Tailoring Your Brand to Cross-Cultural Markets

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What do Coca Cola, Apple and McDonald’s have in common? They’re prime examples of global brands. Go anywhere in the world and you’ll have people nodding in recognition at these household names. But what’s that got to do with your organisation? 

Global branding, that’s what. As your organisation expands, you’ll need to create a truly global brand along with it. And what does that require? We’re not going to spoil it yet! But grab your magnifying glass, because we’re going to be studying building a global brand from every angle.  

Global market dynamics

There’s a lot to get to grips with as you expand into the global market. Things you’ve never had to really worry about before, like the roles culture, economics and regulations all play. It’s important to understand the significance of these factors (a few of many!) and the potential pitfalls they pose. 


One of the best parts of going global is that your talent pool is the whole world! But with that, you’re going to experience stark cultural differences, even within the same country. It’s so important to understand the cultures you’re working with and to make sure they’re honoured every step of the way. 


It comes as no surprise that going global is a bit of a costly endeavour. You’re going to see costs creep up and encounter expenses you never dreamed of. If you don’t keep a close watch on your forecasts and budgets, this can wreak havoc on your profit margins. You also need to consider the outlook for both the general economy and for your industry in the countries you’ll do business in.  


Each country and region has its own set of rules and regulations that you’ll need to stay on top of. If you’re not compliant, prepare to face rather terrifying consequences, like huge penalties and even legal action which will cause serious hassle and harm to your people and organisation.  

Why market research is a must

Who’s your best friend? Market research is your best friend! Researching diligently into your target countries and regions will pay dividends in the long run. Not only will it help you plan, it’ll also make sure you can avoid any potential risks, or at the very least, mitigate them.  

Delve deeply into the following questions: 

  • Who’s your target audience? Dig deep and ask yourselves who your ideal customer is. It can be a helpful exercise to create a customer avatar and really bring to life this person, exploring their wants and needs.  
  • Flesh out your answer above by analysing consumer trends. How is your product or service regarded by your target market? What do your customers seek? How do they make decisions? 
  • Do people want what you’re selling, where you want to sell it? Determining if there’s a demand for your product of service is kind of a biggie. Try and assess the demand for your offer in the countries and regions you want to operate in. 

Building a global brand strategy

To expand globally, you need a global brand strategy that not only aligns with your business goals but also (and rather importantly!) resonates with your international audience. How to go about this? 

1. Settle on your strategy

Think it through and settle on the best-fit strategic model (or a blend of a few) for your organisation’s goals. We’ll briefly cover the different types.  


You keep your head office in your home country  but export or import goods or services around the globe. Think fine wines and luxury vehicles. 


Your HQ is based in one place while managing subsidiaries in countries all over. Coca Cola is a prime example here. 


Here you use completely different marketing and sales strategies based on where you operate. Think lots of little brands that are tailored to where they are sold. 


One big, global brand that doesn’t change for any market. Apple is the perfect example, having conquered the world and stayed pretty much the same.  

2. Know your customer inside out

Your customers are going to vary hugely in their desires and anxieties and how they make decisions. Studying your client’s behaviour will pay off massively because you’ll know what makes them tick, then you can cater to exactly that.  

3. Proper positioning

You should also become frenemies with your competitors. Understanding your competitors then finding opportunities to beat them is all part of your positioning. Again, it comes down to understanding your customers and how your brand will fit into what’s already happening in their lives. 

4. Don’t get lost in translation

A clever or witty quip in one language might mean something embarrassing or downright offensive in another. So make sure what you’re saying is spot on for the target country.  

What makes a strong brand?

Your brand is so much more than a catchy tagline, although that helps of course. It’s the intricate connection that your customers have with you. It’s not just a bottle of Coke, it’s the excitement of knowing Christmas is around the corner and your kids are jumping around like loons! 

You’ll need to carefully craft your brand for maximum memorability and impact. Here are just a few key elements that you’ll need to think about:  

Brand Identity 

Who are you? What do you stand for? What’s your personality and how do you want your customers to perceive you?  

Visual Identity

This is all about how your brand looks (and feels). Elements like your logo, colours, typography and imagery all combine to create a visual identity that fully expresses your brand’s message and personality.  

Brand Messaging

This is how you communicate in a standardised way about what you offer. It includes your USP, tone of voice and the kind of language you use. It all has to be communicated consistentlyYour brand messaging conveys your organisation’s values and is super duper important because it’s also responsible for inspiring and persuading your customers to take you up on your offer.  


