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As agencies and brands have expanded internationally – whether through opening up shops abroad or gaining recognition overseas – their ability and desire to appeal to multiple markets grows stronger. But what effect does a more transatlantic approach have on marketing, and what should brands be aware of when operating within a global marketplace?

The Drum’s newly-launched tech space, The Labs, which also houses its experiential division that looks at the future of retail known as the CornerShop, showcases a number of pioneering innovations. These tend to spark conversation about how brands could adopt them in real-life shopping spaces to improve the consumer experience, although some visiting guests have questioned whether they could be implemented within different cultural contexts and how they could be suitably integrated on a local level.

To ensure a smooth navigation across sociocultural contexts and be aware of the pitfalls and perks of globalization, we’ve outlined five key points to consider when working internationally.

Understanding

Working internationally – whether it’s with foreign clients or overseas offices, or even to translate some marketing campaigns and strategies transatlantically – requires an understanding of the local market. Considering contexts, such as how target audiences differ between markets, what social media platforms are used and how the political dynamics affect the marketing in that country, will all contribute to the marketing output. Expectations around creative standards and delivery times may not be the same, and media freedom may operate differently, so considering possible restrictions is essential. Conducting research on the country prior to establishing a partnership there is crucial, and having on-the-ground people based internationally will help to get some sense of what’s acceptable – and what’s not. These can also include cultural faux pas, humor and idioms.

One installation currently available at the Labs is the personalized coffee machine, which serves hot beverages according to each user’s personal taste, remembering just how the user liked it from previous use. While this machine is currently in the prototype stage, brands who have visited the space have reflected how they are seeing different markets respond to technology installed in different sectors. There was a general consensus and awareness that Chinese consumer habits have evolved. While there is a willingness and acceptance of accelerated technology use, Chinese consumers preferred to have their coffee served by a human, even if the rest of the process is automated. These sorts of insights are really useful when implementing new technology into local markets, and highlights the importance of research into new regions.

Respect

Understandably, working with international partners will mean that there’s some difference between the home country in which the agency or brand is operating in and with whom they are interacting with abroad. Gauging these cultural differences and fostering a respectful and considered environment is equally important. Unconscious bias training is a useful tool to bring in-house to make employees more aware of their inherent prejudice so it doesn’t come up in client and/or creative meetings.

Even with regard to the pandemic, obviously it was a situation that occurred worldwide, but some regions were affected at different times with varying degrees of freedom. Having an awareness of this is helpful, but adopting a sensitive and compassionate approach will make working internationally more bearable.

Communication

With all that being said, the hardest aspect of working internationally may be the language or cultural barriers in place, therefore establishing clear communication methods is vital. Regular meetings can counteract feelings that someone isn’t heard or bringing ideas to the table, while creating clear – and visual – briefing documents will help to create a common language and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Sharing documents related to the progress of the project or the campaign will keep everyone informed and up-to-date, and mean that regardless of time zones or conflicting schedules everyone can check in. Establishing shared measures of success is also useful for ensuring that both sides are looking at the same metrics to assess whether the project or installation has been effective and to provide feedback on what can be improved. These small practices will help to avoid misinterpretation.

Learning

Working transatlantically can be a fantastic way for understanding cultural nuances and seeing new ways of working, but having time to reflect on what worked and why is equally valuable. Being open to learning from overseas relationships can help to improve structures and practices back home, so going into the experience and seeing it as a cultural exchange is recommended. Sometimes interacting internationally can help to justify processes or inspire new ways of thinking.

Trial-and-error approach

The very nature of the Labs space is to operate from a trial-and-error mentality, where the team and its partners can learn from the installations as consumers engage with them. Installations will change on a quarterly basis, with improvements informed by the insights gained from the data that monitors customer interaction in the space.

Inevitably, by adopting this way of working, some installations will be successful and others will need to be tweaked. Obviously this approach is also applicable when working with overseas partners as an adaptable mindset is crucial. As more visiting guests, brands and clients attend the Labs space and test out the installations in-person, it will be easier to gauge where individual installations will be best set up in the marketplace, and what trends will affect global application.

Click here to arrange a viewing of the space and see whether the pioneering inventions could work for an upcoming job or project.