5 Ways for Brands to Go Global and Resonate with Locals

Brands are more global than ever before. McDonalds has over 31,000 restaurants in 118 countries. Starbucks has more than 1,000 stores in China alone. [Princeton University] Nigeria's film industry is the third biggest in the world and valued at $10 billion. [Wikipedia] And with over 650 million Internet users in Asia and 173 million in Latin America, the percentage of brands with a global presence is only going to grow. [Internet World Stats]

But going global is not easy. Even though we often hear that the "world is flat", the majority of people have primarily local ties. Of all the telephone calling minutes in the world last year, only 2% were cross-border calls. The average person consumes just 1-2% of their news on foreign sites. And only 2% of university students study in countries where they are not citizens. [TED- Globaloney] With only a small percentage of the world's population living global lives, it can be hard for brands that have a footprint in one region to make an impact in others.

What can brands do to ensure they go global in a way that resonates locally? Here are five things brands can do when they enter new markets:

1. Be authentic

During the 60 years of Myanmar's sanctions, Coca-Cola had been an illicit product reserved for the wealthy and elite. When sanctions were lifted and Coca-Cola launched in 2012, the brand worked hard to make Coca-Cola the accessible product that it is.

Not only did Coca-Cola launch with a campaign around the theme of bringing people together, they also implemented a corporate social responsibility initiative based on the company's 5 by 20 program for women's empowerment. Swan Yi, Coca-Cola Myanmar's community initiative, is empowering 24,500 economically disadvantaged women through capacity building trainings in financial literacy, entrepreneurship and business management.

2. Don't be afraid to experiment

In 2014, when Guinness wanted to heighten its perception as a global brand, the company created an ad featuring Congo's Sapeurs- the Society of the Elegant Persons of the Congo, a group of blue-collar workers who dedicate their spare time to fashion and joie de vivre. The Sapeurs are not only edgy but also have their roots in the Congo's political struggle. During the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, Western-style suits were banned.

Guinness decided to experiment by featuring the Sapeurs and the ad was a great success, receiving press coverage and critical acclaim.

3. Partner with local influencers

Xiaomi is China's biggest smartphone manufacturer, surpassing both Apple and Samsung in the massive domestic market. Although the brand is widely recognized in China, it only has a small but dedicated following outside of the country.

When China launched in India last year, their first stop was to connect with their dedicated followers, known as "Mi Fans." Xiaomi's Vice President of Global, Hugo Barra, a celebrity in the space who used to head Google's Android division, met with India's Mi Fans personally. By partnering with the influencers who deeply cared about their product, Xiaomi was able to solidify its foothold amongst tech-savvy Indians.

4. Double check all translations

TED is famous for its inspiring 20-minute talks. As its talks went viral around the world, TED was inundated by requests to translate content and inspire people beyond the English-speaking world. With so many talks and so many languages to take into consideration, TED decided to launch a collaborative and scalable Open Translation Project to take on the task.

The Open Translation Project mobilizes volunteers and, after six years of operations, has completed 70,000 translations in 107 languages, with the help of almost 20,000 translators. To ensure the accuracy and quality of translations, TED enlists the help of four volunteers for each translation. First, the original text is transcribed in English. Then, another volunteer translates the text into another language. After the initial translation is reviewed by a third volunteer, it is reviewed again and approved by an experienced "language coordinator" who had submitted at least five translations to TED in the past.

5. Launch in a locally-relevant way

In China, November 11th is Single's Day and has become the largest online shopping day in the world, with sales on two Alibaba sites, Tmall and Taobao, surpassing $9 billion USD last year.

Local brands will use the extravaganza to launch new products and global brands are following suit. The multinational corporation Henkel has not only launched a number of new products on Single's Day but has seen their sales on November 11th double each year.

Going global can be challenging. Even brands that have been incredibly successful in their home markets, such as Walmart, have failed in India, Germany, Russia and South Korea. Earlier this year, Target announced that it would close all stores in Canada. However, success is possible and the potential (particularly for countries like China, which will be the world's largest economy by 2050) is enormous. By staying authentic, experimenting, partnering with local influencers, checking the accuracy of translations and launching in a culturally-relevant way, brands can both go global and resonate with locals.