Contemporary marketers must simultaneously think global, local, and glocal factors in order to stay ahead of the curve, or just keep up, given evolving market conditions and a growing attention to ‘bespoke’ needs.
The IT revolution – plus the possibilities that AI, deep and machine learning have to offer – have washed away static approaches to marketing.
Moreover, although it is widely known that internationalisation is a process of firm expansion into new markets, the importance of marketing is often overlooked. There are cultural, regional norms, leadership and change, and also cross-cultural branding amongst others that need to be prioritised while planning.
International business essentially covers international transaction of economic resources as well as international production of goods and services, and, as such, the broad forms of business internationalization cover trade, technical collaboration and investment.
While in the past, trade was undoubtedly conducted internationally, never before has it had the broad and simultaneous impact on nations, firms and individual households as today. What is more, global trade has been consistently outperforming domestic transactions over the past few decades. As a result many new countries and firms, especially in emerging markets, now prioritise international markets.
Internationalisation of trade has been accelerated and facilitated by rapid technological advances through 2G to 3G to 4G, and now 5G. In many respects, this has reduced the world to a Global Village where producers, customers and other stakeholders can all engage collaboratively.
Differentiating global, international, and glocal marketing…
‘The international market goes beyond the export marketer and becomes more involved in the marketing environment in the countries in which it is doing business.’
There is a crossover between what is commonly referred to as international marketing and global marketing, which are terms often used interchangably. International marketing is simply the application of marketing principles to more than one country. That is to say, International marketing is a simple extension of exporting, whereby the marketing mix is simply adapted in some way to take into account differences in consumers and market segments.
Global marketing, on the other hand, takes a more standardised approach to world markets and focuses upon sameness, in other words, commonalities in consumers and market segments.
Evidently, international business expanded at lightning speed over the past decade. The reasons for this rapid growth can mainly be found in new technologies, but also supportive institutions, the openness of many economies, as well as intensified competition in many sectors.
Myanmar, for example, is now making a foray into the energy sector; while Bangladesh has emerged as a tough competitor to India in the field of ready-made garments, a sector that Russia is now also interested to participate in internationally.
Finally, a significant difference between domestic marketing and international marketing is that in the former case business remains confined to the political region’s jurisdiction, where government rules and regulations are generally consistent; while in the latter case, once cross-border trade begins it is subject to the rules and regulation of the host country, making the situation far more complex.
When marketing domestically, a company can have the same policies and strategies, while international marketing calls for varying strategies when promoting products and services.
As every country has distinct laws, firms must develop an awareness of the codes, practices and norms that apply. Moreover, consumer tastes and preferences may also differ, so marketing strategies should be formulated with different consumers in mind.
The Customer Remains King
Both globalization and glocalisation have led to more companies pursuing the same customers, while at the same time, customers have become more sophisticated (often seeking whatever is ‘bespoke’), while information technology enables analysis of competing products, allowing consumers to make informed (and sometimes ‘rational’) choices.
No doubt, the discovery of online alternatives by consumers has brough greater comparison of offers. Furthermore, many products have become virtual commodities, while rapid changes in technology have dramatically shortened product life cycles.
Often similarities between offerings make it quite difficult for firms to differentiate themselves from competitors, which, in turn, further empower customers. That is to say: a decisive shift from supplier-dominated economies towards ones dictated by customers.
Adapting to the ‘New Normal’
Historically, during any crisis such as the pandemic today, consumers expect proactive action, not only from their government, civil society, and local neighbourhood, but also the brands they purchase.
For a business aiming to remain financially successful, and sustain a good reputation it is often not about the products and services, but more importantly: a corporate identity.
Thus, one of the key ones is to keep the customers ‘informed’. Thus companies balance financial responsibility with the need to keep consumers engaged, especially during periods of long term uncertainty.
Thus research by the American Association of Advertising Agencies indicated that 43% of consumers find it reassuring to hear from brands during lockdowns. In addition, 56% said they like learning how brands are helping their communities during the pandemic. Only 15% said they’d rather not hear from companies.
During the pandemic, certain global companies invested heavily in new market analytics in order to adapt rapidly to new trends. A COVID-19-ready ‘client-agency’ relationship is the new norm for customer relationship managers and marketing teams.
In the second quarter of 2020, Amazon recorded high growth in the face of COVID-19, with profits reaching a staggering $89 billion. Following that trend, companies such as P&G and GSK have also doubled their investment in the e-commerce sphere more than ever before.
