How to Cultivate a Global Brand Without Losing Local Relevance

August 3, 2023

When given the opportunity, few companies would pass up the chance to reach into new markets and expand their global reach. Going global offers a chance to gain a competitive edge in new markets while boosting profit margins and improving your bottom line.

Yet, the key to achieving global success is to maintain a local approach to doing business. After all, every market is a local market. As Statista data show, customers in most countries still favor local brands over global ones and if you expand into a new country or region without first planning how you’ll translate your brand image into that market’s language, there’s a good chance your efforts will fall flat. 

As you grow your business and expand your reach, it’s important to consider how you’ll do it with a local flavor. Doing so means understanding both how to make a great global brand and how to get your message across in a new context.

What Makes a Great Global Brand

The most successful global brands are instantly recognizable, no matter where you are in the world. They’ve found a way to craft a brand identity that transcends cultures, making them a household name even in radically different cultures.

First and foremost, this success starts with distilling a brand’s core values into a consistent brand image — something that can be captured in a simple logo or slogan. Consider the Apple logo or the McDonald’s arches: these straightforward images convey everything a potential customer needs to know in virtually any market.

That brand consistency must extend beyond mere branding, however. Delivering a consistent customer experience, whether you’re dealing with customers in the U.S., Brazil, or China, is a hallmark of the most successful brands. The Ritz-Carlton, for instance, is widely known for delivering the same stellar experience to its customers, regardless of where they are. When you stay at a Ritz, you know exactly what you’re going to get and consistency builds customer loyalty and thereby ROI.

That consistently great customer experience doesn’t happen without a strong localization strategy, though. Customer expectations are varied across the globe, and your marketing and customer service efforts must be tailored to each unique market you hope to reach.

How Global Brands Frequently Fall Flat in Local Markets

Striking that balance is easier said than done, and there are plenty of global marketing flops from major brands to prove it. Even largely successful companies often find their messages lost in translation in a new target market.

BMW, for instance, landed in hot water with customers in the United Arab Emirates when it inappropriately used the country’s national anthem in an ad for its cars while Starbucks’ failure to break into the Australian market in the early 21st century is now a classic example of misfired marketing efforts. More recently, Airbnb made a series of missteps with Chinese customers, ultimately pulling out of the market entirely at the end of 2022.

These are only a few of the countless examples of brand localization strategies gone bad. And, while there’s no single reason why these brands’ messages have failed to resonate with local customers, these mistakes generally do come down to one problem area: communication. When a company’s global brand strategy fails to reckon with the unique cultural and linguistic distinctions of a new market, the results generally won’t be successful.

Crafting Consistent Global Communication in Every Local Market

As in any relationship, effective communication starts with listening and understanding. Before you attempt to reach local consumers in a new market, you must do thorough market research to understand the local culture, customs, and language of the people you’re trying to reach. Even where there is a shared language, such as in the U.K. and the U.S., there are myriad distinctions in how language is used and understood. Using U.S. word spellings will give your company away as an outsider to your British audience.

Simple details like these reveal what’s so challenging about brand localization. Without proper attention to those details, it’s easy for any global brand to miss the mark. BMW failure among Emirati customers, for example, could have been avoided had the company’s marketing team done deeper research into Emiratis and better understood their commitment to country over cars.

That said, that level of research requires a lot of time and effort and it’s easy to see why companies caught in the currents of global growth may fail to dedicate sufficient resources to the cause. Understanding the culture and language of a new market — and consistently and correctly translating your message into that market — demands a thorough process of reviewing and approving every message that goes out.

The Unbabel Solution

The market research side of that equation is demanding enough, but the translation side is far easier to simplify and streamline — thanks to solutions like Unbabel. Through a seamless combination of artificial intelligence and human editorial review, Unbabel helps brands translate their messages into new cultural languages with unparalleled efficiency and accuracy.

This multilingual support applies across all marketing and customer service channels, wherever you need to localize your efforts. Our hybrid AI solution can work with your human agents in any context, whether via chat messaging or developing and checking email marketing copy, to deliver reliable translations that speak to your new local audience.

And with our recent acquisition of Bablic, we’ve taken these capabilities to the next level. This simple, no-code web translation tool will help you optimize your website for any cultural context by maximizing multilingual SEO and supporting customer acquisition. This all happens automatically and at lightning speed, and our tools simplify the process of review and approval.

When you globalize your brand, there’s no avoiding the work of distilling your brand identity and determining how you’ll convey that across cultural boundaries. But once you have that nailed down, you can radically simplify the work of communicating that identity in countless languages.

And with Unbabel, you don’t have to trade accuracy for speed. You can have both  — and you’ll see the results in how customers respond to your marketing and service efforts, no matter where you take your company. Want to see how far Unbabel can take you?

 Schedule a demo today.

About the Author

Profile Photo of Jessica Florez
Jessica Florez

Jessica Florez is the Senior Content Strategist at Unbabel. She has 10 years of proven success in content marketing strategy and development to build business brands, support global sales teams, drive demand for products and services. She boasts a wide range of expertise in both B2B + B2C integrated marketing roles, for industries that include financial services, healthcare, tech (SaaS), and tour & travel. She earned her BA from the University of Central Florida, and her MFA from Hofstra University.