Monday, 31 March 2014

How to make brands portable across borders

Expanding into new geographical markets can be a minefield for brands.  History is littered with stories of successful brands that have failed miserably to convert their brand promise to different markets. Tesco’s recent foray into the USA being a case in point.

So, can brands be ‘portable’ across borders? The answer has to be a qualified ‘yes’. 

News reports today would indicate that fashion brand New Look has successfully broken into the mammoth Chinese market, following on the heels of Zara, H&M and Marks & Spencer. It’s done so by applying some basic, yet fundamental, marketing principles:
  • Know your target market inside out:  New Look has did extensive research into what Chinese consumers expect to find on the high street before opening its first stores.
  • Adapt your offering to meet local needs and cultural differences: armed with the research, New Look has adapted its range to suit Chinese tastes and requirements.  This has meant a focus on bright colours and clothes that cover shoulders, for example.
  • Do not lose sight of your heritage: New Look has focused on its fashion-conscious, design-led approach but stressed its British heritage through the tagline “Designed in London, styled for China”.
  • Stick to what you know and do best: in New Look’s case this is fashionable clothes at reasonable prices.  And for the time being it’s sticking to ladies wear, reflecting the strength of this sector for the brand in its home market.
There’s no rocket science here – it’s about applying a common sense approach to each market, while not losing sight of the core brand proposition.  It’s something that brands like McDonald’s, with its subtle cultural differences in menu, have known about for a long time.