We recently spoke to a group of businesses who were in the process of taking their business, and brand, global. There are many challenges when your brand spreads its wings, but one of our key points was to ensure that they understood the culture of any new location.
When considering a brand we must understand that in embodying ‘relationships’, ‘values’ and ‘feelings’ a brand exists within, and is affected by, its environment. In a new location this environment includes the people, and therefore their behaviours, habits, shared memories, and cultural reference points. A brand only has any worth to a business if it can help to create or develop a relationship with people. In order to develop a relationship it is vital to gain some understanding of the local culture – what people are more likely to connect with or to relate to.
This isn’t to say that businesses should look to hugely change their brand in order to appeal to different cultures. What it does mean though is that certain defining characteristics or values of the brand may resonate more in a certain culture than others. Some visual approaches may work well in one culture, but not so much in others. For example, many years ago we worked with an architects who were based in the UK but also a very large business in Asia. When creating their digital communications we learnt that what worked for the UK audience, a very narrative-driven approach, simply didn’t work for Asia who wanted as much content as you could give them at once.
No brand is an island. Your brand is affected by, and affects, the environment it is in – and should the environment change (such as entering a new market) then this must be taken into consideration for the brand to have relevance in this new environment.
A worthwhile further read on this is Edward T. Hall’s ‘Beyond Culture’. Hall explains that many of the behaviours that we assume are human behaviour, and therefore global, are actually cultural, and therefore specific to certain environments. We take-for-granted many linguistic patterns and personality dynamics that are cultural and not global, and once we appreciate this then we can begin to shape a brand for culturally-specific audiences.
Image © Kirsteen
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