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MARKETING: Global Marketing Strategies
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In today's global economy, competition can come overnight from any corner of the globe. Gone are the days of yesteryear whereby companies only had to focus on competition within the borders of their own nation. A company which only focuses on the domestic environment and doesn't monitor the global competition could be blindsided when the industry leader on another continent decides to enter the local market by opening 30 retail stores at once.


With globalisation making the world smaller, many firms both large and small must market their product to a global audience in order to keep up with the competition and to realise significant economic growth, especially in emerging markets. However, developing a global marketing mix can be a much more complicated process than in the domestic market. The root of this complexity comes from the simple fact that people around the world have different needs and expectations; i.e. values, languages, customs, rules, and currencies. Language and miscommunication alone can be the source of many marketing mishaps. For example, the KFC slogan “finger-lickin' good” was mistranslated into Chinese as “eat your fingers off.” When Ford launched the Pinto in Brazil, they were surprised when the car flopped. It wasn't until later the company found out that pinto was slang for “tiny male genitals.” After that, the company quickly pried off all of the nameplates and substituted them with Corcel, which means horse. Finally, Apple's incredibly popular iPhone, which comes equipped with the voice activated search tool, Siri, makes people in Japan laugh every time they hear the name. In Japanese “shiri” (which sounds a lot like Siri) means “ass”.  

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A few things to consider when bringing your product to the global market

There's a lot in a Name


There are a number of humorous examples of a company's brand name or marketing messages being lost in translation. A recent example is Windows Vista, where “vista” translates to a 'frumpy woman' in Latvian. Getting your name right can be a big challenge, especially in some languages like Chinese. A study by Auckland University of Technology and Hong Kong Baptist University found that only 22% of major foreign brands had optimised their names for the Chinese market.

When entering the Chinese market a brand's named should be changed so that the sound and the meaning of the name relate to the origin. Nike is one company that has optimised its brand name in China. 'Nai ke' sounds similar to Nike, and its meaning in Chinese is 'endurance conquer'. Forty-three percent of international brands in China simply adopt a phonetic approach to their brand name without regard for meaning. This strategy works well for brands, especially those that rely heavily on advertising while highlighting the brand's global identity. However, the lack of meaning can lead to confusion and miscommunication. The car company Audi is pronounced “Ao Di” which can be translated to 'profound enlightened' and Sony is 'Suo Ni' which translates to 'exploring nun or priest.' About one in four companies (24%) entering China adopt a naming strategy that has a good meaning but does not sound anything like the original- General Electric (tongyong chiche), and General Motors (tongyong dianqi). 11% of brand names in China do not have a resemblance to the original meaning or sound. This strategy allows the company to customise the brand identity and avoids problems regarding local dialects. However there is a risk that the brand may be perceived as local. Heineken is “Xi Li” in Chinese which means 'Happy Power.”


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Go Local Online


Many companies put up a website and believe that they can sell their product to people from all over the world. But just because you build a website, doesn't necessarily make your product global. Of course, having an online presence is a necessity when trying to reach a global audience. However, a report by Forrester Research on multilingual websites showed that international visitors are three times more likely to explore and make purchases from a website that is in their native language. Localising your website goes beyond translating the text. Depending on the product, the localisation process for each version of the website should be holistically built from the ground up. Everything from the colour schemes to the layout should be picked to match the preferences and tastes of the local market.


When considering online marketing strategies don't forget to optimise your website so that it can be viewed on a mobile device. In 2010, smartphones outsold computers for the first time ever. In many countries, mobile phones account for a large proportion of internet connections. This is especially true in developing countries where mobile internet connections far outnumber fixed broadband connections. Not developing a fully optimised mobile site can lead to a large loss of potential sales. 


Avoid Miscommunication


Finding the right translation for marketing materials can be a difficult challenge for even the most experienced marketing teams. In a study conducted by Forrester in 2007 it indicated that only 1 in 4 US organisations provided a consistent customer experience across all languages. The most effective way to avoid embarrassing mistranslations is to simply enlist the help of native speakers. Integrating native speakers into the workforce and inviting input from real customers on an ongoing basis is the best way to localise efforts and to better tailor your product to the needs of the local market. 


Localise Marketing


Marketing campaigns don't always translate into good results. Using one advert to reach a worldwide audience is rarely ever a success. A Millward Brown study from 2009 indicated that popular adverts in one country rarely achieve the same success abroad; in fact only 1 in 10 did at least equally well. Cross-border campaigns are usually not the most cost-effective option.

Large global brands often succeed using the strategy of being “globally local”. For example, McDonald's has long been praised for its dominant position as the world's largest food chain through its ability to successfully adapt to local environments in order to maximize profits. Beef has been at the heart of McDonald's business model in its domestic market, the USA. However, McDonald's has been able to thrive in global markets by localising according to tastes and preferences. In China, consumers prefer to eat chicken, and while you can still get its trademark Big Mac in China, the menu is noticeably more chicken based. In India, where beef is not eaten for religious reasons, McDonald's has localised the menu by excluding beef and including local flavours and vegetarian options. 


Regardless of which market one enters, it is important to create communication that can cross borders effectively while implementing creative ideas with sensitivity to differences across cultures. Only after building a cohesive brand position around the world can a firm fully leverage its multi-country economies of scale.


By Justin Toy
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