Marketing is a complicated discipline requiring the consideration of multiple variables. Multinational marketing is further complicated by the introduction of other factors, including foreign language and idiom and cultural differences. For most instances, successful multinational marketing needs to take into account the culture of the other country. Factors such as cultural, language, and market differences require different strategies. One of the keys to improving the success of multinational marketing efforts is to do market research before entering a new international market. Global marketing is an approach to marketing in which consumer similarities across national borders are emphasized and local differences are minimized. Whether this is truly a different approach to multinational marketing or merely a variation on a theme, however, is debatable.
Keywords Brand; Culture; Global Marketing; Marketing; Marketing Mix; Marketing Plan; New Product Development; Strategy
Marketing: Multinational Marketing
From a business standpoint, the advances of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries truly have made the world smaller. In many instances, businesses are no longer limited by geographical location or sheer physical distance in where and with whom they can do business. An increasing number of goods are produced offshore, transported, and then sold in the home country. For example, the clothes worn by many Americans may have been produced in China, while the DVD players in many living rooms may have been produced in Japan. This trend applies not only to tangible products, however. Even some services can be provided in one country and sold in another. Many hospitals, for example, have X-rays read by personnel not only outside the hospital but also outside the country. Picking up the phone for technical support with high tech products often connects one to an expert not in Austin or Salt Lake City but in Manila or Delhi.
Marketing and selling commodities in other countries can be complicated. Not only are there language barriers to deal with in many cases, but local laws and regulations differ from those of the home country. International deals need to take these things into account. However, when trying to market manufactured goods to another country, it is also extremely important to take into account the culture of that country. This is the consciously or unconsciously held basic shared assumptions, beliefs, norms, and values held by a group of people. Part of the goal of marketing is to communicate the value of a product or service to potential customers, and an understanding of the target consumers’ culture is key to achieving this goal.
Because of these facts, one approach to international marketing is based on the assumption that these efforts need take into account the culture of the other country if they are to be successful. Factors such as cultural, language, and market differences require different strategies. In addition, this view of international marketing is based on the belief that the savings realized from using a standard campaign across national borders would be neutralized by differences in infrastructure, legal restrictions, and advertising limitations that vary from country to country.
Examples of businesses that failed to heed these warnings and failed in the international marketplace as a result are legion. Sometimes an advertising slogan that makes sense in one language or culture has a widely different effect in another. For example, a literal translation for Schweppes tonic water into Italian had to quickly be changed to Schweppes tonica because the expression il water is an Italian idiom for the bathroom. An advertising campaign for a detergent in Quebec met a similar fate when it was learned that the French expression for the really dirty parts of the wash (les parties de sale) was idiomatic for "private parts." However, language and local idiom are not the only stumbling blocks in cross-cultural marketing. Many marketing campaigns have failed because they did not understand the values of the foreign country in which they were trying to introduce their products. General Mills, for example, attempted to penetrate the breakfast cereal market in Great Britain using packaging that featured a clean-cut, freckle-faced boy who smilingly said, "Gee, kids, it's great!" The campaign was a dismal failure because the designers failed to realize that British households are not a child-centric as their American counterparts, so the packaging had little appeal. Similarly, the Campbell Soup Company's first attempt to penetrate the market in Italy advertised a soup that "tastes as good as homemade." The campaign failed to recognize the Italian emphasis on home cooking and so failed. Similarly, an advertisement for Listerine that was used in Thailand featured a young couple in a public display of affection. Such displays were objectionable in that culture, and the advertisement needed to be changed.
The Necessity of Market Research
One of the keys to avoiding such pitfalls is to perform market research before entering a new international market. Although a simple concept in theory, good market research can be tricky to design. Cross-cultural aspects can make market research even more complicated. As illustrated by the examples above, international marketing research calls for a suspension of many parochial assumptions. Although some concepts are global in nature, such as the avoidance of illness or the satisfaction of hunger, many are not. It is essential to do exploratory research to learn of the idiosyncrasies of the other culture before building a marketing strategy and concomitant campaign.
There are several issues to be considered in building an international marketing campaign. First, one must consider how best to define one's product. For example, the concept of "heavy duty detergent" varies from country to country. In Great Britain, many washing machines boil the water for the laundry, a process that kills any enzymatic agents in the detergent. Therefore, heavy duty detergents in these countries do not have enzymes. In Germany, however, enzymes are a key ingredient in many heavy duty detergents. Therefore, the characteristic "heavy duty" must change from country to country. Another concept to be considered is how the market in a foreign country is structured. For example, a survey in the 1960s found that significantly more spaghetti was eaten in Germany and France than in Italy. This finding stemmed from the fact that the survey specifically asked about packaged, branded spaghetti. In Italy, however, spaghetti is usually purchased unpackaged and unbranded. As illustrated by the examples of literal translations of advertisements for tonic water and detergent, translation can have a significant impact on how an advertisement is perceived and received. This applies not only to the words used but to the concepts used as well.
The Global Marketing Approach
Although the multinational approach discussed above has much support in the corresponding literature, not every successful approach to marketing across national lines takes this approach. Global marketing is an approach in which consumer similarities across national borders are emphasized and local differences are minimized. For example, the controversial United Colors of Benetton strategy of advertising their clothing line using graphic photos of human suffering was an attempt to rise above local culture and target consumers on global issues that are of concern to most people. In some countries, the advertisements were well-received; in others, however, there was an outcry. For example, in the US, a photograph of a priest and a nun kissing did not cause a furor as did the same ad in Vatican City. Although this example supports the need to take cultural differences into account when developing a multinational marketing strategy, in the...
(The entire section is 3522 words.)