Gone are the days when doing business globally took months. Although the world may be getting figuratively smaller in the information age, there are still distinct cultural differences among nations that will influence international marketing efforts. Since companies have a seemingly endless list of possible international partners, knowing a certain culture’s programming will give your company a competitive edge.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to marketing globally:
First, understand the culture
Understanding the impact of culture on business and working practices is vital. Our behaviors and values are widely influenced by our cultural background. Think about how cultural norms differ among age groups, genders, geographical areas, etc. Knowing and respecting other cultures will help you localize your brand’s message and avoid any frustration and misunderstandings that lead to lost time, money and relationships.
No matter how interconnected we feel, there are still –and always will be–difference between nationalities. In a recent study, Anglo and Asian university students viewed advertisements for Welch’s grape juice and gave their immediate reactions. Some ads promoted the benefits of drinking the juice such as its “great taste” and “higher energy levels.” Other ads touted more preventative aspects of drinking the juice. It “helps you reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease,” and “clears the arteries.”
The results showed a marked difference in the cultures of the students. The Americans who value achievement and independent thinking focused on the positive consequences of their purchasing decisions, i.e. the personal benefits of drinking the juice. Americans (and many Europeans) are individualistic and tend to focus more on individual and personal achievement.
Conversely, the Asian students’ culture values cohesion and harmony over individual actions, a more interdependent view of the world. They concentrated on the negative consequences of their decisions and felt the preventative messages were more effective.
Avoid Bloopers. Know the language.
Paying particular attention to the way something translates into another language is key to a successful marketing plan. Use quality translation to avoid any bloopers that could occur from poor translation. We have all seen some marketing that was lost in translation. For example:
Many companies use the word “mist” in their product name: “Irish Mist” liqueur and the ‘Silver Mist” Rolls Royce car. English-speaking countries don’t mind, but when these products were marketed to Germany, they failed miserably. In German, “mist” translates into “manure.”
Quality language translation is fundamental online as well and has yet to be tapped. A report for the Department of Commerce estimated that only 27% of online shoppers speak English. Yet, 99% of Koreans with internet access shop online. 97% shop online in Germany and Japan. Breaking into those online markets requires solid website translation.
Understand regional regulations
When marketing to a global audience, be aware of regional regulations on products and advertising. Certain types of products such as pharmaceuticals may be subject to approval by various governing bodies.
There may also be laws regarding safety, package design, materials used, size, etc. For example, Coca Cola tastes the same everywhere, but its bottle labeling changes to match the norms of different countries. Additionally, Coca Cola adjusts its product line-up to fit local tastes; including additional beverage brands.
America uses a lot of comparison marketing – think cars and cell phone coverage. This may work in the States, but it is frowned upon in many parts of the world. Germany, France and Belgium have very strict principles when it comes to competitive messaging.
Some sales promotions such as contests, sweepstakes, deals and offers may be regulated in other countries as well. Check with local laws before using any of them.
Now, not only must marketing departments understand a different culture, they must also understand cultural trends and anticipate what issues will be important in the future. To be and stay relevant requires diligence in marketing efforts. But the diligence will pay off in the end.
by Ilona Knudson