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Helping global brands align inside to win outside
Global Brand as a Marketing Strategy, Brand Consistency Imperative and Digital Environment Challenge
The common approach that firms which sought to “go global” did is to extend their domestic marketing strategies to international market. In other words they pursued the standardized approach of branding. This is what led to creation of global brands whose positioning, advertising strategy, personality, look, and feel are in most respects the same from one country to another. Global brands give companies competitive advantages, such as: 1) economies of scale in production and distribution 2) lower marketing costs 3) power and scope 4) consistency in brand image 5) ability to leverage ideas quickly and efficiently 6) uniformity of marketing practices. For example, it costs IBM much less to create a single global advertising campaign than it would to create separate campaigns for dozens of markets.
Going Global : extending domestic marketing strategies to international markets
Global brand as a marketing strategy is built around the idea of creation of a single global strategy that can be replicated in local markets. One story that can be literally and figuratively translated in multiple languages so that it will resonate and engage consumers around the globe. As it is based on a single global creative that needs to be replicated across markets, global brand campaign execution is a geographically dispersed organisational activity whose success requires brilliant implementation of materials conforming to established brand guidelines. Global branding execution as a highly complex organisational endeavour which brings together countries, vendors and partners working as virtual teams that span both geographical and time zones in intense time sensitive coordination and communication tasks and interactions. One of, if not the biggest threat to the continued success of a brand is lack of consistency. Consistency in delivering on your brand promise and consistency in how your brand is presented to the market.
One of the pillars of global brand and global branding execution is brand consistency – consistent application of brand materials across touchpoints and geographies. Why is the brand execution consistency important? The reason is the brand equity and consumers' brand knowledge structures which are influenced by marketing communication activities of today. Any marketing action a firm takes today can change consumer's brand awareness of brand image and have an indirect effect of future marketing activities. Consistency in communication towards consumers is critical to maintaining the strength and favourability of consumers' brand associations.
Consistency in communication towards consumers is critical to maintaining the strength and favourability of consumers' brand associations.
Consistency in global branding comes down to making sure that your brand is communicated consistently across all channels and touchpoints between your brand and your consumer. This today means that your brand must look the same, feel the same and say the same thing on all platforms, all devices, all languages, all media formats and all dimensions, and at all times. Sounds easy but it is not.
Consistency in global branding comes down to making sure that your brand is communicated consistently across all channels and touchpoints between your brand and your consumer
Digital strategy to execution gap for global brand communications lies in an universe of different channels, dimensions, media and format types, languages and devices that all have a perpetual and accelerating pace of change.
Change in technology triggered the change of consumer behaviour, digitising the consumers' paths-to-purchase and buying habits. At the same time, technology driven fragmentation of media landscape caused a proliferation of digital brand touchpoints and digital screens through which brands must reach customer. However, the size of change in marketing environment hasn't been met with adequate change in internal resources of companies. Ballooning number of digital touchpoints exponentially outnumbered internally assigned personnel to manage them. Fewer people manage and handle exponentially more brand touchpoints then couple year ago. While change in the number of digital brand touchpoints has been exponential, change in internal resources has only (maybe) been incremental. As a result there is an obvious volume and / or capacity disbalance between the changes in marketing environment - the rise of digital touchpoints and (lack of) changes in internal capacities of global brand organisations in terms of people and processes.
While change in the number of digital brand touchpoints has been exponential, change in internal resources has only (maybe) been incremental.
Continuous rise of digital touchpoints for brands to communicate with consumers
For global brands the multi-dimensional challenges of digital environment plays out in an already complex setting - both organisational wise (most global brands are widely complex organisations) and execution wise - they exist over multiple territories, countries, languages, cultures - This, Global Brand's Digital Consistency Challenge, in practice means that for example your brand's visual or campaign image has to look the same on all versions iPhones. Up until today that's about 7-10 versions of screen sizes AND resolutions on which your digital expression (as just one element of campaign) has to look the same and be adapted for usage context (eg. keeping text short for a mobile phone reading or keep it "image light" so you don't use all of your consumers data). Then add the rotation option (horizontal-vertical). Then add any dynamic elements that you might have to make sure they work on this device (each different technology and performance).
