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Paid and Unpaid Communications

International Market Communication is a multi-level strategy game that is tied to the overall business strategy of the company as well. Today’s digital landscape provides companies with huge potential to leverage not just the paid methods of communication but also the unpaid (earned, owned) methods of communications. What are these different paid and unpaid methods of communications, how do we benefit from using the different tactics involved and how they can be integrated with each other to optimize communication resources.

At the core, International Market Communications is all about communicating the value of your product or service to customers and developing a long-term brand image is vital to success. To promote your product/company/service. Without promotions, your ability to create awareness and favourable attitudes within target segments is limited. These promotions can be broadly broken down into two channels that they communicate through: Paid or unpaid (owned, earned).

Paid media like the name denotes is everything that the company pays for. The company is paying to leverage a channel with the aim of driving traffic to their owned media (web sites, blogs), and landing new business. Paid media needs to be focused, well planned, and effectively executed, and include compelling calls-to-action in order to deliver exactly what your prospective customer is looking for. Advertising is majority of the paid part of a marketing communication strategy that includes paid broadcast, print or other media messages. Television, radio, newspapers, magazines and online media constitute the common, traditional media used by advertisers to present messages. Billboards, directories, aerial and transit media are support media used in advertising. By paying for ad messages, you typically have greater influence over the placement time and place, as well as the message itself, since you buy this service from the medium.

Unpaid media further has two components to it. It can be communication through ‘earned’ channels that put the target audience/customer in the driving seat like word of mouth or social media shares. Or be ‘owned’ channels like all of the properties that belong to the brand or business. That can be websites, blogs, social media channels, apps, and stores (online and offline). Both paid and earned media are designed to drive prospects to the owned media estate and its strength is critical to converting them into paying customers. Publicity makes up the bulk of unpaid communications. Publicity is any type of unpaid media coverage, such as a newspaper article or television feature. Small businesses try to make use of local news media opportunities because of their limited budgets. Relationships with local media are a huge plus for local companies. The risk is that you have less control over the timing or placement, as well as the message. A news reporter could use the information to write about negative items, for example.

There are clear differences between paid and unpaid communication media channels. Tight control and targeting for paid, against little control over the nature and placement of earned. However to be fully effective paid, earned, and indeed owned media must converge and be integrated as far as is possible into international market communications to optimize the companies global presence.

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Global Media Decisions

A crucial issue to be considered while navigating international markets is which medium or media to use while communicating with the target audience. These media decisions have to be taken depending not just on the nature of the product/service being offered, but also the media availability that differs from country to country. Media channels can be broadly classified into three buckets:

  1. Print media: local daily and weekly newspapers, magazines, business publications with regional, national or international readers.
  2. Electronic Media: Radio, broadcast television, cable television and the internet (new media).
  3. Other: Direct mailers, outdoors advertising, transport advertising or any other innovative form.
Examples under each media channel

As mentioned above these mediums are available differently in different countries. Adding to this, media consumption patterns also vary from country to country. For example, television is the number one medium in both the United States and Japan. By contrast, newspapers are the leading medium in Germany with television ranking only second. Hence in Germany, outlays for newspaper advertising surpass those for television by a ratio of two to one. Worldwide, radio continues to be a less important advertising medium than print and television. However, in countries where advertising budgets are limited, the radio’s enormous reach can provide a cost-effective means of communicating with a large consumer market. Also, the radio can be effective in countries where literacy rates are low.

Sometimes even when media availability is high, usage of that media as an advertising vehicle might be very limited due to regional regulations or age restrictions. As discussed in our previous posts, cultural considerations also often affect communication and the presentation of the advertising message. For example, let’s compare the content of magazine advertisements in the United States with those in the Arab world:

  • People are depicted less often in Arabic magazine ads.
  • U.S. ads tend to have more information content; by contrast, brevity is considered a virtue in the Arab world.
  • U.S. ads contain more price information and are more likely to include comparative appeals than Arabic ads

We also need to remember that the world we exist in is becoming more and more digital with each passing minute. This helps in crossing borders easily and also shortens the gap between the target audience, especially when it is a technology-based product/service since a majority of the target audience will be urbanised.

