Anne Holland

SherpaBlog: Dumb International Marketing Despite Big Opportunity

February 11th, 2008

I’m not going to name brand names, but you guys should know who you are. You are Western brands being marketed overseas. And you ought to be auditing your media buys far more carefully.

In Nepal, a country where black hair is so universal as to make any other color seem freakish, I saw repeated shampoo commercials from Western brands prominently featuring blondes. After a few weeks there, even I was staring at the screen with the natives thinking, “Wow, that’s a weird hair color,” instead of, “What great shampoo that must be.”

Then, this month on my way back to the States for Sherpa’s Email Summit on Feb 24-26 in Miami, I stopped off in Croatia for a visit with my in-laws.

Croatia used to be part of the former Yugoslavia, and there is at least one black woman living here. I know this because I saw her on the evening news last night. She was being interviewed as an oddity — as in, “Wow, there’s an actual black person living here, and, golly, she even speaks pretty good Croatian!” As a result I had to endure a lot of ribbing about the lousy quality of my own Croatian speaking skills. …

But, what struck me the most was that on Croatian TV, I’ve routinely seen American-produced ads marketing cosmetics specifically for black women. Surely they’re not all targeting this lone consumer?

Thing is, there’s loads and loads of opportunity for Western products in the global market. I’ve spent much of the last year meeting members of the eager new middle classes in Asia and formerly communist Europe. They’ve just gotten credit cards; they’re buying their first new cars; they’re investing for the first time on local stock markets; and they like to show off their flashy cell phones with snazzy, new ringtones. B-to-B markets are also booming — especially for advice on how to run a business.

Business may be lousy at home, but if you market fast food (especially Mexican), fancy driving gloves and other show-off-able driving accessories, ASP-based business software or cheap, modern-styled furnishings for tiny condos, the Eastern European and Asian worlds could be your oyster.

Just stop blowing your budget on ill-targeted media buys.

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