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Global Branding at Warp Speed-Lessons from Uber

August 29, 2013

Way back long ago in the C20th, global branding was the domain of a fortunate few who built, grew and nurtured their brands over a period of multiple decades. Expansion into new countries involved armies of consultants, libraries of research and it often took years. Through this sloth-like process, global brands developed, it was slow painful evolution. These were the brands that had managed to find a way to standardize and replicate their products and services, they had navigated massive complexity to achieve global presence. These were the brands that paid huge sponsorship dollars for the Olympics and World Cup and created glossy global advertising campaigns to sell their wares.

A global brand was the reward for companies who had what it took to expand into the world’s developed and developing markets, but early C21st the arrival of a new legion of global brands; brands from the tech space- a brand like Google, who in a relatively short period of time, catapulted themselves to the top of world leading brand tables.

This new legion didn’t share the characteristics of the previous generation. They weren’t global sponsors of anything, they did very little marketing in comparison and they’d became global a whole lot faster than the brands from the prior generation.

A decade on from the first new wave, it’s looking like there’s now a new breed of global brands that are riding on the back of the global expansion of mobile.

One such brand is Uber– the driver-for-hire service.

Today, the company announced it was taking its service to India, starting with Bangalore.

Last week it announced its service in Dubai.

The week prior, it launched in China.

But, there’s more..

Cape Town on August 28th 

Mexico City on August 2nd 

Uber’s expansion has been pretty phenomenal for a company that first launched in San Francisco early in 2010, by March of that year, the service could be found in Chicago, New York, Boston, San Francisco and Paris.

Uber has turned the taxi business on it’s head (an industry who has basically using the same technology since 1940)- by creating a premium service for the affluent global consumer who’s prepared to pay a premium for convenience. They are offering drivers access to these consumers and the ability to earn more money- one feature of Uber is demand-based pricing; so drivers get extra compensation during busy periods.

We are about to witness the arrival of a new generation of global brands who have none of the characteristics of their predecessors. They are much more nimble, agile, than the giants of old and believe action is more important than anything. They are happy to start small and grow, rather than coming in with a fanfare and launching big and they aren’t using global ad agency networks- sorry Publicom!

What’s significant is that these brands are all about product and importantly experience superiority. They aren’t heading into markets with a ton of competitors, so their services are massively disruptive and generate huge waves of word of mouth.

This is a world where the experience is everything- every single touch point matters for a brand like- Uber and it’s the reason their average customer spends close to $100/month on their service.

These next generation brands are marketplace disruptors and therefore first-mover advantage is critical, they need expand rapidly to kill the clone competitors before they can build a foothold. What’s clearly important here is how fast these brands can accelerate and build a solid base that makes their businesses hard to attack.

While it’s easy to imagine that these disruptors have such a powerful story they don’t need marketing, but that would be dangerously naïve assumption.

So, where does marketing fit into this new world?

1. The brand needs a consistent and well-polished architecture- it needs to know its positioning, target, personality, etc
2. It still needs to introduce itself to markets- this doesn’t need to be advertising, but it should be social/digital content-make sure the target knows 1
3. The brand needs to grow and expand fast- so it’s about 24/7 management of reputation, customer service and storytelling
4. Understanding the user- marketing can help understand how the experience might need to be optimized for local markets
5. Experience and Service Design- Linked to 4- how does this work in each market- how is consistent with 1 and how is it differentiated?
6. How are customers retained? What does ECRM look like?
7. How do you keep acquiring new customers?

Finally, it’s likely that the virgin markets these new global brands launch into will over time attract their share of competitors, in which case, these brands will need more aggressive marketing to fend off competitos.

What’s clear for this next gen brands- it’s not about years of planning and research before market entry, big global advertising campaigns and Olympic sponsorships, etc. Instead, it’s about creating a disruptive product that provides a superior experience to the current status quo, fast-tracking that product into global markets at a grassroots level, with an eye towards to rapidly accelerating growth. Marching closely at the side of these next gen brands should be the next generation of smart/agile marketing.

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