Europe may be the world’s second smallest continent, but our market diversity and cultural nuances bestow an assault course of obstacles for brands who want their marketing campaign to make a pan-Euro impression.
Developing high impact creative concepts that cross borders comes with obvious challenges. When you add country-focused marketing teams to the mix – who each have the needs of their own territory front of mind – there’s usually a sophisticated game of internal politics to play too.
The flip side to this though, and something I’m lucky enough to benefit from in my own role, is that access to a network of regional experts coupled with a continent-wide budget are the greatest assets for a pan-European campaign.
Navigating Europe’s marketing landscape
With potentially 50 countries, an extensive list of languages, developed versus developing markets and not forgetting the melting pot of culture to consider; striking a chord throughout Europe with a centralised message is no mean feat.
It perhaps seems obvious, but always remember to take your ‘hometown blinkers’ off. Whether you’re based in the UK, elsewhere in Europe or indeed another part of the world, making sure you have a bird’s eye view of your entire market, rather than a long-range glance from a distant shore, is critical.
Translating a creative concept
From my experiences over the past decade or so, there is real beauty in keeping a concept simple. That’s not to say it won’t be creative and make an impact – which are a must – but sometimes trying to be too clever, or overly complicated, will simply be lost in translation.
I’ve sat in creative sessions with top agencies where ideas – albeit good – simply did not stand the pan-Euro test. When you look at how a concept would play out at a localised level – whether it is the language used or media channels needed for its delivery, some things just don’t cut it.
Don’t get me wrong, campaigns are rarely completely ‘one size fits all’, but that core concept certainly needs to work for multiple countries and the deployment mechanics must cater for their unequivocal market diversity.
The power of territorial expertise
That’s why for me, locally-based marketing teams play such a crucial role in the development of our pan-European communication activities. It means we can check that an idea translates in their region and include the marketing assets best suited to reaching the target audience in any given country.
Whether it’s a slogan that has other connotations, a social media platform that’s not quite so popular in their country or a case of British humour not travelling so well, identifying possible issues at an early stage is important so they can be nipped in the bud.
While some countries have similarities, each is undoubtedly unique and successfully engaging customers en masse always needs some level of localisation.
Underpin a campaign with a clear message and get the ingredients right – like digital, print and broadcast adverts, content, POS, sales promotions, PR and social media – and the final mix can be achieved at a local level. The ultimate recipe for success may well vary from country to country – but you can still maintain a compelling and unified theme.
So while a successful pan-European campaign may be challenging, finding that balance between centralised goals and localised needs means investment in a creative campaign becomes very effective and cost efficient. Get that universal message right and your brand presence gets a unified boost.
If you have access to locally-based colleagues, be sure to make use of their native tongue though – as unchecked literal translations of your advertising text can make a big impression for all the wrong reasons.
Antony Peart is European marketing and communications manager at Brother