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2021 Global Marketing & Branding Guide

Companies have never been more interconnected thanks to software and other technology that makes long-distance communication easier. Many businesses have been launched into transnational and international markets as a result, meriting a complete overhaul of their existing marketing and branding strategies.

A global marketing and branding strategy must take into account the particular culture and history of its target audience. The benefits of this cultural awareness are twofold – it makes the marketing outreach more effective and it also demonstrates the company’s empathy toward people of all backgrounds.

There are many infamous examples of companies missing the mark with their international marketing attempts. Read on to find out everything you need to know to avoid the same fate in your global branding and advertising.

What is Global Branding & Advertising?

Broadcasting your company’s products and messages on a large scale is about more than just tailoring ads to different cultures. It also requires coordination to make sure that all global branding shares the same voice.

The goal of good branding is to create a persona for the company and its products or services. While there are sure to be some differences between outreach efforts and campaigns, there should be some stylistic and idealistic links between everything that the company puts out, no matter where in the world it’s intended to be seen.

Making something that resonates with one market is difficult enough. Creating a campaign that will appeal to huge swaths of territory is even more challenging. Language is just one barrier that international marketing faces.

Advertising Across Cultures: Common Difficulties

No matter what language or cultural signifiers are included in a particular ad or campaign, it should undeniably be the company’s voice that shines through. If you project a playful image in your American ad campaigns, audiences seeing a sophisticated or overly serious campaign from another country could find your marketing attempts silly.

The internet has made it easier than ever for people from different parts of the world to share and view advertisements from just about anywhere in the world. In the past, large corporations advertising on a global scale didn’t need to put so much importance on maintaining a brand in disconnected parts of the world. Since we’re all incredibly connected these days, that concern is becoming more and more important.

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Finding common ground between disparate markets is a central task of global marketing.

However, that new challenge also makes ad campaigns and branding messages more applicable across borders. One campaign for YouTube or social media marketing can be used over and over across markets.

The central difficulty with projecting on a wider scale is that the product may change to suit local customs or tastes, meaning advertising and marketing professionals will have to alter messages or highlight the local flair of a given product to make sure people are enticed into engaging with the brand and buying the product.

Performing user research to understand what kind of changes to make to a product or service used to require tons of local teams or expensive trips. Now, however, user research can be performed remotely and participants can even be remunerated or rewarded with digital currencies and coupons.

Relying on these remote sources without having anyone physically on the ground to confirm the context or results of the user research could make your brand and advertising efforts seem out of touch with the people. If you’re a well-known company from one part of the world, the last thing you want to do is make yourself appear ignorant of other cultures.

Forming a Global Marketing and Branding Strategy

Like so many things in the business world, launching an international advertising campaign requires a firm understanding of your company and its mission. In what ways is your business uniquely qualified to solve users’ problems in markets around the world?

Another clear necessity is some knowledge of how people live in the new market. This kind of insight isn’t only valuable when you’re moving from one country to another or across continents. Regions, cities, and even neighborhoods can have different pain points or desires.

For example, cars sold in Europe are by and large smaller than the ones in America because Europeans typically drive shorter distances, live in cities, and lack the muscle car culture that took off in the USA in the middle of the last century. Marketing campaigns for cars in Europe can sometimes mimic their American counterparts, but frequently they have to have a voice and style of their own.

Bilingual people often feel that they speak or even behave differently when they speak one language versus another. Companies face the same possibility. A product that is considered fancy or top-of-the-line in one place may be viewed as fairly standard in another. Brands must take pains to come across similarly no matter what language their advertisements are in.

It could well be the case that you may have to market and sell products under a different brand to appeal more strongly to the local population. Frequently, foreign words are harder to pronounce, less memorable, or could translate poorly in new locations.

You also need to look at the competition in a new area. Are you a disruptive force or something completely new? What preconceptions might local people have about your industry, brand, or products?

To get a full picture of the local scene, companies have to go beyond user research and look at market trends and find out where and how people are buying products and services that are similar to the ones you’re offering. The history of a given industry may also be able to inform you about long-term trends and give you ideas for your global marketing and branding strategy.

9 Key Considerations for Global Branding & International Marketing

There are many things to pay attention to when formulating a global marketing and branding strategy. Here are the nine most important things to consider when your company is expanding its reach.

1. Product Branding

The packaging and messaging that give your product context must fit into the local culture. Perhaps it will be sold in an international aisle or market, but whatever is on your label should be discernible to the local people.

All aspects of the packaging design should be considered when trying to make them appeal to a new audience. If you find that people in a new market are more environmentally concerned or are more likely to have robust recycling programs, you should build packaging that is recyclable, reusable, and made of post-consumer material.

Individual products with unique designs can transcend language barriers and even some cultural differences. Think of the classic Coca-Cola green glass bottle. The unique packaging of that product made it a standout no matter where in the world people saw it.

2. Changing the Product

Sometimes the product or service you offer may not be as appealing or useful in a new environment. Adding some appeal by altering the product may be the smart way to go. If you owned a burger chain, you could add vegetarian and vegan options where those are popular lifestyles. You could also sell local variants like kebabs.

