If you were to ask 10 people what "corporate brand" means, you would probably get 10 different answers. To me corporate brand is all about the promise of your organization, and the touchpoints that connect customers and partners with products and services. All of these things combined help to create brand identify.
The breaking down of borders, both physical and virtual, has opened new channels for companies to reach global audiences. While that may be great news for shareholders, it creates a variety of challenges in maintaining a consistent brand identity. In the past content was difficult and expensive to create, so most if came from corporate headquarters. In today's world, since rich media content can be developed inexpensively using digital tools and then posted online across the Web or social channels, it is much harder to maintain corporate brand consistency on a global basis.
Working in a global environment certainly expands market potential, but with that potential comes many headaches for any chief marketing officer. If you look back five to 10 years ago, chief marketing officers had different issues to address than they do today. In the 1990s many companies that operated globally only focused on major territories, such as Western Europe or the Middle East. Now there are many smaller, more remote countries and regions that are engaged and active in sales and marketing. There are more languages, more cultures, and more styles used than ever before. In addition, these smaller regions often work together to share information; this cross-pollination can have a dramatic impact on your company's brand consistency.
Here are four issues to consider for any CMO who is operating on a global level.
Regional/cultural: Language, slogans, and images can mean different things to people in different countries. An image or icon that might be perfectly acceptable in one country might be considered offensive to people in another country. Similarly, emailing customers or partners in one area may be appropriate, yet in another area reaching out via social media tools might be more acceptable. When launching a campaign be sure to discuss this with regional marketing managers and give them the freedom to make changes as they see necessary.
Different channels of emphasis: Although there are many ways to reach your customers, in today's world the rate of technology adoption in a country or region is important to understand when determining your channel mix. For instance, in the B2B space in North America, to reach corporate leaders, industry influencers, and customers, marketing would have advertising and public relations target leading publications to deliver their message. Yet in Japan, where mobile technology is pervasive, leveraging technology such as NTT DoCoMo's i-mode would be the fastest way to reach customers.
Rise of social media: The incredibly rapid growth of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter have given companies the opportunity to communicate interactively with their customers. On the positive side, companies have more control over how and when information is shared with the public. On the flip side, customers can damage your company and its brand through negative comments on fan pages or in chat rooms. And what if the comments are inaccurate? Setting up systems to monitor customer feedback in each region is critically important to maintaining your corporate brand reputation. Another risk with social media is how quickly a rogue video or email can go viral and spread from one region to another. Regional managers need to be empowered to work quickly to take appropriate action to preserve your brand reputation.
Global direction and guidance: It's essential to instill a feeling of two-way dialogue, instead of one-way dictation, to your regional managers. For instance, at our headquarters in Toronto, when we design a global campaign, we create the necessary overview of information and messaging to be used by each region. However, we do not dictate what must be done or how is has to be used. We offer campaign guidance and ensure that there is a great deal of communication within our global team. Executives are placed in regions in part because they understand our company or business, but also because they understand how our company is perceived in their region and what business practices work there. The difference, compared to the past, is to provide global guidance and oversight, but not strict global mandates and control.
We are all well aware of how advances in technology have changed our everyday lives. Think about it for a minute, could you live without your smartphone for a day? Does a day go by where you don't check Facebook or Twitter? On the corporate level these advances have led to many changes with how corporate marketing leaders do their jobs, direct their teams and interact with their customers and partners. From my perspective, setting up processes that empower your regional marketing managers is the key to any success global marketing programs.
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