Narrative agency founder Jane Villeneuve has launched her business after returning from Italy. There she worked for global brands Luxottica and Sky Italia. 

01 Brand is more than a label

During my time in Milan, I was immersed in the fact that Italians have an innate understanding of brands. It’s a sensibility and an appreciation they cultivate early. I think it’s why they famously have such great style – they know who they are and what they’re not; what suits them and what doesn’t. Iconic fashion brands, many born in Italy, share the same thinking. They’re clear on their story, they know their value to the customer and they set precise expectations that transcend each collection. The logo or label simply offers the consumer a mental shortcut to the brand’s unique story. Customers buy into that story because it resonates personally, not just because the logo looks cool. It’s why all brands require a clear narrative to build ongoing engagement and appeal.

02 Digital is not simply a strategy, it is an experience enabler

China has one of the most advanced digital ecosystems in the world. Working with Chinese brands can feel like working with Silicon Valley incubators on steroids. The mind-bending rate of change is very normal. Current global events have highlighted the need for continuous innovation in customer experience to remain relevant. COVID-19 has simply fast-tracked the trend. For example, the “fail fast and innovate faster” model has enabled platforms like WeChat to go from a simple messaging app to a customer focused ecosystem. The learning, essentially, is don’t wait to invest in customer experience if you don’t want to get left behind. Today’s consumer is savvy and spends more time online than ever before. E-commerce is just the beginning. Brands must focus their digital offering on resolving customer needs and frictions in an iterative way that, over time, becomes a powerful proposition for the customer experience.

03 Global brands don’t need to be consistent, they need to be relevant

Working across 10 countries, from USA to China and the UK, I quickly learnt that a one-size-fits-all approach to brand management just doesn’t apply. Here, the key word is cohesion, rather than consistency. To ensure a brand is relevant to local consumers, you need to listen and understand their unique needs in that particular market. Just because a product line or message works in one location, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll resonate across the board. Of course, you’ll find common humanity that spans cultures, which is where consistency plays its part. However, underlying motivations and perceptions are often different, shaped by both culture and history. So, listen – and build a cohesive offering rather than a strictly consistent approach. It’s the best way to build brand relevance in a global marketplace.

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