This week we’re joined by Joanne Sanders of target marketing firm EWISE Communications. She came to share some of her amazing stories and sage advice on international marketing. There can be some unexpected hang-ups that may come from expanding into foreign markets without proper preparation.
Joanne’s qualifications and accolades seem endless. She’s a member of the board for the World Trade Center of Atlanta; she serves as an international manufacturing liaison for the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance; she won a 2017 Georgia Latina Excellence Award for Business and Technology; and she was even recently awarded by the city of Atlanta as well.
But Joanne didn’t actually start out in marketing. Originally she was a sales executive who was frustrated with marketing, because their content didn’t always meet customer needs. As a result, she started her own agency. And as usually happens when you start your own business, she learned a lot – particularly about international expansions.
Once a business’ marketing begins to go global, she says, an entire new can of worms is opened. A lot of cultural nuances go into our content, even if we don’t realize it.
1. ONCE YOU CROSS BORDERS, THE GAME CHANGES.
One area of difficulty with international marketing is when outside enterprises come to the United States and yet keep practicing the same marketing techniques and rules here as in their homeland.
American companies are no exception to this bad habit when they go overseas, either. Joanne recently spoke at the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance Summit about some of these issues.
Digital marketing in Asia often involves social media platforms that the western world hasn’t even heard of. And due to strict email marketing laws, some everyday outreach techniques here in the states could get you sent to jail in Europe.
Cultural differences can also mean that customers’ purchasing paths aren’t the same. Your personas won’t be identical all over the globe.
Local stores, for example, are more influential than chain stores in the Caribbean. Healthcare markets and buyers differ in Brazil, versus the U.S, versus Japan.
2. KNOW HOW TO COMMUNICATE YOUR OWN BRAND
Another common challenge is the obstacle of language barriers. You could have a motto or corporate mantra that won’t get “shifted during the flight.”
The best messages are universal, in order to reach anyone and everyone. But it’s also ideal if they can apply to local regions in order to seem more personal.
That sounds like a tall order, which it often is. Joanne’s example to us was the motto of FedEx: “The World On Time.” It can just as quickly and easily be adapted to say, “Atlanta On Time,” or “New Zealand On Time.”
“Make sure you’re using the power of communicating through words and communicating through design. Visuals can really help cut through a lot of issues, especially when you’re dealing with international markets.”
Using words and design together in order to create compelling visuals can really help with messaging.
A restaurant in deep Louisiana, for example, may have a sign displaying a cartoon crawfish and the word, “Cajun.” But people from other countries or even from northern states might not know what the advertisement means. Use a plate, Joanne suggests. Mention spices. Techniques like that will provide more aid in explaining that you’re promoting a specific cuisine.
3. DON’T GET LOST IN TRANSLATION
Another story that Joanne shared at the summit was that of a popular company that sold golf balls in large packages. As they marketed in Japan, they decided to also create a line of smaller sleeves to be purchased up front near store registers, for convenience. So they laid out a campaign, they manufactured everything, and they released the product. But their revenues plummeted. Why?
This company unwittingly tried to sell their golf balls to Japanese customers in packages of four. Four is a distinctly unlucky ‘cursed’ number in that culture.
Because the number four in Japanese sounds like the word for ‘death,’ absolutely nothing is created or sold in groups of four. That’s an unfortunate lesson the golf company learned only after losing thousands of dollars and several months of planning on their newly-sized packaging. Even their larger packages lost sales because their entire brand was avoided afterwards.
And then, of course, there are literal translation issues.
A very popular beer company in the U.S. once tried to take their campaign, under the slogan “Let It Loose,” to latin American countries. However, they translated the saying verbatim without inquiring after language nuances. As a result, their severely embarrassing slogan in those countries essentially meant, “You’ve got the runs.”
“I think blunders are good examples of how we can learn.”
And as she’s said before, Joanne assured us that American companies aren’t the only culprits of international marketing faux pas. Foreign companies entering the U.S. need to keep an eye on how their messages translates, too. Even expanding between the states might require some cultural analysis and campaign tweaks.
4. NETWORKS TO HELP YOU AVOID MAJOR BLUNDERS
One of the major steps that Joanne took to aid growing companies, both foreign and domestic, was to help create the community of the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance.
Since expansion differs depending on each particular industry, this network of allied manufacturers helps foster relationships and provides support between like businesses.
The partnership helps inform foreign companies about U.S. incentives that might be available to them, or grants for different exports. When businesses start employing staff overseas, taxes may change and local-based CPAs may not know enough to help.
“Atlanta does so much international marketing. There’s over 70 trade centers here…and the reason they’ve invested here is because Atlanta does so much business with foreign companies.”
“There’s over 200 international organizations in the world trade center…there to do a lot of that matchmaking.”
The exploration isn’t always costly, so look around. You never know where you might find a partner company that may end up saving your bacon in the future.
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