How to market your brand in multiple regions

The Tower of Babel or The Skill of “Languages” – What is it to be?

Scrabble: product, brand, market

We have all heard the story in some form or other, people get together to build a tower to the heavens and fail because – suddenly – they are all speaking different languages and cannot communicate and therefore work effectively together. Well here is how international marketing can be a bit like that!

Any business looking at putting together an effective marketing plan that covers multiple regions, will need to first establish what their PR/communication objectives are for each market before embarking on anything. They need to ask questions such as;

Are the main communication objectives for the new market similar or different to present markets that we operate in?

Are we seeking to create awareness primarily, attract customers to our service or product offering, influence minds & buying behavior or increase our sales?

For new markets, the primary objectives would prevail whilst for more established markets, the later ones would be paramount.

Step One would, or should, be market research as this is an important investment in a brand, product or service when it requires marketing.

Every business needs to have a thorough understanding of the new market – customer demands, competition, pricing, and more. Research results will provide invaluable information on what needs to done in terms of relevancy, empathy and tone of language, for example, to reach out successfully to target audiences and in turn meet communication & business objectives. It is worth stating here that this is one of the most overlooked elements of building a successful marketing strategy and one that few companies see the value of investing in.

One of the biggest mistakes any business can make is to approach its marketing or communications campaign in different markets as one homogenous activity.

On the one hand, the company’s key messaging may stay consistent but may require some fine tuning – something that may be identified from market research conducted – to make them more relevant to the audiences being targeted. Yet other elements may need considerable customization taking into account crucial factors such as culture, language, local attitudes towards different forms of marketing communications and the media environment to name a few.

Cultural sensitivities are important & diverse and can influence and affect colour, signs, symbols and more, for example in China, the colour Red is one that resonates good luck whilst in South Africa it’s the colour of mourning. Cultural sensitivities are also present within the same region, for example, in the Middle East, cultural attitudes, traditions vary a great deal, from one market to another and the same applies to language, where different dialects as well as accents are prevalent.
As it can be seen international marketing requires a simple and straightforward approach in terms of the steps to be taken, but then requires a more sensitive and considered approach within each of these steps – and that’s the BIG challenge facing marketing managers today. How do they reflect this with the limited or allocated budgets. The Middle East has been traditionally a sales dominated marketplace where marketing has been pretty basic and where – whilst margins can be high – budgets to conduct marketing properly have been disproportionate.

Factors that are key in a region such as the Middle East are:

  • Religious sensitivity
  • Cultural values and attitudes to various issues even down to male and female
  • Language – especially when translated which is often the case – very few marketing campaigns are created in the Arabic language and executed for an Arabic audience
  • Media environment – how well developed this is versus other regions and markets – how well audited? – Radio and social media for example across the ME versus Europe or the Far East…

It is worth exploring one or two of these to illustrate the points.
Values and attitudes can vary a great deal not only between regions but also within markets of the same region – this is very true of the Middle East. It follows that any form of marketing communication – messages or images – will need to be adapted to ensure that it is sensitive to these and thus well received by the target audience.
Media environment also plays a big factor in influencing the communications plan implemented. For example, in some markets broadcast media may not be as developed or low on the scale of influencing target audience whilst newspapers are the stronger medium. Or to position your brand in any publication including newspapers and/or industry magazines, advertising is a must to get any space in their pages. Such differences in the media landscape can be extremely diverse, even within the same region.
Whatever the business, product or service the fact remains that a customer focused approach is always likely to be the winning one, and with the evolution of technology and the fact that key stakeholders can interact with their favourite brands, this is now one of the most important factors in any strategy.

Therefore if we summarize some of the steps to a successful marketing strategy we can begin to see that it is the same whether you are dealing with one market or region or the world!


Summary for Success

  1. Start With Market Research – target audiences are highly fragmented nowadays and understanding what makes them “tick” is a key element
  2. Understand and respect cultural differences – as we said earlier language, religion and social structure. These differences have significant impact on a business’s marketing strategies.
  3. Understand the market’s demands – need to be able to appeal to local purchasing behaviors.
  4. Understand the nature of the competition – in each market as this will differ and build their market attack/entry strategy accordingly

These and other elements covered within this article will allow for a tailored marketing strategy that – whilst holding to some key global tenets – can be relevant to any given “local market”

Today we have seen that the major players in retial, FMCG, electronics and technology to name a few have had varying success in the Middle East and it is the brands that have the history, the money and the marketing savvy that are and have been most successful, but lets add one more element in too. Some of these brands have evolved their global marketing strategy, their key messaging and even their product lines to be sensitive and relevant to the Middle Eastern target audiences and that is proving to be a bonus.

You can see this with Oud based perfumes and household products, oriental and Middle Eastern tastes reflected in food products and even household technology and gadgets that come with Arabic set up options and features.

The Middle East, as seen through marketing eyes, is becoming a more focused one for brands, products and services and as we see more of the markets in the region evolve, open up and some of the old trade barriers come down – think Egypt, Libya, Iraq and Syria – the need to have global marketing strategies that have the regions target audiences factored in will make more and more sense and attract – we hope – the necessary budgets to ensure success!

So its really all down to marketing in the style of the Babel or having the language “skills” to succeed across different target audiences in different markets and varying regions of the world.