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    It takes many villages: creating a marketing ecosystem for international success

    In a hyper-connected world, growing globally should be effortless – but as marketers know all too well, that isn’t the case. For our deep dive on globalization, Coegi’s Ryan Green argues the secret is a tight-knit ecosystem and a concentrated pool of contractors. 

    You couldn’t run a successful business without a diverse team with unique skill sets. So, why would you attempt to launch a global marketing campaign without the same care; without assembling a team of experts to help you navigate the complexities of cultural nuances and regional platforms and publications? 

    While the modern world feels digitally connected, it is a fragmented marketplace for advertisers. This is especially true when expanding your brand’s presence on a global scale. Just because an approach works in the US does not mean it will succeed elsewhere. To be successful, it’s important to lean into a trusted group of international partners to complement in-house capabilities and combine the powers of both groups.

    The rise of the decentralized workforce 

    Contractor payments in the US leaped by 56% from 2019 to 2022. The acceleration of remote work spurred by the pandemic is driving more agencies to hire on a project-by-project basis. This can be especially beneficial for fast-growing brands and agencies who need on-the-ground experts as they expand globally. 

    How do you achieve effective localization in your international marketing? You need to build and strengthen your personal and professional network to form a deep understanding of local markets as you expand.

    This is where partners and contractors become your secret weapon. Diversity of perspectives, expertise and knowledge will amplify your results, allowing you to achieve localization at scale. 

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    Finding the ideal mix

    As a starting point, I recommend an 80:20 approach when it comes to in-house work v outsourced work. The nucleus of your efforts should be within your company in order to stay true to the ethos of the brand you have cultivated. From there, extend the remaining 20% of your team beyond your core to create an ecosystem priming you for global success.

    The end goal is to create a decentralized, interconnected global network made up of a combination of freelance workers, international publishing partners, consultants, local translators and other offshore service providers. Together, this network acts as an ecosystem, giving you the knowledge and capabilities of a global organization without the physical footprint.

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    While your workforce will become more decentralized, the goal is to bring together the various players to form a truly diverse group and develop meaningful marketing campaigns – to gain diverse perspectives and explore talent outside of major cities and cultural hubs.

    For example, only 18% of South Korea’s population lives in Seoul. Contracting with five developers from the capital city won’t provide a complete view of the South Korean experience. In Japan, there are vast cultural differences between older and younger populations. Partnering with a wider variety of people has allowed my agency to execute more comprehensive campaigns for clients when entering the Japanese market.

    Closing cultural knowledge gaps 

    As you determine which partners you need in your ecosystem, be honest about what you don’t know. Just as you would when confronted with a new audience in your home country, dive into research on the new country of focus.

    I encourage my teams to create country ‘dossiers’ as a repository of information that multiple team members contribute to, both from in-house and outside freelance networks. We also leverage syndicated research tools such as Global Web Index (GWI) to understand consumer behavior patterns. 

    However, all the research in the world won’t instantly make you an expert. Let’s say you’re launching a go-to-market strategy in Brazil. If no one in your organization knows Portuguese or understands the cultural nuances of the country, that’s OK. But it’s probably time to bring in outside reinforcement.

    A new market launch is not a time to ‘fake it until you make it.’ In fact, it will likely have a negative impact on your brand perception.  

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    Developing global authenticity

    Identify those gaps and find partners that can supplement your expertise with unique voices and experiences to be inclusive of the things you don’t know. Ask for their qualitative feedback to ensure your messaging and strategy aligns with cultural expectations and preferences. This gives you the power to be authentic, but also include the diverse perspectives necessary to navigate a global strategy. 

    Of course, the best way to learn about a new place (if time and budget allows) is to actually visit. Arrange to interview the people in your freelance network if you haven’t met them in real life. Go beyond the tourist city centers and see what it’s like to live and work abroad. 

    Not only will this be immensely beneficial to your marketing effort for this specific activation, but it will make you a more well-rounded citizen of the world.

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    Maintaining brand identity on a global scale 

    While it’s important to explore outside of your walls – whether those be geographical or cultural – it’s also important to stay true to your brand as you scale globally, ensuring your partners share similar values and don’t negatively impact your company culture. 

    As you try to fit into the mold of each nuanced culture in a global marketing strategy, it’s your role to be a brand steward, not allowing the core company vision to get lost in translation.

    To attain global reach, be authentic to yourself first and foremost. Then build a diverse ecosystem of like-minded partners to support your brand goals, while providing objectivity, to allow your organization to move forward. 

    For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

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