Global Marketing

An Introduction to International Market Communications

The fundamental key to approaching international marketing is understanding that the strategies employed in domestic marketing operations are also applied in foreign marketing operations.  This concept itself may appear simple, yet its execution proves to be complex, particularly when examined through the lens of international market communications.

At its core, market communication encompasses the tools that an organization mobilizes to disseminate information on its products or services, and to attract the business of consumers and stakeholders.  International market communication is identically characterized, with a caveat that its tools are implemented in a country outside that of the given organization.  Such tools include advertising, branding, packaging, sponsorships, sales promotions, and beyond.  In order to ensure the efficacy of these tools in foreign nations, an organization should generally adhere to the following steps:

  1. Thoroughly research the culture of the target audience, which may comprise…
    1. Context
    2. Beliefs
    3. Sensibilities
    4. Customs
    5. History
    6. Political Climate
  2. Assess how the target audience will perceive the product or service
  3. Accordingly determine the extent of standardization or adaptation
  4. Develop a compelling message that accounts for linguistic idiosyncrasies
  5. Pinpoint the most appropriate channels and media to reach the target audience

It is evident that international market communication entails uniquely meticulous planning.  This raises an interesting question: what is an example of a company that has successfully planned its international market communications?  Though the answers are certainly manifold, here we will highlight the Colgate-Palmolive Company (CP)’s launch of Colgate Max Fresh in China.

Since its inception, CP has been headquartered in New York; however, it eventually established separate management teams in various geographic regions across the planet.  Each of these teams constituted specific presidents, researchers, product developers, and marketers.  Hence, CP was well-prepared to test and subsequently introduce Colgate Max Fresh in foreign countries.

During preliminary testing in China, CP learned that linguistic idiosyncrasies rendered the name “Colgate Max Fresh”, as well as the term of its principal feature, “breath strips”, virtually meaningless.  As a result, the company quickly switched the product name to “Icy Fresh” and its feature term to “cooling crystals”.  CP also realized that typical Chinese eating customs would require changes in toothpaste flavor offerings.  Thus, CP supplemented its original Mint flavor with geographically-distinct Tea and Citrus flavors.  Furthermore, CP discovered that cost restrictions in manufacturing necessitated alterations in toothpaste packaging.  In addition to reverting to the cost-effective traditional tube-in-carton, the company created a clear, free-standing tube whose innovative shape and intrinsic modernity would especially appeal to Chinese consumers.

Perhaps CP’s greatest challenge in formulating its Chinese market communications was relaying the “freshness” benefit of its toothpaste to Chinese consumers, as freshness itself was a relatively novel idea in China.  Nonetheless, CP’s advertising agency proactively tackled this hurdle, adopting an objective of convincing young adults in the “extreme living” segment that Icy Fresh would provide them with an entirely new dimension of freshness.  To actualize this objective, the company instituted celebrity endorsement advertising (shown below) with Chinese music star Jay Chou, who was believed to embody the quality of “extreme living”.  All of the foregoing measures facilitated the triumph of Icy Fresh in China, indicating the success of CP's international market communication planning.


Melegari, A.  (n.d.)  International Marketing Communications – Challenges and Solutions.  The Ad Store.

Quelch, J.A. & Labatt-Randle, J.  (2007, October 23).  Colgate Max Fresh: Global Brand Roll-Out.  (Publication No. 508009-PDF-ENG).  Retrieved from Harvard Business School website: