The 3 Keys to International Brand Management

International brand management

Globalization has changed the way we do business by forcing business owners to always look internationally for new customers. The Internet only amplified this effect, and now the world’s biggest brands can be found in several different countries, languages, and cultures. E-Commerce owners are particularly well-poised for such a venture, with the capacity to reach foreign markets easier online. But how do you go about penetrating a foreign market and making sure your product or service is well adapted to the target culture? Three words: Adapt, Provide, and Brand.

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Before wading into international waters, an important question needs to be asked: “Why is this consumer going to choose my product over a similar product produced in their home country?” The best way to answer that question is to look at the reasons why your customer chooses your product at home. Price point will not be your strong suit, as most foreign products are subject to an import tax and will have to be sold a bit higher than domestically.

What innovations are you going to bring to the market to keep your competition on their toes?

What innovations are you going to bring to the market to keep your competition on their toes? Will it be the way you handle customer service, or lightning quick delivery, or new technology changing the way customers purchase your products? This can be as simple as adapting the design of your E-commerce, or adding new functionalities. Keep in mind that you will most likely have to adapt for each market targeted: no two cultures are the same, so why would you apply the same strategy for different cultures?

No two cultures are the same; why would their marketing strategies be?

Remember, innovation starts at the back office- and extends to the user-experience. Innovating for international commerce will not only help while targeting foreign markets, but it will also help your domestic business run smoother. Your product may need to be adapted (even just a small tweak here and there) for your international customers.

Ikea China

A good example can be found from the implementation of Swedish furniture retailer IKEA in Chinese markets. In the beginning, IKEA formed a joint venture with a local company to comply with Chinese laws, which served as a good testing platform for the company. At the time, young adults couldn’t afford the relatively inexpensive furniture from IKEA (as furniture in China is considerably less expensive than what IKEA could offer), while older adults with more purchasing power failed to be seduced by the company’s modern Euro-style furniture. By building local factories in China, IKEA was able to drive its prices down and target the young, middle class population.

IKEA had to adapt the business model to accommodate the smaller, more modular Chinese apartments and appropriately reflect the typical Chinese apartment in its stores. The same problem occurred in the US when American customers demanding larger beds and closets, the smaller European products weren’t going to meet the demand. Going for a more localized approach was the better choice for the company.

The advantage of standardization is that there is a base quality for products in all markets. The disadvantage is a lack of flexibility to respond to consumer demands.

Some brands choose an option that doesn’t include adapting to different markets, like Apple. Apple decided to standardize all products regardless of market, which is certainly an easier approach. However, the disadvantages include a lack of flexibility and reactivity when it comes to consumer demands. The bonus for the company, however, is that their value comes from a quality angle, which standardization supports.


What is the one thing you should provide to your clients above all other things? Value. Providing value to your consumers can equate to price point (which could be unlikely with imported goods), convenience, simplicity, product quality, etc. This is where it’s necessary to innovate your purchasing process to differentiate yourself from the competitor.  What you can provide to your customer is your greatest selling point both in domestic and international markets. For an international E-Commerce, perhaps the value that you bring to your customers can be based on the quality of your products. When customers purchase imported goods, they’re typically looking for something specific- like quality or low price point.

Ikea value

However, it’s important to understand that you might not be able to provide the same things for each target market. Knowing what sets you apart from the competitor will help you market your E-commerce more effectively in your target markets. That being said, there is still a lot to consider when marketing your business overseas.


Building your brand image from the ground up will take work, dedication, and time.

Your brand will matter overseas, since chances are, you’ll be virtually unknown. Building your brand image from the ground up will take work, dedication, and a bit of time. Your image is important because it influences how consumers feel about your business and your products. Therefore, this image, your brand, needs to be cultivated and created through effective marketing campaigns. Failing to create your brand image correctly can have detrimental consequences for your sales.

Be sure to have studied the target culture well enough to keep from making terrible PR mistakes when marketing.

Social media can help give your brand a voice when it comes to cultivating your image. Charity, good-will, and environmental campaigns can help give your business the boost it needs towards a positive brand image. It’s easier to engage the public on social media when doing these sorts of campaigns, by providing a hashtag unique to your campaign, or creating a social media event. This can help you gain visibility, while creating a positive image of your company. Be sure to have studied the target culture well enough to keep from making terrible PR mistakes when marketing. These mistakes can be difficult to bounce back from, and damage control might be harder than you think.

However you decide to go about creating your global image, it’s not something to be taken lightly. By understanding your local culture, providing real value to your customers, adapting your product and strategy, and cultivating your brand image, you can have the same success internationally.

What’s the worst international marketing flop you’ve ever heard of? Post your example below or tweet us!