Countries have a variety of different laws to cope with advertising and they are unique to each country. The solution would be to have competent expert legal advice before entry to the country and to do an annual review of the changing legislation that might impact operations. It is important to understand which countries do not permit your product to be advertised. For example, large food stores may not advertise in France. Many countries do not allow the advertisement of pharmaceuticals. The concept of deceptive advertising may be different in different countries. In Germany you cannot compare your product to your competitors and in some countries coupons are illegal because it is not permissible to offer the same product at different prices to different customers. In addition, some products are permitted to be advertised in limited media or at specific times of the day and may be limited to the number of times that they may be run in a specific period of time. Given that this is a highly complex set of rules, running afoul of the law could cost brand equity and fines so expert in country advice is indispensible. Finally, in certain countries the access to media is denied to foreign nationals and companies of foreign origin. This creates great challenges for advertising and marketing. Sometimes access is granted after prolonged negotiations or after obtaining permission in the form of “no objection” certificates. It is important to understand these issues and their potential solutions before investing in an international market. “Global mass media is a powerful tool for cultural change and as such it receives continuing scrutiny by a wide variety of institutions.” (Cateora p 484) You also need to know if there are special taxes affixed to advertising.
Unless you are a native speaker of a country who is up to date with all of the slang, innuendos, idioms, jokes and technological meanings you have no business designing advertising in another country. For example: Can you define the meaning of the Australian expression “Fair Dinkum”? It is English but do you understand it? Even native speakers do not understand the potential pitfalls of dialects, other religious groups within the country and regional areas can have great differences. Encoding and decoding of an idea between two people of different linguistic backgrounds is filled with pitfalls. Even if the home office decides on the basic message for a product, the native language speakers must be allowed to shape that message and adapt it as necessary. They will, if done properly and by using multiple translators and target audience feedback shape the wording, the level of directness of the message, the writing style, the type of humour, the idioms and slang to get your message across in a way that you cannot. They also understand the unspoken understandings that certain words imply or do not imply. Low levels of literacy can also cause problems for the advertisers.
In North American countries, we have been exposed to some cultural diversity but we do not understand what it is like in other countries. There are other countries like South Korea that are very uniform and do not understand diversity at all. In international marketing, it is what you do not even have an awareness of the can sabotage you. Decisions about marketing mix are most often affected by cultural differences among country markets. Consumers respond it terms of their culture, its style, feelings, value systems, attitudes, beliefs and perceptions.
If you are creating advertising and the individuals in the ads stand too closely together for the culture and marketplace you may inadvertently communicate something sexual. You might unintentionally communicate a cross generational disrespect through dialogue that would create hostility. You might not understand the body language involved in the presentation of a gift in a commercial and undermine your intent. A specific color may have meanings of which you are unaware. Culture is complex and often symbolic. Without a native’s appreciation of the subtleties disastrous unexpected controversy could result. Advertising must interpret or translate the qualities of products and services in terms of the consumer needs, wants, desire and aspirations. The emotional appeals, symbols, persuasive approaches and other characteristics must coincide with cultural norms. Hiring expert help to formulate international marketing materials that is true to the company’s goals and yet tailored to the marketplace is very important. The advertising company should be able to demonstrate its market research and comprehension of the market place and that it has a complete grasp of the dialects, subgroups, preferences exhibited by racial groups, religious differences, psychology of the consumers and many other factors. Changing traditions and gender roles can cause problems too. In India where women have traditionally held specific roles companies can get into trouble by reinforcing those stereotypes.
The problem here could be as simple as having no access to quality paper upon which to print your message. It could be as complex as having no printing presses or television stations.
Consider Red Bull’s tactics. They started out by influencing the thought leaders, throwing parties at universities and hiring the “hot chicks” on campus to drive their logoed cars and giving out samples. They cultivated “casual relationships” and sponsorships with extreme sport heroes. They did not engage mass media until they had made a significant impact on the area and they did so in order to solidify their conquest. Even when they did turn to mass media they did so with their own style or quirky hand drawn cartoons. The point here is that when budgets are tight and even when they are not, nothing beats true creativity! When the media are limited, other forms of messaging from loud speakers to public showings of movies can be tried.
Production and cost limitations
In other countries all of the media and supplies are available but at prohibitive costs. In these cases creativity is required. Cost escalates, however, when you must reach multiple language, religious or ethnic groups within the same geographical territory. Now every form of advertising must be tailored to each group or be so universal that everyone could relate to the same representation. That’s difficult! Again, I remind you of how much Red Bull did before they engaged expensive media.
Cateora, P. R. and Graham, J. L. (2007) International Marketing. NewYork, NY: McGraw-Hill