3 Ways to Localise Campaigns for Emerging Economies

Nowadays, when companies struggle with high levels of competitiveness in Europe, US or Japan and they meet difficulties in markets which seem saturated, new opportunities come up in rapidly changing emerging economies.

Current emerging markets, usually identified as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), commonly have huge and young populations, as well as a fast growth rate which makes them attractive for businesses.

People usually generalise by grouping all emerging countries together. They actually share some common characteristics, nevertheless each of them has its specificities and requires strong cross-cultural knowledge for localisation. Even if we speak about emerging countries at large, you won’t do business in India in the same way you would in Brazil.

Within 10 years emerging market consumers will represent 4.2 billion people and they will contribute to an annual consumption of $30 trillion. The figures make us realise their potential and present them as ‘the place to be’ for business today.

You have to keep in mind the existing challenges to localise your campaigns in those markets. Many aspects make it trickier than it seems.

Manage cultural national diversity: A regional approach

A key word to describe the emerging countries would be intra-national diversity. It’s not only about diversity in terms of languages or religion but also ethnic cultures, specific industries by regions, difference of development of infrastructure and economy, landscapes and the climate.

Consider these tips to help you adopt the right localisation strategy:

  • Think about a regional approach: Select and list two or three of the most important aspects you want to base your brand strategy on – A specific type of consumer to target, the industry your brand takes part in or the resources you would need locally for example. Then analyse each region of your target country and choose strategic areas most suitable for your business.
  • Consider midsize cities seriously: Over the past few years, we have noticed a flow of middle class in the emerging countries. Through this “modern exodus”, people usually come from the countryside to midsize cities rather than to capitals and huge cities (eg: Suape in Brazil, Vladivostok in Russia, Raipur or Puducherry in India). Those midsize cities present the best opportunities due to a massive rise of the population but also thanks to less competitiveness between businesses compared to big ones (eg. Sao Paolo: saturated market).
  • Anticipate explosive growth: either in time and geographically, identify hot-zones and chill-out-zones (trends usually follow an S curve).
  • Get cross-cultural knowledge: Look for information about customs in doing business in your target country and build business etiquette which clearly explain and summarise the Dos and Don’ts in doing business there (Specifically: strong customer loyalty expected).

Specific population features

Trust relationship

In emerging markets trust is a fundamental thing in business, even more than in European and US societies. Indeed, trusting and knowing your audience and stakeholders well are key to doing business in emerging economies.

Two things to keep in mind:

  • Build strong relationships with business partners (with local suppliers, local distributors) Business relationships in emerging markets usually work on a fair’s fair basis. The Guanxi concept in China is one of the most significant example.
  • Target to get strong brand awareness from your customers.

Young population and novice shopper

Emerging economies are usually characterised by very large young populations. Those past few years, the middle class has grown so fast and it now represents the most important part of emerging market populations in terms of amount of people and purchasing power potential. By 2030, the growing middle class will represent one million people in India and around one billion in China.

The challenge for marketers?

The increasing middle classes get more and more purchasing power and are still novice shoppers. Marketers need to educate them, so they understand marketing practices by reaching them through cultural message adaption.

Also, as young populations, they are very responsive to marketing, especially to certain marketing channels.

Marketing behaviour: 3 points you should focus on for your marketing strategy to reach audiences in emerging economies

Social Media and mobile devices use: don’t miss the boat

People in emerging markets mostly access internet through mobile devices rather than desktop computers. In order to reach more people, make sure to adapt and configure your website for mobile.

The social media trend seems inverted today, now the most active population on social media are from emerging countries. People in emerging markets use social media regularly and are really responsive to information and marketing they can get from this channel.

Although global social media accounts are used, local ones are as popular, sometimes even more, than global ones and have the advantage of being in their own language. In China and Russia mostly, Facebook is not used that much due to access restrictions but also due to cultural trends. Chinese and Russian people have their own national social networks which would seem more relevant to use since they will have much more impact locally.

  • For China, there is no access or very restricted access to Facebook so, as a substitute, QQ is the most popular local social media there.
  • For Russia: VK (originally VKontakte)

Word of mouth

Word of mouth is an important and efficient marketing behaviour in emerging countries. The culture there means people tend to live very closely to family and friends. They usually count on peer networks to influence their purchases and to select what brands to trust.

Generating positive word of mouth is crucial to reinforce brand recognition. In China, 71% of people agreed their purchase decisions were influenced by the recommendations of friends and family, 49% in South Africa, whereas this percentage falls down to 29% in the UK, demonstrating the necessity for strong brand awareness.

Some tips?

  • Identify your most efficient sources of word of mouth asking new customers how they heard about you for the first time. Then push advertisement for the 5 or 10 most relevant sources.
  • Reward customers who recommend your brand and generate word of mouth for you through loyalty process.
  • Consider unsatisfied customers and find alternatives to change their vision of your brand. Negative word of mouth can strongly damage your brand image.
  • Be visible, participating in strategic popular events through sponsorship for instance. It will also demonstrate your local involvement and make you closer to your audience.

Email and SMS marketing

Compared with European customers who have already reached saturation point in receiving promotional messages, email campaigns are on the contrary really appreciated and efficient in emerging markets. Both SMS and email marketing seem really viable strategies enabling a significant ROI. Despite the time it costs to implement such strategies, it permits you to reach many people and it’s an affordable direct way regarding cost.

And because figures are even more explicit than long sentences, remember that:

  • Around 51% of emerging market audience are willing to receive advertising messages by SMS.
  • Almost 45% affirm that they would open promotional emails if they received them.

Last but not least: Translation

All information and messages you can deliver to your customers will have much more impact to them if they are in their native language. In fact, 55% of customers state that they give more importance to information in their native language than the price of any product of service. The perfect balance between global brand consistency and local relevance is reached during the translation and transcreation process. Sometimes global marketers neglect the translation and transcreation process, but if we consider that 60% of people from non-English speaking countries would never purchase products with English only advertisements, then translation becomes an imperative step in the localisation process.

If you dare to seize the opportunity of emerging economies keep in mind, “Determination today leads to success tomorrow”.


Freedman International
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