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Branding, a sea of troubles

‘I hear what you’re saying, but you have to understand the specifics of this region…’

‘In our country, it doesn’t work like that, we have to explain this over and over …’

The Achilles heel in any international organisation, recognisable for all who has ever worked in one. ‘Brand guidelines’ are too rigid; therefore, the result is lagging behind and the people at HQ don’t understand the true difficulties of the local organisation. Marketers, communication agencies, local branding consultants, they all add their dime by developing (and invoicing) smart ways to circumvent the inefficiency of the international standard, they add colours, change taglines, use different images. Anything goes, as long as it isn’t standard. Because standard is boring. And it seems as if local responsibilities are gradually becoming obsolete.

The amount of energy used and drawn into these discussions is overwhelming; and moreover, it’s energy that could have been used in so many more efficient ways. Why are we bringing this up? And what’s the relevance of all this? It’s avoidable!

Far away are the days where look, feel and content are dictated from the top, and all the smaller entities had to follow. The choice was binary. You added something to the site, or you didn’t. Customisation, possibilities were limited. At the other end of the scope reigned total anarchy. Twenty countries and twenty different websites, all adding their ‘couleur locale’ to the brand.

One shouldn’t be blind for local needs. The essence of interactive communication is precisely the fact that your local customers should feel at home on their local sites. That implies that content is relevant on every possible and imaginable level. From service offering to HR policies. From content over pictures and product descriptions. Refusal to acknowledge this, leads to tons of frustration and mountains of bad faith. Also, it’s plainly stupid.

Local organisations should be capable of mastering their own content and communication flows. But they should be allowed to do so in an environment where the ‘brand expression’ is simple and centrally embedded in the whole platform.

The advantages are twofold. On the one hand, every country, every part of the organisation can focus on its core tasks. For the outside world, there’s a multitude of sites, shops and campaign environment. All of these ‘locations are perfectly adapted to local needs. But somewhere deep inside, there’s a central hub, a centrally organised ‘look and feel’ department.

This brings us to the second advantage. While allowing local customisation and content priorities, we maintain a strong brand identity at its core. And we eliminate the rigidity of changing elements internationally which then have to be applied and eventually forced locally. Literally in seconds, a change is executed throughout all individual sites, without hindering or annoying local entities. How’s that for branding?