Universe of screens and platforms on which your brands needs to look & feel same
Then add network capabilities (internet not being fast same in all countries especially although we tend to forget that). Then add media outlets that your user will see on one of these iPhones (Website, Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin). Add media outlets dynamics of changes of resolution sizes, performance, visualisations and media supported. Add then languages to adapt the copy (language translations have different length of sentences thus that is coupled with the screen size availability) and of course also language within image in terms of position / placement. Add to this say Arabic language, not to mention Mandarin and you get the point. Multiply all of this above with number of brands an average global organisation has, number of digital media outlets, number of devices available and screens available and dynamic of publishing imposed by social and media platforms (multiple daily posts) and you have huge organisational challenge.
Maintaining consistency, while staying relevant in changing times is THE challenge for managing brands over time.
How does global brand digital inconsistency look in practice? The easiest way to showcase is to point to visual examples. I will use Linkedin and my daily ritual of reading / feed(ing) on news on Linkedin and use biggest global brands such as Unilever, Adidas, Kimberly-Klark, Hublot, Roche. This will obviously be a digital corporate brand challenge case as we're on Linkedin. I've made a small video to showcase all examples and save on vertical scrolling space. However, before you see these examples, ask yourself the following question : Would you allow the store window of your brands' flagship store located in the busiest pedestrian street that is seen by thousands of consumers every day or your shelf space in a business market be fitted with a crooked, skewed or misused posters, banners, promo materials and other POS materials?
You wouldn't allow your physical retail windows to be misfitted with improper sized visuals. why would you do it across digital ones?
Answer to that would probably be a resounding NO (or hell no!). Why would then your digital windows towards digital consumers be any different? They shouldn't. Increasingly the first impressions of your brand are digital impressions. This is true for current generation of customers. For those generations ahead digital brand experiences might account for majority of them! So being able to maintain digital brand consistency is a mater of future-proofing your brand.
Being able to maintain digital brand consistency is a mater of future-proofing your brand.
Click to play
596,604 followers of Roche on Linkedin daily look at digitally misfitted and missized corporate digital brand communications. Content posted I didn't look at but in this particular post I find it to be an interesting choice. A supposedly prestigious prize placed on a dinner table alongside bottles.
Examples of missized digital asset brand communication - digital brand inconsistency
While this is the most plastic example possible, many other are present, and you have probably encountered some yourself. You'll see for example carousel banners on e-retailers' websites with CTA's buttons covering the visuals, brand logos or even products, and very often on social media you'll see wrong cropping of a visual, missing text etc. The problem of brand digital inconsistency gets worse in non-owned channels, such as partner e-commerce and social media environments. As global brands don't have a direct control, they must rely on their partner's commitment and capacity (or lack of) to maintain their digital brand consistency. However, in these cases, most of the time e-retailers / e-commerce partners rely on brands to provide them with right-sized digital brand assets. So the organisational duty and challenge lies at most times within brands themselves.
Organisational Challenge of Digital Brand Consistency, The Knowhow, Resource and Process Gap of Centralised Global Brand Execution
The question and challenge of digital brand consistency lies within its' owners, not the channels or platforms it is communicated through. In e-retail environments making sure your brand is consistent with how and through which devices and technology platforms consumers consume your content will have a crucial impact, not only to your brand image & identity perceptions, but when it comes to brand product content, to your e-retail and e-commerce sales as well. This is something that some global organisations, though they were, due to type and sheer scope of brand portfolio, actually predisposed to laggard not leader positions, understood and acted early on. Unilever's e-commerce design experience team spearheaded couple years ago an industry wide brand's digital consistency in mobile retail - Mobile Hero Images, which as such would be a case of adapting or making the brand's appearance consistent with both use case and device (mobile device search and shopping) which I mentioned above. About this change initiative and campaigning for industry wide adoption find more about below.
