What is the best way to market your brand around the world? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. As marketers, we're always looking for new ways to reach our audiences and keep up with trends.
But when launching into new, overseas markets, it's crucial to consider what will specifically engage audiences in each individual country or culture — and whether your existing marketing activities will resonate with international audiences.
To provide examples and (hopefully) inspire you, we've gathered some of our favorite localized campaigns from international brands. We expect that they’ll be of assistance in your discovery of how to market your own brand and products successfully across international borders.
The Influence Of National Culture On Consumer Behavior
While it can be harmful to make sweeping generalizations or focus on stereotypes, there’s always something to be learned when considering a country's national cultural identity, made up of countless subcultural and individual identities.
A collective national culture can influence how consumers in a specific country or region tend to behave, engage with brands, and make purchase decisions. Still, we know that to avoid the risk of offending or causing confusion, we've got to pay attention to cultural differences.
Yet, as brand managers, we should go a step further to understand important underlying cultural traits and how they might inform the way we approach new markets.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Some national cultures, such as the US, tend to be more individualist, while others are more collectivist.
In individualist cultures, people tend to pursue a unique identity and strive towards achieving their own goals. In collectivist societies, there is a stronger emphasis on the group or community rather than an individual's personal aspirations. LATAM countries, for example, tend to be more collectivist, valuing the shared knowledge of the community around them and striving for belonging over standing out from the crowd.
This can affect consumer behavior. Individualists tend to chase trends and are attracted to customized products that suit their unique tastes, while in contrast, collectivists prefer a longer product lifecycle and value a brand's long-term reputation.
In collectivist societies, which are common in countries such as China, Costa Rica, and Korea, consumers can feel a stronger sense of pride in their country's heritage that leads them to favor national brands over foreign ones.
In this case, marketers may want to invest in a thorough localization program, ensuring they get to know the unique heritage and cultural nuances, and perhaps working with local agencies to develop a brand identity that demonstrates respect for these attributes.
National culture and identity can also influence the degree to which a consumer is brand loyal, with collectivist cultures tending to form brand loyal consumers.
However, brand loyalty can also come down to cultural tradition. Take Italy and the San Marzano tomato. This legendary tomato is grown in the volcanic soil around Mount Vesuvius and its supporters claim it boasts a far superior taste and consistency to fellow contenders.
Source: Taste of Home
But not just any tomato can call itself a “San Marzano” tomato. To earn the “San Marzano” label, it must adhere to strict DOP guidelines. This refers to the Italian protected designation of origin, and it governs where the tomatoes are grown and how they’re processed.
Restaurants and chefs all over Italy, and the wider world, will categorically refuse to use any other tomato in their dishes — and they often have a favorite brand supplier to whom they give their life-long loyalty.
In fact, according to Mari Uyehara’s account for Taste Cooking, “the tomatoes are so revered in Italy that to make true Neapolitan pizza, according to the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, you must use San Marzano tomatoes. Anything else will not do.” That’s some (officially mandated) loyalty if you ask us!
Now — while there is no singular brand that claims full ownership of the San Marzano tomato, big-name brands like Cento and Mutti spring to mind. Clearly, brand and product loyalty can be influenced by many different factors — cultural tradition and local tastes being among them.
However, when the tendency to be loyal to specific brands is low, a person’s perceived cost of switching to another brand is also low — and vice versa.
For example, consider if you were buying ramen noodles, and you always buy the same brand. What would it take for you to consider buying a different brand? How much cheaper or more appealing would the other brand have to be?
Now consider you aren’t loyal to any particular brand. You’re likely to mix it up depending on which brand is more convenient, affordable, or better promoted.
Where brand loyalty is low, people are more sensitive to price increases, and generally more open to trying new products. On the other hand, when brand and product loyalty is high — like in the case of Cento’s San Marzano tomatoes — consumers are less affected by price changes and less willing to try other brands.
To counteract the risk of low brand loyalty, brands would be wise to allocate resources to establishing multiple purchase channels to increase accessibility and meet demand — as well as hold off on creating brand loyalty or rewards programs until overall customer loyalty rates increase.
Willingness To Embrace New Technologies
Another factor that can affect global marketing practices is the willingness to embrace new technologies. After all, consumers in some countries are more hesitant than others when it comes to adopting new technologies.
Take Iceland, for example, where 99% of all households are connected to the internet, and 86% of adults in Iceland have a smartphone — which is the highest rate in the world. When new tech is released to Icelandic consumers, brands don’t have to focus too much on convincing as much as outshining their many competitors.
In contrast, countries such as Ethiopia and Kosova are typically slower to embrace consumer technology — though it’s worth noting that this tends to be a result of barriers that lie beyond the individual consumer’s behavioral choices. Translation? It’s not so much a lack of interest in new tech but a lack of access.
