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Think Local, Act Global - How Intercultural Marketing Works

W4 | W4 / April 18, 2018
Yes, you read it right: Local thinking and global acting may contradict the usual mantra of global players who believe passionately in thinking global and acting local. But when it comes to intercultural marketing, it is perfectly appropriate to engage with the cultures of the target markets. 
Table of Content
  1. Local thinking and global acting
  2. What cultural differences need to be taken into account?
  3. Study before expanding: 7 tips for intercultural marketing.

Local thinking and global acting

Companies from the investment goods industry are particularly dependent on corporate communications that offer cultural relevance when they want to move into new markets. This is so because the ability to compete with already established local suppliers is best achieved using an emotional approach. Therefore, it is vital to see things from the local culture's perspective. Investors from China to America are constantly coming up with more and more comparable products and services as these same products and services all start to look identical. Just as we are familiar with from our own, over-saturated market.

To stand out from the competition, real sales arguments need to be emotionalized. This brings us to the keyword UAP (Unique Advertising Proposition), and we're already on a cultural skating rink, since if implemented badly, this UAP can quickly lead to misunderstanding. A good advertising message combines factual arguments with the target group's emotions. This produces a statement that is characterized by positive associations - the UAP.

These three questions should be your guideline:

  • How does my target group define itself in emotional terms?
  • What are the usual and best-functioning avenues of reception on the target market?
  • What cultural characteristics need to be taken into account?

Using these questions as a guideline, you find out how to reach your audience abroad in the best way. You will create an audience on the market, position your message and you will be able to portray your company on a competitive basis.

What cultural differences need to be taken into account?

If we compare other cultures with our own cultural gravitational radius, stereotypical differences become obvious. But do not be satisfied merely with these. Factors such as the ideal choice of communication medium, the timing and the design can play a tremendous role in determining success.

These include, for example:

  • symbols, colors, effects of words, associations and physical gestures
  • use of the media / preferred channels
  • working patterns / leisure behavior

Even as an SME, it is worthwhile including members of the culture and intercultural marketing professionals in the design of printed brochures, websites, corporate videos and other communication products. Normally, budgets in the investment goods industry tend to be smaller than those in the consumer goods industry. So it is essential to get it right.

Classical example: The product name

It seems as predictable as it is logical that product names that are simply taken over into the target language can in some cases produce undesirable associations. You can see examples of the best cases listed in the top ten in the "Verbal curiosities" category. In worst-case scenarios, product names that have not been culture-checked can result in fatal provocations which entail massive losses of image.

Even large companies occasionally find that the campaigns that run brilliantly on their home market do not take off abroad. Companies that focus too much on the domestic market and only later - once sales are high - think about the feasibility of using the product name in other languages will need to be prepared to make considerable extra efforts. It is therefore worth thinking about possible associations right from the start. This will also save money in the long term.

Study before expanding: 7 tips for intercultural marketing.

  1. Names: the names of your products and services support their recognition. Before introducing names, check their compatibility and impact in the target languages that are relevant in the long term.
  2. Features: the intensity of spiciness is perceived differently in Switzerland, for example, then in Mexico or India. You should therefore take account of cultural preferences for certain products, services, and their form. A look at regulatory, legal, and cultural standards is also worthwhile.
  3. Use of imagery: the impact of colors, gestures, and symbols are often coded in a culture-specific way. Campaigns that are designed to meet international standards must comprehensively satisfy the requirements of the target markets.
  4. Values, religion, and symbols: flagrant alcohol consumption and lascivious poses quite obviously go way beyond the tolerance limits of many cultures. But do you know, for example, what level of work / life balance an Australian would like to have?
  5. Use of the media and sales channels: people from southern Europe shop online less than people from northern Europe. And they do it at different times of the day with certain credit cards in accordance with specific terms of payment and delivery. Therefore: Coordinate your sales mix with the preferred sales channels and buying habits of your target group using country-specific cross-media strategies.
  6. Social Media:Facebook and Twitter are internationally known platforms. In some countries, social media are censored, such as Facebook in Arabian countries and China. Developing local communication channels and integrating these into the global social media strategy can also be very beneficial. Did you know, for example, that the Japanese prefer to blog, Latin Americans prefer to upload photos, and Western Europeans mostly regularly update their profile?
  7. Mass units: how many liters are a shen, dou or dan in China? Make it easier for consumers to choose with international size and conversion tables.

Not sure which strategy is right for your international marketing? Book a consultation with us!

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Sarah Wilhelm
Sarah Wilhelm
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