But where and why is there a challenge within global brand organisations in case of maintenance of digital brand (in)consistency?
The underlying source of global brand digital (inconsistency) challenge lies in the interplay between (1) organisational complexity of global brands (2) digital knowhow and digital production capability gap (3) process gap of centralised digital brand production and distribution and (4) granular and heterogenous digital brand touchpoint environment.
This particular interplay of internal and external factors, creates an operational nightmare that results, depending of whether the interplay of underlying conditions occur simultaneously or consecutively. in organisational chaos, overburdened brand marketing professionals and inconsistent digital brand messaging.
- Organisational Complexity of Global Organisations
Even though every organisation is structured in some way, and that structure is determined by the its objectives, for modern global organisations the matrix model has become almost a standard. As problems and projects have become more complex, the inadequacy of the hierarchical and functional organisational structures became apparent. The matrix organisational structure provided solutions to these large scale project problems by allowing for impermanent project structures that co-existed with relatively permanent functional structures.
Matrix : functional, project, geographical lines make it inherently complex
The primary reason for adopting the matrix in large corporates can be pinpointed to the fact that functions and skills are fragmented throughout the organisational structure, while interdisciplinary projects required rapid infusions of technological know-how and efficient processing of very large amounts of information. In a matrix there are usually two chains of command, one along functional lines and the other along project, product, or client lines. Other chains of command such as geographic location are also possible and quite often, upon an already very complex organisational design, bring another layer of operational complexity.
So, simply because global organisations are complex systems, managing the internal network and projects is hard enough. Add the changing marketing environment in terms of digital screens & touchpoints on top of internal complexity and you'll understand why the reaction to the environment change is late or even absent.
- Digital Knowhow and Digital Production Capability Gap
Today's leading global organisations grew up by dominating certain product categories in mostly physical retail environment. Their organisational structures and organisational knowhow which composes a organisational competitive advantage has been created for exactly that - physical retail. However, in times of strategic inflection - when digital technology has shifted the base of competition multidimensionally - altering consumer preferences, competition landscape and sometimes even regulatory environment, previous competitive advantage deeply rooted within the organisation, are actually a competitive disadvantage as they make the organisation cling to 'old ways' while avoiding to embrace new ones.
Old advantages turned into digital inhibitors, so many global organisations (some even today) were and are reluctant to embrace new channels and new digital touchpoints, as sometimes or even quite often that means cannibalising their (still) existing business revenues and business streams. This anxiety made many of them avoid or postpone digital enablement which has resulted in "digitally disabled" teams that are simply not equipped to deal with digitised marketing environment. This has translated to lack of digital production capacities that have an intimate knowledge of brand values but as well how to translate it to digital properties. Knowing that each digital screen and position on website probably requires a different dimension and vertical/horizontal alignment of the brand asset creative means that you have to have an an agile digital brand factory well versed in digital media that will be able to produce brand creatives across the spectrum of differing sizes and specs and lead image layouts. Proliferation of digital screens and digital outlets for digital brand production means hundreds of different sizes, specs & versions of your digital brand assets.
- Process Gap of Centralised Digital Brand Production and Distribution
Centralisation of global brand management within Headquarter level brand marketing functions and teams was one of the responses of many global brand organisations to changing environment. However, outdated organisational design and workflows within HQ environments, combined with non-existence of internal digital enablement and scaling teams created a double jeopardy for headquarter brand marketing teams. Taking over previous responsibilities of country teams for management and execution of local campaigns, especially in part of centralised production and distribution of brand assets, while being digitally disabled - using excel sheets to keep track of brand execution, customer journeys, assets, dimensions, copy etc. mean one thing - email chaos, asset chases, and late nights at the office.
Digitally disabled brand marketing teams at headquarters struggle to meet the demands of country brand content requests
Number, heterogeneity and frequency of country brand content demands, coupled with insufficiently digitally enabled and comparatively small brand creative headquarter teams creates congestions and long waiting times for country requests fulfillments.
