By: Adam Thurland, Partner and Strategy Director


I recently discovered that my iphone could be used as a magnifying glass by changing a couple of settings, it got me thinking, I’ve spent all this money, what other benefits does it have. As a stakeholder in a company that is looking to enter China, you are familiar with the services that a branding agency can help you with, repositioning, visual identity adaptation, brand message localisation, and so on.

However, we have come to understand that there are a number of less obvious areas where our clients have been unaware the problems an agency can solve for them.

To date we have helped a number of large global brand with their first steps into the hyper competitive and innovative China food & beverage market. We help them craft Chinese brand names, we watch them grow from one to hundreds of team members within a short space of time, we support their testing of the market through e-commerce, and eventually we provide that same support as they prepare to open their first bricks and mortar stores. Most importantly we are part of the team that helps them redefine their value proposition for a new audience as they move through these stages.

For example, many of these elements can be seen within our work with ALDI, but that isn’t all. Below are 3 less obvious challenges that are essential for a smooth integration of the brand into the China market.

Internal Branding

Many global giants have a brand that is built on a strong foundation of values and purpose, this enables them to localise their brand positioning in the mind of the consumer across global markets, whilst remaining true to the core of what the brand should represent. That said, for any brand that enters a new market, everything from the values and purpose, to the way in which the visual identity is implemented consistently across channels, is completely foreign to most members of the new local team. Therefore internal branding can become as equally challenging an issue to tackle as developing a new market position.

Internal branding is making a brand employees are proud of, not just enticing customers to buy.

As a branding partner in this instance, the value provided by an agency lies as much in the designing of localised brand guidelines as it does in orientating the local team on the purpose of the brand in China and what that means to them as new ambassadors of the brand. Alongside this, training them on how to implement the brand across channels. This is true not just of the core internal team, but also of multiple partners, from advertising agencies, to Tmall partners, digital agencies and PR.

Brand Guardians 

Like some kind of intergalactic identity superhero? Erm, Yes. With so many partners involved in getting a brand up and running in a new market, branding agencies play a key role in protecting the value of the brand. In many cases we become a central hub for all partners when it comes to reviewing and signing off on work and ensuring it is ‘on brand’. Essential in a new market where you are attempting to develop brand recall and recognition with a new consumer group.

However, ‘Guardianship’ also goes beyond simple approval, and occasionally necessitates the development and management of centralised systems that collect and share tangible brand assets, becoming another method of ensuring consistency of the brand identity, no matter who is developing content.

Workflow and approval management

As the big launch of the brand looms, the pace of work picks up, the volume of content being produced grows, more stakeholders want a say, the stakes are higher. This is the perfect environment in which costly mistakes can be made and deadlines are missed.

In this environment, branding agency partners play a crucial role, not only in producing the assets needed for the launch, but also in designing and implementing internal approval processes across business units on the client side. Different stakeholders, from marketing to buying and legal, all have different objectives and requirements when it comes to the content and approval of work for various events (store openings, online platforms etc.). It is essential that these voices are heard and concerns are addressed in a structured manner, the brand agency facilitates this conversation, whilst balancing the need for objectivity and providing advice where necessary.

To wrap up, perhaps more important than any of the above mentioned tangible benefits of using a brand agency, for many of our clients, we have been the longest serving member of their team. That’s right, we see ourselves as a team member and trusted adviser to our clients. A team member that genuinely wants to see the brand succeed, because the brand’s success is a direct reflection on the quality of advice and guidance that we provide.

Considering a foray into the China market place, get in touch!

Or if you’d just like to know some more hidden iphone features, click here!