When launching a product into foreign markets firms can use a standard marketing mix or adapt the marketing mix, to suit the country they are carrying out their business activities in. This article takes you through each element of the marketing mix and the arguments for and against adapting it suit each foreign market.
The diagram below illustrates the two options available to firms when they are devising their international marketing mix strategy.
International Marketing Mix:Product
Basic marketing concepts tell us that we will sell more of a product if we aim to meet the needs of our target market. In international markets this will involve taking into consideration a number of different factors including consumer's cultural backgrounds, religion, buying habits and levels of personal disposable income. In many circumstances a company will have to adapt their product and marketing mix strategy to meet local "needs and wants" that cannot be changed. McDonalds is a global player however, their burgers are adapted to local needs. In India where a cow is a sacred animal their burgers contain chicken or fish instead of beef. In Mexico McDonalds burgers come with chilli sauce. Coca-cola is some parts of the world taste sweeter than in other places.
The arguments for standardisation state that the process of adapting the product to local markets does little more than add to the overall cost of producing the product and weakens the brand on the global scale. In today’s global world, where consumers travel more, watch satellite television, communicate and shop internationally over the internet, the world is a smaller than it used to be. Because of this there is no need to adapt products to local markets. Brands such as MTV, Nike, Levis are all successful global brands where they have a standardised approach to their marketing mix, all these products are targeted at similar groups globally.
As you can see both strategies; using a standard product and an customised product can work just as well. The right approach for each organisation will depend on their product, strength of the brand and the foreign market that the marketing is aimed at.
International Marketing Mix: Promotion
As with international product decisions an organisation can either adapt or standardise their promotional strategy and message. Advertising messages in countries may have to be adapted because of language, political climate, cultural attitudes and religious practices. For example a promotional strategy in one country could cause offence in another. Every aspect of promotional detail will require research and planning one example is the use of colour; red is lucky in China and worm by brides in India, whilst white is worn by mourners in India and China and brides in the United Kingdom. Many organisation adapt promotion strategies to suit local markets as cultural backgrounds and practices affect what appeals to consumers.
The level of media development and availability will also need to be taken into account. Is commercial television well established in your host country? What is the level of television penetration? How much control does the government have over advertising on TV, radio and Internet? Is print media more popular than TV?
Before designing promotional activity for a foreign market it would be expedient to complete a PEST analysis so that you have a complete understanding of the factors operating in the foreign market you would like to enter.
the general economic situation of the country and how this will influence pricing.
The internet has created further challenges as customers can view global prices and purchase items from around the world. This has increased the level of competition and with it pricing pressures, as global competitors may have lower operating costs.
International Marketing Mix:Place
The Place element of the marketing mix is about distributing a product or service to the customer, at the right place and at the right time. Distribution in national markets such as the United Kingdom will probably involve goods being moved in a chain from the manufacturer to wholesalers and onto retailers for consumers to buy from. In an overseas market there will be more parties involved because the goods need to be moved around a foreign market where business practices will be different to national markets. For example in Japan there are approximately five different types of wholesaler involved in the distribution chain. Businesses will need to investigate distribution chains for each country they would like to operate in. They will also need to investigate who they would like to sell their products and services to businesses, retailers, wholesaler or directly to consumers. The distribution strategy for each country a business operates in could be different due to profit margins and transportation costs.
Prior to designing an international marketing mix a business should carry out a PEST analysis for every country they would like to operate in. This will help them determine what elements of the marketing mix can be standardised and which elements will need adjustments to suit local needs. It may well be that a business is able to use a standard marketing mix in the majority of cases and only need to adjust it on the rare occasion. Or every country may need its own marketing mix.
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