Think global to go global: The next big challenge for Indonesian brands

Turning a local brand into an international brand is becoming an achievable goal for a growing number of Indonesian businesses. International trade barriers have come down and the internet is enabling small and medium-sized companies to compete more effectively on the global stage. But with an international presence comes the need to act like a global brand.

As brands look to target new markets, it’s not uncommon to hear employees say things like, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it.” The fact that a strategy has worked before is no guarantee of future success, particularly in a new market where you don’t have the same advantage of familiarity. Just as in human relationships, we’re more tolerant and forgiving of our family and friends. Making new friends—or new customers, in this case—takes a lot of effort. Consumers don’t owe brands the benefit of the doubt, and while curiosity and novelty can encourage people to try new brands, what is it that best sparks their curiosity?

Products are built in the factory; brands are created in the mind

Walter Landor once said, “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” Nowadays we may take this for granted, but many Indonesian companies still need to make a shift from a manufacturing mindset to a marketing mindset, in turn getting them closer to the consumer, regardless of which market the consumer is actually in.

It’s true that people will often buy something in a particular category simply because they need it. But when there’s a choice, the reason for choosing one brand over another is steeped in emotive affiliation. Consumers don’t choose you for what you do—they choose you for why you do it.

Every organization can tell you what product they make or what service they provide. Most can even describe how they do it through a proprietary process or a unique selling proposition. But very few can articulate why they do what they do. The why is not just about making money. The why is about purpose, cause, and belief. If you don’t know the why of your brand, you can’t expect anyone else to either. When a brand has a purpose and a strongly held belief that consumers share or admire, it becomes more powerful than a positioning statement or vacuous brand promise could ever be.

Most Apple customers, for example, are buying more than a practically or sensually designed product. They are buying into a deeper brand belief. Apple’s agile brand platform has allowed it to innovate and diversify its product portfolio, while continuing to deliver a consistent trademark experience. It has balanced being highly adaptive with being highly principled—a commitment we can all surely agree has paid off.

The North Face’s Never stop exploring ethos is driven by an authentic belief in the wonder of the outdoors. The North Face sees it as a mission to get as many people engaged with the natural world as possible. As a result, the brand is seen as genuine—made of real stuff.

Both Apple and the North Face do not seek indiscriminate mass appeal. They cater instead to specific needs and audiences. They are brands for anyone, but not for everyone—and that’s authentic.

Never Stop ________. - The North Face

This authenticity is especially important as growing numbers of brands come to understand that millennials dominate their target market. Pundits everywhere are postulating on what makes millennials tick, but one thing we know for sure is that millennials—no matter what country they’re in—seek authenticity in every interaction.

For example, millennials may get to know a brand online, but want to engage with it in a more tactile way in the real world to create a deeper connection. Amazon, the Black Death of the neighborhood bookstore, has recognized this and opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Seattle, satisfying millennials’ craving for real-world, engaging experiences.

Image courtesy of Amazon
Image courtesy of Amazon

When a business enters a new market, it needs to ask itself, “Why should consumers in this market care that I exist?” Chances are that similar products or services are already available in that market. By elevating the why question, brands enable a higher level of connection with consumers in the new market, and potentially a more authentic one.

Brands looking to take that first step onto an international stage should be sure to pause and ask the why question, ensuring that they represent something consumers can truly believe in.


This piece was originally published as “Think global, go global” in BrandZ top 50 most valuable Indonesian brands 2016.

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