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7 Ways Global Managers Damage TheirBrand - Part 1

Managing a global brand in today’s high-speed world of instantaneous customer feedback on numerous technology platforms is like having to quickly get dressed in the dark. You had better have a well thought out plan, or the results could tarnish your well-polished image.

Here are common ways managers hurt their image:

1. Inconsistent use of branding at home.

Does your Powerpoint, white papers or other presentation materials use different fonts, images, colors and logos, than your products or website? Lack of attention to detail may translate to loss of confidence in your company.

For example in the Steve Jobs biography author Walter Isaacson describes how the entire Apple computers organization was driven to be militant about consistent usage of brand attributes by Mr. Jobs. Apples first PR firm, Regis McKenna, put a maxim atop the first Apple brochure, that is often attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Mr. Jobs insisted everything, from product design, to consumer packaging, to internal contracts, had to be infused with the company’s defined philosophy. Mr. Jobs also saw the power of good typography as a key element of the Apple “simplicity” brand messaging. The message has never changed even though the company has updated its design throughout different eras. This has led to consumer recognition and then trust and loyalty from their customers.

While working at Disney Consumer products, I saw branding taken to a whole new level. I saw an ESPN brand manual that wowed me. Branding wasn’t just about the logo being applied in a consistent manner, and having a primary and secondary set of Pantone colors. It was about keeping all of the messaging of all communications materials going in the same direction. There were key phrases, copy that was written with the right tone and attitude, to reinforce the brand messaging. There were patterns and textures, a tuft of black fur, varnished black on flat black graphics, all of these could be used in different 2-dimensional and 3 dimensional communications. The sum of these elements should be consistent. Anything less will cause consumers to loose trust in the brand and it’s messaging.

2. Inconsistent use of branding partners.

Domestic and international partners can convey as much about your image as you do. That thought alone would keep me up at night if I didn’t have a strategy in place! So if your enterprise has support offices that rely on locally developed resources there must be a plan to keep them in step with your corporate brand.

Trust me, if a brand can be created in an unusual manner I’ve seen it during my 30 year career. Case in point, one of our global clients recently hired us to help align the branding on a print ad project proposed by an Eastern Europe office in Romania that just didn’t have the same “appearance” as their corporate ads. You know that look... it possess a family resemblance like a close cousin, but just doesn’t have quite the same features as you.

In this case it wasn’t just that the language characters were different, how the message was communicated varied and wasn’t on brand, as well as the ad proportions and consistent use of PMS colors. “PMS red 485 is PMS red 485, not tomato red,” I assured the Romanian print resource. So you can see had the Romanian print resource been provided with a corporate brand manual, or originally guided by the client’s main agency to adjust the ad elements to be a mirror image of the company brand a lot of time, resources and money would have saved. In the end the ad turned out very well, our client was pleased and we learned a few Romanian swear words.

3. Inconsistent localized messaging.

Cultural nuances and local language leads enterprises to allow geographically distant teams to develop a marketing strategy to fit with their local culture. But is what they know consistent with your enterprise’s mission? Is it reflected in what the localized marketing material says and shows?

We have all heard the legend of Chevrolet who used the automobile product name Nova in the U.S. Then used the same name in Mexico which translate to “No Va” or “It doesn’t go”. Bad name for a car. So the need for transcreation (traslation with cultural or social context) is now an important part of international mass communication. The goal is to communicate within the local culture, and preserve the look and feel consistent with your corporate mission.

As reported by, retailer H&M allowed distant teams to create a localized message but controlled the process: “”In a more sophisticated approach, rather than applying a blanket brand messaging strategy globally, H and M localized their approach to suit cultural preferences, while the actual merchandise is the same worldwide.

H&M’s “Conscious Collection*” website is translated into several languages for prospective consumers all over the world. In the English version, the message for the “Conscious Collection” reveals the importance of organic cotton and why growing it is significant for environmental protection and for worker safety. In the Chinese version of the site, the message is much different: “For the past 40 years, polyester fiber has been the most labor-intensive fiber. The misfortune is that polyester cannot be recycled. So in recent years, we started extensively using recycled polyester!” This message is quite different from its English counterpart, with no mention of worker safety and only subtle associations with environmental protection, namely through recycling. For a collection that touches on universal social equality and environmental consciousness, localization of the brand’s message is quite apparent.”