If you’re planning to launch a global marketing campaign, be aware of potential obstacles before spending your money.

Although successful ways to market in the United States are often obvious, mistakes have been made. As a marketer, your primary responsibility is to understand cultures, people and targeted customers anywhere your product is offered. Otherwise, you may waste money talking to potential customers and perhaps damage your brand by being insensitive.

Here are five things you must know to avoid a major failure when launching campaigns in foreign markets.

Understanding the Law

What may be legally advertised and how in the United States may be illegal in a foreign country. Mentioning a competitor by name in an advertisement may be forbidden elsewhere but may not be the case in this country. For instance, look at this ad:


Here, Verizon compares its network with AT&T’s and includes fine print at the bottom of the frame. Such fine print may have to be modified for foreign markets to satisfy local and government regulations.

Naming Products

This caution might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often a company names a new product only to discover that the meaning of that name in a foreign market could be highly embarrassing for the brand. You must understand the impact of a product’s name across all target markets.

Searching the Web

Google Search commands a large part of marketing budgets worldwide. So if you’re selling a car in Germany, you must know how Germans use Google to find products. They aren’t likely search for “car”. Instead, they look for “auto”. If you’re not optimizing the search for “auto” in Germany, you may be left out of the conversation. Here’s a great video to help with international search engine optimization (SEO):

Knowing the Culture

This is one of the most critical and sensitive aspects of marketing both foreign and domestic. Failure to know the culture could be incredibly damaging to your brand because you may be portrayed as insensitive or even rude. Pepsi released an ad suggesting that the soft drink could solve some of the United States’ most pressing cultural issues. The ad was immediately labeled tone deaf, and the company apologized.

Unfortunately, once such an ad hits the internet, it and the ensuing uproar can’t be deleted.

As you can see, Pepsi’s ad really missed the point, and the company has since paid the price. Making such errors is much easier if you don’t understand local culture, its slang and the words used to describe a product such as yours. Be sure to do your homework before doing something that can’t be undone.

Using Social Media

Set up social media channels for each of your markets so you can talk directly with customers in their native language. Ease of communication will pay off in dividends for your brand because it shows empathy for users worldwide. Make sure you have a strong plan for each market. Don’t just duplicate what found success domestically.

Serious thought and effort must be part of planning a global marketing campaign. Don’t copy what worked in one market, assuming that it will work elsewhere. Too many variables involving culture, language and more could profoundly affect your brand. If you’re not careful, the effect could be negative.

Before entering any new foreign market, spend the time, money and effort to understand fully an appropriate way to speak to your customers.