Transfer your local marketing and business communication activities into the target country

Third fail in foreign trade

For simplicity’s sake, you take your local marketing and corporate communications with you to the target country.” That would then be mistake no. 3, which can be made abroad, describes Professor Peter Anterist, CEO of the global trust company InterGest, in his series on the “ten most popular” wooden paths in international business.

Do you like to travel? Have you ever switched on the TV in your hotel room while visiting another country, just to relieve the boredom of the room and to have something on in the background while you are brushing your teeth? Isn‘t it interesting to see how familiar products are advertised quite differently there to the way we are used to at home?

Well, that is something that Mr. M from G obviously never noticed, either because his room doesn‘t have a television, or because he just sticks to watching DW-TV, where he is of course not going to find any local advertising.
And it is against this background that Mr. M, a supplier of IT services, takes the decision to offer his products in a neighbouring country, unaware that there may first be a few things to consider. After all, as this neighbouring country is Austria, Mr. M is of the opinion that he can use the same communication materials as he uses for the German domestic market. And why not? The language in Austria is German, and the standard of living there is more or less the same.
So no sooner said than done, Mr. M opens up a representative office in Vienna, sends one of his German employees, who is familiar with Austria, over to look after it, and initiates the marketing process, pulling out all the stops in the process. Of course, with a representative office, it isn‘t necessary to set up a separate company in Austria, all you need is a liaison office and you can run everything, including invoicing, through the German GmbH.
So now Mr. M really goes to town with his communication. He inserts advertisements, focuses on specialist journals, and even attaches stickers to his German leaflets with the address in Austria. He does everything that could possibly be done to achieve his goal, but the one thing that fails to materialise is success. For some reason, nobody wants to know about Mr. M and his company, even though it says ‚Made in Germany‘, and as the whole world knows, quality work from Germany is what everybody wants. So what‘s up with the Austrians?
Well the answer is, nothing is up with the Austrians. They are as they always are, and one thing that this means is that they like to keep their big neighbour Germany at arm‘s length. The sobering conclusion is that if you do everything in Austria the same way you do everything in Germany, then you are doing everything wrong.
One of the biggest mistakes of expanding your activities abroad
is to believe that you can communicate the same way wherever you go, a conclusion that is even easier to draw when the country in question speaks the same language. Although actually, that is not really the case here. Of course, Austrian sounds like just another German dialect, and when you read the newspaper, you just see marginal differences in the wordings. But it is precisely these marginal differences that make all the difference and that need to be addressed. Otherwise you will immediately be identified as a German, and an outsider.
Because one thing that Austria is not is just another German federal state. And this is something that the Austrians are extremely aware of. So why on earth would an Austrian choose to purchase a service from a German that he can also buy from a local provider for the same price?
When you take your products abroad, it isn‘t enough to adapt them to the local market, it is also important to adapt the entire communication and marketing process. It is no use to just go over the border into a neighbouring country and then remain a foreign company, and moreover one that looks foreign and communicates in a foreign way.
Just imagine a Polish or Spanish company with a Polish or Spanish company form would try and offer you services through a liaison office that you can obtain from a German company in the next town for the same price and with the same quality. Which one would you choose? Exactly!
Of course, this applies all the more the further afield you go. A few examples: In France, it is simply imperative that you communicate in French. The so-called Loi Toubon (‚All Good‘ law) obliges companies to communicate in French, and even advertising slogans, like Nike‘s ‚Just Do It‘, must be translated. French legislators simply don‘t care if the resulting wordings end up somewhat cumbersome.
If you want to sell your products in China, it isn‘t enough to
concentrate just on language and letters but you also have to keep an eye on numbers, particularly if they play a role in your company communication. What many people don‘t know is that most Chinese believe in the meaning of numbers and numerology. For them, 8 is a wonderful number, because it stands for wealth, but 4, on the other hand, is not so good, because it is said to lead to death and decay. This is because when it is pronounced, the number 4 sounds similar to the word for ‚death‘. So it hardly needs mentioning that if your company name contains a 4, you are going to need to change it.
On the other hand, the importance of using distinct marketing and product presentation tactics for different regions is something that the French car manufacturer, Renault, has definitely understood. In 1999, Renault purchased the Romanian car manufacturer Dacia, to acquire a brand in the lower price segment. The name was largely unknown in Western Europe, which allowed them to successfully develop and market cars under this name at an extremely favourable price. So far so unspectacular. But what makes it all the more interesting is that Renault sells the same vehicles in Eastern Europe under the name of Renault. If you walk through Moscow, you will see the Renault Duster, exactly the same vehicle that is sold in Germany or France as the Dacia Duster. Two brand names for the same product. Not product adjustment but an adjustment in brand communication.
The question is, why did Renault choose this strategy? It is so that in Eastern Europe, Dacia cars are regarded as extremely ugly and poor quality vehicles, which means that retaining the name would have been inappropriate for the East European market (with the exception of Romania). In Western Europe, on the other hand, Renault does not wish to be seen to be degenerating into a cheap brand, and for this reason uses a different name for these products.