Global marketing needs to tread a fine balance. On the one hand, centralising your marketing operations is a great way to create a single global voice for your brand and control your brand identity. Centralising resources can really help reduce costs, as it prevents efforts being duplicated across various markets.
But a single approach will not work for your brand in all its markets. Audiences will have different needs and expectations in each market, and finding a balanced approach between central control and regional freedom is the best route to success.
But what are the other elements of running a global marketing strategy successfully? If you’re running a global marketing strategy there are several elements that will be critical to your success. We’ll explore each element in turn.
There’s a balance to strike between maintaining central control over brand image and giving local teams the agency they need to get results. Part of this is learning how to listen to what local teams are saying and empowering them to make the decisions they believe are right for that market. Too much rigidity can be detrimental to achieving results. Quite often the local teams are the best judges of which tactics will work at local level.
Some of the worst marketing translations have happened because central brand teams were keen for global marketing slogans to be translated into local language. Translations that are overly literal can be disastrous: Parker Pen’s literal translation of their English slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” into Spanish ended up as the equivalent of “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant” when they launched it in Mexico.
It’s best to let local teams advise you so as to avoid this kind of mistake. Many global brands use translation software that includes workflow management, so your local team can review translated content before it goes public.
But relocating your marketing isn’t merely confined to language. You may also want to listen to local advice on aspects such as the colours you choose. Colours can have different meanings in different languages, so it’s important to understand what you’re communicating. Actively listening to your local teams and empowering them to have a say can help you avoid problems and make the most of your marketing.
One of the best ways to achieve success not just at local but also at global level is to learn from results. With marketing teams, the emphasis is often on executing the campaign rather than seeing it as part of a longer process of discovery.
Really successful global brands are ones that continue to learn from their successes – and their failures. That includes learning from the regions and duplicating best practice where possible.
The goal is to implement real-time tracking and adjustment of your campaigns but that’s particularly challenging when you’re operating across multiple markets.
Centralising monitoring, perhaps using a shared template, is one way to keep on top of everything that’s happening across all your teams. Remote teams should be encouraged to update with their own results, and get into the habit of reviewing performance with regular group calls. Regular remote conferences are a good way to give a platform for best practice, celebrate successes and spot any areas that need support.
Knowing your audience
It can be very difficult to understand your audiences across all the markets in which you operate. That’s particularly tricky for brands tackling major emerging markets such as India and China. These are vast markets to engage with, and it’s hard to understand how to divide and conquer these unfamiliar audiences.
Brands that enjoy success in their domestic markets usually have a strong idea of the personas they are engaging with at home. It’s imperative that these customer personas are updated for new markets so that your campaigns achieve relevance there.
Perhaps you even need to create entirely new ones to reflect the very different audience you’re facing. It’s also important to understand the practicalities of their lives, such as which devices they have access to and what their internet connection speed is like.
Creating a new set of personas can be a good exercise for understanding a new market you’re entering. You need to confront questions about the society itself, looking into issues such as gender expectations, household incomes, lifestyles and living arrangements, who the decision-makers are and how decisions are made. If you’re selling in a B2B market, it will help you explore insights into working culture and organisational structures.
It will help you understand the individuals in the culture itself; their needs and expectations, how they process and consume information, and the key challenges they face in their lives.
Skills and knowledge
Technology is advancing so quickly these days, and platforms evolving at such a pace, that it’s hard for the labour market to keep up. It’s always going to be a challenge to resource your global campaigns.
The difficulty is finding teams that have not only the language and local cultural knowledge but also the specific technical skills and marketing knowledge to execute effectively.
Global organisations also disadvantage themselves by persistently operating in silos, which means knowledge is hoarded at local level. Encouraging communications and sharing of knowledge and experience really supports success.
Technology can support this, using tools such as portals, conferencing, and instant messaging. It’s also valuable to keep people moving between locations to ensure corporate knowledge is spread around.
If you’re struggling to find the skills you need to resource your marketing strategy, it’s vital to keep knowledge circulating around your business. If you can’t recruit from outside the business, make sure that you share skills and knowledge inside it in order to raise your team’s ability to resource internally.
It’s always going to be a challenge to manage a global marketing campaign. Successful global brands are ones that recognise that marketing cannot be seen as a one-off activity but rather an ongoing battle. Taking the long-term view and investing in the resources, technology, and relationships that will help you achieve your goals is the key to success.