Therefore, when marketing tech brands in countries where the willingness to embrace or access to new technology is lower, you should adapt your campaign accordingly — whether that means making an emotional appeal or using uncomplicated, accessible language.
Localized Marketing Campaigns From International Brands
Now that we’ve established some of the main factors that should influence international marketing strategies, let’s take a look at a few examples.
1. Meeting Consumers Where They’re At — Oatly in China
Oatly — a brand known for its off-the-wall marketing techniques — took a novel approach to advertising its products in China: it created an entirely new Chinese character.
Source: Plant Based News
In an effort to promote its plant-based milk on the Chinese market, Oatly combined the element of “plant” and the Chinese character of “milk” to create a completely new character that hopes to “spark a conversation about plant-based milk and help consumers rethink their milk consumption choices.”
This was a clever choice. As a Swedish-based company, Oatly knew that it would need to adapt its marketing strategy in a market as vastly different as China — which they did with their new Chinese character.
But that’s not all Oatly had up its sleeve. The vegan brand also unveiled a study on Hong Kong citizens’ milk consumption — which found that “96% of respondents said they associated cow’s milk with the word ‘milk’ at first sight. However, on the contrary, only 2% of them thought of plant-based milk.”
Furthermore, 51% of respondents stated that there were no viable milk alternatives on the market and 73% said they would “consider switching from cow’s milk to plant-based milk if they knew more about the benefits of plant-based milk to the human body and the environment.”
Clearly, Oatly has found a very open and willing audience. Now, it’s up to the brand to meet consumers where they currently are — as explained by CEO Toni Petersson:
“Hong Kong people say they want more information and education about plant-based milk. We’re here to help and tell people where to find the right products. We are not just doing this for our business, we’re doing this for the whole plant-based milk category.”
By providing educational materials, increasing brand awareness, and nurturing interest in the entire plant-based industry — Oatly has put itself in a favorable position to conquer the Chinese market.
Needless to say, we’re interested to see how Oatly’s popularity develops in China in the coming years.
2. Leaning Into Local Nuances — McDonald's and Alexa in Australia
Brands with a securely established, successful global presence like McDonald’s have no excuse not to have their finger on the pulse when it comes to understanding the uniqueness of local market identities, trends, and preferences.
So, it’s no surprise that the heartwarming campaign, 50 Years of Macca's, struck the right tone with the Australian audience.
When a brand is given a nickname locally, it can either fall on deaf ears or be rejected by the brand. By embracing the Australian nickname of “Macca’s”, McDonald’s has further cemented itself among Aussie audiences — allowing them to have a sense of ownership of a localized version of this global brand.
With its Aussies get Alexa campaign, Alexa’s approach to engaging the Australian market is particularly clever. Addressing a common concern for consumers when it comes to voice recognition technology, the campaign uses humor and taps into the national identity by using excessive Australian slang.
We think it’s pretty safe to say that this campaign wouldn’t work anywhere else in the world!
3. Adapt A Winning Concept — Haribo in the United Kingdom and Japan
While it’s generally not wise for global companies to roll out one uniform campaign across multiple markets or regions, there are times when a campaign that works in one country will translate perfectly into another — just with a bit of tweaking.
Haribo’s kids’ voices campaign was initially rolled out in the UK in 2014 and was the most impactful FMCG advertising of 2015 according to Nielsen.
Created by Quiet Storm, it’s a delightfully entertaining integrated brand and product campaign that features adults in serious or "grown-up" situations — such as business meetings or on a train — but with their voices dubbed with those of children.
The innocent and playful comedy perfectly fits the brand and its products, and the concept was used as a template that has since been successfully adapted to many other markets worldwide — such as Japan.
What makes this campaign so widely relatable? Its simplicity and adaptability — and perhaps the authenticity of applying real kids’ voices speaking spontaneously about Haribo.
Since the core concept involves capturing real, childlike enthusiasm that makes “boring” adult settings seem more fun, there are endless possible scenarios, cultures, and languages that it can be applied to, as seen in the campaign’s success in two vastly different markets, the UK and Japan.
At its core, it’s a concept that allows people all around the world to bring out their inner child and have a giggle with Haribo. That’s most definitely universal.
Your brand can be successful in foreign markets if you take the time to conduct market research, test, and consider how your branding or marketing strategy may need to be adapted.
While some campaigns will have the potential for global appeal, with the ability to be adjusted and localized to new markets — you’ll still need to have a sound understanding of the new target market in order to determine whether or not your campaign will translate. So, either way, you need to do your research.
However, more often than not, brand campaigns need to be rethought and re-executed when launched in new markets. To give your brand the best chance for success, perform low-risk testing and use advanced brand tracking software to measure and monitor how your brand is perceived in its new home.