Going global, Part 2: Creating positioning for global brands

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Last month, we looked at when it might make sense to enter a global market with your green product or service. This month, we’ll take a look at market positioning that might make it worth the hassle and expense of entering new countries.

Your Unique Selling Proposition, or USP, is marketing-speak for the factor that makes your offering special enough to win over buyers who either have been meeting the need elsewhere or didn’t realize they needed your product or service. If you’re entering a different country, your USP will have to be clear and convincing enough that people will switch.

In the world of green products and services, you’ll construct your USP based in either or both of two different themes: how the product or service improves your customer’s life (solves a problem, meets a need, fulfills a desire)—and how it helps others and the world. While customers who already think green are receptive to the second, to reach people other than committed greens, you also need positioning points in the first category.

A few possibilities:

Higher Standards

I’ve been amazed for several years that European cosmetics and personal care product companies haven’t stormed the US with an appeal to consumer safety, i.e., “Because we’re based in Spain, we have to meet European Union standards for product safety. These standards are much tougher than those in the United States, and that’s your guarantee that our shampoos are safe and healthy for your children.” This is a market opportunity waiting to be captured, and the early movers could have quite a leg up, particularly following the scares about safety issues in imported Chinese goods. Yet even European companies like The Body Shop that do have a presence in the US fail to capitalize on this in their marketing.

Standards in health, the environment (organic, biodegradable packaging, waste recapture, no animal testing, etc.), ease of use, etc. all make great positioning points.

Economic Opportunity for the Poor

If, say, your product is sourced from organic biodynamic fair-trade ingredients, that gives you bragging rights. While many consumers around the world recognize that fair trade, organic, and biodynamic are good things, they may not recognize exactly what it means. You, as the product manufacturer, importer, or marketer, must educate them. Your customers and prospects need to know that buying from you means not only a living wage to the farmer, but also:

  • Certification that child slaves are not used (an especially big issue in the cocoa industry)
  • A pool of money to the village cooperative, which uses it for democratically decided improvement projects such as building wells—and that in turn means teenage girls are able to stay in school because they’re not spending half the day carrying pitchers of water several miles
  • Money that stays in the local producer communities and is not sucked away to the developed world by giant corporations
  • Sustainable farming practices that mean the harvest will continue for many years, because the soil is nurtured, not depleted, and the farms use companion planting rather than destructive monocropping
  • The consumer is spared exposure to harmful chemicals, and gets to savor a food product that still contains its original nutrients and thus offers both higher nutritional content and better flavor

When you present things this way, you provide good reasons to buy from you instead of some commoditized agribusiness firm. Wouldn’t any smart consumer want to make a choice like that?

And there are other types of appeals on social-betterment grounds. Companies like Khaya Cookies in South Africa or Greyston Bakery in the United States make a big point of providing jobs to people who would otherwise be unemployable: young mothers in the townships outside Johannesburg, and ex-offenders or people with mental disabilities from the slums of New York, respectively.

Deeper Environmental Benefits

What do your green attributes really mean? Less intensive use of water, energy or materials and reduced or recaptured waste output can mean lower prices to the consumer, reduced contribution to catastrophic climate change, more productive farmland, etc. Are these important enough to get consumers to switch from a home-country brand to your export? And will the differences make up for the environmental impact of shipping something halfway across the world?

The Key Concept: Make Your Story Meaningful

When you bring a product to market in a different country, the marketing challenge is to tell “the story behind the story”—to make it come alive with your commitment to a better world that is so strong it has brought you all the way across an ocean to do business. This kind of marketing is a good thing even in the domestic market, but with the extra challenges of going global, it’s crucial. Keep asking “what does this mean? Why is it important? Why should my customer care?”

And once again, you don’t have to go it alone. People like me are happy to help you succeed.

Shel Horowitz,
shel at greenandprofitable.com, shows you how to “reach green, socially conscious consumers with marketing that has THEM calling YOU.” He writes the monthly Green And Profitable column and is the primary author of the award-winning book Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green (John Wiley & Sons).

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