When companies purvey products overseas, they take a risk. The customers in one country might not embrace the product in the same way as other markets, and furthermore, the design of the good and service might not be in accordance with custom norms. However, businesses tackle this risk in hopes of tapping into a wider customer market that may in turn increase profits. Companies do not tread overseas lightly, however. They first design extensive international marketing strategies to minimise risk.
Part of the international marketing strategy is testing the product in foreign markets and assessing the cultural preferences of the foreign country. For instance, a Thai customer may be accustomed to flavours such as lemon grass and coconut, whereas a Tongan citizen may not. Testing methods include issuing samples, performing focus groups and conducting surveys. From these results, the product or packaging may be modified to fit the test group's preferences.
Multinational corporations must exert caution when promoting products overseas. For example, while a commercial showing scantily clad women holding bottles of body wash may be perfectly acceptable in Western countries, the population in Arab nations might view the same commercial and perceive it as crass and offensive. Strategies of product promotion include researching a country's celebrities for use of product endorsement and using popular television shows and songs for inclusion in brochures and magazine ads. Michael Czinkota and Ilkka Ronkainen, authors of "International Marketing," state a common method of product promotion is incorporating a cause with the marketing campaign. Unilever adapted this strategy when promoting washing powder in Europe by including lesson plans on fitness activities for teachers.
Branding and Product Recognition Strategy
Getting the country to adopt a product can be achieved using two different strategies. The first is assimilating the brand and product using cultural icons and objects of familiarity. Frito Lay uses this strategy when using images and flavours similar to those found in the country. Mexican crisps may include spicy seasoning, for instance. The second method is treating the product like an exotic foreign commodity. Evian water and luxury car brands utilise this strategy by purveying their goods as rare and striking.
As explained in the book, "Contemporary Marketing" by David Kurtz, et al., distribution strategy is just as essential as marketing: Dell recognised this when its computer sales tanked in China. Because Chinese consumers were not accustomed to having a computer customised, assembled and finally delivered to them, local retailers continued to dominate the market. Thus, successfully penetrating retail stores and getting local shops to distribute the product is a critical component of marketing.
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