The key to breaking into international markets
Launching a brand in a new international market is no easy feat. Thankfully Ryan Green, vice-president of marketing and innovation at Coegi, shares some of the key challenges and considerations to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Coegi on how to crack into new international markets with success
So you want to launch your brand in a new, international market?
There’s a lot to consider before you dive in.
From a technical standpoint, you have to consider possible language barriers, time zone differences, dynamic advertising regulations, platform preference and availability, and more.
From a cultural perspective, there’s even more to unpack. What’s considered funny in the United States could be completely misunderstood, or even offensive, elsewhere. Holidays and lifestyles are likely to vary dramatically. The consumers’ day-to-day behaviors and perspectives are, simply put, nuanced and distinct. Because of this, the most important component of an international marketing strategy is cultural relevance.
So, how do you start putting together these puzzle pieces to form a cohesive international marketing strategy that is strategically customized per region? It starts with research.
Assembling research to be culturally relevant in new markets
To reach a new international audience, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Simply think about how you would approach a micro-targeted audience domestically:
Create a high-level persona of your new target audience
Use quantitative research (such as eMarketer or GWI) to understand demographics and media consumption habits
Layer qualitative research to gain insights about consumer motivations, lifestyle and behavior
Add human intuition and perspective to account for diversity
Adapt brand messaging to align with unique audiences
Align with the regulatory landscape to ensure compliance
Identify key competitors that could impede your success
Failing to do this work could end up being a massive waste of time and money.
Wal-Mart failed with its initial launch in China. Why? They didn’t realize that big-box stores were a poor fit for a country where people shop multiple times a week at local markets.
Starbucks also failed in Europe, where people don’t typically want sugary coffee drinks on the go, but rather prefer to sit and sip espresso at their leisure.
So, come armed with research, but know your limits. Be honest about what you don’t know. Then pull in partners that can gut-check your instincts and help provide insider information. In countries with less cultural overlap, these partners become critical to your success, whether it be agency, publisher or technology partners.
Being culturally relevant within your brand standards
Once you understand your target audience and how you need to reach them, marry that knowledge with your brand standards.
There’s a balance between brand consistency and customization to reach unique audiences. Again, this is very similar to a micro-targeting strategy for domestic markets. You should have a different communication strategy and execution to be authentic with unique audiences, but maintain a level of consistency to not lose the defining elements of your brand. Take McDonald’s for example: they have different menu options and store layouts in every country, but you’ll always see the golden arches.
Identify your ‘golden arches’
Pinpoint the overarching ethos, brand characteristics and aesthetic staples that are critical to your brand’s essence. From there, everything should be molded to a lens of cultural relevance. For example, Subway learned South Koreans love TV dramas and created their own dramatic YouTube mini-series about characters falling in love over sub sandwiches. Cheesy, yes – but the local audience loved it.
Don’t be afraid to look to other successful brands for inspiration. Adopt what you can from winning playbooks, and build your own from trial and error.
The media is the message
This old marketing adage rings true to this day. Showing up in the places your audiences frequent and love is the key to being effective in new cultural environments.
Think about it – if your brand shows up during someone’s favorite show or in the feed of their trusted news app, you are immediately establishing a positive association (provided your creative messaging is effective). Finding ways to appear at the right time within the right context is at the core of effective international media buying.
At the end of the day, the key to breaking into international markets is focusing on what people want, value and respect. Position your brand and product offering to meet those needs. If they value American-made products, use that to your advantage. If they prefer local brands, work to fit in seamlessly with other regional products. Find the key differentiators that both make your brand unique and are of value to local audiences, always keeping cultural relevance at the forefront of your strategy.
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Coegi is an independent digital agency providing services across digital strategy, media buying, paid social, search and influencer campaigns. We bring together people, platforms and tech partners to create custom marketing solutions focused on your business results.Find out more