Bottom line is that today, we exist in a highly saturated world filled with multiple communication media options. Hence it becomes very important for companies to observe several factors like media availability, media consumption trends, nature of the product/service, cultural and regional regulations before making informing Global Media Decisions.

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Integrated Marketing Communications

What is it?

Integrated marketing communications is also known as IMC. IMC is important all over the world and ensures that all communications a company uses are linked or integrated together. The goal is to integrate all the promotional tools so that they all work cohesively. An example would be a company promoting a new logo strategy through multiple media (print, tv, web, social medias). Each approach will be different for that specific medium, but they are all directing the audience to the same exact message. The saying goes “two is better than one”, the tools work better when they are working all together. Workings alone or in isolation from the other tools does not get the job done as well or at all.

Integrated Marketing

There are levels of integration that can take place beyond the obvious/usual communication tools. There are five in total and they help strengthen integrated communications.

  • Horizontal: happens across marketing mix and business functions. This approach to marketing brings together different departments that may be working on the same initiative but in different ways.
  • Data: requires a marketing information system, and it collects and shares relevant data to different departments.
  • Vertical: the objectives for marketing and communications have to support the higher level corporate objectives and missions. This strategy demands that a product being developed fits in with corporate policy as well as the structure of the company.
  • Internal: this requires internal marketing and requires that all the staff involved is kept up and informed as well as motivated about any new projects, partners, and standards. This ensures that employees are happy and excited about new products being developed.
  • External: this requires external partners who can work closely together to deliver a solution. The outside agencies are then tasked with designing and developing the most effective strategies for the firm that contracted them. Outsourcing can be beneficial when a firm wants to get a different perspective from experts who are not connected to the firm and are likely more objective.

There are more marketing channels now than ever before and different channels can be lead and directed by different people. Integrated marketing strategies help pull all of a brand’s message points together into one cohesive whole to ensure that the message is not disjointed and confusing. In the world of today, customers are constantly overloaded with information and news daily, IMC relay one clear message regardless of what channel is actually being used.

What are the benefits?

IMC can create a solid competitive advantage for businesses around the world. It can also boost sales and profits, and save money, time and stress for companies. Integrated marketing strategies have been proven to be reliable because fusing modern and traditional marketing guarantees that communications incorporate the best of both worlds.

IMC not only benefits companies, but also consumers. IMC wraps communication around customers and helps them move through various stages of the buying process. The company is able to build a bond with its customers this way. This can be considered relationship marketing which is extremely important for customer relationships.

This relationship marketing creates a bond of loyalty with customers, this helps “protects” them from competition. Being able to keep a customer is a huge competitive advantage, especially if they are a customer for life. In order to keep these customers for life, using IMC can create more avenues to help customers become aroused, more aware, and to make a purchase.

What are the barriers?

Yes, IMC has amazing benefits, but not everything is perfect. There are barriers that IMC has to deal with on a regular basis. Some of the restricting barriers include: resistance to change, restrictive creativity, time scale conflicts, communications of problems with a wide variety target market, and lack of management knowledge.

IMC strategy has previously stated, restricts creativity, this means that there isn’t anymore “wild” sales promotions unless it fits into the strategy. The creative challenge may be much more satisfying when it is operated within an integrated and creative brief. Time barriers are extremely common. An example of this would be that image advertising is made for long term, this could conflict shorter term advertising promotions or sales designed to boost quarterly sales. If the two are planned carefully, they can be successful but it is not always common.

Good example?

Old Spice “Smell like a Man, Man campaign”

This is a great example of a well executed marketing communications campaign. The company went viral the day they released this tv ad. They complimented this ad with an incredible social media marketing campaign and smart witty copywriting and visuals to back it up. They were able to define the right audience and messaging.

In conclusion..

Integrated marketing is needed to earn profits and remain relevant in the marketplace. Having a clear and consistent message for a campaign means that companies don’t have to create more media than they actually need. They would only have to produce materials that are needed and publish it across the companies chosen channels. It is important to remember that integrated marketing communication companions are exactly what the public wants and craves from brands. An IMC is a sure way to increase sales, boost revenues and build brand awareness.

