Whilst it may seem almost like a contradiction in terms, global brands need to consider how they can use personal branding facts to consolidate their positions on international markets. I interviewed international personal branding expert Brigitte Bojkowszky on the challenges for global branding in a personal branding world.
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Brigitte Bojkowszky is a global branding strategist, podcast host, speaker and published author. Her boutique branding strategy agency BridgetBrands helps companies craft meaningful strategies to effectively elevate their brands to the next level.
With her academic, practical and personal brand experience Bridget helps personal and organisational brands to unleash their full potential and shine authentically.
Her experience includes 22 years teaching global branding & marketing management at universities around the world & she’s done projects with dozens of brand name companies such as the European Investment Fund, L’Oréal, VW, and Porsche.
How did Brigitte get into International Business?
It was her experience of working as a flight attendant. When you’re flying to all the different continents as she did, then you get to know other cultures, mentalities, their desires, wants, needs and likes and also what brands they buy, they use, they admire and they value. This could be observed on the many long haul flights.
Serving people from all of the different countries and making them feel comfortable on board, no matter where they come from, what nationality they are, and what they need and what their desires are is somehow international marketing. It is international branding, you are offering a service in the best possible way – especially flying for an airline like Lauda with a strong focus on service levels.
Working as a flight attendant demonstrates WHY personal branding is important
You are the face of the airline in that moment, you represent Lauda or Thai or whoever you’re flying for.
You are the representative of the brand, you do your job and when people disembark from the plane, they walk away with an impression of good or bad memories.
Did you make them happy and how was the service you provided for them? That creates a perception about the brand so you need to consider yourself as the last element in the value chain. It’s you as a person who is the last and the most important link in that value chain who can make or break it when it comes to branding.
That experience makes a customer decide then whether or not to fly with you again, whether to come back and choose you over another airline now to get from A to B to C.
All of those layovers also provided lots of opportunity for window shopping and people watching, so Brigitte also was able to observe what motivates people to buy.
As the last link in the “value chain” then you are the one leaving the last impression
No matter whether you are a Starbucks barista, or an airline flight attendant, a waiter at the Cheesecake Factory or wherever you are on the Amazon delivery person or you are a bank clerk, you are endorsing the company you’re working for, for that specific brand.
Personal Branding Facts: When you see that the aggregate of every single person that is working for that particular brand is contributing to the strength or well being of that brand. That’s why also the customer is willing, when the brand is perceived as being strong, to pay a premium for that particular brand. And whatever their brand identity is that they are contributing through all the people that are working for that brand. Now that makes a perception in the market.
How have global brands changed over the past 3 years?
I interviewed our mutual friend Kathrin Bussmann, about 18 months ago, and at that time, she gave really many tips for companies who were starting out in the international brand building journey. So for anybody who’s not seen that interview you can find it on my YouTube channel or you can read the summary post on the blog.
This pandemic has made a huge impact on companies. Companies really became vulnerable on a completely different level. Something happened that was not even expected to be possible. Business was really at a standstill and they didn’t know how to go forward.
So the pandemic has changed brands and how brands are moving forward. There are just so called new truths in marketing and branding out there.
Marketing really begins with you knowing your customer, and I mean really knowing your customer inside out and outside in. Now we really need to understand what a customer’s true wants and desires are and what is relevant for them. What has changed is in very local and precise terms.
Move away from globalisation at any cost to a more localised approach
In the past branding was all about globalisation; standardise as much as possible. Branding means having a global appearance, a global look, and there was this focus on local touch. However during the pandemic, it became also critical to look in a more granular way at marketing eg. ad strategies that are so specific that there is a change in the communication strategies from zip code to zip code, or from store to store.
People started to purchase from local stores. Fresh, locally grown produce, and consumers wanted to support local stores for a variety of reasons. Eg it’s about leaving a green footprint. It’s supporting local retailers, farmers. That trend is going to stay after the pandemic as people started getting comfortable with being more local.
At the same time, there is also this trend of shopping online. There’re still a lot of people in Austria though who are very hesitant when it comes to grocery shopping online.
In countries like China or South Korea purchasing online is just the state of the art. eg in South Korea students could order water or milk on their way home and it would be on the doorstep by the time they got there. (You wouldn’t get that in Austria because Billa (= large supermarket chain) would say to you you can have a delivery slot in six weeks time, although it has improved as the pandemic has gone on.)
Factors affecting online shopping behaviour
- Nationality – see the point above about expectations and habits
- Generation – generally younger generations are more open to buying online
- Purchasing power – do they want to compare online and go for a best price guarantee?
