Balancing brand consistency and local initiative in content

How do you balance international brand consistency and local initiative? These questions can help.

July 27, 2015

Get the balance between international and local content right and you’ll set in train a virtuous chain reaction of more relevant content and better marketing performance. However, doing so can be a tricky business. Lean too far one way and you’re restricting grassroots initiative and disrespecting local audiences; too far the other and you could lose control of your brand voice whilst creating more work for your local marketing teams in the process.

LinkedIn has lots of discussions with international marketers about these types of dilemmas. We’ll never claim to have all of the answers, because no marketer in their right mind would believe us. But we’ve definitely found a clearer picture emerging about how best to manage content internationally.

Here are four questions that international marketers often find themselves asking when it comes to adapting content to local markets or seeding local content initiatives. In each case we’ve summarised the decision-making process that we’ve found can identify the right approach for your business:

When should I create local versions of international content?

Different markets need content that resonates with them – and is relevant to what you have to offer in that location. However, if you apply too rigid an approach to reversioning international content you can find yourself fragmenting reach unnecessarily and making it harder, not easier, for local audiences to find what’s relevant to them.

Ask yourself what the expectations of the market are: will audiences see localised content as adding value or are they just as likely to be interested in the international content you’re already producing? Ask too what your objectives for the particular piece of content should be. If its aim is building awareness then the existing international content may be perfectly suited to the job – but if it’s focused on conversion then the extra relevance delivered through localisation could be worth it. Bear in mind too, that the social proof a piece of content generates through shares and comments are an important indicator of its credibility. When you produce an alternative, local version of a piece of existing international content, you inevitably lessen the weight of social proof that it carries with it.

How can I balance local initiative with brand consistency?

The best way to produce content that speaks to a market’s priority issues is to empower the people closest to that market to create it. However, this is often the point at which marketers tasked with managing brands across borders start to get sleepless nights. How can you maintain control of your brand voice when your brand starts to conduct different conversations in different markets simultaneously?

In our experience, the key is to focus on three criteria that any piece of locally produced content should be able to meet: it should support what your business or brand stands for, customers in the particular market should have a genuine appetite for it, and it should align with the existing conversation in that market. If the content fails any of these tests, it’s worth examining more closely whether it’s really appropriate.

Am I producing content that my markets want to localise?

Co-ordinating local versions of your international content can be a challenge. But a potentially greater concern is if you find yourself producing content that your markets show no interest in localising. If the original, international content is producing great results then all well and good, but if not, you may need to intervene to find out why the local team isn’t engaging with the content process. Do they feel empowered to make suggestions and localise content? Have they got their ear to the ground about what resonates and what doesn’t? Identify the characteristics of content that performs well in the market and build on this by inviting feedback about how other pieces could have been adapted.

Am I giving great local content the audience it deserves?

Marketers tend to focus on adapting international content to local markets – but that can leave a lot of potentially valuable assets locked away where they are only seen by part of your regional or global audience. When you have local markets producing frequent, on-brand initiatives and content, look for opportunities to distribute these more widely. As a multi-national brand, your audience will expect you to share insights from a range of different markets and cultures, especially if you can bring out their broader relevance. And distributing good content internationally can help avoid friction with local marketing teams by demonstrating they have a voice on your central marketing platform.