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Apple – Localizing the Message

Alan Turing and his half eaten apple.

Irrespective of the country that you are in, put the logo of a bitten apple and most people will immediately identify the brand. The two-dimensional outline of a half-eaten apple is synonymous globally with iPhones, MacBooks and technological innovation. Apple Inc. is one of the most well-known and valuable companies in the world and as of 2019, it is also the first company in history to have gained a market capitalization of over $1 trillion.

Apple’s current product line

The company has always consciously kept the branding consistent. Strategizing the brand recognition that comes with the unchanged interface and hardware aesthetics as a strength and leveraging it as a sign of uniqueness. Think Apple and you think a specific look, technology whose ecosystem that you ‘buy’ into instead of buying the product and configuring it your own way like with the other brands. But how does a brand that so consistently sticks to branding, reach the highly fragmented segments of their global markets. This is where Apple does a great job of localizing its message using seemingly simple but effective tweaks in its international market communication. Although Apple’s consistency may be veiled as a one-size-fits-all approach, the company’s localized branding for other countries makes it successful worldwide.

How the same Apple commercial ad is used in different countries.

Two such localization efforts that need to be highlighted are:

Website Communication: Try accessing the Apple website and the first prompt you will receive is to pick the region from where you are accessing the website. Apple offers localized products, marketing info and services to over 100 separate counties around the globe. Further local telephone numbers are presented in the header on every page and live chat options are presented in most languages during the checkout process.

In-store Point of Sales Communication: As of 2018, Apple Inc. was operating 506 retail stores in 25 different countries around the world, including the U.S., where it has retail stores in 44 out of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia. Slightly over half of them (272) are in the U.S. Brand Quarterly reports that an Apple VP of retail development said the brand tries to “make sure the store has an inviting appeal that matches its surrounding culture and environment. It’s about ‘getting out into the street’ and feeling what the local feels.” This includes franchising stores with regional partners who have a better understanding of the local market. Eg. Imagine – official Apple retail partners in India.

imagine – Apple premium retail store in Chennai, India
An apple store in the USA

Companies with a major global market usually tend to use social media for most of their Internation market communications. Contrary to this popular trend, Apple. Inc regardless of being a major global business uses very minimal social media communication. The company is almost non-existent on social media, with their twitter account having more than 959,000 followers but zero tweets. By using their personalised market communications, Apple has managed to circumvent the traditional international market communication channels but still reap the benifits of going international.

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Red Bull – Marketing with Wings

Red Bull was initially launched as a small Austrian company to sell a product that was inspired from an Asian tonic – all of this at a time when energy drinks was a completely foreign concept to its customers. The company started with some discouraging first reactions and a general belief that there was no demand in the market for such a product (since there was no concept of energy drinks earlier). However looking back today, they succeeded to create a completely new market for their product and 30 years later they also manage to sustain as a major player in the market (with over 40% of the market share). This success is not attributed just to the quality of the drink that they invented but also to their ‘out of the box’ marketing over the years. They clearly marked their primary (18 – 35 years old male and female with an active lifestyle) and secondary audience (35 – 65 years old male and female). Then they focused on marketing not just the ‘energy drink’ product but instead created a brand that embodied a distinct lifestyle and this generated its own audience.

Initial Stage – Guerrilla Marketing

Red Bull went guerilla to put its brand and its cans in the eyes and hands of its most likely drinkers: 18 to 34 years old males and females. This worked in subtle marketing (just enough to be perceived as edgy and grab eyeballs) but did not scream product placement. This helped especially during the initial days when the company was small and could not afford to sink huge amounts into flamboyant market communication channels. They started sampling the drink at college parties, bars, cafes, music festivals etc where their primary audience would hang out. While the company has grown bigger and uses a lot of other market communication channels today, you can still spot Red Bull sampling cans out at events. Recently, I managed to find a couple sampling Red Bull on the Chapman campus a few weeks ago.

