos that stand out due to years of experience and consistency.

However, sometimes branding does need to be adjusted for foreign markets.

Whether you’re just starting to branch out into other countries, or have been doing business internationally for a while, there are some important things to keep in mind. Here are just a few tips when marketing your product to other cultures.

1. Do your market research

The easiest way to avoid a cultural snafu is to perform thorough market research for each country or region you plan on marketing to. Present your logo and branding to various groups of people and see how they respond. If the feedback is negative, you’ll have time to make changes before promoting your product on a larger scale.

RJ Metrics provides a great example of how market research helps build a brand. In 2013, the company began receiving dozens of messages on Twitter suggesting that their new logo resembled a pair of underwear. Baffled by this comparison, they soon realized this confusion came from a specific region in the UK where they had failed to perform market research. In order to make their logo more appealing to a wider audience, they adjusted the geometric shape to look more 3-dimensional, and less like underwear.

2. Adapt as needed

Ideally your logo will be universal, but sometimes brand names and marketing materials just don’t translate well. Let’s look at some examples of when it would be a good idea to adapt your logo.

  • It doesn’t make sense

When Coca-Cola expanded to China, they discovered their name meant “bite the wax tadpole.” Rather than create confusion, the company chose another name for this market which translates to “delicious, able to enjoy.”

  • The copyright is taken

Another common reason to change your logo is if the copyright for your business is already taken in an international market. Burger King, for example, had to choose a different name when moving to Australia. The company opted to use the name Hungry Jack’s instead.

  • It clashes with culture

Sometimes marketing materials resonate well with one culture, but don’t fit elsewhere. For example, Cool Ranch Doritos are branded as “Cool American” in Europe, because ranch dressing isn’t common in other parts of the world. If you’re using imagery or language specific to your culture, it may be a good idea to localize those aspects for other countries.

3. Be Consistent

If you do need to change your logo or marketing materials for another culture, the most important thing to remember is to be consistent. In order to build recognition, keep the same font and color scheme throughout your branding.

Of course, colors have different meanings and superstitions in various cultures and there are some instances when you may want to adjust your logo accordingly. But for the most part, color and overall appearance should be uniform. One example of changing color schemes for other markets is UPS. The company uses blue in its international websites—a more universally appealing color than brown.

Whatever stage of international branding you may be in, it’s always a good idea to complete thorough market research, make cultural changes as needed, and be consistent.