Positioning is all about the way you convey the unique value you offer to your customers. Positioning can be used to cement your brand identity and reasons why your customers should pick you. Positioning can also be niftily used to forge connections between your brand and your value proposition. 

Build trust

Trust is what binds you, your customers and even local communities together. If your customers trust you, they’re way more likely to buy from you and spread the word about how amazing your organisation is.   

In your quest to conquer the global market it’s absolutely crucial to be sensitive to local cultures. Ignorance and misunderstandings can cause real upset. Honouring cultures will show that you’re respectful. 

If the communities where you do business trust you, they’re going to have your back too. When you foster trust, it only makes your brand more reputable and stronger, attracts top talent and increases profits! 

There are several ways you can build trust and credibility on the global stage. Let’s dive into a few: 

Quality service

Providing top-notch service is the fundamental foundation on which your organisation stands. It’s a given. Provide high quality service, reap the rewards and build trust.  


Testimonials are a fabulous form of social proof and a surefire credibility-builder. Using testimonials from previous customers or even having endorsement from public figures goes a long way to fostering trust. When people see people like them, or people they trust providing a testimonial, they’re more likely to trust you. If people have bought from you before, you’re more likely to be credible.  


Of course, it depends on your service or product, but getting certified and sharing that helps to build trust and credibility. An example of certification is the Fair Trade certification. Customers can buy with the assurance that they’re contributing to fair trade standards. Another common certification is found in your toilet – the FSC certification on your packet of loo roll! It goes without saying that it makes sense to choose certifications that are in line with your organisation’s values and commitments.   


Creating partnerships with other brands, influencers and creators can also help to make people trust your credibility. Through these partnerships, you’ll be able to reach other audiences and communicate your value to them. Think of partnerships as a bridge to other customers: the customers already trust the partners, so they’re sure to trust you too!   

Grow your network

Your network is your net worth, so they say… 

We don’t know who “they” are, but they’re right. Strong relationships are the lynchpin of your organisation. It’s so important to build a solid network of international partners, clients and stakeholders. Not only to help foster trust in your organisation, but to keep up to date on in-country developments, be introduced to potential suppliers or customers and even in skills building and training.  

How to expand your network

There are plenty of ways and means to expand your network. For starters, depending on what industry you operate in, there’ll likely be specialised events for that and they’re a great place to make mutually beneficial connections. 

Then there are trade missions, where you might make a trip to meet potential buyers or agents, attend networking events and perhaps even have site visits.  

One of the most simple and obvious ways to network is online. Platforms such as LinkedIn are perfect for networking online. Then of course there’s Twitter, Facebook and so on. Leveraging an online presence can be key in expanding your network.  

Overcoming obstacles when building a global brand

Going global isn’t easy. Here are some of the common hurdles you’ll have to leap over when you build a global brand: 

Marketing misdeeds

What works for your marketing in one country may not necessarily work in another. You may have to tweak what you’re doing or try out a new process. The solution here is to tailor your marketing and advertising to your audience appropriately, so you can make your reach go much further. For example, Facebook is popular in the USA but not so much in Russia. Google isn’t really a thing in China, but look to Baidu for their most popular search engine.  

Cultural differences

Whether you make a faux pas socially, with language, religion or anything else for that matter, you’re going to cause upset. Getting culturally competent is a matter of gaining insight and knowledge into cultural idiosyncrasies and incorporating or accommodating for that in your global communications. You know that old chestnut, think global, act local? Do that! 

Language barriers

This goes hand in hand with cultural differences. Will your brand messaging get lost in translation? Is the message appropriate for the audience in the country or region you’re operating in? Communicating your brand accurately and appropriately is key! If they can’t understand you, how can you hope for them to use or buy your product? Overcome language barriers by using a reputable and reliable translation company, preferably in your industry, to get all of your content expertly translated into the target languages.  

Build a brilliant global brand

And let us help! When it comes to global expansion, we’ve got your number.  

Our expert global expansion services cover everything from providing Employer of Record services to international payroll to international HR. There’s no need to worry about marketing misdeeds or cultural gaffes with Cintra Global.  

Talk to us today to find out how we can help you to effortlessly expand your offerings to the global stage.  

Picture of Danielle Nicholson
Danielle Nicholson
Danielle is our Communications and Content Manager, leading the content strategy for Cintra. Outside of her passion for all things copywriting, she loves being on the water in a kayak or taking long walks with her Golden Retriever!