Communication Marketing Tools
Some of the important product communication strategies used in international marketing are as follows:
A product can be marketed abroad only with the help of a communication strategy, which is what conveys the promotional theme to consumers abroad, allowing them to form perceptions about the product, spelling out, in turn, the quantitative and qualitative sales for the manufacturers.
Keegan has identified five major product communication strategies, international marketers can chose from to convey the message to customers in different foreign markets.
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Companies can pursue three strategies to penetrate foreign markets.
Some firms will simply adopt the same product or communication strategy used in their home market.
This is extension. Other companies prefer to adapt their strategy to the local marketplace.
This strategy of adaptation enables the firm to cater to the needs and wants of its foreign customers. A third alternative is to adopt an invention strategy, where products are designed from scratch for the international marketplace.
These three basic strategies can be extended into five strategic options which are as follows:
Strategic Option 1:
Product and Communications Extension – Dual Extension: At one extreme, a company might choose to market a standardized product using a uniform communications strategy.
Early entrants in the international arena will often opt for this approach. Also, small companies with few resources typically prefer it.
For them, the potential pay-offs of customized products or advertising campaigns usually do not justify the costs of adaptation. Dual extension might also work when the company targets a ‘global’ segment with similar needs.
The Japanese firm, Shiseido, the world’s sixth-largest cosmetics company by sales volume, sells in Europe, the Americas and across the Asia- Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.
The company’s strategy is a global multi-brand strategy, with each brand similarly positioned in each market, including near-identical advertising and packaging.
Generally speaking, a standardized product policy coupled with a uniform communication strategy offers substantial savings because of economies of scale.
This strategy is basically product-driven rather than market-driven. The downside is that it is likely to alienate foreign customers, who might switch to a local or other foreign competing brand that is more in tune with their needs.
In many industries, modern production processes, such as Computer-Aided Design/Computer-Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM) technologies, obviate the need for largo production batch sizes.
Blundstone, the unique and highly successful Australian boot brand, exports the same range and is similarly positioned in each of its international markets. It has been able to leverage the inherent features of the products and capitalize on its Australian heritage to differentiate itself and become an international success using the dual product and communication extension strategy.
Strategic Option 2:
Product Extension – Communications Adaptation: Because of differences in the cultural or competitive environment, often the same product is used to offer benefits or functions that dramatically differ from those in the home market.
These differences between the foreign and home market drive companies to market the same product using customized advertising campaigns.
Although it retains the economies of scale in manufacturing, the firm sacrifices potential savings on the advertising front.
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Clothing Company Levi’s uses this approach. Although the famous Levi’s brand name carries clout in many parts of the globe, and the basics such as manufacturing and distribution are pursued by Levi’s relatively uniformly, there are wide differences in its communication strategies within different markets.
As a consequence, Levi’s produces both global brand positioning ads and localized ads that appeal to specific markets.
For example, for the British market, where Levi’s have a particular status among the young, TV ads highlight British icons of youth culture including Triumph cars and quirky celebrities, while for the French market, ads stress the perceived individual nature of French youth.
In Japan Levi’s are positioned as an American icon and the communications strategy reflects this. For many years, Levi’s was slow to recognize females as an important segment, so recently communications strategies have been adapted to fit the aspirations of young women.
Strategic Option 3:
Product Adaptation – Communications Extension: Alternatively, firms might adapt their product but market it using a standardized communications strategy.
Local market circumstances often favour the case of product adaptation. Another source for product adaptation is the company’s expansion strategy.
Many companies add brands to their product portfolio via acquisitions of local companies.
To leverage the existing brand equity enjoyed by the acquired brand, the local brand is usually retained.
Although these factors lead to product adaptation, similar core values and buying behaviours among consumers using the product might present an opening for a harmonized communications strategy.
Within such a context, clever marketing ideas can be transferred from one country to another country, despite the product-related differences with their core brand, ‘British Petroleum’.
BP delivers a series of adapted energy products in more than 100 countries (e.g., different formulae of petrol to meet each country’s unique regulations).
However, the core brand values remain almost identical and the communication strategies and commercials are very similar in each market. The logo and most visible aspects of BP are markedly consistent in most countries.
Strategic Option 4:
Product and Communications Adaptation – Dual Adaptation: Differences in both the cultural and physical environments across countries call for a dual adaptation strategy.
In such circumstances, the most viable option for international expansion is adaptation of the company’s product and communication strategy.
Slim-Fast adapts both product and advertising to comply with varying government regulations for weight-loss products.
When Slim-Fast was first launched in Germany, its ads used a local celebrity.
In the U.K., testimonials for diet ads may not feature celebrities. Instead, the U.K.
introduction campaign centered around everyday people. Also, the product gets adapted to the local markets. In the U.K., banana is the most popular flavour but this flavour is not sold in continental Europe.
Strategic Option 5: Product Invention:
Genuinely global marketers try to figure-out how to create products with a global scope rather than just for a single country.
Instead of simply adapting existing products or services to the local market conditions, their mindset is to zero in on global market opportunities. Black & Decker is a good example of a company that adopts the product invention approach to international market expansion.
Black & Decker aims to bring out new products that cater to common needs and opportunities around the world to manage its global product development process. Black & Decker set up a worldwide household board.
This steering committee approves global plans, allocates resources and gives direction and support, among other tasks.
One of the product innovations flowing from this global product planning approach is the SnakeLight Flexible Flashlight.
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The SnakeLight was first launched in North America, and then, six months later, in Europe, Latin America and Australia. The product addresses a global need for portable lighting. The SnakeLight proved to be major hit around the world.