Red Bull sampling on Chapman university campus, April 2019

Later Stage – Event Sponsorship and Leadership

Around the early 2010s, Red Bull started concentrating on increasing awareness amongst their secondary audience by sponsoring and leading events that embodied their brand of being active and living life on the edge. this they did by title sponsoring rave festivals and running other high energy events. One of their most successful such events was Red Bull Stratos – where they had Felix Baumgartner jump from the stratosphere, breaking the record for the highest ever jump and becoming the first ever person to break the sound barrier during freefall. This was a huge project and an even greater success story for the company because the athletes involved were in their 40s. By emotional engaging with their primary and secondary audience in one stroke, they further solidified the lifestyle that they tied to their brand and audiences.

Pilot Felix Baumgartner of Austria prepares to jump from the altitude of 29455 meters during the second manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos in Roswell, New Mexico, USA on July 25, 2012

Throughout their journey, Red Bull has relied less on traditional marketing and used innovative marketing communications channels that were structured to target the global markets that they were entering.

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Coca-Cola: Current Marketing Communications Strategy

Coca-Cola was founded by John Styth Pemberton in 1886. Who would have thought then, that Coca-Cola would be the money maker it is today. The company is the world’s leading manufacturer of beverages, operating in more than 200 countries across the world. The company produces more than 500 beverage brands and over 1.06 billion drinks are consumer per day all over the world.

Coca-Cola has always put effort towards maintaining a good customer to company relationship. They want their brand and products to be a part of peoples daily lives, to be some what of a ritual attached to specific or special moments, and they use social media in order to create emotions and feelings of affiliation towards customers. In order to do this, the company uses integrated marketing communications (IMC), which is used to communicate with its target customers/market. This plan is changed and adapted by how the market, society, potential, and product positioning all change.

Currently, the communications that are organized by the firm include: advertising, direct marketing, interactive/ internet marketing, sales promotion, public relations, personal selling, and sponsorship marketing. Advertising is extremely important for this company, this is because its giant customer base is so global. In order to do this successfully and bring abroad new customers, the company uses influential advertising techniques. The slogans used in the Coca-Cola ads are very catchy and relatable, they create a permanent impact on the viewers.

The company uses catchy or “happy” slogans in order to hit the target audience emotionally and encourage them to buy the product.

Mediums of Advertising

As we discussed in the previous paragraphs, Coca-Cola uses advertising to create awareness among the potential customers about their products. The have different mediums of advertising that are displayed around the globe.

  • Print Media: Coca-Cola ads are seen everywhere in various newspapers and magazines around the world.
  • Point of Purchase Advertising: Posters and stickers can be seen displayed in various stores.
  • Television Commercials: This is the most common platform that they use, these ads are better able to reach the maximum number of target audience, more so than the other mediums of advertising.
  • Outdoor Advertising: This includes posting ads on billboards and hoardings. Coca-Cola makes sure that their ads can be seen everywhere you go.

Direct Marketing

Direct marketing can be used in many ways, just like advertising. It does help when the company has partnerships with various theaters, restaurants, and multinational organizations. Below is an example of a Coke commercial that a typical movie theater will show before its feature showing starts.

Also, when a customer orders a drink, the only brand the restaurant offers is made by the company itself. This forces people to buy Cokes brand only. By doing so, the company forces out other competition. When you go to a restaurant and order a Pepsi, sometimes you hear, “is coke ok?”, at that point almost majority of the consumers will say yes. Lastly, the company sponsors various sporting events around the world.

Internet Marketing

The internet is quite possibly the most important way to promote products and services these days. The Coca-Cola company has its own website, which is user-friendly, this is extremely important. The website encourages customer interaction by various features that allow customers to become interactive through various games, contests, shopping, and through a special section of the website that enables consumers to find out how they can help their community. The website even allows consumers to give their feedback on the brand and allows them to even leave suggestions.

Along with individual company websites, social media is the main communication of the modern era. Thanks to the usage of Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and Instagram, Coke is able to capture the attention of the young audience through this internet advertising.

