Acting globally, thinking locally: why implementation is key to a successful international marketing campaign

All too often, brands fail to give implementation the attention it deserves. But it’s such an important part of the marketing mix it simply can’t be ignored. Just as a conductor controls the orchestra to bring an artist’s music to life, great implementation is the underplayed global marketing skill that can make a brand sing all over the world.

And when we say implementation, we don’t just mean translation. We are talking about planning and managing a project from inception, through key localisation stages and all the way to the launch. Follow our four-step guide to achieving global consistency and local relevance with your next campaign.

  1. Work with local teams to create a global creative brief

Relying on central assumptions can be a recipe for disaster as differences in culture, language, history and values can drastically impact the effectiveness of a brand’s message. As a result, what resonates in one market might have little to no impact in a number of others. That’s why it’s important to work closely with local teams and carry out market-specific research to ensure the creative idea can be successfully adapted.

Regular status updates will avoid unexpected feedback when it’s too late in the campaign or too expensive to make changes. These will also ensure greater buy-in from the markets, who will have more time to plan their local campaign and media buys.

At the end of each campaign, encourage all involved to review, validate and share feedback so everyone learns for the next one. Remember: the overall aim is to consistently come up with a campaign concept that meets the global brand aims and is adaptable for local market needs.

  1. Consider every single detail

A deep understanding of different market needs should inform every single word of a campaign. Most important is the tagline, which sits in prime position for most assets. It is the memorable signature of the brand or campaign but sometimes, when it comes to localisation, time pressures reduce this vitally important copy to just another piece of translation.

Beyond translating a global tagline for a local market, you need to be sensitive to things like:

  • Humour: something that is hilarious in Europe may not be funny in Asia. Worse still, it could be offensive. It is not impossible to make a funny tagline work in multiple markets, but do the research and tread carefully.
  • Metaphors: those related to local superstitions or proverbs may not apply to other markets, or resonate less strongly, therefore weakening the campaign.
  • Traditions: referencing local traditions can work really well, but be cautious when using ‘international’ traditions like Valentine’s Day for all markets, as they do differ.

Devote time to writing a transcreation brief and try to finalise all taglines as early as possible in the campaign to avoid misunderstandings or costly revisions later on. It is worth noting that many markets are happy with English language taglines. By consulting local brand managers and implementation agencies it might become obvious that all that is need is a change to the imagery.

  1. Look beyond the words to the images

As we said before, successful localisation only happens when the implementation plan looks beyond translation. That’s why it’s important to also consider imagery. Do the campaign’s visuals work for all markets or should they be replaced for local adaptation purposes? Consider the following elements:

  • Landscape: typical backgrounds and, of course, images of people will vary from market to market.
  • Animals: be aware of the various connotations animals carry in different cultures. A picture of children playing with a dog in their garden is an image of household happiness in Europe and the Americas, but would cause offence in the Middle East.
  • Colours: these are very important in some markets as they will have positive and negative associations and values that could support or scupper a campaign’s values.

And when it comes to design, remember that creative assets will need to accommodate a variety of copy lengths and styles so mock-up layouts for bilingual assets. This means allowing space for 50% additional text, coming up with creative approaches for right-to-left languages, and choosing fonts for all target markets.

  1. Prioritise communication and collaboration every step of the way

Global brand managers should make the most of their local teams’ expertise and consult them throughout the creative process by sharing initial ideas, wireframes, storyboards, scripts, CMS designs and so on. In fact, local teams can add value every step of the way – for example, they can help inform a distribution plan by advising which social media platforms resonate the most in their market.

Having the right people on board from the beginning can make or break an implementation plan, and this includes technical partners such as a localisation agency. Also key to a successful implementation plan is the global brand manager’s ability to:

  • define end-to-end campaign processes
  • assign clear roles to global, regional and local teams, and establish a single point of contact to maintain consistency and keep knowledge flowing between translators, validators, developers, client stakeholders and the creative agency
  • determine what resources are available and fill any gaps by looking to internal service departments, global and local marketing teams, agencies or other suppliers
  • set up deadlines and project tracking against every deliverable for every market
  • gain valuable insights from past campaigns – can they identify any obvious product limitations, legal restrictions or cultural nuances that need to be considered from the outset?

There is no ROI until a campaign is launched and successful. So think implementation from the start to the end and take the brand further, wider and faster than ever before.

Freedman International
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