Global and international advertising are alternative communication strategies that companies employ to drive demand for goods and services in foreign markets. International advertising strategies are tailored to reflect regional, national, and local market cultural differences and preferences. Global advertising embraces standardized strategies in which advertising content is the same worldwide under the premise that the entire world is a single entity.
Globalism as a concept in marketing and advertising was first introduced by the late Ted Levitt, marketing professor at Harvard Business School. In a 1983 “Harvard Business Journal” article entitled “The Globalization of Markets,” Levitt observed that despite deep-rooted cultural differences, people were becoming globally homogenized. In consequence, he proposed a new paradigm: standardize products and advertise globally to take advantage of what he saw as huge economies of scale. Companies would gain sales volume and market shares. Consumers would enjoy lower prices.
Levitt foresaw globalization as giving companies economies of scale in both production and distribution. Centralized marketing command and control would simplify the coordination and execution of marketing and advertising programs to decrease costs while delivering a consistent brand or company message worldwide.
Think and Act Locally
Despite the allure of global advertising benefits, market variances do exist in terms of cultural differences, differing rates of economic and market development, media availability, and legal restrictions. Many companies, upon producing unwanted results from executing global campaigns, have reverted back to international advertising strategies. For example, Douglas Daft, former Chief Executive Officer of Coca Cola, was quoted: “The world was demanding greater flexibility, responsiveness and local sensitivity, while we were further consolidating decision making and standardizing our practices.”
Upon assuming the Coke leadership in 2000, Daft introduced a new regime, “think locally and act locally,” which is the essence of international advertising. Local market managers were empowered to introduce new products, set pricing, and adapt advertising campaigns to host cultures.
When Global Advertising Works
Marketers generally agree that global advertising can work under certain conditions. Philip Kotler, marketing professor at Northwestern University, says that global strategies work best in categories where the trend toward global integration is strong and local cultural influences are weak, such as the consumer electronics market. According to an international marketing study guide from Villanova University, global advertising may be appropriate for brands that use image campaigns with universal appeals based on similar tastes, interests, needs and values.
Many multinational marketers embrace a compromise between global and international advertising, which is often called “glocal” advertising. Glocal advertising is best captured in the phrase, “think global and act local.” Glocal marketers standardize certain core elements of the advertising strategy while incorporating local cultural influences into advertising executions. According to Wind, Sthanunathan and Malcolm in their “Harvard Business Review” article, “Great Advertising Is Both Local and Global,” an effective glocal strategy requires a global appeal that inspires universal motivation, a brand vision “that respects local nuances,” and an organizational structure that encourages collaboration between the global advertising strategists and local implementers.
When transitioning your business into the global economy, develop a comprehensive understanding of the influences in your host markets that could shape your marketing strategies and advertising content. Always use local market experts — people who understand your business and the referenced cultures. Adjust your management structure to have the flexibility to make marketing and advertising modifications as required.