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5 Tips for Building a Globally-Minded Creative Team

Justin Gignac
Justin Gignac
Co-founder at Working Not Working

To reach an audience on a global scale, you need to consider global perspectives.

People around the world have a lot in common. We all eat food, live in communities, work, play, and generally strive for happiness. However, the variety that exists within those basic parameters is mind-boggling, and nuances within different cultures can be tricky to navigate for brands considering a global identity.

Companies with the potential to cross borders have a complicated branding task at hand. For one, about 75 percent of global respondents say a brand's country of origin is more important to them than other top purchasing drivers.

Make Your Global Entrance Seamless

If you're striving to be a global brand, it’s important to remember you’re not trying to reach the entire country — just a specific audience within each context. You might be targeting business leaders or teens in 20 different countries, but be thoughtful about speaking the exact language of the audience, even if it's across borders.

Further, pay close attention to cultural behaviors. An architect at WeWork told me about the brand's experience expanding to Amsterdam. Team members were designing workplace kitchens the same way they did in America, which meant separate small tables. But during lunch, Amsterdam employees pushed the tables together because in their country, people like to sit together in one big group. The design needed to be adjusted to suit a different cultural norm, one that could've easily gone unnoticed.

So before making the global leap, it’s critical to carefully assess what your brand is and outline its ambitions. Afterward, if you decide a global brand is still for you, there are several hazards to be aware of. That’s why it's vital to incorporate different perspectives in a tight-knit team when building a creative, global brand.

Language is obviously a critical element when working internationally, but you also need to be careful about the visuals and colors you use to communicate. Additionally, making assumptions is a treacherous habit. Only locals truly understand how things work in their global communities. You don’t want to embarrass yourself or, worse, offend your market base.

How to Build a Globally-Minded Creative Team

There isn’t one right way to build a globally-minded team in charge of creative opportunities. For instance, perhaps one person can do it all. You can use that individual as a start and then add team members to supplement weaker areas to really bring your brand to life.

Whatever approach best suits your company, there are several best practices for putting together an effective, globally minded branding team:

1. Have a contrarian in the room

Don’t waste time hiring "yes" people. When I was a freelancer, I knew employers were hiring me for my expertise. I wasn't doing anybody any favors if I didn't give my opinion. Tact is important, as well, but hire people for their expertise, not to boost your ego.

This is relevant when hiring creative freelancers. You might already have a full-time staff equipped with general capabilities. However, when bringing in a freelancer, she or he can provide the contrarian perspective that the majority of your brand isn't seeing while still providing creative skills to help your product flourish. 

2. Look beyond your network

It's comfortable to hire people you know, but expanding beyond your immediate circle brings in much-needed different perspectives. Without taking this extra step, your brand could severely miss out because 85 percent of employment is filled through networking. In turn, a global brand must hire experts and high-potential freelancers from a variety of relevant backgrounds.

Get involved with professional development programs such as 4A's MAIP and The One Club for Creativity's Here Are All the Black People. Branching out in your networking efforts can widen the creative candidate pool with individuals who otherwise wouldn't be on your radar. In addition, look into providing a scholarship fund so up-and-coming students and young professionals from underserved backgrounds can better afford to live in your city and take internships at your company. In doing so, you will have an opportunity to tap into their knowledge. It’s a win-win for everyone.

3. Actually listen to different perspectives

Don’t embrace different perspectives during the hiring process just to ignore them when it counts. In fact, on a typical day, a person will spend 70 to 80 percent of their time absorbed in communication, with 55 percent of that communication devoted to listening. So make sure you are actually listening and not just nodding your head. If your employees and freelancers are in the specific market you’re targeting, pay close attention to their views. They're likely getting feedback from the community, region, or country at large.

As you implement ideas, check to see whether they resonate with your audience. If they don't, make changes. And if they do, double down. However, make sure to remain open to evolving elements. Culturally, things shift quickly, especially on an international level, so staying in tune with your audience is vital.

4. Seek short-term advice

Sometimes you just need someone’s input for a day or two to make sure you're maintaining cross-cultural relevance. Short-term advice provides a litmus test to see whether a project is heading in the right direction.

A suggestion from the book "Sprint" (Simon & Schuster, 2016) by Jake Knapp is to bring in five people, like a little focus group, to make sure you're on track. Ask freelancers, consultants, or potential clients for their input on a global idea quickly, and then send them on their way while you implement the feedback.

5. Make data your best friend

When I was freelancing, I considered myself an artiste. The idea of data made me cringe. After all, I wanted to listen to my instincts, not a bunch of numbers. But as a business owner, I’ve come to appreciate the far-reaching value of data. Hard numbers reveal actual behaviors and show whether or not something is working.

For example, if one feature of your product or campaign is working well in the U.S. and not Germany, it could be because the language isn't resonating. Fortunately, data can definitively share what is more and less effective. With data's insights, there’s no longer room to consider that one idea is better than another just because you like it and don't want to budge.

To reach an audience on a global scale, you need to take into account global perspectives. Do this through your team members and through direct contact with audience members. By doing so, you'll understand nuance and add depth and accuracy to your global branding strategies.

Image Credit: Prixel Creative/Shutterstock
Justin Gignac
Justin Gignac
business.com Member
See Justin Gignac's Profile
Justin Gignac co-founded Working Not Working in 2012 with Adam Tompkins after deciding to address a lack of structure and support for freelance creatives. Working Not Working is an invite-only community of the best talent in the creative industry. To date, there are more than 30,000 creatives on the roster broadcasting their real-time availability, and thousands of the best creative companies in the world use the platform to discover and hire their creative talent, including Apple, Google, Droga5, VICE, Wieden+Kennedy, Airbnb, IDEO, and The New York Times. Prior to Working Not Working, Justin gained notoriety for his man eccentric art and business ventures, including NYC Garbage, Wants for Sale, Needs for Sale, and QRapping Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.