Global Brand Harmonization

POSTED BY on Oct 21, 2011


No matter where in the world a brand lives, a truly iconic brand is embraced on a global scale when consumers can instantly and intuitively assign meaning to it. A brand that can accomplish this wins. Period.

The world’s most iconic brands have achieved critical acclaim through harmonizing their brand experience on a global scale. The key to this begins by identifying the universal human truth and timeless brand truth that come together in a unified brand platform – serving as the filter through which consumers experience a brand.


Global branding is complex from both an internal organizational perspective, and by virtue of a brand living across a variety of cultures (each with its own unique cultural norms, taboos and language). Some clients come to us to help solve for global brand inconsistency, and through addressing this issue the opportunity to become a truly iconic brand is presented.

If your business is currently operating on a global level, but the design system is broken or fractured, applying the appropriate rigor is essential to achieve the status you desire for your brand around the world.

Once your brand platform is defined, codified and executed consistently, consumers who encounter your brand will understand it intuitively and viscerally.


With most global brands, the equities in play may vary from market-to-market. This means you will start at different points across the world. You must rid your brand of messy inconsistencies that cloud its meaning in the eyes of your consumer.

Sounds easy to just clean it all up, right? However, this approach will result in some markets experiencing revolutionary change while others have only evolutionary change in their visual expression. You must be ready to address inevitable organizational challenges and frame up the case that a cohesive design system in the long run will help the brand achieve iconic status.


One compelling argument for the unpersuaded in your organization is to remind them that today’s world is open and transparent. In our connected world, no major brand can hide from apparent inconsistencies. It will break down your brand truth and distill it into diluted obscurity. People are probably blogging or tweeting about it right now. Wouldn’t it be better to give them a story about how you achieved icon status instead?

Here’s your next persuading factor:

Iconic brands attain iconic status in large part because they take a monolithic approach to harmonizing their brand on a global scale.

Need proof? Consider companies like Coca Cola, Apple, Nike, McDonalds, Harley Davison, and Mercedes just to name a few?


We set our clients on a path to global brand harmonization by adhering to five key principles:

Know thyself. Develop a deep understanding of your brand promise, values and brand truth. Define the very essence of what you do and who you are. Use this to inform the development of long-lasting equity assets that become the delivery of your promised experience – visually, verbally, auditory and behaviorally.

Get immersed. Immerse in the global markets to ensure you understand the cultural nuances. Observe consumers. Meet them. Listen to them. Cultural nuances will need to be translated through each touchpoint.

Keep it simple. Allow your brand the flexibility it needs to stay relevant culturally, even as culture goes through seismic shifts. A simple set of evergreen assets will be the iconic and recognizable equities that leave an imprint on the minds of consumers.

Appeal to human emotions and universal truths. How will you transform someone’s life? The features and details will support secondary communications, but they will never define the brand in a way that inspires visceral connection or love.

Convey something meaningful. Once you understand the culture and the truths that need to be expressed, use the metaphor – the universal language that transcends cultural barriers – to express the brand meaningfully through design.



When we were engaged to undertake global brand harmonization for Pedigree, our research revealed it would be necessary to emphasize different product benefits from market-to-market. We felt that the timeless brand truth and the universal truth of loving dogs were so clear for the Pedigree customer. The best approach to redesigning their packaging would be a monolithic approach that expressed dogs’ zest for life.

Although the benefit messaging shifts from market-to-market, the key equities are leveraged consistently in our design approach. Color, dog breed, style of photography, logo and the proportions of the graphic elements were all designed to create a harmonious and globally deployable visual translation of the brand promise. Everything we do is for the love of dogs.


Of course, it goes without saying; all of the above won’t matter if you don’t secure executive level commitment for harmonizing your brand globally. It is imperative that from the highest possible level you develop brand and design evangelists who can keep the organization on track and deal with the predictable pain of such a major undertaking. Someone at the top must champion and evangelize design thinking to everyone in the organization, be ready to make mandates and get people to follow that directive.

If all of this sounds daunting, it can be, but it’s not impossible to accomplish and it’s the only road to achieve global harmony. That’s why engaging with an experienced brand design firm like Hornall Anderson to be your objective partner and expert guide through this process is key.

We’re ready to help your brand become the next global icon. Are you ready?


Add a comment