Thanks to their digital and social footprint, brands are becoming more global than ever before. Experts say having a global strategy - even before you launch your product - is a must to remain competitive. At a time when it is impossible to build a sustainable competitive advantage with disruptive moves coming in from every corner, The Strategist asks what constitutes a global strategy and how brands can be globally competitive
First and foremost you must start with an analysis of your competition. Where are they strong? Where are they weak? You avoid strength and exploit weakness. Generally, you are after a point of difference upon which you can tell your story. Without that point of difference you usually are reduced to using price as a strategy which is not a very profitable way to go as your competitors have pencils with which they can use to reduce their prices. Consider the Bajaj motorcycle story.
In recent years, I've done a great deal of work with Bajaj who has built a global motorcycle brand and become a major exporter of motorcycles. The point of difference it has been trying to establish is their new engine technology which offers more power with fuel efficiency. But what makes future life difficult for Bajaj is the fact that their two bigger competitors, Hero and Honda, are locked in mortal combat as to who will dominate the scooter and motorcycle categories. As the saying goes, "When the elephants fight, the ants take a terrific beating." Bajaj isn't an ant but they will feel the "stepped on" pressure of the battle.
This is why the going can get very difficult in this age of competition. That's why you have to build a powerful communications programme to tell your story as good marketing is good story telling. Enter the advertising agency. My experience is that many agencies resist being told about what and how to advertise as it gets in the way of their "creativity". To me the role of advertising is to dramatise that point of difference. For Bajaj to make progress against two formidable competitors, their advertising has to build a perception that a Bajaj motorcycle, whichever sub brand you are buying, has superior engine technology. It's not about boy meets girl meets motorcycle. It's not about joy of riding. It's about a better engine with better performance because of their unique double and triple spark technology. This kind of communications programme has to be both internal and external. Everyone in the company as well as dealers must be telling this story over and over to customers and prospects.
The Bajaj story has all the elements of what constitutes building a global brand. Indian companies should use it as an example of how to operate in a competitive global economy.
Global marketing expert & author
There is a popular Indian expression of praise for someone's big achievement. It goes "Sir, you have become world famous in Delhi." I just realised the full import of that metaphor only while beginning to ponder on the theme for this special report.
If we were to carefully examine the route that champion brands took to globalisation, we would see following patterns. There are four specific characteristics which seem fairly consistent to their growth:
n Set globally high standards from the start: In the 70s, Toyota decided to take on Detroit as the primary means of being counted in the auto business. Being the best Japanese carmaker was not its game. Jet Airways was once considered India's finest contribution to the world of travel. It was able to ease into a cut throat international market and play ball with the best because it decided to become world class within India. They benchmarked themselves against the Singapore Airlines cabin service from day one. Not against Damania or Indian Airlines, which were their domestic peers at the time.
n Own global mind-space long before you get there: Dilmah Tea refused to be cowed down by local pressures in Sri Lanka or anywhere. In fact, Merrill Fernando is credited as the ambassador of Ceylon Tea as the gold standard for the brew. Even more than Columbian Coffee.
n Set a creative destruction culture very early: If you don't kill yourself, somebody will. For example, Apple founder Steve Jobs did not care how monopolistic or competitive the market was. He was obsessed with 'the next big one', whether he was the only player or one in a hundred.
n Measure relentlessly: Nobody anywhere became world-class overnight. Speak to any globally recognised company or individual and you will hear more stories of failure than success. Consider Adidas and Usain Bolt. Both the examples show that getting to number one in the world happens in inches, not leaps. And each inch is gained net of failures. Not measuring is a death warrant for any serious attempt to achieve global relevance and recognition.
Most global brands that we admire today have followed this path. This is not to suggest the irrelevance of a building a worldwide footprint, or the need for a global advertising strategy. These are essential building blocks to bring the business physically to an international audience. But a global brand must be the outcome of a world class mindset.
President & Chief Knowledge Officer, EQUITOR Value Advisory