Woe to the American peanut butter manufacturer that marketed its product in Ma-laysia in green containers. In that country, green is associated with disease, even death -- the eventual fate of the product.
Failure to understand cultural nuances is a common blunder made by U.S. marketers seeking to carve out a piece of the lucrative global marketplace.
Companies today have more marketing opportunities than ever before, thanks to expanding democratic freedoms and shrinking trade barriers. But for all of its profit potential, global expansion carries a high degree of risk.
Establishing an effective global brand requires new ways of thinking. Companies must ask themselves:
· Can our brand's name, trade dress, package size, color and taste cross cultural boundaries?
· Is our brand's image consistent with our desired global positioning? · Should we adopt a global unified image, or should we use a different approach in different markets?
Brand standardization vs. local "tailoring" is the most complex strategic problem facing companies. Each approach has pros and cons. On one hand, applying the same strategy everywhere -- the tack taken by Marlboro, Eastman Kodak, and Mitsubishi -- provides economies of scale and builds brand recognition quickly. On the other hand, taking a more flexible approach helps ensure that a brand will be relevant on a regional and local basis. Another option is to combine the advantages of two approaches. At my company, for example, we have a common branding philosophy, but we do not standardize the "branding" approach; instead, we standardize the "marketing" process. Here are 10 tips for global success:
1. Research new markets thoroughly before entering them.
2. Determine cultural characteristics of the local marketplace and respect them.
3. Choose a universal brand name that can travel across cultures. Some refinements may be necessary to avoid communications blunders. Example: Pepsi's slogan "Come Alive With Pepsi" translated into German is "Come Out of the Grave With Pepsi."
4. Create trade dress that can trigger immediate brand recognition in new markets and is recognized without reading.
5. Determine whether a consistent look should be part of your global strategy, or whether your products need a different look to succeed in other markets.
6. Be aware of color. A hue could be taboo in a particular country.
7. Learn about specific country requirements pertaining to legal protections, environmental practices, and so forth.
8. Consider trends and trouble spots when evaluating new markets. In Europe, for example, there's a trend toward recyclable packages and efficient, functional boxes.
9. Respect metric measurements. This is key when it comes to assuring your package fits neatly into a shipping container headed outside the United States.
10. Keep it simple.
Elinor Selame is president of BrandEquity International, a brand identify and package design consulting firm based in Newton, Mass.