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Marketing goes global

Posted by Stephanie Gilchrist - Marketing Manager at PHMG on

With so many cultural differences to consider, delivering a successful global marketing campaign is notoriously tricky. But when brands do get this just right, the results are revered all around the world – as we’re about to discover.

Coca-Cola’s ‘Hilltop’ advert all the way back in 1971 is endured as a celebrated example of a successful global campaign. It ranks highly in Coca-Cola’s list of successful commercials throughout the years, and is still remembered fondly amongst the top advertisements of all time. Featuring a chorus of young people from across the globe singing ‘I’d like to by the world a Coke’, it celebrates the diversity of cultures all around the world – showing people coming together to sing a song of unity. Few would expect that a soft drink could convey such an important message, but the advert’s creator, Bill Backer, noticed how Coca-Cola has become more than just a drink, it’s the symbol of a common connection shared across the world.

Coca-Cola’s advert received instant gratification, with the original song even entering the Billboard Hot 100 chart. But sometimes campaigns don’t receive such a positive reaction, and the speed at which world adverts can go global means that damage can be done almost instantly. This is a feeling that Pepsi came to know all too well back in April, when they released their new commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. Their message was supposed to be one of unity, peace and understanding, but instead it was criticised for appearing to trivialise demonstrations – and suggesting that giving a drink to a police officer could quell any animosity. And whilst Coca-Cola’s commercial was widely seen as ahead of its time, Pepsi’s has been critiqued as being a little too late to the discussion, making the company seem out of touch with today’s social issues. Pepsi took a risk that didn’t pay off, so it’s no surprise that most global marketers choose to instead play it safe – producing campaigns that steer clear of any potential controversy, and in fact don’t say much at all.

That’s not to say that there aren’t exceptions to this rule, with recent global campaigns from the likes of Proctor & Gamble, Heineken and Unilever receiving recognition for their clear, engaging creative strategies. P&G’s ‘Thank you Mom’ campaign stands out in particular, with the company effectively tapping into a feeling we all share worldwide – a strong sense of gratitude for the support we receive from our families. First released in 2010, the adverts show the mothers of various Olympians worldwide supporting their children through training, overcoming various hardships along the way. It’s a far cry from the clichéd ideas of what some companies see as a global message, and relies instead on real insight and emotion to suggest that behind every successful athlete is an amazing mum.

In order for companies to receive the reaction that Coca-Cola and P&G’s global campaigns produced, there are a few key things for marketers to consider. Language is one of the most important elements to tailor to a global audience, as the words need to be universally understood to ensure the brand’s message is heard loud and clear. But it’s not enough to perform a simple translate, as there are colloquialisms and phrases that can produce different meanings cross-culturally – or in fact can be entirely meaningless. The most successful campaigns combine carefully directed language with a clear marketing strategy, ensuring tailored content is only seen where it has been designed to be – a consideration which David Patton, former Senior Vice President of Marketing at Sony, has suggested is overlooked by many companies. As he astutely observes, ‘a campaign intended for one market can – because of social media – easily cause offence in another where it was never intended to be seen’ meaning marketers need to be all the more careful.

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