The allure of the blockbuster global brand is irresistible. Emerging countries represent large and growing populations with, presumably, unmet needs. An established brand in the U.S., with a leading market share and a proven business model, stands ready to be unleashed to garner enticing potential revenue projections based on demographic extrapolations. The obvious strategy and path to improved profitability is to “leverage our strong brand” and spread fixed costs over a larger revenue base. “If we can just get 2% of this potential market we’ll be rolling in the money,” is the typical conclusion of many global market forecast presentations.

Too often, it doesn’t work out as planned. It’s time to take a step back and temper the siren call of global dominance with some hard lessons learned.

What’s Your Brand Really Stand For?

Most brands have their start in one country. And often that country is the U.S. But how transferable is the U.S.-centric brand, as companies look to make it a global brand? Honestly and objectively answering this question is critically important to minimizing the risks of taking a brand global.

In their country of origin, leading brands have an historical meaning. A reputation has been earned, based on being the first to the market with the product/technology … or being a quality or service leader … or being an American institution/icon. These are usually not transferable brand meanings, with some notable exceptions. McDonald’s, Levi Jeans, iPod, and Coke have been built into strong global brands … because the American culture they symbolize has had universal global appeal. Recognition as an “American” brand may actually work against other efforts to create a global brand.

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