Toby Southgate, CEO of global brand strategy and design agency Brand Union in the United States, spoke exclusively to the International Business Times about how corporate brands, such as Apple Inc. (Nasdaq:AAPL), Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (KRX:005930), Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) and Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC, can be strategic and innovative in their attempt to be globally relevant while also being locally applicable.
IBTimes TV: How can brands be strategic and innovative in their attempt to be globally relevant while also being locally applicable?
Southgate: That’s a great question. It’s a question that big global brand owners are tussling with all the time, and I think at the moment it comes down to two or three key things. One is how do you become relevant in every single market in which you operate? How do you ensure that consumers, users, audiences, stock market in any given international environment is going to respond to your brand in the way you want them to respond?
Second, I think how you are making sure that your brands and your products are culturally relevant. Cultures vary, language varies, but ultimately there’s a commonality of product experience that you want to try to create.
Thirdly, there is an emotional connection, too. Great brands, whether they are originations and corporates or consumer facing product brands, they want to and need to build emotional bonds and connections with consumers, and that is an ongoing objective of any branding or marketing initiative.
IBTimes TV: Which brands are creating successful, global experiences for consumers?
Southgate: On a global basis, it’s always the same reference points you come back to, right, simply because there are so few truly global firms that offer something consistent in terms of a product base to a user set or an audience on any given market. Apple is of course a reference. Nike is a reference. Some of the motor companies are reference points as well. Jaguar Land Rover is on a huge mission to promote and develop their new product in the U.S. at the moment. So we’re seeing a lot of that great British brand coming through.
They all have their challenges in market as well. So Apple in China, the primary challenge they face is, frankly, just being ripped off. There are replicates, elicit Apple-like stores where guys wear the same t-shirts, they sell similar looking products, but they aren’t officially licensed retailers. So that problem of authenticity and challenge can also create issues and challenges globally.
IBTimes TV: What strategies can brands use to position themselves across a global marketplace?
Southgate: Apple, great example again. Apple and Samsung having this ongoing tussle that’s in and out of the courts. It’s very fractious. It’s a little accusatory actually in lots of ways because, particularly in the U.S. where you can run comparative advertising, a guy talking about how great the Samsung Galaxy is and why are all these people queuing in line at the Apple Store for the new iPhone?
Well, those kinds of things still come down to emotional bonds, and ultimately, as a consumer, are you going to spend an extra hundred bucks, or whatever it might be, to get the latest iPhone, or are you comfortable with the Galaxy and can you rationalize for yourself why it is you’ve made that choice? But you’ve still got to rationalize it for yourself. Right? It isn’t always going to be the same decision based on price, but pricing strategy can be one thing. Marketing strategy and go-to-market strategy being others, and of course messaging and communication activity that goes around that.
IBTimes TV: How do you measure brand performance?
Southgate: We look at two things primarily. There’s lots of ways to measure brand value, brand awareness, brand rankings existent in all kinds of places, and they all have value. We overlay our own filter on that, which is our belief as an agency is that brands are really experiences. It’s the experiences of the brand that define a user or a consumer’s perception of that brand.
Essentially we look at 12 specific factors in a tool that we monitor and model for ourselves understanding what it is that the user feels at any given point in the experience, and those experiences wrapped up together represent, for us, a brand that is performing or not performing, well equipped for the future or not equipped for the future, and we’re taking in information from as many sources as we can to make that assessment.
IBTimes TV: Where do you see the future of brand marketing headed with the rise of mobile technology?
Southgate: That’s phenomenal questions and I think that lots of big businesses have not got the answer. Lots of agencies have not go the answer, but I think it depends on your personal views on where you sit in the groundswell. I think it changes everything, to be very frank. I mean, the future of marketing is mobile and social. We’re already almost beyond the internet age, beyond the age of web based communication. Brands tussled with that. It was a seismic shift at exactly the way that when television was created, advertisers were worried and brand agencies were worried and ad agencies were worried about how’re we going to possibly exist in this world?
Well, now I think that we’re at the stage where great marketers are embracing the fact that everything is about mobile and it’s about interaction. It’s about social. Platforms are supporting that, technology platforms as well as brand communications platforms, and unless brands have a point of view, they’re going to be challenged.