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Branding in a new market – advice from the experts

The Guardian // 18th May 2015

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Branding in a new market – advice from the experts” was written by Emma Featherstone, for theguardian.com on Friday 1st May 2015 10.11 UTC

Are you looking to expand your venture? Is the US calling, or could China hold great opportunities for you? To find success in a new export market, you must find a way to sell your product to its best advantage taking in the differences of culture, language and business practices. During our branding masterclass webchat, experts and business owners discussed how taking on a new market poses a range of challenges and offered some thoughtful solutions to each. Here are some of the highlights from the session:

Finding your business’s story

Time is precious, so don’t waste your potential customers’ time was the panel’s consensus. When explaining your brand’s story, how do you choose the details? “You only have so long to capture someone’s attention and even less before you lose it! So you have to get straight to the point,” said Iain Bluett, president and co-founder of Ticket Alternative and Freshtix. When launching Freshtix, Bluett found short videos and brief emails had a higher open rate and more engagement than longer alternatives.

Personal or unusual details can make your offering stand out, the panellists advised. Akosua Afriyie-Kumi, founder and creative director of fashion accessories brand A A K S, suggested a few starting points, such as “how you started, where you produce, the materials in the products”.

Looking for the human angle can be effective, added James Cotton, founder and managing director of digital creative agency Onespacemedia, citing the trend for technology startups to tell their founder’s story. “It can work as a great conversation starter. It’s all too often forgotten that business is ultimately about people,” he said.

Pitching your product to new customers

Each market comes with its own nuances and habits. The way you market or brand your product in the UK might not be the best possible fit for another country. If you sell a consumer product, the packaging can play a big role in attracting or deterring customers. The panel was asked whether a business owners should think about redesigning packaging for new markets.

Sarah Aitken, CMO for iris Worldwide, said: “I would recommend testing it out in its current form and watching the consumer reaction in the new market and adapting if necessary.”

She offered Pret a Manger’s approach to the US market as an example. The chain changed their salad boxes in the US from cardboard (as found in their UK branches) to plastic. “It was a format more familiar to Americans and it’s helped shift more salads here,” she explained.

Media attention

The more aware potential customers are of your product, the more it will stand out on the shelves of a store or in Google search results. Aside from advertising, one of the most targeted approaches is gathering press or blogger support. The panel was asked for their advice on getting a product into the press in different countries.

Sarah Bell, communications manager, UPS UK said: “The best way to start is to read what your potential customers are reading, and identify the journalists and influencers who are active on that beat.” Afriyie-Kumi, an active Twitter user, added that she relies fully on social media to get noticed by the press.

A good example of being proactive, without the backing of a PR agency came from Aitken: “[The owner of] a US based startup company I advise has had good success cherry picking titles she believes her product is relevant for and simply sending samples and her story, well packaged, to the right editor.”

Meanwhile, a number of the panel recommended UKTI as a source of advice on how business works and how to make connections in a new market.

Working to a tight budget

Gemma Price, co-founder of online health food retailer SuperfoodMarket, posted a question from one of her contacts: “What are your top three tips for building a brand in a new market on a small budget?” The panel offered some cost-free tips.

Bluett said: “Building a large email list quickly is key for many new brands and that can be done by leveraging other social media networks.” In his opinion email is still the best way of communicating your message, backed up with a business blog.

Bell reiterated the starting point for all export ambitions: “The key thing is really research – make sure you have done research on the market and understand how your brand and business will translate in the market from language to cultural nuance.”

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