Process driven digital enablement of branding seems to have bypassed even biggest and very brand driven organisations.
Process driven digital enablement of branding seems to have bypassed even biggest and very brand driven organisations. Digital evolution seems to have happened only up to the level of DAM solutions - which are basically just digital warehouses for storage of assets. However, operations which involve actual steps of branding, workflows, and especially top-level ones - between geographically dispersed organisational levels which work as virtual teams in global campaign execution, still rely on email as a 'branding software'. That is why, for most if not all global brand organisations - most ubiquitous 'branding software' is 'Microsoft Outlook' inbox.
Global branding campaign execution as a highly complex organisational endeavour which brings together countries, vendors and partners working as virtual teams that span both geographical and time zones in intense time sensitive coordination and communication tasks. As it is based on a single global creative that needs to be replicated across markets, global brand campaign execution is a geographically dispersed organisational activity whose success requires brilliant implementation of materials conforming to established brand guidelines. This in turn requires multiple, upstream and downstream communication, information and asset flows between headquarters, countries, vendors, all within a time-limited campaigns lifecycle.
Global - Geo - Region - Country - Retailer : global branding campaign execution
Global branding execution requires multiple, upstream and downstream communication, information and asset flows between headquarters, countries, vendors, all within a time-limited campaigns lifecycle.
Without a process enforcement technology and digitised workflows this means that there isn't a single institutionalised way of doing tasks, and that any person that comes in positions that are either connected to global brand execution and digital brand consistency or lead it, in any of the organisational levels (Global-EMEA-Country), actually organises the workflow as he / she thinks is best fit. This not only leads to non-institutionalised execution workflows whose performance is impossible to measure and compare but also chaos when this person leaves or needs to hand-over the business to another one.
Client status of global branding operations prior to standardisation
Lack of team digital enablement, non-defined processes of global brand execution and lack of digital knowhow and resource capabilities, make global digital brand consistency a self perpetuating operational nightmare.
In short to medium term best solution might be to seek external help for growth, scaling and optimisation of centralised digital brand management and execution. This is where we at SO DIGITAL can help with resources but more importantly with processes.
Solving The Operational Nightmare of Global Digital Brand Consistency
In a world of perpetuating fragmenting environment of digital brand touch-points with continuously refreshing algorithm driven feeds and disappearing messages, keeping brands alive in customers' feeds and minds is matter of a a robust brand content supply chain performance. To make sure that your brand content is at the right place at the right time and at right sizes along the digital customer journeys across your network of countries, retail partners, vendors and their physical and digital properties you need a high performing digitalised and digitised brand content supply chain in place. This digital brand content supply chain will look and be composed differently for each global organisation but in any case will have a resource capacity - digital brand production resources at disposal and process architecture - delivery of brand content across organisational layers and units.
You need a high performing digitalised and digitised brand content supply chain in place.
We at SO DIGITAL look at global branding and branding operations as a supply chain management challenge and create solutions and services with this perspective in place.
SO DIGITAL BRAND IMPLEMENTATION EXCELLENCE
SO DIGITAL GLOBAL DIGITAL BRAND IMPLEMENTATION EXCELLENCE service helps headquarter brand marketing teams set up, operate and continuously improve a scalable centralised digital brand execution support system that efficiently manages heterogenous brand content demands from stakeholders across countries. Our service merges technology that creates structure both on supply and demand side of brand content relationship between headquarters and countries with scalable and cost-efficient digital brand production resources. Together they compose a support system that is able to effectively handle wide range of digital brand content needs.
Platform architecture represents a tiered digitalised brand content supply chain system that resides on predefined user level roles and needs, assigned platform and campaign process phase views, mapped out stakeholder/partner brand touchpoint specs, brand directives and 3rd party productivity tools. it divides brand execution on planning, execution and reporting phases providing complete visibility and transparency into progress across the organisational levels (hq-country-retailer) thus optimising and aligning execution time.
