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A cut and paste approach to global marketing simply doesn’t work. Just because a product or service is a hit in one region doesn’t mean it’ll enjoy similar success in other locations.

Take China, for example.

China may be the world’s second largest economy but it has always struggled to expand into foreign territories. Chinese companies commonly fail to effectively localize their brands and offerings to cater to the preferences and cultural structures of consumers in different markets.

To put China’s struggles to make an international mark in context, a 2014 survey by Millward Brown found that only 22% of consumers outside of China could actually recognize a Chinese brand. Similarly, the 2015 Interbrand Best Global Brands list only featured one Chinese name – telecom equipment and smartphone maker,  Huawei, which ranked 94th.

The power of perception

One of the biggest problems lies with perceptions. Many consumers have negative associations with items labeled “Made in China”, perceiving them to be poorly made or cheap imitations of better quality products. But the reality is that much of the global manufacturing industry is located in China and many of the brands we use everyday  – such as Samsung and Apple – actually outsource a lot of their manufacturing to Chinese firms.  

Failing to properly test the waters

It isn’t just Chinese brands that have failed to localize their offerings effectively; Western brands often struggle to meet the needs of Chinese consumers too. Take Google, for example, a massively successful company across the globe that has failed to find success on Chinese shores. It may be tough to believe that the search engine giant would falter anywhere but Chinese consumers typically favor domestic companies, such as Baidu and Alibaba.  

The problem with playing pretend

While localization is important, it would be foolish for a brand to pretend that they’re from one location, when they’re actually from somewhere else. Many Chinese brands who set out with global expansion in mind, masquerade as foreign companies to seem more credible and upscale. La Chapelle, Marisfrolg and Metersbonwe are all Chinese fashion brands that have chosen rather ambiguous names because they wanted to sound more Western.

Understanding your customer

Companies entering new markets need to consider two things – a location’s unique legal, regulatory and governmental environment and the different consumer preferences of the people living in that region. Many Chinese companies neglect to do adequate market research before entering foreign markets and have suffered both tangible and intangible losses. One of the essentials to globalization and product localization success is having locals on the ground who have extensive knowledge of the market and of customer preferences. Often, Chinese firms adopt a centralized approach with all decisions being made by senior management somewhere in China. Removing the freedom and autonomy from local staff hinders them from leveraging their knowledge of the region to make smarter decisions.

The reality is that even the best product or service from the most successful company could fail when making an international move. This makes it ever more important to partner with the right translation and localization services provider to ensure that you have a proper understanding of customer needs and market expectations. Want to better ensure that your messages are always appropriate for your target audience? Download our Marketing Messaging Guide to find out more.


Marketing messaging guide

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