International branding in the digital age

The premise of building an international brand is ambitious and to really succeed in creating a global brand you need to be thinking about how it will translate universally.  The rise of digital marketing platforms is also a game changer.  It might be easier to make the initial contact with international audiences but it requires a different approach to branding compared to the pre-digital world.

Thinking global

The internet isn’t restricted by geographical borders and this means using different brand strategies in different countries isn’t viable.  When you market via social media, for example, you are sharing with the world; a market in a certain country considered of less importance than another country now becomes an equal priority. Bad reception in one country can have direct knock-on effect in another.

Brand culture

Digital communications means a re-thinking of brand culture.  A brand needs to have one single, strong world view or philosophy and this should be reflected in a brand culture.  Everything you do from then on must be in line with that culture.  For example, when Google introduced a self-censored search engine in China which seemed to go against their brand culture of making the world’s information universally accessible and useful, users questioned their commitment to their philosophy.  Their actions contradicted what they said they stood for which hurt their brand identity.


If you want your website to be useful for international customers then there are a few house-keeping and technical issues you need to consider.  Language is a key concern.  If you take the time to invest in a full translation of your website then it will prove to users that you’re genuinely concerned about their website experience.  If this isn’t possible you should at least consider putting a translation toolbar at the top of your page.  If you’re adapting your page for another English speaking country you still need to translate your pages into American English or Australian English as these are technically different languages and providing them with a British English page could cause confusion.

You also need to think about different cultural traditions and this means considering colour and content.  Colour has a lot of symbolic associations – in China red is lucky; in Russia, not so much.  You need to think about this when you design your page.  You also need to think about how your users will be using the page and how this affects your design.

Will your users be reading left-to-right or right-to-left? Are you using images which will be appropriate for audiences across the world? These kinds of things need to be considered carefully when you design your page.

International branding is a tricky thing to get right but once you do it can propel your business to success.  The most important thing today is to create a coherent brand culture which initially attracts the customer, and then make sure you’ve made practical adaptions to your webpages so that the international user gets the best experience.

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