Think globally, succeed globally

What can Kiwi companies learn from the 2011 best brands list?

What can Kiwi companies learn from the 2011 Best Brands list?

James Bickford

The rise and fall of colossal brands such as Coke and Apple may not seem relevant to New Zealand companies, but we can learn a lot from the methods of the top 100 global brands. The main insight from the 2011 Best Brands List is deceptively simple – global brands act globally.

Whilst provenance is important to a brand, its operation and vision must be global. Samsung, Nestlé, HSBC, L’Oréal and VW have a connection to their country of origin, yet they operate with a global mindset, adapting their offerings and execution by market. For instance, Nokia does not have a ‘Finnish feel’ – it’s simply a great global brand. And Skype is Estonian but few would know it.

Kiwi brands should take heed. We can, on occasion, overburden our brands with Kiwi clichés that trap them in a local sphere and ensure they don’t always translate globally.

However, some Kiwi companies are tantalisingly close to breaking the global market from a brand perspective. I was inspired to read new chief executive Theo Spiering’s vision: “Fonterra can make New Zealand the dairy nutrition capital of the world.” That is a CEO who is thinking and talking globally.

Fonterra’s brand potential is incredible. This is a $19 billion global business, which outside of its own industry, presently has a relatively low brand profile when in fact there is no reason why Fonterra can’t make it into future Best Global Brand Lists. Nestlé had its beginnings making baby milk formula and today it is number 55 on the list, so why not Fonterra?

The second insight from the Best Brands List is collaborate or die. Gucci’s partnership with UNICEF, and Coca-Cola and Heinz’s Plantbottle partnership – these are all clever partnerships that benefit both parties. This could not be more salient for a country the size of New Zealand. Small partnerships build great brands and will help Kiwi companies punch above their weight.

Some New Zealand companies have already created strong partnerships, such as the smart partnering of Ecoya with WWF’s Earth hour. The partnership was relevant – light a candle during Earth Hour – plus it had a strong practical element – $2 from the sale of each candle went to WWF.

But the Ecoya example is very much an exception, not a rule. For such an inherently sociable nation – the OECD has officially names Kiwis the ‘most sociable people in the world’ – I’m always surprised that there are not already more corporate collaborations. Why does our gregarious nature not translate into our corporate culture? Kiwi companies need to talk. We are a small island brimming with intelligent and innovative people and we need to pool our resources in order to make it on the global stage.

The third and final point about the Brand List is – use your size to your advantage. In these uncertain economic times Kiwi brands are actually in a good position. We are nimble and small and the main point about this year’s list is that the truly successful brands were those that adapted to survive to market conditions. Bigger brands, like bigger boats, are harder to turn around. But our brands are small and therefore can adapt more quickly. Use your size and flexibility to your advantage, think globally, talk globally, and collaborate to succeed.

James Bickford is managing director of Interbrand New Zealand. He lives in Auckland  and speaks fluent Brandese with only a slight accent. 

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