11th January 2024

Navigating Cultural Variances in Global Marketing: Insights from Around the World

According to a recent research by Equinix, 72% of global businesses are looking to expand globally despite economic concerns. Having learnt from the pandemic when businesses that ventured into new territories thrived, today’s companies are embracing the opportunities and challenges that international expansion holds.

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Navigating Cultural Variances in Global Marketing: Insights from Around the World
Diverse People Working and Marketing Concept

According to a recent research by Equinix, 72% of global businesses are looking to expand globally despite economic concerns. Having learnt from the pandemic when businesses that ventured into new territories thrived, today’s companies are embracing the opportunities and challenges that international expansion holds.

One of the key aspects of successfully operating your business across several countries or even continents is investigating and incorporating the cultural differences each market may bring into your marketing campaigns. Failure to do so can result not only in a ruined reputation but also in significant financial losses.

David Beasley, director at Washington Direct Mail, direct mail marketing experts, said: “To excel in international marketing, businesses need to adopt a global mindset and adapt their strategies to align with the norms and values of local cultures. The goal is to craft effective global marketing campaigns that directly address the unique needs, preferences, and values of local customers.”


Know your local customer

One of the reasons companies want to expand globally is because new territories offer a new market and customer segment, where fewer competitors make the introduction of new and innovative products and services less challenging.

Take for example Just Eat, one of the most globally recognised takeaway services that is operating across several countries. The company originally started in Denmark, but it’s now recognised the demand of the UK takeaway market. In 2005, Bo Bendtsen made the strategic decision to establish the Just Eat Headquarters in London. In 2017, more than 70% of the company’s revenue originated solely from the UK, even though it had expanded to over a dozen countries worldwide by that time.

This case study highlights the importance of understanding who your target customers are and where are they based.

David Beasley at Washington Direct Mail commented: “One of the best tools for understanding and targeting your local market and customer base is utilising the power of data. Working with clean data can help you develop high-converting customer profiles and targeted lists that best meet your specifications. By doing so, you can tailor and localise your marketing message and improve campaign performance. According to a study by Epsilon, localised direct mail campaigns have the potential to yield response rates up to seven times higher than non-localised ones. Direct mail allows you to personalise your message and segment-specific customer demographics, making your international campaign even more successful.”


Marketing channels

Big data also helps you determine which will be the right marketing channels for the specific region.

An international power company, for example, used data to receive a more granular assessment of its spending on digital vs traditional media. It revealed that a €1 million investment online resulted in the acquisition of 1,300 new consumers. In contrast, allocating the same investment to TV, print, and radio enabled the company to retain 4,300 consumers, with 40 per cent showing a likelihood of long-term brand loyalty. These findings helped the company to strategically allocate its spending and tailor its messaging.

“The prevalence of certain marketing channels can vary across regions. For instance, while North America and many Western European countries are embracing digital marketing extensively in the face of Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, China is driving the digital innovation forwards through WeChat, Weibo, and Alibaba. In Japan, however, many consumers respond well to traditional advertising methods, such as direct mail, TV and radio. Perfecting your mix of marketing channels will help you be more strategic and efficient with your international marketing campaigns,” said Beasley, at Washington Direct Mail.


Communication styles and tone of voice

Effective communication is the cornerstone of successful marketing. However, the preferred communication styles differ from culture to culture. Some may appreciate direct and straightforward messaging, such as audiences in the US and Germany, while others value subtlety and implicit communication, as is the case in Japan. Understanding the communication norms of a specific culture is crucial for crafting messages that connect with the target audience.

Keeping in mind the local language, especially when translating verbatim, is also critical. When Pepsi launched in China, sales were rapidly declining. After a while, the company realised that when the slogan ‘Pepsi brings you back to life’ was translated verbatim into Chinese, it meant ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave’. Given the cultural significance of worshipping ancestors in China, this slogan would have been offensive to a lot of people.

“It’s important to adhere to certain communication styles and ensure that the messaging is translated correctly. Bringing a local person into the company will help with understanding cultural differences and tailoring the company’s messaging accordingly,” said Beasley, at Washington Direct Mail.


Cultural perceptions of colour and image

When creating images and logos to establish your online business, it’s crucial to recognise that specific colours or symbols may be interpreted differently across various cultures. The visual elements, logo and online content should resonate with the culture you are speaking to.

Failure to do so can result in a negative association with your brand. Take, for example, the American baby product company Gerber, who launched their canned baby food in Africa. They replicated the packaging used in Western markets that featured an image of a baby boy. However, sales were struggling due to the fact that in Africa, where a significant portion of the population is illiterate, conventional food labels typically feature images depicting the contents. This oversight resulted in an unexpected setback for Gerber’s marketing efforts in the region.


Cultural relevance

Many cultures celebrate unique rituals and festivals, providing marketers with opportunities to create culturally resonant campaigns. Understanding the significance of these events allows marketers to connect with consumers on a personal level.

“Similar to localising content in terms of language and tone of voice, incorporating local festivals and traditions into marketing initiatives not only enhances brand relevance but also fosters a sense of cultural inclusivity,” said David Beasley, at Washington Direct Mail.



Amidst rapid globalisation and international expansion, businesses need to go beyond a one-size-fits-all approach and adopt diverse international marketing campaigns.

“Cultural differences in marketing require a nuanced understanding of each market, its values, and its unique characteristics. Implementing a localised marketing strategy not only ensures the effectiveness of campaigns but also demonstrates respect for the diverse perspectives of consumers around the world. By acknowledging and embracing cultural differences, marketers can forge meaningful connections with their global audience and build lasting brand loyalty,” said Beasley at Washington Direct Mail.

Categories: European Business News

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