Introduction to International Digital Marketing

International Digital MarketingWith the growth of the internet, many barriers for international  communication have dropped. We have seen websites that were designed in bedrooms reach millions of readers, YouTube stars have grown to stardom with no financial backing, Twitter users have Tweeted to hundreds of thousands with one relevant Tweet. It is possible for even the smallest fish in the sea to reach millions, all over the world. But with this progress comes a problem.

Although the internet, initially through desktop and laptop computers opened up a new way of connecting with people that allowed us to speak to those all over the world without spending thousands of pounds or dollars and pulled down huge barriers in mass communication, the current absence of those barriers means that the competition for space is extremely high.

We are now in a time when we can communicate to many, but everyone else can too. This is one of the key points of digital marketing in general.  We have to stand out, and not for the wrong reasons.

Mobile has opened up markets to internet communication that were never previously open. In parts of Asia and Africa mobile phone penetration is far bigger than PC and laptop penetration. Many users access the internet through their smartphones, having had no previous online experience. Cheap smartphone manufacturers are making it affordable and technology is easier to understand, bringing the ability for communication between developing nations and broadcasters and businesses in developed nations leaps and bounds forward.

Projects like Mark Zuckerberg’s have opened up even more areas to internet communication. Working with mobile network operators around the world, the project allowed those who previously could not afford to connect to the web, to access a limited internet including Facebook and other services. We are moving towards a time when everyone can communicate digitally with everyone else, no matter what their location, background and income is.

Even small companies can reach relevant customers around the world. If you sell a product locally, but are sure that there is a global market for it, the internet allows you to reach that market, and this book shows you the best ways to achieve that reach.

The global reach, which has historically only been open to the rich, large corporations around the world is now open to everyone, but it is important to take into account the nature of global audiences. If you want to stand out, and really make an impact you need to keep your campaigns and communication relevant to the audience you are talking to. You wouldn’t have a great response if you discussed sports with someone who explicitly stated that they have no interest in sports.

Each country and culture requires a different approach so the best way to make sure we stand out is by targeting, rather than a blanket approach. The blanket approach has been tried by many and has failed. The blanket approach will waste money, time and can even damage your reputation.

Don’t Use a Blanket Approach

A blanket approach to marketing is using the same content and channels for everyone, so it could be running a banner advertising campaign for every single group, even if the banner is unlikely to work on all of the audience members.

If you are running a food manufacturer and your target audience is parents who want to feed their children well and young men who want to get in shape for sports, it is unlikely that both groups will have the same needs, experiences, emotions and desires, so in order for you to generate the highest amount of sales, your campaigns will need to be different for each of them.

For parents, you may focus on the healthiness in a way that shows that it is beneficial for their children, and that you are a trusted source of information on child nutrition. When targeting those interested in fitness, you may focus more on the benefits it has in terms of muscle development, recovery and other concerns of the audience.

The language is also likely to be different when talking to those groups. For mothers, a reassuring and calming approach is more effective but for those interested in fitness, a more active, dynamic and knowledgeable approach is suitable.

When targeting different countries, it is also important to avoid the blanket approach. What works for one country may not necessarily work for another, as different cultures have different characteristics and see things in different contexts.  Throughout this book, we will reinforce the idea that a blanket approach to international digital marketing is far from the best approach. Instead, a collection of localised campaigns, with one core emotion and value is the key to growing your brand internationally.

Fiat have to change Gere

Italian vehicle manufacturer, Fiat is known in many countries all over the world, not just in their home country. The car maker sell across many major markets including Europe and Asia, but it was a in 2008 that became a roadblock to growth in China.

In 2008 Fiat launched a 45-second commercial for its Lancia Delta car in which the world-famous American actor Richard Gere drives one of the vehicles from the centre of Hollywood to the Potala Palace, which is the former residence of the Dalai Lama before he fled in exile in 1959.

At the Palace, Gere meets a man dressed as a Tibetan monk and both men plunge their hands into the snow outside. The camera cuts to the slogan “The power to be different.”

Although that advert may work in some countries, in China it was met with anger. As well as being a Hollywood actor Richard Gere is a Buddhist and campaigner for Tibetan independence. Many felt that the advert’s slogan, along with the choice of star is a rallying cry for political change.

Following the incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China many have voiced their beliefs that Tibet should be free from China, whereas many in China see that the process in which China gained control as the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.

Fiat was forced to apologise to China and released a public statement distancing itself from the “social and political views” of Richard Gere. This was a huge obstacle for the business as it was looking to expand its operations into China.

For many marketers, Fiat’s mistake may appear to be a hugely obvious one – including a political (or potentially political) message in an advert that was broadcast in a country that may have a problem with that message, but the car manufacturer never actually intended on broadcasting the advert in China.

The Lancia Delta commercial was only supposed to be aired in Europe, however it made its way onto YouTube, was shared around and was eventually viewed by enough people in China to gain a reputation, cause anger and drive Fiat into the news for all the wrong reasons.

Should it have been viewed only in Europe and not made available to anyone from China, the advert may have been deemed a success, as Richard Gere’s reputation is far better in the Western world and the viewpoint that Tibet should be freed from China is agreed with by many but more importantly does not cause offence to many others there.

Fiat’s coverage in the news following the advert’s response is surely a result of a lack of foresight into the nature of global digital marketing. We can all see content from all over the world. There are ways to block certain people seeing certain content, but it is difficult to guarantee that nobody from one particular country will ever see something. Fiat didn’t take a blanket approach to their marketing as they didn’t intend for it to reach other markets, but this brings us to the next point:

Controlling Content

Say you are an international brand, targeting multiple countries. Let’s pick two countries, one in Asia and one in Europe. Your European customer-base is your biggest, but Asia is a growing market for you. You run a campaign through video advertising to Europe and a separate one in Asia. In the days before the internet, it may have been safer to create an advert that would be offensive to the Asian market, and broadcast it to your European customers, but these days, one share on Reddit could cause widespread anger directed at your country.

Firstly, get your targeting right, and secondly be aware of the international audiences, their views, their values and their beliefs. Targeting is key, but you should be in a position in which if your campaign is picked up in another country, it’s for the right reasons.

The voice should be right for that audience and audio-visual messages (imagery, colours and sounds) should be chosen to appeal to your target audience. Red, for example means different things in China as it does in the United States.

Each campaign should be carefully constructed to appeal to and reach its target audience. This can be done fairly easily through modern online video, banner and text advertising. Google Adwords, YouTube ads and the Google Display Network, along with other search and display networks allows for in-depth targeting towards specific locations, languages and more. There’s really no excuse for poor targeting these days.

However, organic reach is where this can go slightly wrong. A YouTube video advert could be shared organically through email, Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth or hundreds of other methods. It could spread like wildfire, so it’s important to make sure that if that happens, it’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

Target and Optimise

When creating international digital marketing campaigns, get your targeting down to a local level, rather than a blanket approach, however be aware of the nature of the internet. Make sure your content and strategy is set up for each individual country, but be prepared for each campaign to be shared organically too.

If you would like to discuss international, local and national digital marketing strategies for your business, please get in contact.

About the Author

Patrick is a digital marketing consultant with around 10 years' experience, covering SEO, PPC, social media, email and user experience.

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