New Trends in Post-Pandemic Marketing
Once again, recalibration is required through innovative product design, packaging and also pricing models to survive in the ‘new normal.’ Among the new ‘differentiators’ for brands is ‘health and safety’ protocols, offering bookable shopping times, fully sanitised delivery, and at-home ‘make-up’ experiences. This phase of marketing innovation is, however, costly for firms.
Firms will surely be able to operate once against under radiant blue skies, after the dense clouds of masks and hand-sanitisers slowly fade over time.
COVID-19 didn’t bring an end to competition; and any forthcoming slump seems likely to accentuate it. Most firms, particularly those with an established ‘brand’, will need to have multiple plans ready to go.
They must, however, be willing to let go of an existing idea of what is ‘the right way to go’ and devise innovative ways to reach customers, suppliers, civil society, and others. This should lead to the prioritisation of people, planet and profit.
Over the course of the crisis we have been bombarded with video ads, emails and other digital outreach initiatives. But with all the noise, especially on social media, consumers seem likely to be drawn towards a softer, more subtle, tone.
Some brands have opted to move slowly as markets reopen, ‘playing it safe’ on the path towards reactivity. Then there are those who remain conservative, considering the sensible choice to be unadventurous, amidst continuing uncertainties around how long the crisis will last. Although the show must go on, many entrepreneurs have slowed down on marketing and PR activities.
Little fresh content is being created in this phase, notwithstanding how many creative ‘zoom’ screens appear in the ‘lockdown creativity’ slots on popular news channels. Most creative companies and marketers are spending the time building new campaign narratives, initial creative, copy, and baseline graphics.
This can be a fertile period during which creative staff from media, R&D, marketing and sales are encouraged to engage in ‘blue sky thinking’ – brainstorming without limits – so as to deliver consequential output when the right time arrives. Executing new campaigns post-pandemic will demand muscle memory, not mental horsepower.
Business marketing over the years has demonstrated that leveraging genuine empathy can be a real asset. Think of the 90s ads for Nescafe and the story building ads of ‘a lot can happen over coffee.’
During the pandemic some companies have appealed directly to the issue. In the automobile sector for example Jeep released positive messages to encourage social distancing and ‘stay at home’ practices. It also says in online commercial that ‘with a little patience, the views will get better.’
Company databases retain the customer feedback and other date from research programs. This is an opportune time to develop an understanding of the emotions underlying people’s shifting attitudes and behaviours in the market.
Instead of repeating adverts, companies need to ensure they understand the process of customer engagement. The cultural and cognitive connection is equally important.
Best Practices Shared? Further examples…
There are some prominent examples to share in light of the above. Thus Dove created a slot shining a light on the courage of health care workers.
Also, companies like Budweiser and Burger King are focusing on social distancing and encouraging people to play their part by staying home. While Apple quickly mobilized their resources to produce much-needed PPEs, and Nike has temporarily removed its subscription fees for its health and exercise app to help people stay fit under quarantine.
Also, in some developed countries, there is growing appreciation that the ‘retail heroes’ who have often been working around the clock during the period of lockdown – a period that has strangled the capacity and also ability of the supply chain to function effectively.
While regrettably severe job cuts have already happened all over the planet, big-box retailers in Canada such as Loblaw and Save-on-Food have been paying extra wages to their front-line staff as a gesture of appreciation for their efforts. And they are certainly ensuring customers are up to date with these initiatives.
It is a good time to take stock and recalibrate. This is a period of inaction in many sectors, which at least gives a space for businesses to rethink their messages in newsletters, and how ‘new content’ on social media can be created; along with considering how all the adverts, emails, webinars and podcasts may be overhauled in light of current consumer priorities.
Marketing campaigns are known to have solid long-term goals, especially in the case of brand management. This pandemic has asked us to rethink some of our fundamentals afresh. For example, short term planning and incremental innovation may work wonders in the immediate post-pandemic stage.
Therefore, there will be new markets created, and new products introduced factoring in new demand amidst altered consumer patterns and long-term behavioural changes. Relying on detailed long-range planning may actually hurt an institution.
With rapidly changing market dynamics survival may become the priority rather than turnover (of profit and not of employees) to ensure a firm’s viability. As markets, and the nature of markets, evolve with e-tails (Amazon, Alibaba, etc.), AI-driven SMEs, green supply chain etc., the essence of marketing and its channels must realign with company goals and values. They cannot simply rely on on flooding inboxes and other ways of dominating our screens.
Feature Image: Daniele Idini