Technology, travel and lower trade barriers have made multi-market launches an omnipresent reality for global brands, that are now challenged to live up to all the meanings of “global.” And that’s where things get complicated. While the advantages of a broad deployment are obvious (such as the opportunity to leverage brand assets of all kinds, supply chain efficiencies, etc.), the pitfalls aren’t always so obvious. Sometimes brands realize them only when products reach the market and it’s clear that the message on packaging has been diluted from the brand’s core message, or there are troubling inconsistencies across regions, or shoppers react badly to package artwork and copy and its cultural resonances.
But smart brands can overcome these challenges and avoid these pitfalls. How?
It starts with being adept at project management in the broad sense, and then understanding the requirements country-by-country and region-by-region. These can be regulatory, or they can be political or cultural or aesthetic. A brand also has to have both a strong sense of what it “means” to consumers and a strong oversight/sign-off process to ensure that key brand assets and messaging are maintained across all geographies and channels—no small feat, especially because this requires strong communication between central marketing and regional offices, and between these and a potentially wide range of vendors along the supply chain—design agencies, premedia suppliers, printers, etc.
Sound daunting? It is, but it can be done—well—and here are some suggestions.
First off, don’t assume you’re doing it right. It’s not uncommon for even the most sophisticated brand to discover distressing inconsistencies across markets—to discover, in other words, that their oversight isn’t as centralized as they thought. The logistics of systematically inspecting and comparing all manifestations of a brand across multiple markets are difficult. But it has to be done, whether it involves considerable travel, considerable shipping costs, or a combination of both.
One of the keys to avoiding mistakes is in getting the country groupings of package assets right. Brands understand that it’s wise to exploit common package elements across regions, but even a simple-seeming element resonates in many ways—aesthetically, politically, historically, culturally. When a brand seeks to make the entire package a pleasant and useful experience for a shopper, nothing can be allowed to provoke a negative reaction. So brands must have their own—or outside—experts in these nuances in every identifiable region. And their expertise must be tapped very early in the process, as brand strategy is being turned into creative design, and crucial logistical/procurement decisions are being made to make the deployment process as compact as possible.
An example here is multi-lingual packs. Homeware and hardware items are adopting this tactic more and more, because shoppers understand the utility of this from the brand’s point of view. But in more personal categories, like beauty products, multiple languages can lower the perceived premium quality of an item.
And then, of course, there are regulatory requirements. Your brand absolutely has to be on top of legal, environmental, nutritional, dosage and “period-after-opening” requirements, to name just a few. These can vary in seemingly arbitrary ways across seemingly similar markets, so your brand needs to develop an airtight matrix of these requirements well before the design stage—to ensure accuracy and to best leverage asset synergies across markets.
Regulatory demands like these are doubly challenging because of their impact on creative: it’s tremendous. But the smartest brands are extremely forward-thinking about which core elements must remain on packages and how they can be deployed in appealing and effective ways. And they do this thinking across packs, bottles, cans, wraps, etc., and across sizes and channels.
You knew this was coming. Theoretically, every one of the challenges mentioned above can be conquered with foresight, planning, insight and communication. But what marketing challenge can’t? Where multi-market launches are concerned, there are special issues. Often with a global brand, secondary and tertiary markets are staffed by junior members, who can lack both deployment experience and practical/cultural insights about the region. And with assignments like these often lasting just a year or 18 months, inexperience can be a chronic challenge.
Oversight is key here, but that can vary from brand to brand. If the packaging group coordinates the work of regional managers, the results tend to be better than when marketing is the keeper and project manager. This is not an indictment of marketers but a simple fact—that ensuring widespread consistency and effectiveness requires the pragmatic organizational approach that is innate with the packaging group.
Fortunately, outside agencies now offer every kind of expertise mentioned above, and more. Employing them can result in significant net gains thanks to efficiency, consistency and error-free deployment across markets. SGK is just one example of partners who can offer services and technologies like these:
- Overall project management
- Vendor management, including the consolidation of design, premedia and print partners for efficiency and consistency
- Centralized brand governance across the entire creative and executional process
- Graphics artwork management technology, including asset library, collaborative proofing and workflow management
- Cloud-based print quality management services that collate all print-quality data in real time and encourage more intelligent launches and quicker learning curves in new markets
- Expertise on pertinent regulatory requirements
- Expertise on aesthetic and cultural considerations
Whether your brand handles these elements in-house or with partners, they are crucial for successful multi-market launches and continued growth. Multi-market ambitions require deep insights, strong logistics and planning, excellent communication and consistent processes. You knew that going in. But did you really know it?
Bryan Hara is director, global & US accounts, Asia-Pacific, for SGK. Prior to joining SGK, Bryan lived in mainland China for several years and has a degree in both marketing and Chinese language.