- what options are open to them? During the pandemic we’ve seen that if you are locked down in your apartment complex then online shopping may be your only alternative.
Pandemic caused a shift in brand communication strategies
The logistical problems caused by the pandemic mean that brands need to explain to their customers what is happening, so initially this communication shift is happening on the sales level. eg when the new car or MacBook isn’t available when it should have been.
However companies are starting now to tailor that into their whole branding strategy from the beginning. From creating awareness in the market and what they stand for, combined with local sourcing and trying not to depend much on on a specific country markets where they have extra facilities.
Companies are actually starting to adjust and improve their customer service responses as part of their corporate branding. Recognising that the last link in the chain is whoever is client facing and dealing with complaints is one of the personal branding facts and why personal branding is important.
Customer Journey is Key
It’s really about knowing the customer and giving them the perfect experience. A customer journey is key, because it’s also key when it comes to competition. The new form of competition is not only with your competitors – the competition for companies nowadays is to compete with the last best experience your customer had before, with either you or with another company. It’s really the company in the way of how they feel about you when they consume your products and services.
You have to be continuously levelling up. You have to basically provide them a customised, personalised, unparalleled experience through the whole customer journey that is a smooth and seamless digital journey. It’s not only about the transaction, it’s really about how you also integrate them. It’s about entertainment, it’s about having them participate. It’s about co creation, it’s about the community aspect that you as a brand want to offer your customer.
So in the end, they’re having to focus much more intensively on really what the customer wants, not just something that they perceive that the customer wants, or that they identified five years ago and still keep doing the same thing. Now they have to really keep coming back to question that assumption.
What is it that constitutes an ideal experience for our customers?
How can we create that recreate that and improve on that?
Data driven localised customer insights
With online sales we get all the data and with data you have performance measurements. That means you can try to level up to improve your performance to improve your relationships with your customer. It’s all about relationships.
It’s really about driving and fostering these loyal relationships with your customers. Not only with customers though, it’s also with all the other stakeholders, your suppliers, with everyone in the value chain to really make sure that the processes in the background are also smooth. In that way you can deliver the service and the customer is not faced with empty shelves or “you have to wait for another two months to get this or that delivered”.
You have to maintain and strengthen those relationships along the full arc of the customer journey and you need to provide the solution that the customer wants to have. That is that is of utmost importance when it comes to customer insight.
Then you need to break it down to the local level to account for cultural differences. We know that people from different country markets have different ways of doing things and different expectations based on their prevailing environmental factors. So you have to here also make sure that you localise to the extent that you can meet all these customers expectations.
In the face of the pandemic global branding also became more insignificant as people were not travelling so the need for a brand to be instantly recognisable across the world was reduced for this time.
Think Global, Act Local! This slogan is an early form of the personal branding facts
Yes, it’s important for a brand such as Coca Cola or Apple to be recognised globally, but it’s the local touch which makes it relatable to the consumers there.
If you don’t have a deep understanding of what consumers really want nobody will buy. It’s also the stories that we tell. For example, brands like working with endorsers or with influencers who are from that local market because they can much better connect.
Consumers react to those specific stories because the influencer is one of them. If you tell a story by someone that nobody in the market recognises then you lose the chance of that resonance.
Companies are now using personal branding to accelerate global brand exposure
For many big companies who are working internationally, they find it very hard to integrate this idea of personal branding into their global strategy. Influencers one way of doing this, but if I choose somebody who has a very strong personal brand to integrate with mine, it’s a two way street. It also brings risks as well as opportunities, and it’s not an easy road to navigate, especially on an international level.
Why Personal Branding is Important
You can look at this from different perspectives. Personal Branding is not only important as a business owner, but also within the context of corporations and across organisations.
So as a personal brand, you position yourself within an organisation as an expert about something because you take the role, you have a position there but also as an expert in your role, and that equips you with authority. It makes you the go to person because of the expertise that you have for everyone within the company and but also beyond. People become so important because you’re doing business, not with a brand with a logo with any other item or brand element, you do it with human beings.
So in that sense a strong personal brand helps leverage your network. It helps to build brand partnerships with other corporations more easily.
Famous Founders and Collaborations built on the understanding of why personal branding is important
- Sergio Marchionne, he started to the Fiat Chrysler Alliance.
- Carlos Ghosn, the CEO, who was the face of the Renault Nissan partnership
So strong brands like to collaborate with other strong brands, but there’s always the people as the foundation in the beginning. In order to be successful you have to have this cultural value and competence fit with a CEO that understands it’s a prerequisite for these organisations to work together.
