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Successful marketing is about sticking to fundamentals, no doubt. But that doesn't mean that all marketing is the same. Indeed, different marketing scenarios call for different tactics and different angles on analysis. Knowing where these differences lies can mean the difference between success and failure.

One of the most distinctive areas of marketing is that of global marketing. While marketing fundamentals still apply, selling a product abroad requires a perspective far different than one used for domestic business.

Below are some key issues and trends to consider when marketing globally.

BEWARE THE CONTEXT!

The key difference between foreign and domestic markets lay in the context in which marketing takes place. Differences in culture, laws, communication, and economies all make for a dizzying venue for formulating marketing strategy.

CULTURE

Domestic marketing often takes culture for granted. We know how our fellow citizens think because we are one of them. But in foreign markets, culture is invariably different than our own. It is the marketer's job to be explicitly aware of these differences and how they impact consumer behavior.

For instance, in America we often joke about nagging mothers-in-law. It's not uncommon to hear or read such a joke in an advertisement. But in Japan, the mother-in-law is revered. That culture has a deep respect for the elderly, and would most likely resent a promotion that mocked that family member.

Such differences work both ways. Konka, a Chinese television company, had tried to import its TVs to the U.S. But the brand name "Konka" sounds similar to "Tonka," a major brand of children's toy. Konka also sounds similar to conk - as in conk out. Certainly, such connotation wouldn't go over well with American consumers.

REGULATIONS

It's important to pay close attention to regulatory differences among countries. Some countries, for instance, regulate the number of ads a company can run per hour. This can hamper your strategy to build awareness for your product, for instance. Some foreign markets disallow contests, a central strategy to companies like iwon.com. Still more foreign countries forbid competitive advertisements.

When considering marketing abroad, it's important to consider how these and other seemingly small regulatory differences can help or hurt your strategy.

STYLES OF COMMUNICATION

Communication can differ drastically from country to country. In Italy, for instance, people spend time discussing family and leisure before getting down to business. In Japan, it's important to be reserved and reverential. In the U.S., however, the direct approach is what seems to work best.

Don't assume that you're country's style of communication will go over well in another country. At best, your style will prove ineffective. At worst, it could actually offend the customer.

ECONOMIES

It's easy to forget that your country's economy may behave far different from foreign economies. A boom in your home country may spell a bust in another. Purchasing attitudes may be bullish in one country and bearish in another. In one country your product may be No. 1, and in another it could be hugging the bottom. Technology adoption rates may vary as well; the Europeans, for instance, are far more technologically sophisticated in cell-phone technology than the U.S.


AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT

It used to be that firms encouraged their foreign offices to develop their own marketing message. The line of thinking was that only the local offices truly understand the tastes of the local people. In this way, the firm could cater to a variety of needs directly from the grass-roots level.

But the world is changing in a number of important ways. Television and the Internet allow all of us to share the same pop culture. International travel is more popular than ever. Trade barriers are falling. And competition is more global.

In short, countries and cultures are bleeding together. As a result, marketers are finding that customer needs are converging all over the world, and that customers increasingly react to products in a similar way. To send different messages across borders could lead to customer confusion. For this reason, marketers are developing a unified message to market their products.

This trend seems to contradict the discussion above. But in fact, cross-market differences still largely apply to marketing. What we see today is a need to both address local market differences and maintain brand consistency across borders.

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