• Victoria Vilasanti

Standardized vs. localized brand elements: What factors should a brand manager consider?

When a brand decides to go global there is a series of decisions to be made. One of the most common questions that brand managers will come across in this process is whether to maintain or to change the brand components. That is, the brand will have the same name, logo, symbol, and slogan worldwide or it will adapt each element according to the different cultures?

One can notice that brand elements help to enhance awareness, recognition, and relationship with customers. However, when a brand decides to go global, it should take into account culture and language patterns that might make it difficult to adapt to another country. For instance, managers should be attentive so brand symbols and meaning do not get lost in translation. Additionally, some brand names could be hard to pronounce or even have pejorative meaning in certain cultures.

Well, it is evident that brand localization has a direct impact on these brand elements and it is up to managers to decide the best strategy. But how one should decide the best path to follow? In order to answer this question, one should first have a closer look at the factors that directly influence brand localization. Accordingly, some marketing scholars have been investigating both internal (organizational) and environmental characteristics that should be considered. Specifically, a group of scholars has suggested observing five main factors, which are: (i) Internationalization, (ii) research and development intensity, (iii) firm size, (iv) market similarity, and (v) market uncertainty.

Internationalization refers to the degree to which a brand has experience in the international market. That said, experienced international firms are more likely to have adapted branding strategies, once they have more international knowledge. Furthermore, the research and development intensity determines the company’s innovativeness degree. Highly innovative companies usually are more flexible and open to new ideas. Thus, they will be more likely to have an adapted branding strategy rather than a standardized one. Moreover, firm size is also an internal influence factor. The authors posit that bigger firms are more likely to maintain brand elements standardized instead of localizing brand name and logo for every local market. They explain that larger firms have more resources to exploit and adapt to international markets even with a standardized brand. In addition, the authors point out that large international firms usually make their standardized brand an asset. Smaller firms, on the other hand, have limited resources, but they do have more flexibility. That means they can act faster to meet local market needs.

Accounting for environmental characteristics, a brand manager should be attentive to market similarity and market uncertainty. The first refers to the degree to which the competitive setting is homogeneous. That is, the extent that a market has similar competitors and consumers with the same needs. The latter refers to the magnitude and velocity of changes in that environment setting. One should notice that similar and stable (certain) markets usually are associated with a standardization brand strategy whereas diverse and unstable markets favor a localization brand strategy.

I hope this brief summary shed some light on factors that directly impact brand localization when considering elements such as brand logo, name, and slogan. For more information on this particular research, I suggest that you check out the full journal paper that inspired this post: Jeong, I., Lee, J. H., & Kim, E. (2018). Determinants of brand localization in international markets. Service Business, 1-26.

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