Branding for International Success

Ceris Burns, international marketing specialist for the cleaning industry takes a look at the importance and application of branding to aid success in overseas markets.

Why is branding important?
Ultimately brands are created to avoid the commoditisation of products and services which leads to purchasing decisions being made on price alone.  The buyer expects to pay a premium for a number of perceived benefits from a recognised supplier or brand. Brands can lend a sense of authority to the purchasing decision and in some cases a particular product or service might even be specified by a company as it has been placed on their preferred supplier list.  In this case branding helps lock out the competition.

International branding
Branding is the most visible of a company’s activities and this is even more the case when applied on an international scale.  Branding allows customers to identify products and services across multiple markets which will guarantee their satisfaction as they provide specific benefits.  These benefits might be based upon performance, price, quality or image.  For the company, brands provide a point of differentiation from their competitor’s products and are also a way of adding value to the company.  There is potential for the company to add value through one or more ways such as:  Premium pricing – brands allow higher prices to be charged compared with non-branded products, Higher volumes – branded products can generate higher volumes if they are positioned at standard rather than premium price levels. Lower costs – higher volumes lead to cost reduction from economies of scale which improves competitiveness. Improved use of assets – high sales levels should lead to the optimum use of assets such as equipment and supply and distribution channels.

Brand Components & Strategies
A brand can be made up of tangible (for example ‘product reliability’) and intangible (the purchaser experiences a specific feeling as a result i.e prudent decision making or professionalism) benefits.  In business to business environments, decision making tends to be more rational and as such branding is created around product or service attributes such as specification and performance.  A brand builds confidence with customers in situations where it might be difficult for them to assess the differences between competitor products.

In international markets, due to different cultures, customer expectations and market development, the appeal of a branding approach may be more appropriate for a similar product.  For example in some cultures, product or service attributes will be more important  while in others aspirational branding may appeal.  Another challenge for companies wishing to market their products overseas is to gauge to what extent the intangible benefits of branded products and services vary between countries, cultures and individuals.

When wishing to promote a brand overseas the first decision has to be which type of branding to adopt.  There are several types of branding and these include: Umbrella branding – one brand which supports several products, Product branding – each product has a unique brand, Line branding – a number of complementary products share the same concept, Range branding – similar to line branding but includes a broader range of product concepts, Sourcing branding – products are double branded with a corporate or range name and a product name, Private branding – products are supplied to a third party for sale under their own brand name. In recent times, in part due to the economic climate, there has been an increase in private branding because private brands are perceived as being value for money. Whichever strategy you decide to take, your choice is likely to be based upon whether the benefits of a shared identity outweigh the importance of differentiation between individual product brands.

Positioning is related to brand strategy and implementation and is concerned with how a product or service is to be differentiated from the competition. In the case of international marketing it should be remembered that perceptions of certain aspects of a product’s positioning may vary across countries. It is also necessary to establish in the customer’s eyes exactly what the product stands for and how it differs from existing and future competition by creating an identity which clearly represents the value of the product. Differentiation could be based upon price, quality, product or service attributes, specific applications or even direct comparison with a competitor.

For more information about international branding or positioning contact Ceris Burns