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Go Global: key learnings on growing your brand internationally

Carolle Spilers, with over 20 years’ experience of working with beauty brands to grow their global business and an Associate Partner at The Red Tree , shares her thoughts on how insight and planning can avoid potential risks for brands ready to step into international markets.

It is obviously something to be proud of when a brand owner starts to develop their business internationally. At last the brand moves out of its domestic market and starts to expand its appeal to global consumers and all at first seems easy. But unless international growth is handled with strategic insight and care it can lead to considerable danger for the brand and ultimately for the business.
We see many brands – tempted by too- good- to- miss business enquiries and chance encounters – that start to move internationally before they are ready, whether financially or with the level of resource, knowledge and insight needed to manage and develop international markets.
When you agree a contract with what may seem like a reputable distributor how will you really know where your brand will end up or how it will be sold? I have heard stories like that of the brand owner who was very proud of having developed her skin care business in Asia Pacific only to discover that the brand was sold as a mosquito repellent. Another brand owner wondered why products could not easily be found in his distributor’s market only to find that the distributor was nipping any potential competition in the bud with his own copy-cat brand, re-exporting products at low costs to markets where reputable distributors were performing well and killing the brand image in discount stores! Or the brand whose image was ruined by an unprincipled distributor and then had to wait for several years and a new image to re-enter the market. Or the brand whose sales agent in his eagerness to secure business and commissions rapidly, chose an unscrupulous distributor who had no concern except to sell the brand to anyone.
As a professional with 20 years’ experience, I learnt that all what comes directly to you is not always necessarily good or beneficial. I always recommend great caution when being approached. And assessing hundreds of business requests on behalf of clients gives me good reason to proceed with care. Becoming another person’s target can be flattering but can also be dangerous for the brands welfare.

You need to step back and ask why are they approaching us? What do we know about them? Who are they? What do they represent on their home market? Can anyone check that? One thing is certain: good distributors very rarely approach brands unless the concept is exceptional or corresponds exactly to what they are looking for at a particular moment.
There are so many things to say about international growth and the different ways of addressing this issue: whether through an agent, by recruiting an export manager, with the help of consultants, through distributors, partners for a JV, or directly to retailers. But you must address the only two questions that matters: does it allow me to protect my brand and all the investments it represents for my own interest? Does it give me the freedom I need to decide on the future of my business on this market?
It involves entrusting somebody else with what is dearest to your heart representing years of effort and investment in the values you wish to share: your brand.
Whatever your answer is, just bear in mind that cheap results are always expensive in the end and that good professional advice pays for itself in a very short period of time. And before leaving your “child” in the care of your future partner ask if you took all necessary measures to make sure your “child” is in the right hands and will be brought up properly.
Building your business internationally means recreating the same enchantment as in your home market through a partner who will understand your brand and values, and who will translate and promote them in his own culture and market so that your brand will become as important to him as it is to you. Identifying the right partner for your brand requires expertise, insight, extensive connections and a deep understanding of this industry. It also requires passion and a real sensitivity and closeness with the products to be able to sell them and pass on the magic of your brand.
For how we can help grow your brand’s international presence please contact Carolle Spilers – or call +44 (0)844 858 8860.

The Red Tree is the UK’s leading international beauty brand consultancy and a powerhouse of ideas, insight and inspiration. For an informal discussion on how we might help you, please contact us.

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