Wouldn’t it be ideal for businesses in the 21st century, if the world was just one big supercontinent like it was some 300 million years ago? Just imagine conducting ecommerce for one enormous landmass that was encircled by only one massive ocean. If we all resided relatively close to one another, spoke roughly the same language, agreed with each other on social issues, and shared in the same collective history, our lives would certainly be less complicated, and the ecommerce industry would be as pleasant as a walk in the park. But man, would life be boring. And who needs boring?
Fast forward 300 million years after Pangea, and the world now consists of seven continents, four oceans (or five, depending on who you ask), and over 7 billion people with different thoughts, opinions, belief systems, and values. Heck, in the United States alone, there are approximately 330 million people and roughly 350 spoken languages.
Nope. The world is not the Pangea of the past. It is made up of diverse people, lively music, exquisite food, breathtaking scenery – and ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream. But along with the positives come challenges – especially for companies that want to expand their businesses and offer their products and services to online shoppers in different countries. How do you begin? Can you simply take your brand as it is and market it overseas? No. You can’t. If that were the case, ecommerce wouldn’t require language services providers, and it certainly wouldn’t require translation. Companies could simply spread the same message on the global market as they do on the local one, and all would be well with the world – but it just isn’t that simple.
A company in the United States for instance, that sells a clothing line for teenagers and does fairly well in the American online market might want to do some research before embarking on marketing campaigns in different parts of the globe. Some areas of the Middle East for instance, are much more conservative in their attire than those in the United States. A local company that prides itself with a brand that emphasizes national colors might experience consistent financial success on the national market but the company may want to think twice when attempting to market that same brand overseas. In other words, companies that simply take a local brand and attempt to market it globally might inadvertently inherit a significant revenue loss and lose an otherwise positive image.
Reaching out to a global market with a local view could end up costing your company a lot of money – not to mention its reputation. Companies engaging in global markets fair well when they take the time to study their target demographic. It might mean that their brand’s image will need some adjusting in order to adapt to different markets, but failing to address this in a culturally sensitive manner could literally damage your brand. And in today’s highly competitive global marketplace, if your brand receives a bad grade, your company’s ability to compete could be greatly compromised. One bad mention on Twitter or YouTube, and it could spread like wildfire.
One example of a product that has tried to survive the ages as well as the tides of social change both in the domestic and global arena, is dear old Barbie. Since her grand entrance in 1959, Barbie has not only seen social revolution – she has lived and embraced it. Throughout her almost 60 years of commercial success, even Barbie has needed rebranding from time to time. In fact, her creator, Mattel, stands out as a perfect example of a company paying attention to the ever-evolving social culture – both here in the United States and throughout the world. Barbie has not only challenged gender and racial stereotypes, but she is now weighing in on social issues that challenge the legitimacy of an individual’s sexual orientation. It seems that dear old Barbie has come a long way since her debut as the perfect bride and hostess of the late 1950s.
In 1965, Mattel created an astronaut Barbie some four years ahead of NASA’s mission to the moon and close to 20 years before the first American female astronaut traveled into space. Soon after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, an African American doll named Christie entered the market, and over the course of the next 20 years, dolls resembling women of Asian and Latin American decent would also share in the limelight. And let’s not forget Presidential Candidate Barbie that was first introduced almost a quarter of a century before Hillary Clinton even ran for the presidency of the United States. Presidential Barbie has been reappearing in the market for almost every presidential campaign year ever since her first introduction.
But her evolution didn’t stop there. After steady declines in sales from 2009 on, Mattel decided Barbie needed to go even further. In 2016, Mattel broke out with a bold campaign, starting with Barbie’s physical appearance. Barbie suddenly had a varied appearance in size, shape, skin tone, and hair texture. This was followed by an inspiring video ad campaign, entitled, Imagine the possibilities. The ad places young girls in very impressive leadership roles and in front of audiences that are initially surprised, but clearly receptive to the message. As if that wasn’t enough, Mattel has even entered into the LGBT controversy with a Barbie who wears a Love Wins t-shirt, supporting LGBT rights. She has even marketed a Barbie who wears a Muslim hijab. It seems Barbie is quite the progressive after all. By staying in tune and connected with its demographic far and wide, Mattel understands that by investing in the local – and the global – tides of social change, the payoffs could prove very fruitful.
Are you reaching out to the global market with a local view? Before you expand your brand overseas, stop and consider its message. Remember the old adage from our school days years ago? Of course you do. We were lectured before every test with the infamous warning – failure to prepare is preparation for failure! Some of us would listen, head home, and do our work – but some of us would not, and for the latter, the consequence was undeniably the walk of shame into our family home with a paper supporting the large, overbearing, red-marked F.
The time and effort it takes to do your due diligence and study the possible cultural implications of your local brand on the global market might just mean the difference between a successful or devastating campaign.
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