Standardisation saves costs
We ahve already discuss the question of product standardisation and the same type question arises when we get to export promotions. Despite cultural and environmental differences,
significant economies of scale (and hence cost savings)
can be achieved by standardising your international promotional efforts.
Obviously, it is not possible to standardise all aspects
of an advertising campaign, for example - language differences alone
would prohibit this. However, it may be possible to have a
standardised or common promotional strategy, creative idea
and message, and in many cases also a common medium. Standardisation
reduces costs such as those related to artwork, copy-writing,
block production, printing, film production and the use
of creative staff and, in many cases, may actually improve
sales. The Avis Rent-a-Car company, for example, achieved
considerable success in Europe with the "We Try Harder"
slogan that it introduced in the USA
What to bear in mind when standardising your promotional campaign
When deciding whether or not to standardise,
you should take the following factors into consideration:
- The general similarity or diversity of the markets
to be covered. Where cultural differences are minimal,
and income, education and lifestyles are similar, buying
motives are likely to be the same.
- The nature of the product. Industrial goods and tourist
items tend to be purchased on objective criteria that
make standardised advertising particularly suitable.
- Local advertising agency standards. Where the pool
of creative talent is limited, standardised advertising
is likely to be more successful than a locally tailored
- Government and other restrictions which may prohibit
the use of certain media and/or advertising copy themes
- The availability of certain media, such as television,
the Internet, or radio in the countries concerned
Where standardised promotional campaigns are not appropriate,
prototype campaigns may be suitable. Prototype campaigns
are usually based on commonalties identified by consumer
research in a number of representative markets. The prototypes,
which are usually prepared at your firms's head office,
are then dispatched to local representatives (e.g. your agents or sales staff) in each foreign
market for modification to meet specific market needs.
Levi Strauss & Co., the American originator
of blue jeans, for example, introduced an advertising strategy
"where the broad outlines of the campaign are given
but the details are not".
Selling Levi's around the World
Levi's are sold in more than 70 countries
with different cultural and political aspects affecting
advertising appeal. The company is evaluating its
present advertising strategy to determine whether
to apply a world wide strategy to all advertising
or whether to settle on localised campaigns in each
country. Currently, the company creates campaigns
locally or regionally. Here are some of the appeals
- In Europe, TV commercials have
a super-sexy appeal.
- In the United Kingdom, ads emphasise that
Levi's are an American brand and star an all-American
hero, the cowboy, in fantasy wild west settings.
- In Japan, local jeans companies had already
positioned themselves as American. To differentiate
Levi's, the company representing the brand, positioned
themselves as legendary American jeans with commercial
themes such as "Heroes Wear Levi's" featuring
clips of cult figures like James Dean. The Japanese
responded - awareness of Levi's in Japan went from
35% to 95% as a result of this campaign.
- In Brazil, the market is strongly influenced
by fashion trends emanating from the Continent rather
than from America. Thus, the ads for Brazil are filmed
in Paris featuring young people, cool amidst a wild
Parisian traffic scene.
- In Australia, commercials were designed to build
brand awareness with product benefits. The lines
"fit look tight, doesn't feel tight, can feel
comfortable all night" and "a legend doesn't
come apart at the seams" highlighted Levi's
quality image and "since 1850 Levi's jeans have
handled everything from bucking broncos" stressed
Levi's unique positioning.
(Source: P R Cateora, Strategic International Marketing)
Problems encountered with standardisation
Special problems that the exporter might
experience with standardisation which are related to national
differences, usually affect:
- The advertising message
- The selection of appropriate advertising media
- The selection of suitable advertising agencies
These factors are discussed in more detail below:
The advertising message
Legal restrictions and social constraints
that vary from country to country quite often hamper freedom
concerning the advertising message. In the case of the local export community,
standardised advertising copy is commonly generated in
South Africa and then translated for use in other countries,
a practice that, if incorrectly handled, can negate the
entire value of an advertising campaign. An apparently
correctly translated message may become either incomprehensible
or, at worst, make both the manufacturer and the product
look ridiculous. A classic example of such an error was
the translation of the English proverb, "Out of sight,
out of mind" which, when translated into a foreign
language, read "Invisible things are insane!"
To avoid the pitfalls of incorrect translation,
the following rules should be adhered to:
- Translate thoughts and ideas, do not
provide a literal translation of words
- Copy should be designed and written with translation
- Unusual idiomatic expressions and slang should be
- A native, professional should be used
- The same language spoken in a number of different
countries may have differences in its use - Spanish spoken
in Colombia, for example, differs from Spanish spoken in
- Local nationals who have experience in the relevant
product area, e.g. agents or distributors, should always
check the translation
- The final proof should be re-checked by both the
translator and the agents/distributors
Most advertising in the world is done through
national media. However, where standardised advertising
is planned, the exporter may choose to use international
media. i.e. publications which receive coverage in a number
of different countries, e.g. consumer magazines such as
Reader's Digest, Time or Business Week, or various trade
and technical magazines. Ultimately, the exporter must
select the media which are most likely to reach the target
market cost-effectively. In achieving this objective, the
following would normally be considered:
Suitable media may either be restricted in
use or unavailable in the target market. Television advertising
is often state-controlled and advertising time is strictly
limited both in terms of the number of minutes and in terms
of the number of minutes per product per annum. Examples of problems you may encounter, include the following:
- The advertising of certain products, such as tobacco
products or alcoholic beverages may be forbidden or restricted
in terms of the law.
- In many developing countries, it is difficult to
acquire information on the circulation of publications
or the type of people that they attract.
- Where literacy levels are low, radio advertising,
for example, may be more appropriate than press advertising.
- Many countries tax advertising while other countries
charge a special tax on imported advertising material.
The effect this is likely to have on the marketing budget
should be borne in mind.
- Where the target country is multilingual, such as
in Switzerland, regional media which specialise in the
language spoken in that region, should be considered.
- The quality of reproduction provided by some media
may be unacceptable and this aspect should be investigated
prior to a final choice being made.
In choosing a suitable advertising agency,
the following should be taken into account:
- The extent of market coverage
of the agency. Not all markets that you may be interested
in may be covered by the agency in question.
- The quality of service offered. This differs from
market to market and may even differ between branches of
the same agency.
- The extent, in financial terms, of the business
offered to the agency. Major international agencies and
certain foreign agencies may not handle small advertising
- The need for international co-ordination. Where
the advertising budget is considerable and a standardised
campaign is planned, good co-ordination and control, usually
achieved through a single international agency, may be
- Larger concerns with operating bases in other countries
may prefer to leave agency selection to a local subsidiary.
This could also be the case in respect of joint venture
arrangements or where advertising is done in conjunction
with a local distributor.