I have been particularly interested in branding recently (I recommend the Branding Strategy Insider blog), and how difficult it is to successfully build a solid, consistent brand message that reaches across diverse cultures and languages.
One of the fundamentals of effective branding is consistency. If a firm sends mixed messages, consumers are less likely to have a strong conception of what the brand stands for, what its characteristics are that distinguish it from the competition. Brands that try to change with every passing fad seem hollow, like followers rather than leaders.
But the world isn't a simple, static place. Effective branding techniques in one area may fall flat in another. Some amount of tailoring to local conditions can be beneficial, especially if the brand in question is very individualistic and bold in its branding strategies.
There is a tension between consistent and tailored branding strategies, and each firm has to find the right balance on their own. For some companies, a bold individualistic message is best. For others, more universal themes are appropriate. Each has its ups and downs. I've made a graphic outlining what I call the international branding sweet spot. It's the general range any effective brand should fall in.
Individualistic, strong brands might need to tailor more to local conditions, because hyper-specific messages risk alienating potential customers. The advantage to an individualistic branding message is that it will be easier for consumers to identify with the values of the firm. The risk is that some consumers will react negatively to the firm's values.
For a weaker, more universal message, consistency is key. Having a more general message usually equals less risk of alienating potential consumers, and so there is little need to tailor the message. Changing things up too much is a greater hazard for weaker, more general brands, because general themes lose meaning and significance easier than stronger brands.
For more information on international branding, check out this interesting article, which describes more pinciples to follow in building your international brand. In addition, the following modules on globalEDGE could be very helpful in formulating your international branding strategy: The World is Open for Business, Developing a Marketing Plan, and Multinational Markerting.