The key to changing your product to better suit a new market is to alter it just enough without divorcing it completely from your other products or the company brand. That might be the goal occasionally for corporations with extensive divisions and product lines, but generally, if you’re trying to create a brand that’s identifiable internationally, you want to maintain some aspects of the classic product line even when you change the product to suit local tastes and culture.

3. Users Are Different Everywhere

User research has made a big splash in the business world in the past few decades. Now that technology has enabled designers and the companies they work for to perform research remotely, it’s even easier to account for different behavior patterns in different cultures or geographical areas.

The core principle of international marketing is that what works in one place isn’t guaranteed to work elsewhere. Tastes and cultural practices aren’t the only things that are different from place to place. For example, local populations could have completely different jobs and lifestyles. In places where many people work in the service industry, flexible hours could be the key to winning over new customers.

In terms of branding, demonstrating that you not only understand the people you’re reaching out to but also have their best interests in mind will make your marketing efforts more human and therefore more appealing. Global branding ideally creates a space for its products and services in a new place, showcasing how the people in this new area can benefit from having a new product or service in their lives.

4. How Do People Shop?

Is your company moving into a place where people visit outdoor markets or are they more likely to visit shopping malls where you’re going? Online shopping is increasingly popular everywhere, so you’ll have to account for that almost anywhere you go.

Not only do you need to find out where people go shopping, but you also need to find out when they’re most likely to shop for our particular product. That may seem obvious, but the trick is to make sure you aren’t inadvertently cutting out an entire viable market segment by neglecting to make your product available.

That’s a more important principle for companies selling perishable products that have to be purchased in-person, like food or drinks. However, in some places, you may not be able to rely on online shopping or delivery. It may also be less popular, creating the need to maintain some kind of brick-and-mortar presence.

5. Setting Your Price

Luxury products in one place are likely to be considered luxury products in another area, although that may not be the case with smaller items. Most international chains maintain similar price points from place to place. McDonald’s, for example, sells value meals at around the same cost.

However, if you have a different product line or you’re selling a service, then setting the same price in Southeast Asia as you have in North America and Europe could make your product too expensive for the local people. Some companies manage to be successful nonetheless. It all depends on how wide a customer base you want to have.

Huge price differences could undermine your brand in places where the product is more expensive. It all comes down to the bottom line – if you simply can’t make your product available at a lower price in your new market, it may not make financial sense to break into that new market just yet.

6. Deciding On Messaging

What are people most likely to respond to in a given market? Is the idea of tradition and family important, or are people more interested in modern technology and convenience? Selecting the right messaging is a core component of any successful global marketing and branding strategy.

Research will give you a good idea of what resonates with your target market. You’ll have to have people extremely well-versed in the local language and culture to make sure your messaging comes across the way you intend for it to.

Looking at past branding pushes from local companies or international ones in your new location will also give marketing professionals a good idea of what works. The way cultures view themselves is a key part of their sense of self and marketing messages both help create that view and reinforce it.

7. Building the Right Local Team

We’ve already touched on how vital it is to have people who understand the local culture, speak the language, and can point out past advertising successes. Without people who have expertise in the new market, branding efforts are bound to fail or at least seem incredibly out of touch with the very people they are trying to reach.

This is one area where bias is likely to enter the hiring process. People making the hiring decisions could be relying on their perception of the business process in their own location without understanding how skill sets need to change to suit the needs of the international market. They may also privilege their culture over the culture of other locations.

That’s why it’s important to instill an international mindset in the employees who work on global branding. The best-case scenario is that they will be able to take the successful messaging that works in one culture and revamp it to suit the unique conditions of a new culture. But don’t be surprised if employees need a crash course in the local culture to make advertising that works.

8. Other Non-Creative Professionals

Marketing and branding are both vital to moving your product and company overseas. However, there are some other people you need to bring on to implement these marketing campaigns. For example, you’ll want to have a legal team protecting your intellectual property rights.

You might also need to build a network of local manufacturers, distributors, or other providers. The legal team will once again come in handy, especially in places where the legal system may differ from the original location of the business.

Ensuring your branding efforts and IP are well-protected will allow your marketing team to be more flexible and creative in the way they implement their campaigns. That’s especially true when it comes to new marketing channels like social media or other websites where there is a greater danger of people copying digital materials or misusing them.

9. Local Social Media

Social media companies may endeavor to bring the whole world together, but that doesn’t mean some social networks and habits surrounding social media don’t change from place to place. If you want your social media marketing efforts to pay off, you need to find out which networks are most successful and then put creatives in charge of finding out how local people are using these popular networks.

This is especially true when you’re advertising internationally. For the most part, people within one country will largely be on the same social media networks. But people further away are likely to be on different networks.

An old man sits near a shop.
What appeals in one region may not work in another.


International marketing is one of the main challenges of the 21st century. Companies can bring their products and services to more people than ever before, but enticing these new markets with the right branding requires lots of attention in many different areas.

A detailed understanding of the local culture is important, but so is understanding how your product or service might fit in with local markets. Take some of the tips in this marketing guide into consideration to make sure your international marketing and branding are as effective as possible.

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