Authors: Florian Haller, CEO Serviceplan Group, and Niklas Schaffmeister, Managing Partner Globeone
Insiders have known it all along: When foreign companies succeed in growth markets, half of the success factors are directly related to the adaptation or localization of key elements of the brand strategy. The key question is how best to adapt a brand to local expectations and requirements. Based on multiple years of consulting experience, we at Globeone have developed the so-called market-driven positioning process. This multi-stage process ensures that all relevant internal and external factors are taken into account in the analysis and development of the positioning strategy. The result is a positioning concept that is actually tailored to the needs of consumers and at the same time protects the brand itself from overstretching. The six steps can be read in detail in our new Springer publication “Successful brand development in the major emerging markets”, written in German, by Niklas Schaffmeister (Managing Partner Globeone) and Florian Haller (CEO Serviceplan Group).
1. Market analysis: Gaining an overview
The problem many companies are facing is not that they miss information, but often the available information is simply not prepared in a way that makes sure it promotes the development of meaningful and realizable strategies. The first step is therefore to collect all relevant data within the organization and – if necessary – to supplement it with additional market and consumer research. From the available company data, competition analyses, market statistics and relevant media reports, an overview of the target market and initial positioning options can then be obtained.
2. Relevance analysis: Understanding what is important to consumers
The prerequisite for a successful positioning is always the local relevance of a brand or product. Therefore, in a second step, the most important decision drivers for the brand are identified. It needs to be analyzed how the brand can best support the development of certain preferences. The evaluation does not only need to take into account the functional brand drivers. It is important to include those that appeal to the customer at the emotional level as well. In our experience, many foreign companies do not begin with this relevance analysis, but instead assume a much narrower starting position from the outset. However, this carries substantial long-term risks.
3. Feasibility: Not every consumer wish fits the brand
Recognizing the needs of consumers is one thing – but serving them successfully is another. If a company has analyzed the local target market and the target group without bias, it must of course decide which consumer needs and wishes it can satisfy best. What can actually be achieved may depend not only on the portfolio but also on the current image of the brand. The image must match the brand offering, otherwise there is no convincing basis for consumers to buy. If the company or brand lacks the relevant image associations for certain products, systematic brand development is necessary.
4. Consistency analysis: Beware of excessive adjustments
Balancing the global brand promise and local positioning is incredibly important in order to avoid brand dilution. Adaptation to the local target market must not conflict with global brand positioning, because otherwise there will most likely be conflicts in brand management. In this fourth step, the consistency of the positioning route with the global brand promise must be checked. If the adjustment to the local target market threatens to be too strong, companies are generally well advised to build up a separate brand.
5. Differentiation: How to draw the best distinction
In a further step, the positioning strategies of local and global competitors must be analyzed because the composition of competitors in individual markets can vary greatly. More importantly, however, competitors themselves sometimes choose different positioning strategies for each country. Therefore, brand managers cannot blindly rely on a competitor’s positioning in one market corresponding to its positioning in another. The communication between competitors must also be scrutinized: How is positioning implemented in print media, advertising campaigns, digital channels and elsewhere? Based on this analysis, a positioning chart can then be created. It can be used to identify the positioning gaps.
6. Positioning: Finding the best value proposition
The remaining options resulting from the previous steps can now be validated for their attractiveness through detailed quantitative and qualitative tests. This last step should not be underestimated, because only the truly optimal market-driven positioning helps the brand to remain relevant in the local target market in the long term. This process can also be used to develop similarly convincing product and service concepts.