Do you know what your company’s name, tagline or message means in the language of your target market?

Marketing and advertising are often very different from country to country. What works well within one culture may get you into trouble in another. When developing a blueprint for global expansion, one essential step is to examine global advertising campaigns from all angles.

Braniff International Airlines once had a slogan “Fly in Leather” promoting its finely upholstered seats. Translated into Spanish, Braniff’s message meant, “Fly Naked.”

While this oversight likely caused quite a chuckle amongst Spanish speakers and some embarrassment for Braniff, things could have been much worse.

There are many things to consider when globalizing a brand. From the product itself, the price you charge, and the words you use to promote your product or service. All elements are critically important. Following is a basic outline I call the 4 Ps of Marketing. Marketer E. Jerome McCarthy proposed this four-P classification in 1960; I have expanded it here for successful global advertising.

1. Product –

If you’re discussing advertising campaigns, then it’s expected you have already completed some preliminary due-diligence.

Have you discovered if your products and services are allowed in the target country? Are there any export restrictions from the Department of Commerce (EAR) or the Department of Defense (ITAR)?

With favorable information, you can begin examining if your product must be adjusted in any way to fit cultural preferences.

Making adjustments to meet the needs of a different culture can be tricky for a brand – even fatal. Careful research is required to avoid a branding blunder or full-out PR crisis. You must also determine the life cycle of the product and consider various product development strategies.

Be sure to consult with someone knowledgeable about the country, culture, and language before you launch. Doing so will save you time, money and potential ridicule.

2. Price –

The price you charge for your product will affect everything else you do. Adjusting price will have an impact on your marketing strategy and may affect demand.

Price should be set to compliment the marketing mix.  Customer’s perceived value and competition will also determine to some degree what you can charge.

When developing a global advertising campaign, it’s important to examine if a new pricing strategy is required to deal with variations in the local competition. Each market can vary greatly – both within a country as well as across an entire region. Careful market research is required to establish correct pricing in global markets.

3. Placement –

Product placement represents your distribution channels. A sales channel is your road map or flight plan depicting how your company will bring its products or services to market.

Sales channels can include a company sales force, internet marketing, wholesalers, distributors or telemarketers. Marketers must know how the target market prefers to buy, and have a presence in that space, whether a retail store, a call center or the internet.

Product placement can also be a technique used to subtly promote a product through non-traditional or unexpected means. Knowing how customers in targeted regions make purchases is critical for global brand expansion.

For a global advertising campaign to be successful, product placement must be well received.

4. Promotion –

Promotion represents, all the methods of communication a marketer may use to provide information to different parties about the product. This can include advertising, public relations, online marketing, and word-of-mouth.

If your company desires to go fully global, rather than penetrate only a few new markets, you’ll need to craft a universal message. One that will resonate with a global audience. Examine your current message and ask if it can reach across cultures?

When FIAT released an ad in Italy featuring celebrity Richard Gere driving a Lancia Delta to Tibet,  the Chinese were offended because of Gere’s support of the Dalai Lama. Protestors declared they would never buy a FIAT, simply because of the celebrity used in the ad.

Enlist the advice of an expert, someone familiar with the cultural patterns, to determine if there’s a potential for unexpected responses.

Creating a global advertising campaign to take a product into new markets takes a great deal of time and attention to detail.  Every feature of the price, packaging, placement and promotion must be examined.  Even experienced brand marketers have failed when they cut corners thinking their brand would transcend cultural barriers.

Culture affects everything in advertising. Being knowledgeable about the target culture and related symbols is critical to success. Creating a campaign that confuses or offends can cost you a lot of money and damage your brand.

Before launching a global advertising campaign, be sure to translate the words in your company’s name or tagline into the language of the target country to check for meaning. It’s best to work with an experienced team that knows the various nuances in your target country. An experienced consultant will help you adjust your campaign for regulatory compliance and market acceptance.


Ana Fontes is the Executive Vice President and co-founder of Blue Sky Innovations Group. Ana is a multilingual native of Brazil and an American citizen. She has been working in cross-cultural markets for 27-years providing marketing and consulting services to many international and US-based companies. Ana can be reached at 972-294-5811.

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