Global marketing is the process of adjusting a company’s marketing strategies to adapt to conditions in other countries. Let’s pretend for a moment that you have a widget you’d like to sell in Europe, and you are developing your marketing plan. Here are some strategic decisions you will need to make.
On paper, global marketing is undoubtedly a great concept. The idea of leveraging a marketing strategy across multiple markets seems to be nothing but beneficial. It saves effort and resources, and ensures a high degree of consistency between, all in-market branding and activities.
However, the question of whether global marketing works are a frequent conversation topic amongst marketers, and the concept of globally-led marketing resources can be subject to much skepticism.
Localization strategies adjust the product and message to best fit the target customer. For example, many people in India do not eat beef, so if a company selling hamburgers were going to market in India they would need to localize their product – and perhaps sell pork patties instead. For your product, you need to take a critical look at it, and ask yourself if it’s saleable to your target foreign customer as is, or will it need modification for cultural, social, or other reasons. For instance, if your widget is painted red, that would mean ‘good luck’ to prospective Chinese customers – but a personalized marketing letter should never use red ink, because those same customers associate red ink with death, and would be very upset to see their name written in red.
Here are some important thing you need to remember when it comes to global marketing:
- Understand customer behavior
Just because consumers have certain buying preferences or habits in one culture, doesn’t mean that such preferences are universal. “It’s astonishing how many retailers haven’t made it because they haven’t studied how consumers shop,” she says.
There was a book that cites Walmart’s mistake in choosing locations in China that were near industrial parks when consumers were used to shopping closer to home instead of near work.
- Position yourself properly
Good brand positioning includes truly understanding your competition and then looking at your competitive advantage. Who are the providers of similar products and services that you sell in this country? They may not be the same providers as in the U.S.
For example, if you sell athletic clothing, look at where people are buying their athletic clothing. It could be from specialty stores, online retailers, or sporting goods stores. If you have a high-end brand and you’re going into a market where the preferred buying location is discount retailers, it may take a different strategy from the one you use in the U.S. “You need to understand how people shop and how your brand will fit into that mix,” she says.
- Know how your brand translates
A clever brand or product name in one language may translate into an embarrassing misstep in another. For example, the French cheese brand Kiri changed its name to Kibi in Iran because the former name means “rotten” or “rank” in Farsi — not exactly the association you want for cheese.
In addition to ensuring that your brand translates well into other languages, consider which colors are favored in various markets. In the U.S., blues and greens are favored, while reds and yellows are frequently used in some Latin American countries and may be appealing and familiar to audience members from those areas.