Marketingblatt - Marketing Blog


International Marketing in the Age of Digitalization

W4 | W4 / April 20, 2018

The international stage is full of stumbling blocks. Companies expanding to international markets cannot simply translate their marketing materials into the target language. They have to understand and cater to local differences and needs to perform well.

Sending messages to distant places is a matter of seconds thanks to the Internet. However, anyone believing they can design a one-fits-all marketing strategy for the entire world will probably miss the mark in many target markets. Simply handing over their campaigns developed for the domestic market to a translation office for international distribution using the familiar channels is not a sufficient international marketing strategy. While it may work to a certain degree, some target markets are not going to listen or be able to actually receive the messages.

It is true that digitization and advanced marketing technologies have facilitated communication with different target groups in different target markets. To illustrate this, let us briefly look at email marketing: Your company sends a monthly newsletter in German, English and Spanish. You write the German version in-house and hire professionals to translate the content. Next, you enter the content into your marketing automation solution. The software detects where individual recipients are located and suggests that you automatically adjust the time of delivery for the respective locations. You press "send" and the newsletter will be sent at different times at the desired local time. So far so good. Successful international marketing, however, has much more components than the right time to send a newsletter.

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Whoever wants to act globally must be able to think locally

A regional faux pas can draw mockery from the whole world: the Japanese car manufacturer Mitsubishi had to find out the hard way when introducing its Pajero model in Spain. In Spanish, the word Pajero means “wanker”, which is not an attribute anybody would like to have associated with their car.
Therefore, if you want to bring your product into another market, you should clarify whether the product name could evoke negative associations in the target languages. Other things to be clarified from a cultural point of view are:

  • Visual language: Internationally designed campaigns are difficult. Colors and symbols are culturally coded. Colors and symbols with positive connotations can have adverse effects elsewhere.
  • Values: Public nudity and alcohol consumption are taboo in some regions of the world.
  • Mass units: Mass units such as liters or kilos are unknown in many countries. They must be adapted to local norms.
  • Media usage: Facebook is blocked in China. It is important to identify the most popular (and, of course, accessible) communication channels and use them accordingly.

Establishing a product in a new market is a lengthy process that requires a high degree of empathy. This is why it is essential to get local support on board. Brands looking to adapt an existing campaign to the needs of a foreign market should first consult with local experts. You simply cannot think of every detail that might come into play. Fiat, for example, caused a shit storm in China because it used Tibet supporter Richard Gere as a testimonial.

International marketing: China

Digitalization is also in full swing in the Middle Kingdom. Online shopping is very popular. Although Facebook and Google do not really matter here, other social networks and search engines enjoy a lot of success - brands just have to know and use them correctly. Anyone who wants to be found on the most popular search engine Baidu needs a website hosted on Chinese servers. The domain should be .cn or .com. Quality content in Chinese is also an important ranking factor.

Hence it is almost impossible to get a foot in the door solely working from your headquarters. The same applies to the most popular Chinese social network WeChat. The almost 900 million monthly active users can only be reached by businesses with a registered office on the Chinese mainland. It is worth the effort as the app's benefits are tremendous:

  • reach many potential customers quickly and easily
  • address your target accounts individually
  • increase sales with a WeChat shop
  • quickly create a whole website within the app

Find out more about international marketing in our free Whitepaper:

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Our Service: Are you ready to be successful in China? Thanks to our subsidiary in Beijing and Chinese market experts, we can help you discover this growing market. Get in touch!

Read more about Digital Marketing in China.

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Sarah Wilhelm
Sarah Wilhelm
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