Go Big or Go Home: How to Build an International Brand

This is written by a friend, Roger Gallager, a Marketing and Sales specialist. He has written a wide range of articles about marketing strategies, business world, real estate, and mobile technology. This is a two-part series where he shares his insights on international branding. Today, he discusses how to build an international brand applicable to businesses striving to improve their presence across the globe.


Going international with your business requires more than just making your website available to other countries in the world.

Being successful in the international scene requires a great deal of work. The online population continues to grow rapidly, and the opportunities are endless for businesses to thrive in. Caveat for businesses out there: it’s not easy to rebuild a brand internationally.

Think of building a global brand as starting from scratch. You may have made it to the local scene, you have a decent number of followers or you’re considered as one of the leading brands in your locality. However, going global calls for new market research, determining which country has demand for your product or service, and localizing your brand to make it more “familiar” to your new target audience.

Go back to the drawing board and look at your current branding strategies. Why did it work out with your current target audience? What are the striking elements that made your brand, “the” brand that people patronize? Compile these questions and more as we discuss these tips on building a global brand:

Consumer Behavior: What Can Make Them Buy You?


From freepik.com

Again, going global requires new market research on what makes your potential customers buy products and services. In an interview with Traveloka, a Southeast Asian online booking platform, they discussed not only the importance of having a multinational site, but how market research is also important to know your audience’s “pain points, habits, and touch points.”

Buying preferences or habits vary from one culture to another — what may work with your current audience may not work or may even be offensive to another culture. Back in 1997, Nike designed a sports shoe that has a flame logo on it, but unintentionally resembled the Arabic word for Allah. They had to call back 38,000 pairs of these shoes as Islamic leaders express their dismay as it was offensive for their religion. This blunder resulted in a sales ban; the Council on American- Islamic Relations (Cair) even urge the Muslim community to boycott sales on the brand.

On the bright side, Budweiser was able to transcend different cultural markets with its brand as they have successfully penetrated markets in South Africa and China. They made themselves relevant to their consumers through their World Cup sponsorships and TV advertising. They made the most out of the Chinese New Year festivities in China, making themselves part of their celebrations — China now consumes more Bud than the US!

Brand Positioning: Where Do People Buy Stuff?


Photo from Pexels

It’s now time to check out your local competitors to gauge what you can do to make yourself stand out. Are they offering the same products and services as you do? Do they lack some features compared to your brand? How do they market their own wares?

On the other hand, your online presence may play a big role in this game. Americans are more likely to buy something online through their smartphones, but Indonesians prefer to complete a transaction via desktop. Brands don’t go into markets. Brands are pulled into markets by their audience. Your brand will heavily depend on your website, that’s why it’s important to have an international SEO strategy that can improve your online presence in different search engines. First, determine which search engine is preferred by people in your target country. Next, research on what people prefer to use to buy things online. Do they prefer transactions made via desktop, mobile sites, or mobile apps? Then, integrate these into your international SEO fundamentals. The key here is to create a seamless cross-device experience that can help you cater to different buying habits of your audience.

Communication: To Google or Not to Google

From freepik.com

While it’s easier for most people to chuck weird text into Google Translate to understand it on their native language, there’s a more serious problem that you might encounter if you do not pay attention to the language barriers ahead.

Here’s a list of examples from Inc. where top global brands failed to get their message across:

  • Colgate: launched their brand under the name “Cue” which is also the name of a popular French porn magazine.
  • Gerber: top baby food brand marketed in Africa without considering that in some parts of the continent, products have photos on the label of its ingredients since many of the consumers can’t read. Gerber’s logo is a cute baby on its label.
  • Pepsi: Mistranslated their slogan “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” to “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave” in China.
  • American Dairy Association: “Got Milk?” is an advertising campaign that aims to encourage milk consumption. It was mistranslated to “Are You Lactating?” in Spanish-speaking markets.
  • Vicks introduced its cough drops into the German market without realizing that the German pronunciation of “v” is “f” making “Vicks” slang for sexual intercourse.

On the other hand, communication isn’t purely words, but also it translates in colors. For example, the US market favors colors of blues and greens, while in some Asian countries, there are a variety of colors preferred, with purple, pink, and red standing out among the other colors. These preferences may stem from their cultural affinities as well.

Brand Adaptability: Widen Your Perspectives

According to Raletta, a digital marketing agency, “Your brand may have to offer more products depending on the demand”. Some brands have modified or changed their names entirely to signify change or added products or services. One example is Booking.com. Booking.com was formerly known as Priceline, a travel dot-com company that used to offer to bid for flights. Now, they have shifted their focus to a hotel and home rentals.

Another brand that changed suit is Best Buy. This e-commerce giant was once an electronic store of stereos named Sound of Music. Nowadays, they offer appliances, computers, home security tools, cellphones, and even toys!

Your name should reflect what you can offer. For example, if your brand name is Auto Audio Shop and now you also offer automobile peripherals and spare parts, consider renaming your brand to give the consumers the idea that you’re not only into audio but you also offer other auto-related parts too.


It is a common concept that branding should be uniform across all channels, but you must rethink, and step back should you decide to go on an international scale. Going global can change the way your brand communicates with your target audience, but the design and the character of your brand should be the same across the world.

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