Every Brand is Global: Experience Considerations for Worldwide Audiences

Nov 2, 2018 · 7 min read

Regardless of where you’re reading this, or where your customers are, I have some news for you: Your brand is global. You need to start thinking about how that impacts your customers’ experience.

For some, this isn’t news. For others, whose businesses target a specific geographic market, this may come as a surprise. You can thank social media. As many brands have already learned, social cannot be contained within your desired geographical footprint. Here are a couple of the more memorable examples:

Dominque Ansel Bakery (a.k.a. The Cronut)

When the bakery that created the Cronut in New York was reviewed by a popular food blog, their website traffic went up 300%, with visitors from all over the world. Before they knew it, hundreds of people were lining up at the shop every day, and now the Cronut is being replicated at bakeries far and wide.

Roman Originals (a.k.a. What color is this dress?)

After this dress was posted on Tumblr, the whole world got in a fight about its true color. At its peak, the dress controversy generated 10,000 tweets per minute. Roman Originals, the UK-based retailer that created the $79 dress, sold over 3,000 dresses in ten days. Previously, they had hoped to sell 200 per week.

Whether intentional or not, every expression of your brand carries the potential of worldwide visibility. Today’s brands must be aware of global trends and sensitivities that could affect your customers’ experience. Here are a few things every brand should keep in mind:

Regional naming differences
Two situations fall into this category:

  • Language differences that might be misunderstood. For example, in the US, the word “pants” typically mean jeans, slacks, or something of that sort. When the British say “pants,” they typically mean underwear.
  • Brands that have taken the same (or very similar) products and named them differently in different regions. For example, “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese,” a staple for American kids, is called “Kraft Dinner” in Canada. Or, some products might only be available regionally, even though the brand is global.

In the first case, the biggest issue is usually on the brand side. Using a word that has multiple meanings in a social post could subject your brand to unintentional public ridicule if it reads differently in another region. All it takes is one expat with a popular Twitter account retweeting it. While you should always speak in a way that will resonate with your core audience, (i.e. if they say “pants” when describing the clothing that covers your legs, then say “pants”), also consider whether your words could be misconstrued in other countries that use the same language.

Additionally, be mindful when you translate copy from one language to another. Especially with tools like Google Translate, it’s easy to lose the nuance and specificity that word choices can communicate in context. There are plenty of classic brand examples of this (you can find a laugh-worthy list here). This can be easily avoided by confirming translations with a native speaker.

In the second case, differing brand names or regional availability can create confusion and frustration with your customer base when your products get more global exposure. Chrissy Teigen, one of the most visible celebrities on social media, recently promoted a product, Pampers Pure, on her Instagram account.

The highlighted comments provide just one example of many. Customers all over the globe saw Chrissy’s post, but weren’t sure if they could buy this product where they live. In this case, Pampers cleared up the confusion by responding, but they could have avoided this altogether. When speaking about a specific product, be clear about where it is available. If it goes by multiple names, include all of them in the original post.

Security and protection
Whether required by law, or based in regional norms, the perception of security can significantly impact your customers’ experience with your brand. With GDPR, we’ve seen a lot of fear that opt-ins around data collection might negatively impact customer experience. Since May, many brands have created tolerable, and in some cases, pleasing experiences around GDPR. However, other brands have simply avoided it by blocking visitors from EU countries. How frustrating that must be for those users!

If you choose to limit site access because of your GDPR fears, that’s going to impact your brand negatively. There is no way around it. Watch your analytics to see exactly how many people are being affected by your choices, so that at least you can understand the impact and reassess if needed.

Different approaches to financial product security have a big impact on customer experiences. For example, in the UK, any credit card purchase over £20 requires a PIN. In the US, the same purchase requires a signature. In day-to-day transactions, this can cause confusion for both the employee and the customer. I’ve seen an American offer a corporate card to an assistant to pay for meal delivery. When the assistant refused because they didn’t want to take their PIN, the American was baffled as to why they needed a PIN in the first place. Personally, I was once lectured by a Sainsbury’s employee (in the UK) on how “unsafe” my credit card was because it only required a signature. He spoke as if I had control over the choice.

Customers don’t care about rules and regulations. They just want their experience to be as easy as possible, without being confused or embarrassed in the process. Fortunately, there’s a simple way for brands to make using their products in other countries easier for customers: If you know your customer is going to be in another country (either from usage data or through self-reporting), email them and let them know what they should expect, or what might be unfamiliar. Be sure to include contact information that will work at their destination (for example, by adding country code dialing instructions). A simple step can go a long way toward making your customers feel comfortable, deepening their trust in your brand.

Public company persona vs private company voices
In today’s world, employee and customer voices can have the same reach as your brand’s. Gone are the days when you could lock down your brand’s public persona through smart advertising and good PR. Internal missteps can easily become public.

For example, a travel blogger recently took to Twitter after having a less-than-satisfactory experience ordering a drink on his United flight. While most brands are used to customer service issues popping up on Twitter, I would guess that United never expected one of their flight attendants to publicly attack the blogger, report inaccuracies about United’s stocking of beverages, and call the customer a drunk. Read the full story here.

While it’s impossible to foresee every possible situation, there are things you can do to lessen the chances of these types of interactions. Start by providing clear guidance on how you expect your employees to engage with customers, regardless of their role. Then, identify resources that are available to help your employees when they’re dealing with a challenging customer situation. Supporting your employees with internal tools that help them deliver great experiences to your customers can go a long way. When considering the systems that your employees will work with every day, consider their usability and how they might drive efficiency for the employee. Also, provide your employees with channels for feedback, and stay open to suggestions on how to improve internal tools and processes. Then, make changes to improve systems based on that feedback, just like you would with your customers. Giving your employees a voice will make it less likely that they’ll broadcast their dissatisfaction to the world.

I’ve seen the issues discussed above come up time and time again. However, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Do you have a challenge you’re struggling to meet as your brand becomes more global? Give us a call.

Author: Amanda Gagliardi, Vice President of Experience Design
As Vice President of Design, Amanda leads Effective’s New York City office and provides design oversight to clients. She specializes in solving problems at the intersection between customer experience and process improvement for digital and physical customer touchpoints. She’s particularly passionate about making better experiences for Effective’s clients. She loves working with teams to work through the best way to deliver to their particular client. “If our clients don’t have a good experience with us, why would they trust us to build an experience for their audience?”

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