A recent article by the BBC ‘Recipe for success - how UK food firms can crack the US’ talked about how some brands can make it big in the USA while others fail. It's an age-old question. The article featured the snack brand Graze, which started out delivering healthy snacks to the desks of hungry workers, but has now gained listing in all the major UK retailers. It’s a brand that’s grown phenomenally on its home turf and like many, had aspirations to crack the notoriously tricky US market. Their original plan in the US was to launch their entire British range. But there were some things Americans loved and some they absolutely loathed.
There are similar brands with similar stories to tell, namely meat-free Quorn, Pukka Herbs and BrewDog to name a few. But it’s not just the smaller, novel businesses that need to think about local relevance and how to adapt abroad. It’s a big consideration for the global players too. In the past few decades, big brand owners have pushed for global consistency and economies of scale, understandably so given the economic climate, but often to the detriment of local nuance and tastes.
Key trends towards personalisation, locally sourced and experience over possession point towards more of a fix and flex approach, rather than one size fits all. Knowing what assets should be constant and what parts of the brand can adapt and morph is vital to future success in a more agile world. Giants like Tesco didn’t translate well in China, Thailand, South Korea and Malaysia. Namely because they dropped their global model into a very different cultural environment, where habits, perceptions of food and retailing were at a different stage to that which Tesco knew elsewhere. The result was that they made a huge U-turn.
Even car maker MINI had to work hard to show the relevance of their metal to the USA, who we know have a penchant for larger vehicles. Big Super Bowl commercials, playing up the personalisation and introducing events such as Mini Takes The States, a rally for MINI owners, have all helped create a role for the brand overseas.
In the future, will more brands successfully translate in the US? Maybe, but according to KPMG, UK brands continue to lag significantly behind their US counterparts on brand experience. The big question isn’t just about how relevant your branding or pack design is, but rather it's about how compelling the overall brand experience is in an ever more competitive world.