Why study marketing abroad? In a globalized economy, there are significant advantages to having lived, worked and/or studied in various regions around the world. Learning the culture and having engaged in business in a foreign country can give you the competitive advantage in the field of marketing and advertising. Studying for a master’s degree in marketing and communications abroad may land you opportunities your domestic counterpart would not be offered. Earning a master’s in marketing in a foreign country may be the key to launching a successful marketing campaign for a multi-billion-dollar company.
It is an inevitable fact of life. We are bombarded with advertising and marketing from every angle, every day. From product labels to social media feeds, we are inundated by marketing campaigns that have a particular audience in mind. Businesses spend millions to get it right, but what happens when a marketing campaign fails to translate? What happens when a major brand wants to expand globally and doesn’t do its research? Failure to resonate with local audiences can be detrimental to the success of brand image in foreign countries and can also have a negative effect on the domestic persona. i
There is not a "One Size Fits All" approach to international marketing. Marketing on a global scale is more than merely selling a product internationally. The process taking a domestic product to a worldwide market involves planning, producing, placing and promoting the product to a foreign audience. Large companies have this process covered, with offices located in other countries, it makes it easier to analyze the market and understand the culture, two major keys to the success of any campaign. Today’s digital age has made the competition even more fierce, allowing small businesses to expand globally more quickly than their past counterparts, making it even more important to understand global marketing and what it takes to succeed.
Pampers Perplexes Japanese Parents
Proctor & Gamble researchers discovered decreased diaper sales reflected the product packaging. The American company had used its standardized image of a stork delivering a baby to sell its product. Japanese parents were puzzled by the product packaging. They were unfamiliar with such folklore; their babies are believed to be delivered by giant floating peaches. ii
Ford Overlooked Translation
The automobile tycoon, Ford, had good intentions. The company wanted to highlight its quality manufacturing to its prospective buyers in Belgium. Ford introduced an ad campaign that executives thought read "Every car has a high-quality body." Unfortunately, when translated, the slogan was quite appalling. Ford promoted its vehicles by declaring, "Every car has a high-quality corpse," not a very convincing message motivating buyers to jump in the driver’s seat.iii
Electrolux Tagline Tumbles
Not all language flounders are limited to U.S.-based companies. Swedish vacuum producer, Electrolux, got a quick lesson on English slang when it launched its product line to the American Market. Well-intended, the company wanted to showcase the machine’s superior performance. The Scandinavian company focused on the tagline, "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux." While grammatically correct, the campaign never found its niche. iv
Who Is Doing It Right?
While everyone makes mistakes, it is best to realize the blunder quickly and to rectify the campaign before permanent damage is done. Of course, these companies are still operating with a good name, but it is a bit embarrassing to make such oversights.
In 2014, Jonathan Mildenhall took a gamble on the then-unproven upstart Airbnb as the CMO. He was convinced he could design a brand narrative much like he had done with Coca Cola, his previous employer. His focus was to strive to greater depths than merely selling a product or service.
"The idea of Airbnb helping to create a world where all 7.5 billion people can genuinely feel they can belong anywhere—it's such a noble purpose. And we will probably not reach it in my lifetime," he says. "But it's big enough, and tangible enough, to motivate not just the people at Airbnb but all the agencies and media partners we work with." v
Mildenhall helped Airbnb revolutionize its brand by leaning into, rather than hiding from the cultural tensions surrounding the company. Two major campaigns tackled major issues confronting the start up. One campaign called "Never a Stranger" addressed the unease travelers had staying in stranger’s homes. The second campaign, "Don’t Go There. Live There." took on the entire hospitality industry for "sanitizing the travel experience." vi
In 2012, one of Mattel’s most successful toys, Barbie, had fallen out of favor with its young audience based on 2 major issues concerning parents, body image and race.
This past January 2016, Mattel with Lisa McKnight, svp and global brand manager, at the lead took the old dolly from her first appearance at the Toy Fair in New York and gave her a much-needed makeover. Introducing 3 new body types, 7 new skin tones, 22 eye colors, and 24 hairstyles, Barbie has never looked so good. vii
McKnight says, "We knew that the messaging alone wouldn't be enough and we had to evolve the product to be a better reflection of the world around us." By recognizing that Barbie, as Miller says, "wasn't truly reflecting the culture she's in and that [Mattel] had the obligation to change," and adapt to modern times. viii
Listening to the market and being willing to change has helped Barbie to diversify and become more appealing to a wider audience. ix
What is the key to success in global marketing?
The first step is to recognize the marketing mix in a domestic market does not equal success in another region. These four factors and subsequent questions need to be considered when global expansion is in question:
Should the product stay the same in the new market or does it need to be modified to fit the new market’s taste?
Is the pricing strategy competitive with the local market? Wal-Mart, for example, realized there were several low-price retailers already in existence in Germany when they came on the scene making it more difficult to capture the niche they had filled in the United States.
What is the buyer’s strategy; how do customers make their purchases?
Does your message cross over cultural boundaries? Will you receive any unwelcome backlash due to cultural sensitivities? x
To be effective, a knowledgeable global marketer must take all these factors into consideration, as well as design a cross-cultural communication strategy.
How Can a Global Education Help?
Individual marketers collaborating with global companies should make learning the local language a top priority, not only for business purposes, but it’s also useful when it comes to verifying if translations are accurate. Websites often fall victim to poor translation. Knowing the language will allow the company to affirm quality work has been done.
Studying abroad can be a huge asset in the field of marketing. From knowing the language to having spent time in a foreign country, students develop a local network and acquire a deeper understanding about the people and how business is handled in that specific region.
For example, many businesses and government agencies in Spain still honor the afternoon siesta. Taking a long 2-3-hour break in the middle of the afternoon when the sun is at its most direct, most local shops and businesses close. If you have never lived in Spain, you may find this odd, but it is the norm and international businesses adapt or don’t, based upon the demographic of their customers.
It is important to learn the customs and values in a country before doing business, so as not to appear offensive. As a student, this comes naturally as you acclimate to the environment in which you live. Students expand their influence globally by nurturing relationships, engaging professors and if the program of study offers internships, students obtain hands-on experience, building a base of knowledge to grow their career.
Studying marketing and communications internationally can open doors that may not be available to those who study domestically. This completive edge can equate to greater responsibility, promotional prospects, travel opportunities and an increased salary. Earning a communications degree abroad can lead not only to a dynamic career but success in a global market.
By Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Content Manager
i, ii Henchman, Jonny. 19 August 2015. 7 International Marketing Campaigns That Failed to Translate. The Language Blog. K International. Retrieved from www.k-international.com/blog/7-international-marketing-campaigns-that-failed-to-translate
iii, iv Brooks, Chad. 07 October 2013. Lost in Translation: 8 International Marketing Fails. Business News Daily: Small Business Solutions & Inspiration. Retrieved from www.businessnewsdaily.com/5241-international-marketing-fails.html
v, vi Nudd, Tim. 24 October 2016. How Jonathan Mildenhall Found His Higher Purpose by Taking a Chance on Airbnb. Adweek. Retrieved from www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/airbnbs-jonathan-mildenhall-wants-people-feel-they-can-belong-anywhere-174192
vii, viii, ix Monollos, Kristina. 24 October 2016. This Global Brand Chief Made an Iconic Doll Relevant Again for a New Generation of Girls. Adweek. Retrieved from www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/global-brand-chief-made-iconic-doll-relevant-again-new-generation-girls-174193
x Global Marketing. Marketin-Schools.org: Educational options in the creative career of Marketing. Retrieved from www.marketing-schools.org/types-of-marketing/global-marketing.html