WHAT NOT TO DO IN GLOBAL MARKETING – PART 2
|Translating, interpreting, dubbing and other language services are just one aspect of your outreach to international markets. Whether you are a part of a startup or a well-established company, and whether your firm is large or small, firms of all sizes have made major gaffes in their global marketing approaches. The key is to make sure these do not happen to you.
The Message and the Messenger
Celebrity endorsers have long been a powerful tool in the marketing mix, but only when correctly done. January in the United States marks the start of the entertainment awards season (Golden Globes, Oscars, etc.). Celebrities will be promoting their films as well as their pet causes. Every aspect of their lives is captured on the screen, in magazines and most importantly online. No wonder that successful companies latch onto stars to open new markets and create broad appeal to larger audiences. But it behooves companies to examine the public positions of celebrities prior to engaging them.
Marketers in their creative zeal sometimes forget that the messenger is just as important as the message. What is said and how it is communicated are critical to a brand’s ability to curry favor (plus sales) in foreign markets. Making sure to add a pinch of cultural sensitivity and to understand the target country’s domestic political conditions can go a long way in creating successful marketing campaigns. Three great brands highlight this point. Just like preparing for a trip, savvy marketers will check the contents of their “baggage” to make sure that nothing detracts from the message they want their customers to receive.
Italian carmaker Fiat managed to anger 1 billion people with a commercial that didn’t even run in China. How could Fiat achieve such a feat of marketing incompetence? Very simply. It chose the wrong messenger! Fiat ran an ad campaign in Italy that featured actor Richard Gere driving a Lancia Delta from Hollywood to Tibet. This happened in less than 30 seconds. Quite impressive driving! But Mr. Gere is an outspoken supporter of Tibetan freedom and the Dalai Lama, positions totally opposed by the Mainland government that considers Tibet an integral part of China. A television spot run half-a-world away quickly became a top story in the Chinese press. China’s people went online to view the ad and vent their anger. After watching the video, many Chinese said that they would never buy a Fiat. Ultimately, Fiat issued an apology to the Chinese government and its people. [watch commercial]
Marketing to the world’s people is quite a challenge. Celebrities, brand names and advertising that may work in one country may not prove as effective in another. Successful marketers must have a deep knowledge of their craft, but they also need a thorough understanding of the cultural, political, symbolic and linguistic distinctions that make each country unique. Your enterprise may be small, medium or multinational. And you may be able to afford celebrities, a part-time overseas rep or only a simple brochure. But a small investment in global marketing consultants — targeted to your industry, product and countries – is a very minor expense upfront to save you from potential humiliation and wasted resources. Like insurance, what is protecting your investment worth?