Global thinking: Five tips for multinational digital marketing

Lara Fawzy
Digital Marketing Consultant
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There’s really no better way to learning about marketing to a new international market, or emerging market than by living in one, or two! Or by visiting, however, the internet makes doing business in an international context far easier than ever before.

Having recently moved from Egypt, Cairo, to Qatar, Doha, previously having lived in the UK and working virtually with counties in Latin America, Russia, Central Eastern Europe and Asia, as part of a multinational marketing team, I have a few year’s experience doing marketing in “developed” and “emerging” markets.

Today, with digital marketing, marketers are international by nature. Web, social, email, video and mobile have no borders. Timezones and distance are no longer barriers to growing businesses globally in fast growth markets.

Businesses in developing markets, which are mature, and post recessionary are increasingly looking at emerging markets as an option for revenue growth or are doing business with them to increase revenue.

Below are a few universal tips:

1) Listening

The best way to have a conversation in social media is to listen to existing conversations. The same is true for doing business in new markets.

Many multinational or large companies have withdrawn from new international markets because they haven’t taken the time to understand them.

Making assumptions about markets, generalising, or just not doing your research can be detrimental to your brand and company profits.

Qatar and Egypt are both in the Middle East, Islam is the predominant religion in both markets, they share some cultural similarities, however, both markets are inherently different. The different markets have differing cultural dress, foods, traditions and ways of doing business.

Egypt is more sophisticated in terms of marketing, however, Qatar is more resource and cash rich. In Cairo you’re bombarded with outdoor advertising, whereas in Doha there is very little.

Listen by working with local agencies, sales teams, partners or research firms, learn from marketing efforts. Fail fast in digital. Test localised integrated campaigns for results on a small sample of your target audience and learn from real-time or speedy results.

Listen and monitor conversations about your industry, product and market via social media, have your own channels and make listening a priority, as well as acting upon it.

2) Understand the unspoken rules, be sensitive and aware

Take time to understand the culture if you’re serious about doing business in an international market. Understand the norms, what’s expected, ways of doing things and what may potentially offend. This is very important. Once I attended a conference in Dubai where a (non-local) speaker decided to show a video of a man getting naked and jumping into a pool! The audience were mainly from North Africa and Gulf states, this was and still is considered offensive, the nudity was not considered humorous.

I think the only person who may have found the video amusing was the speaker, he then went on to present for 45 minutes after showing the video and offending his audience, not a very admirable position to be in, the room was silent! Hopefully, not a common mistake, but it happens!

3) Getting Involved

Don’t be afraid to get involved with local initiatives. Enjoy new ways of working, new cultures and grow!

Let go of preconceived perceptions and enjoy new experiences whether working virtually or in the local market.

4) Localise

“In China, the color red symbolizes luck. In India, the same color symbolizes purity. In many Western countries, however, red symbolizes danger. In some countries, green is either a symbol of prosperity or of nature. Nothing with regard to brand acceptance is simply black and white.” Emerging Business Online, Global Markets and the Power of B2b Internet Marketing.

Localise your campaigns. I’ve seen strap lines for brands literally translated into other languages which have lost their meaning, literally messages have been lost in translation.

Understand the local culture, customer pain points, cultural sensitivities  the sense of humour and produce content that resonates with your local audience. The imagery, colours and copy in local language are the tip of the iceberg, before that comes the proposition, the messaging and the meaning.

Red symbolises luck in China, that’s true but that’s also very traditional, the Chinese site, a leading online global market place for small businesses uses orange as part of its branding.

Digital creative from agencies based in Brazil tends to be vibrant, colourful and bold. 

Leading social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn allow marketers to use local languages, for international marketing, hire a social media manager who’s fluent int the local language if it’s the business language. In Egypt and Qatar  the business languages are English and Arabic.

5) Superiority

Qatar as a country and emerging market is transforming  diversifying from a natural resource – based economy into various industries such as real estate, services and tourism.

Businesses are seeking to hire marketers from developed economies and to import skills, so import your skills but do not import an attitude of superiority, this should go without saying, but you’d be surprised.

To find out more about doing business in emerging markets and digital marketing in a global context, you can read Emerging Business Online, Global Markets and the Power of B2b Internet Marketing an New York FT Press Publication. Get introduced to ebocube model, don’t struggle with trial and error approaches to global digital marketing.

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By cherise
14th May 2013 04:54

Those tips are very essential to global digital marketing particularly listening. In order to  understand each other, one must know how to listen.

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