Going for the Gold in Global Marketing

While watching the Winter Olympics this year, it struck me how many people worldwide are tuned in at the exact same moment. This year’s Olympic Games have even been the only program since 2004 able to knock the mighty American Idol off of its U.S. broadcast pedestal. A marketer couldn’t ask for a more captivated audience.

As a campaign goes global, there are some key success factors any global marketer, regardless of company size, must pay attention to. 

As cultural values and norms differ remarkably from country to country and region to region, the most obvious one is to tailor your message. One example of good marketing gone wrong occurred in 2006 when a major beverage company was sued in India for a TV commercial that featured the Indian cricket team in a celebratory huddle as a young boy serves them a cold beverage. The spot was heavily criticized for glorifying child labor.
Even something that seems as trivial as color selection can make a world of difference. For example, during its 1994 launch campaign, the telecom company, Orange, had to change its ads in Northern Ireland that stated, “The future’s bright … the future’s Orange.” In the North, “Orange” suggests the Orange Order, implying that the future is Protestant, loyalist, which did not sit well with the Catholic Irish population.

Gender is also a factor to consider. Gender esteem has significant implications in countries like Japan, Austria and in Arab nations where males often command ultimate decision authority over females. In contrast, in Sweden the female population has a much greater say in purchasing decisions.

Then, of course, there are obvious language barriers, which can cause certain messaging to become lost in translation. The term “Gerber” in the United States is the name of a well-known baby food maker, but it also happens to be the French word for vomiting. It becomes a bit limiting when you go global. Even though the Gerber name is not marketed in France, there is a French Canadian Web page that reads, Les aliments pour bébés Gerber ne sont disponibles pour l’instant qu’aux Etats-Unis (French for: The baby food is not here, try the U.S.).

Understanding the intricacies of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) is also important. Marketers have been offered a significant opportunity as the emerging economies have been given a relative boost by the recent economic downturn suffered by the West, but it doesn’t come without its challenges.

When marketing in Brazil, it’s important to note that while Brazilians are so accustomed to hearing about violence and corruption in society, they do not take well to it in their ads. Instead, they wish for media to express alternatives to the social problems of poverty, street crime, and corporate and government corruption.
Russia is very conservative and locally driven. Marketers need to have a good deal of local knowledge in order for marketing to be effective. What sells in Moscow may not impress buyers in St. Petersburg, and even less so in Siberia. The markets are so dynamic that selling points also become outdated very quickly. Russian consumers have grown increasingly savvy and appreciate advertising that is as sophisticated, witty and subtle as they consider themselves to be.

In India, collective cultures have been a way of life for hundreds of years. The system of social standing is paramount in Indian society and presents particular challenges to avoid causing offense. Religious beliefs also play a significant role in Indian society. Religion influences every aspect of their lives, including their response and reaction to marketing copy. Motivational selling techniques are considered crass to many Indians, while educational, emotive and informative data are more readily accepted.

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