The interesting thing that also comes along with being a CEO is that consumers now are also expecting personal branding from the companies. In fact, 82% of the people surveyed in a survey said they are more likely to tap to trust the company when its senior executives are active on social media, and 77% are more likely to buy when the CEO is active on social media. They are really watched, they are followed, and consumers want input from the company leaders. So if businesses are ignoring that, they might also go out of business if they ignore that fact over a long period of time.
Looking at personal brands such as Gary V., we know Gary Vaynerchuk he’s all over the place, but we don’t know really the name of his company in the background. Same for Oprah Winfrey. She is a strong personal brand. Do we know much about her company, Harper Productions or O W. M? Oprah Winfrey Network? We know about Oprah Winfrey, we know about these personal brands a lot. So we follow them and not the company.
Think about Elon Musk. He’s all over the place now with Twitter (note: in Q2 2022 Elon Musk made a bid to buy Twitter). And he has basically made Tesla to a rising brand. Last year, in the Interbrand ranking it was one of the thriving brands.
Everyone is Austria knows Nikki Lauda. Like the others, he was also an interesting person how he built his personal brand and he left a legacy and they all are leaving a legacy behind them.
Why is personal branding important to today’s employees?
It’s one thing to have the personal branding on the CEO level or on the company owner level.
But then there is also the personal branding that gets you in front of many more customers. It’s the effort in investing in your own employees through employee branding. So personal branding is basically employee branding within an organisation.
When employees share a brand message that’s also interesting. The posts that they post gain 561% more reach than when just the official brand page posts a message. It’s really what the employer is talking about their brand. They are the brands advocates, and wherever you go, whatever you do, you are representing your company.
When they know that you’re working for that company, you are leaving an impression. So does your behaviour fit with their perception of the brand? You’re representing that brand.
Creating a culture at the crossroads of personal and global branding
If small to medium companies have already taken some steps about expanding internationally and done some localisation of their assets, they should be then starting to build this kind of brand awareness. At least on a small level, all of their employees who are in contact with the international markets should be talking about their experiences of working for the company, and the CEO should of course be talking the company line.
It’s really about the culture that you create. Employees have to feel comfortable expressing their opinions about the company in public and the company has to give them the space to do so.
Stand up for your beliefs
Now, people want brands to take a stance and show what they what they value. What are their brand values and the brand values they live by? So all the brand values that the company is communicating have to be supported by all the employees and you only can do that well when you are living authentically as a person.
Also by living that brand’s values you are helping the company becoming much stronger because you are aligned, you are going for the same vision. You are living and breathing the same purpose, the higher purpose that you as a company are striving for and that makes the brand strong.
Also when you’re expanding internationally there are obvious universal values that you should live by and integrate into your strategy and actions in the new country. Market in a way that you really appeal to the customer.
Values are more important than ever post-pandemic
Post pandemic, the role of brand stories and values has become more important than ever and it’s essential that companies recognise that their positioning needs to be extremely sharp and targeted. If they are not crystal clear about their values and how they want to be positioned it will be increasingly difficult to retain customers’ loyalty.
It was always important for brands to have values, but it wasn’t always as important that they communicated them to a broad public. Now if you don’t do that, then you’ve lost in some way.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are a big corporation with 10,000 and more employees or a small medium enterprise, a micro company. Also for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, anyone: it’s about how you can solve customers problems. It’s really about creating a personalised relationship and humanising your brand.
Why is Personal Branding so Important for Global Brands?
Consumers expect that companies should no longer be a faceless organisation that just has slick advertising slogans. A brand needs to have that certain “something” that that people can relate to more closely.
People want to know about the humans behind the brands because people buy from people. Purchasing is an emotional process, especially when the products are more expensive (less so with daily necessities).
Integrity and brand values that resonate with consumers are no longer something to be discussed internally. Global brands need to take a clear position on the issues that their consumers care about, be it DEI, climate change, human rights or whatever other topics move them. Those values then need to be clearly communicated to consumers – it’s no longer enough to simply offer a great product, you have to match the aspirations of your potential clients.
Companies also need to recognise that standing up for their beliefs means that there will also be people who then choose to buy other brands, and that’s also ok.
These values can most easily be communicated with a multi-level approach: in the official brand marketing, through the CEO’s (& other management members) social channels, and also by the employees at grass roots level.
It means that employees need to be aligned with the brand purpose and calls for them to also authentically live the brand values. Companies need to ask themselves how they can support their staff live up to such aspirations in order to have genuine alignment across their teams.
You can watch the full interview with Brigitte here:
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