Sometimes brand imaging is not orientated towards one country or particular cultural traits. Across the world every four years, there are major sporting events involving multiple nations whilst international Tennis and Golf competitions are held every year.
Advertising and brand design takes on a different meaning because the target market is both exclusive and diverse. Marketing focuses quite naturally on the spectators, however differing cultural observances makes common ground for strong product placement complicated. Adapting a brand to one country is a targeted approach at specific people and customs yet promoting to multiple nations is different. There needs to be one message and one design that receives positive feedback from a select group of people who do not necessarily share the same language or culture.
Targeted Marketing in an International Environment
In 1994, FIFA held the World cup finals in the United States where a poorly researched advertising campaign for a Dutch beer company caused outrage. Placing national flags of each participant on bottle tops seemed in the first instance a great method of customer engagement. The competition however featured Saudi Arabia, an Islamic country with a strict no alcohol policy whose national flag contained a religious verse from the Koran. The brewery had overlooked these details when marketing their product to an international audience and had to withdraw the entire campaign after some strong criticism of this oversight. It highlighted that marketing a company internationally is a more complex affair than targeting one group of people or nation.
When Research is Neglected
Attention to detail is key when bringing a product to a target market. At sporting events, each sponsor aims to make their item promotable not simply to the fans but to the watching world. Diverse cultural differences and language must be researched to ensure that no offence is given to any particular nation.
The London Olympics in 2012 showed an example of a visual faux pas by the organisers when North Korea played Columbia in the Ladies football match at Hampden Park. As the teams left the dressing room and made their way to the pitch, the big screens within the stadium had mistakenly shown the South Korean colours. This caused great offence and the match was delayed as the Organisational Committee apologised profusely and played down a potential diplomatic storm.
It highlighted that LOCOG, the people responsible for the games had not checked the simplest of details during production of the video and as such, the error had been seen worldwide much to their embarrassment. If a business had prepared a presentation to a foreign company and make a similar error, the chances of negotiating a working contract would be very difficult.
Understanding cultural values of other nations in an international environment is fundamental to the success of a brand. Attention to detail is not just a visual aspect but also involves communication of the right words. Recently the United States Tennis Association had to apologise to the German Federation Cup team after singing an original version of the German national anthem that was last heard in the second world war. It was an embarrassment to the association since a quick online search would have shown the correct form. It shows that within an international environment where there are multiple nationalities and various languages, getting it wrong so publicly can be a brand disaster.
Know your product before knowing your audience
A well-known sportswear business was forced to recall an entire range of women’s garments due to cultural insensitivity in Australia and New Zealand. The design was very similar to a Samoan male tattoo yet it was being marketed as Ladieswear. The company responsible had believed the pattern would not offend anyone since there were no words or shapes that could raise concerns. Regional knowledge of Oceania would have told them that the very design they wish to use was a male tribal tattoo and that the use of it on women’s clothing was entirely inappropriate and culturally insensitive. This example shows how global marketing requires in depth research not simply of all the target countries but further study of the product within its own environment. This was a very expensive mistake.
Brand name checking is vital when exporting a product to another market. When expanding the business to foreign countries at the same time, it is imperative that checks are also done on the brand logo alongside the specific items to sell. Companies that succeed worldwide are those whose businesses took their time to get their image correct.