Insider Advice for Navigating International Marketing Campaigns

Global campaigns can be one of the most challenging and complex projects in marketing. Localization, segmentation, positioning, regional differences and nuances -- all while working with remote teams and resources. Team collaboration across the world is a critical element of global marketing success.

How do you remotely manage a marketing campaign when team members are in different countries?

We asked three marketing masterminds to share their exclusive strategies when it comes to working on global marketing campaigns. Here's their advice for global team collaboration, execution and alignment.

Silvia Rak
Owner, FREIWASSER Marketing
no goldfish Blog (in German)
Frankfurt, Germany




1. Understand the Big Picture and Small Nuances

“The secret ingredients of a global campaign are: think strategically and act pragmatically. If someone approaches you with the task of carrying out a global campaign always ask how it fits into the bigger picture. A campaign is one tiny piece of a puzzle after all. Make sure your puzzle fulfills its purpose – it should help achieve long-term business goals. 

As resources are always limited, the ideal solution probably will not be the one you will be able to implement in reality. That's why you will have to be pragmatic. Set priorities according to the strategic goals. If you keep these goals in mind, you will always be ready to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities. If you don't know where you're heading – you will miss a lot of opportunities that present themselves along the way. 

Although it may sound like a matter of course, make sure you know every single market you are approaching well enough, because although we live in a globalised world, the differences can be huge. For example, depending on the product you are selling, the target audience's needs, behaviours, expectations and actual demand may vary widely. Take the simple example of coffee – yes, people around the world drink it, but the way people consume it is rarely the same in any two countries. The ‘where’ (at home, in a coffee chain, in a small espresso bar around the corner, etc.), ‘when’ (no cappuccino in the evening when you are in Italy, please), ‘how’ (from filter coffee to flat white), and ‘how much’ (willingness to spend) and many other aspects differ greatly.”

2. Know Your Global Team Members

“In working with a global team, especially in intercultural environments, my advice is -- don’t assume things. Assumptions are poisonous to communication. Clear communication is the backbone of successful teamwork with team members from various locations in the world. 

Since global teams can include people from different cultures who speak a different first language than you, make sure you communicate clearly and ask questions when needed.  

If you have the chance and travel budget: meet people you're going to work with in person. There is no substitute for a face-to-face conversation. If you can't meet in person, have one-on-one conversations via video or audio chat. 

Lastly, be open minded. Different cultures complement each other. Yes, Germans sometimes do make fun of American enthusiasm. They think every ‘awesome!’ is an exaggeration. And yes, Americans wonder why Germans have to rethink solutions so many times. (Attention: deliberate use of stereotypes.) But mix the two approaches and you'll have a pretty healthy solution.”

John Conrad
Executive Vice President & Partner, Merritt Group
@jconrad73 @MerrittGroup
McLean, Virginia




3. Allow Time for an Iterative Process

“When developing materials for global distribution, we recommend using an iterative creative process. Factor in extra time and budget to circulate draft versions. And before finalizing materials for deployment in a specific market, share your content with your country leads for their review and feedback, and then adjust the creative and messages to accommodate regional nuances. Also, remember to have solid translation resources in place before you start the project and leverage them throughout, not just at the end when it’s time to translate materials into local market languages.”

4. Do Your Homework First

“We encourage our clients to allow us time to do some research -- content audit, brand audit, competitive audit, etc. -- to inform our strategy, process and execution moving forward. We believe this upfront ‘homework’ uncovers valuable information and sheds light on the path forward. Looking carefully and thoughtfully at the problem the client is trying to solve or the audiences they are trying to reach is absolutely critical when creating compelling global marketing campaigns.”

Sean Duffy
Founder, Duffy Agency
 @BrandRanter @Duffy_Agency
Sweden and the U.S.




5. Rethink Search and Social

“The Internet has revolutionized international marketing. However, digital habits can vary from country to country with regard to which social platforms are used and for which purposes. You’ll also need to decide if English language social assets will suffice in foreign markets (in many cases, they won’t) and, if not, how you will set up and manage your foreign language social presence and/or other digital assets. Mobile habits can also vary and need to be accommodated. SEO and buzz monitoring will need to be rethought locally for each market, since simply translating your English keywords won’t be enough. Likewise, search and social advertising plans will need to be developed for each market and language.”
Source: TalentZoo

6. Document to Deflate Debate

“Don’t wind up debating the creative. Working domestically, there are typically fewer people to get approvals from and they often all share the same cultural references. Because of this, campaign strategies are often loosely documented, but understood implicitly by market manager and agency. You won’t have this luxury working across borders — especially if you need approvals or cooperation from local marketing managers and partners. A sound written strategy is essential to ensure that the campaign addresses the complexities of the various markets and also to get local stakeholders onboard. If you need to get locals to join your team, do it based on the strategy. Without this, the discussion quickly devolves into a highly subjective and inconclusive debate over the creative.”
Source: TalentZoo

How about you?

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from managing an international marketing campaign? We’d love to hear your advice for fellow professionals here in the comments.