The need to reach a global audience is at an increasing rate today. In order to communicate your brand to an audience in a country outside of the United States, it is crucial to speak to them in a way that they can understand. In this month’s eTip, we interviewed John Bentham, a marketing communicaions pro in Austin, Texas, on the subject of global marketing.
What is your experience in global marketing communications and how did you get started?
Bentham: Back in the late ‘90s, I worked for a semiconductor distributor with offices all over the world. Our business unit acquired a small design services company in New Zealand, and through a series of events, we soon had other facilities throughout Asia Pacific and Europe. At the time, I headed up marketing communications for the same group in North America, and since there was no unified marketing plan for the other two regions, I proposed a strategy for all three and it was approved. It took me roughly six months to develop the strategy, as it included everything from brand creation, PR, media relations, advertising, collateral design and even product packaging. So, I had responsibilities for marketing communications in New Zealand, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, all of Europe and North America.
BMC: Assuming a company has a global audience, how should it approach global marketing?
Bentham: First and foremost, the same key tenet of marketing still applies – “Know your target audience!” You then need to recognize that your target audience within each country, and even within different regions of the same country, is unique with respect to effective communications tactics. What works in the US will most certainly not work in China! In fact, what works in the US may not even work in some parts of Canada, our closest “westernized” neighbor – consider French speaking Quebec, for example.
What are some things a company needs to consider when talking to a global audience?
Bentham: While the specifics depend largely on the tactics you’ll employ, you really need to start by considering everything. For example:
BMC: What has changed today compared to the last few decades when it comes to global marketing?
Bentham: There is an increasingly higher degree of nationalism in many countries. China is one example. The cultural mindset is that outsiders or foreign based companies are not really in tune with how things work there. One way to offset this is to partner with or utilize local resources whenever possible.
BMC: What are three common mistakes you have seen companies make when it comes to global marketing?
Bentham: 1) Taking a one-size-fits-all approach, which is not only a waste of resources, it also shows that you “don’t get it” in the eyes of your target audience. The unintended consequences of such an approach are that you come across as disrespectful, not having put forth the effort to learn about your target audience.
2) Not putting your feet on the ground in your target market. While I don’t believe it’s necessary to visit every country you’ll do business in, picking a representative country in your market and going there (after you’ve done the research to determine how different they are) is a real eye opener. For example, while Hong Kong is technically part of China, the differences in doing business there are like night and day compared to doing business in China. Hong Kong is a former British Colony and has a long history of the “rule of law,” whereas China does not and places a much higher value on personal relationships.
3) Not nurturing sources of pertinent business and cultural information in your target market. You’ll need regular contact with someone or some organization who lives and conducts business there. One idea is to set up an advisory council consisting of corporate and local-area employees to hash out best practices and how to avoid cultural faux pas.
BMC: Last words of wisdom on global marketing.
Bentham: If your company has a global target market, you’ve already made a significant investment in getting this far. So called “American Myopia,” or using typically American approaches, is a sure way to blunt the success you may have had otherwise. Do your homework and know your target audience.