As I type, I am sat in a generously wide seat, surrounded by a cacophony of English, French, German and Canadian accents and the satisfying hum of the Eurostar. We’re gliding through the scenic French countryside, travelling towards the depths of the English Channel and back into the beautiful surroundings of London St Pancras.
Myself, Jan and Chandra are returning home from a four day trip to the French capital to work with a long-standing global client who is based there. We are working with them to deliver a very complex rebrand with multiple stakeholders and teams across Europe, the US and Australasia.
Over the past few years we have delivered rebrands across Europe, the US and Africa. Being based in the UK, I wanted to share how we create brands that resonate with people in those countries, that grow and evolve with their culture, and ultimately achieve success for the companies we represent. Here are my top 5 guidelines for a successful outcome.
1. Immerse yourself in the culture.
It seems like an obvious thing to say, but we know it doesn’t always get done. Companies look to the UK for design skill and creative thinking, but to deliver a project successfully you (as a company) need to look wider than your personal experiences and that can be difficult. All good creative people are like sponges, soaking up information, ideas and bringing influences like trends, styles and messaging from the world around us into our work. But, what if those influences don’t mean anything to the people you are designing for? What if those ‘eureka’ moments don’t resonate with an audience of the outside the UK?
That’s where immersing yourself in the culture or cultures of the client is vital. As an example, when we are working in France, we go to France and visit the client, we ask them to show us what makes France French in their eyes. We visit locations of historical importance, we watch their films, listen to their music, try and learn some of the language, and most importantly we look – we look at what they design, how they design, what influences their design culture. Only by doing this can you start to consider what design and branding will work in that chosen culture.
2. Don’t trust cultural stereotypes.
We would all like to believe that we are ‘worldly’ and knowledgeable people – who look outwardly at global information, understanding cultures and people. But really we still view the world and the different cultures as stereotypes. We think of the French as chic, the Americans as loud, the Germans as serious and the British as stiff upper-lipped. Clearly that isn’t the case, but you would be amazed at how many brands are created with a stereotype at its heart, e.g. Delice De France!
By visiting, learning and living a culture you can start to see past stereotypes and begin to see similarities – parts of our cultures that merge and overlap. Once you are able to do this you can start to see where a brand resonates across multiple cultures, across languages and trends. When you reach this point you can create a brand thread which ties branding, emotion and design to cultures across entire continents or further afield.
3. Be in the room.
It’s as simple as that – be in the room. Be in the room for client meetings in their offices, be in the room when they discuss the answers to your brand questions, be in the room when they are chatting about their weekends, or plans for the evening, be in the room when that room is a pub, a bar, a restaurant – be a part of the team. By becoming a member of the client’s team, you become a part of their culture. You can learn what really makes them tick, what drives them forward, why they come to work everyday, what is in their heart that differentiates them from others, and what really should be in the heart of the brand.
4. Learn the subtleties.
Great brands are not created through billboards or advertising campaigns alone, they are delivered through subtly – beautiful touches of quality, finesse and intelligence; the beautifully produced bag, the expertly finished brochure or the refined smooth wording of a letter.
Subtleties differ from culture to culture and learning what different people see as the differentiator of quality can be vital to the overall success of a rebrand.
For example, in Africa, colour is a vital part of visual language. Colours represent different events in life, from celebration and weddings, through to morning and funerals. The colours symbolise emotion, and that emotion is imparted into the brand. Those emotional ties to colours will run deep into the subconscious of the viewer and therefore as brand thinkers we have to be mindful of this and utilise the power of colour to enhance a message or brand position – brandthinking in colour.
5. Ask the hard questions.
If you want to know if your brand works, ask the people who live it. We are specialists in creating brands that deliver growth, brands that have emotion and brands that resonate with target audiences, but when working in different cultures how do we know we have got it right, before we launch? Simply – we ask.
We spend time presenting the concept and brand developments to a wide range of the client’s team, from directors to admin staff. The directors will look at the brand from a strategic point of view and will trust our opinion and advice, but a receptionist will look at the brand with their heart – they will tell you what they feel and that is vital. When the strategic mind and emotive soul of the brand align, we know we have the right outcome for the organisation. It is easy to be afraid to show the brand and to ask “what do you think?”, as they are four words which can turn your project on it’s head. But they are the four most important words in any brand project.
So there you have it, 5 top tips for branding in different countries and across cultures. As part of our Brandthinking™ process we deliver exciting, emotive brands through a wide range of countries and cultures. There are many more things which need to be considered when doing these complex projects, but I hope these 5 tips will give you an insight into they way we think, and help you in any future planning for projects.
If you have a brand that you wish to launch in the UK or further afield, and think our Brandthinking™ process and creativity can help, then we would love to hear from you.