Building a Global FMCG Brand (Justin Letschert)
Creating a global Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) brand is the same as creating a local FMCG brand, just a whole lot more repetitive. A local brand requires one successful launch. A global brand requires successful launches in 193 countries, and so the chances of failure are 193 times greater.
The good news is that if you have a brand that is successfully satisfying a consumer need in one country, there is no reason why that brand shouldn’t satisfy the same consumer need in another country. After all, as Maslow pointed out, all humans have the same basic needs. The bad news is that there are not that many basic human needs, so there is a pretty good chance that there is already a brand satisfying that need in the next country.
For this reason, the first ingredient one needs for creating a global brand is a product that satisfies an existing need in a superior way to anything currently available, or an innovative, new product that creates a whole new need.
Take Red Bull, who would have thought there was a need for so much caffeine in one drink? Turns out that there was, and so a whole new need was created and the chance of creating a global brand was made so much easier.
Having a revolutionary new product which consumers around the world need, does not in itself create a strong global brand. A great brand is one that has a strong emotional relationship with its consumers. Each time a product is sold a mutually beneficial relationship is entered into. The product satisfies the consumer’s need and the manufacturer makes a profit. This relationship goes well beyond a commercial transaction. The consumer experiences a broad spectrum of emotions attached to the transaction and for a brand to be successful globally it needs to respect these emotions.
Very often, building this emotional connection through branding takes a backseat because the innovative nature of the product renders it a success regardless of how it is branded. Microsoft is a good example of this. It’s a hugely innovative product and a massive global success, but not a great brand. A brand represents how people feel about a product. I use Microsoft every day, and yet feel completely indifferent about it. Take Red Bull on the other hand, I drink it and it gives me “wings” and I love the brand.
For a brand to build an emotional relationship with its consumers around the world it must speak to the heart. Culture and language differ from country to country, but the human heart is the same wherever you go. Each new country will have a new set of complexities. In Japan consumers will want to trust the company first before considering buying the product. In England consumers will want to know if the queen uses it, and in America consumers will want to know if it comes in a bigger size with a discount coupon. Communication that speaks to the heart will allow the core of the brand to remain simple and consistent around the globe.
To speak to the heart a brand must have an ‘appeal’ and that appeal must come from the ‘heart’ of the product. Too often every ounce of a company’s energy is spent developing innovative new products, and there is no brainpower left to think about what lies at the heart of the product offering and how consumers will respond on an emotional level. A good example of this are the mobile phone companies who are so busy inventing great new phones that no time is left for creating great communication. The result – weakened brands that are propelled forward only by successful new phone launches.
One might argue that if you have a highly innovative product and sales are soaring, why waste money on branding. The reason is simple, it is very easy to copy a product, but almost impossible to copy a brand. Over time an innovative new product will come under attack from hundreds of imitators and the only true defence against this will be the brand. So build it. And then build it 192 times more.
Justin Letschert is the CEO of Union-Swiss, sole producer and distributor of Bio-Oil®, and one of South Africa’s leading skincare exporters. Following a career in mergers and acquisitions, Letschert turned his focus to marketing when he and his business partner (and brother), David, acquired Union-Swiss in 2000. Just 8 years later the brand is established in 17 countries across five continents, and is the best-selling product in its category in 14 of these markets.