Unlike traditional agencies, our business model and value proposition is tailored made for headquarters of global brands facing capacity and process gaps of centralised global branding execution. Our relevant client cases include Nike EMEA - Digital Brand Wholesale.com team - digital production and scaling of operations for 14 Western Europe markets and Uber EMEA digital branding support and scaling of in-house creative brand team support towards 47 countries and city level marketeers.
Nike EMEA - Digital Brand Content Production Support + Digital Brand Execution Scaling and Optimization
Digital Brand Wholesale.com - newly formed, almost start-up like, team was tasked with continuous digital brand enablement of category’s growth and sales targets with individual and group accounts across Western Europe. To be able to operationalise brand strategy execution in a context of a complex global organisation implementing centralised global branding and diverse and extensive network of wholesale partner network there were two significant structural transformations to be made. First, centralisation of digital brand management and execution and, second, tiering of wholesale partner’s branding support.
Both cases involved digital brand implementation resources combined with process infrastructure to help scale the execution and as one of the outputs had digital brand consistency across countries and touchpoints.
Operationalising the centralised execution of digital brand strategy through tiered production support of Nike’s wholesale.com partner accounts across Western Europe markets was the main role of SO DIGITAL. Successfully navigating the complex ecosystem of categories, products, brand, brand managers, brand directors, country managers, and retail account needs with array of digital brand products tailored to each account's specs within tight campaign launch timeframes was the main challenge of our position. High volume, high stakes, intense communication, coordination and alignment across vertical levels of organisation to successfully launch new product releases and support them with digital assets on time and on brand across 14 markets and across 50+ partners was our daily work context.
Air Max Genealogy on Footlocker.eu
Uber EMEA - Digital Brand Content Production Support + Digital Brand Execution Scaling and Optimization
At the end of 2016, in order to continue its scalable global growth, UBER centralized digital brand marketing campaign management operations in Europe, Middle East and Africa. This in effect meant that a new team was being formed in Amsterdam UBER EMEA headquarters that was to takeover some of the functions from countries and marketing managers in countries.
Much like in our Nike EMEA use case, centralising digital brand marketing campaign management was driven due to budget rationalisation reasoning, but also growing digital brand consistency across the markets. For a while EMEA team was internally handling some of the request for marketing materials and activations that they started receiving from countries within a new cooperation framework, but soon experienced both resource challenges and alignment and coordination challenges that were hampering their day to day operations.
In search of additional capacity UBER EMEA invited SO DIGITAL to provide digital production support. Learning in the process of our Platform solution, UBER realised it's potential in solving the country coordination, country campaign visibility, brand alignment and resource capability for centralised digital brand campaign operations and centralised campaign production context they found themselves in.
Our solutions leverage technology to systematise and simplify market-by-market visibility and availability of brand approved campaign directives and brand content while providing scalable digital production support resources for tier 2, tier 3 content design execution and/or adaptation requests by markets / stakeholders.
To digitally enable brand marketing professionals to manage challenge of digital branding in a changed marketing environment, branding software technology tailor made to an organisation’s operative model is coupled with responsive customer service that operates with 1 hour turn-around & response times
Contact us today for a no-commitment walk through of SO DIGITAL platform solutions implemented for clients like Nike EMEA and Uber EMEA and let us show you how you can achieve global digital brand consistency without operational chaos.
B.Ziegler " Resource & Process Gap : Centralising Global Digital Brand Management & Execution" https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/resource-process-gap-centralising-digital-brand-boris-ziegler/
O.Bradley : " What is a mobile ready hero image?" https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/what-mobile-ready-hero-image-oliver-bradley/
B.Ziegler : "Retail Brand Digital Inflection Point" . https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/retail-brand-digital-inflection-point-boris-ziegler/
B.Ziegler " Global Brand's Digital Consistency Challenge" https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/retail-brand-digital-inflection-point-boris-ziegler/