Branding: Creating an international brand

This article first appeared in Enterprise, The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on December 25, 2017 - December 31, 2017.
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When companies decide to go global, they tend to get lost in the challenges of adapting to a new environment and finding the right partner. One important aspect often gets overlooked and is not addressed early enough — marketing.

Enterprise speaks to Michael Abdel, founder and executive creative director of The Sphere Agency, which handles Loob Holding Sdn Bhd’s international branding strategy, about what it takes to create a global brand.


Enterprise: How does a company come up with an international marketing strategy and ensure that it both travels and has consistency?

Michael Abdel: A brand needs to stay true to its vision, mission and values, regardless of the market it enters. When we develop a marketing strategy, we ensure that the essence of the brand is captured at the highest level so that we deliver a global storytelling that gives the brand the agility and versatility to tell the brand story seamlessly across the region.

In the case of Tealive, what excites us is the opportunity to work closely with Bryan [Loo, founder of Loob]. We love the vibe and the brand and we feel it resonates worldwide. Loob has an authentic story and we are inspired.


What is the best way to research new territories? Are there any shortcuts?

Shortcuts equal higher risk. Hence, there aren’t any. There are two ways to do this — our Tealive partner plays a role in providing the culture, local preference and emotional sentiment of the market.

On top of that, we use data to provide insights. This includes media, market trends, consumer behaviour, geographical considerations and experiential learning. This gives us a thorough understanding of how to tackle a particular market.

We partner the best in the region to deliver the results required to build the best footprint and communications strategy in that market.


How do you factor local values, customs, languages and currencies into your marketing plan?

By building a global brand storytelling platform that is agile, versatile and adaptable. A global platform is only as good as its ability to be localised. With Tealive, we plan to develop a high-level global positioning that can be applied in all markets.


What is most important to take into consideration when creating an international brand?

To stay true to your brand’s values and vision. To create a big idea that captures the brand essence that is above its competitors and that is high level enough to translate authenticity across all relevant markets and channels. A brand and communications platform that allows the flexibility and agility to tell the brand story across any channel, language and territory.


Are there any tips to identify suitable local partners, affiliates and distributors?

You need to find partners with mutual trust, shared values and good chemistry.


How important are pricing and currencies?

As Tealive is meant to cater for people of all ages, our pricing strategy will be very competitive to suit the spending patterns in the market. Generally, to maintain a solid franchise model, we don’t look at the currency but the food cost. Maintaining 18% to 20% profit is something we would like to achieve after the franchisee fee.


You are supposed to adjust your media mix in each new market. Do you have any tips on the media mix in specific markets?

At the heart of everything we do is understanding consumer habits and the cultural environment. We need to identify what is important to them. We want to engage with them in the most meaningful way without being intrusive, and media habits and consumption are different in every market.

Research is important. In emerging markets where research is not easily accessible, we rely on our Tealive partners. It also depends on the message, creatives and things like that.


When it comes to marketing, each country has varying levels of formality and what works in one does not work in another. Do you have tips on how to best adapt to local customs in each country? Are there any shortcuts if you want to expand as quickly as possible?

It is paramount to have a solid marketing strategy and communications framework, and there is no shortcut to that. We work very closely with our Tealive specialist in each market, who gives us intelligence on what the market and culture is like. This helps us build a flexible, agile and robust plan.