Have you ever noticed that a Coke bottle from a different region may have different text or package designs, but the familiar elements of the Coca-Cola brand are instantly recognizable? If you have, you already know a bit about global standardization.
For instance, a customer buying a Coke in India will have the same product as a customer in Indiana, with very little variation. This unified experience is the heart of global standardization.
Standardizing a brand across its global operations is a complex but high-priority goal for international corporations. It creates parity between an organization’s operations, branding, messaging, and international marketing strategy that improves costs, reduces complexity, unifies the customer experience, and builds brand reputation.
What is a global standardization strategy?
Global standardization means harmonizing and unifying an organization's marketing messaging, services, and processes across all global markets and cultures. The organization creates unified standards and procedures for all its global locations and entities, considering the variation in customs and culture across its global markets.
Global standardization ensures all locations perform their functions similarly, creating consistency between different countries and regions. This unified approach is important for efficient operations and quality assurance. It also helps organizations ensure compliance with regulatory requirements and other legal obligations.
Assessing the need for a global standardization strategy
Standardization is ideal for corporations with reasonable variation across their product lines. Streaming services are a great example of this. While the service's language, colors, and other visual elements may change, the essential experience of the product is the same across all locations.
When considering a move to global brand and process standardization, ask these questions:
- How will our current products perform in multinational markets, and what modifications must be made to ensure adequate standardized products?
- What is our current policy standardization process right now? How much modification is required to align processes?
- How will standardization improve our customer experience and quality of service?
- Are there regulatory aspects of standardization to consider?
- Will standardization improve costs or margins without requiring heavy resource additions to accomplish?
- What is our global market share, and will standardization improve it?
Advantages of a global standardization strategy
Companies choose global standardization for its host of benefits, from cost advantages to operational efficiency. When considering whether a global standardization strategy is the right approach, think about these benefits:
Increased operational efficiency: Standardization provides a single, consistent approach to core business processes. With a single set of standards, all teams work in a consistent and synchronized manner. This reduces time spent on duplicated efforts or miscommunication. Standardization can provide more efficient supply chain management, eliminating the need to manage each process manually. This streamlines operations and reduces manual efforts while maintaining high compliance.
Better brand recognition: Consistency in the look and feel of products, services, and customer service builds trust in a brand. Using a standardized approach, global companies help customers quickly recognize the brand no matter where they are. It also ensures consistency in how locations handle customer interactions for a more positive customer experience. All these factors increase the likelihood that customers will choose you over competitors in the local market.
Consistent product quality: With a standardized approach, every product meets the same quality standards regardless of production location. It gives customers confidence that they’re getting the same quality product wherever they go. Global standardization eliminates issues with regional variability, ensuring that the same quality product is available in all markets. This allows companies to ensure quality control and consistency in their global operations, improving customer satisfaction.
Improved communication and management: Adhering to a single standard improves management by ensuring consistent implementation and monitoring of global activities. This makes it easier to identify and address areas of improvement, risk vectors, customer concerns, and cost considerations.
Global standardization also ensures that all employees within the organization operate with the same information and procedures, eliminating redundant efforts across regions. Standardization is also a time saver, reducing implementation timelines across the organization.
Reduced costs: Global standardization reduces costs for main spending categories like marketing and manufacturing by unifying resources across specific markets. This makes deploying marketing campaigns, advertising, product labeling, and packaging costs easier. Manufacturing costs can also be reduced as the same production processes and materials can be used in all locations, eliminating the need to produce different products for each market. Additionally, with standardization, companies can take advantage of economies of scale and purchase materials in bulk, further saving costs.
Access to economies of scale: Global standardization allows organizations to purchase supplies and services in bulk, reducing the cost of those items per unit. Standardizing processes across global operations also allows organizations to produce goods more efficiently to reduce production costs. By creating a unified standard that all operations across the globe must adhere to, global standardization can create a more efficient and cost-effective operation.
The challenges of standardization
The very nature of global enterprise explains why global standardization is difficult to achieve. There are logistical and cultural variations, barriers to understanding and adoption, and challenges in assimilating a list of locations from a well-worn process to a new one.
Of the challenges in standardization, these three can be the most impactful on your outcomes:
It's difficult to export global standards that mesh the organization's main operational and brand components. Any global rules must assist the organization’s function while respecting its geographic and cultural diversity. This is especially true of brand standardization, where differences in cultural customs, social conventions, and translation may require some finesse to achieve a unified brand standard.
Communicating the standards
Language barriers, cultural differences, and difficulty conveying complex information are the biggest obstacles to deploying a global standard. Language barriers often create a disconnect between headquarters and regional offices, making it harder to communicate important information effectively. Cultural differences can also interfere with the understanding of company standards. This complexity grows as the number of respective target markets grows, requiring the organization to tackle standardization efforts on many fronts in different languages and cultures. A robust translation and localization strategy reduces barriers to effective communication of standards.
Handling change management
Every market presents a unique set of challenges, so careful consideration must be taken when changing existing processes. It's not enough to simply copy and paste existing standards, as different markets often have different expectations regarding compliance and regulation. Organizations must consider how changes to existing processes will impact operations in different markets. The answer to this challenge is to find the balance between applying global standards while also ensuring regional markets can adapt to their unique circumstances.
Examples of successful standardization
Brand and process localization examples abound, and many became household names through a clear and systematic approach to global standardization. Here are three companies that led the way with a well-harmonized brand that works in every market:
So ubiquitous is the beverage giant’s presence that you can get a Coke with lunch nearly anywhere in the world. Coca-Cola Company has built a presence in nearly every country by standardizing its brand and building philanthropy into its global marketing strategies and operations. The company supports schools, grassroots organizations, and human aid initiatives like water treatment facilities, leveraging its knowledge of beverage technology for good.
Short-term rentals exploded onto the scene in 2008. Instead of looking for a hotel, travelers considered alternatives like condos, apartments, and even whole vacation properties. While the product for Airbnb is widely varied, its systems are surprisingly streamlined.
Every deal goes through a central platform, localized for its user’s language, currency, and other factors. Hosts interact with guests through the same process anywhere in the world, breaking down the social and language barriers that would have made this model impossible before the rise of SaaS platforms.
Whether you’re looking for a beach house in Carmel, CA, or a flat in London, the booking systems, policies, and customer service network underlying each booking are standardized.
Streaming services are more complex than they might first appear. While Netflix’s service is centralized, every user experience must be personalized and localized. For every country, the platform and customer service experience must adhere to local language and cultural norms while working with the legal and regulatory requirements of each of its 190 market countries.
Notable exceptions are China and Russia, where media restrictions are too severe for the service to operate. For instance, differences in what constitutes acceptable content for children vary by jurisdiction, and many titles on offer have regional restrictions for use.
Netflix took a staged marketing approach (first released only in the US and later in Canada before building its global presence). At each turn, the company has standardized its platform and processes while carefully localizing for each market.
Reap the rewards of consistency across global markets
Localization and translation are cornerstones of a strong global standardization effort. With high-quality AI and human translations that consider cultural differences and nuances in language, organizations can bring their global locations and staff into alignment for better branding and operations.
If a standardization project is on the horizon for your organization, learn more about smart, accurate translation with Smartling.