Personal Selling

Since Coca-Cola is a world wide company, they have representatives around the world. These representatives reach the customers and create awareness among them about a new product or service and sell the products to the customers. These representatives build relationships with the customer, and promote the product to different customers within the regions they work.

There are more marketing communication strategies that the company uses. It is important that a company has a few of them up their sleeve. Coca-Cola is a good example of a company who chooses the proper marketing communications. The company has successfully implemented all its communication strategies. This has actually helped the company in gaining customers and also maintaining a good rapport with the potential customers.

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Website Media Tips for International Marketing Communications

Your export operations must be accompanied by a clear international marketing communications strategy. Below we will discuss various website tools you can use in your strategy. Keep in mind that the use of each of these media must be consistent with your overall business strategy.

Website and Web Marketing

Your Website

Your internet website is an indispensable communication tool for your business when you go online. Your website allows you to present and represent your products and services to the entire world. Within minutes, potential new clients can find you and see what you have to offer. Your website is your catalog, as well as a visiting card for those who would like to know more about your company and what you stand for.

Good versus bad website layout

When you first decide to make your website, it is important to keep in mind the content you want to produce and show to the world. You MUST think about how to distinguish yourself from your other competitors. Your website must provide sufficient information but always in concise, brief, and if possible, something very “lucid”. You want to give preference to photos, drawings and very clear and attractive presentations. Text of 200 lines on a website has little to no chance of being read unless it can somehow be presented as interesting and have specific content for a particular category of users.

Search Engine Optimization and Marketing

A website if meant to be found and hopefully clicked on and read through. Below we discuss a few web marketing tips on how to optimize your ranking on the search engines and directories. This process if actually called Search Engine Optimization or (SEO).

The objective of the search engine is to provide the best possible information that is requested by an internet surfer. If a consumer if searching for a specific product that you have, it is important the search engines knows you are the best fit for that consumer. In order to convince their algorithm that your website meets that objective you should should use headings and text that are relevant to your business and that stand out from other businesses.

It is important to think about making light pages (this means pages with not too much information and not too many documents and photos) because heavy pages are not easy to download and are not catchy to the eye. But also, too light of pages can lead to too little information and less likely a search engine will display your site to the consumer. Make sure to also think about keywords for your pages and optimize each page by using those words in the text. Defining your key words will also play a key role. It would be wise to search your competitors pages and see what they are doing for their websites. Then you can build and see what they aren’t doing and what you can make better for your website.

Search Engine Marketing or (SEM), refers to practice of buying traffic to your website through paid search listings offered by the top search engines. This includes Yahoo!, Google, and Bing. Paid links are actually advertisements that appear on the right side or even the top of a consumers screen when they are carrying out a search on any of those search engines.

SEM links are sold in an auction model. In order to get your site to appear in the top results, the advertiser must place a high bid for a specific keyword. Charges are also based on Pay Per Click or (PPC). This means that every time a consumer clicks on your ad, your bidding amount gets charged to your account. This can be pricey for a new company, but ultimately worth it. If is this an issue, you do have the option to limit your daily budget and you can decide about when your ad appears and you can limit the number of clicks to your ad.

Blogs and Social Media

When scrolling through social media, how often to you see paid displayed ads? Whether you want to see them or not, they are there. Blogs and social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and more, are extremely useful in this day and age. They allow you to provide several interfaces for direct communication with your customers and potential prospects. They are valuable to you because they provide a platform for public communication between multiple users and an enterprise.

Social Media: To promote your brand, use Facebook and Twitter. These sites allow you to post information and engage with your consumers. Publish visuals, videos, ask questions, answers questions, anything that can encourage active participation of your followers. For LinkedIn, you can showcase your company by interfacing with the professional world. This will help you to know about your prospects and partners as well as your employees. It is ALWAYS important to update your social media accounts regularly and respond quickly to both positive and negative posts from the public.

Blogs: Some have discovered that blogs can actually be useful marketing tools as well as excellent ways to learn about their customers. Social media allows for direct communication with individuals, so do blogs. Strong relationships can be created by using blogs. It is again, important to update your blog regularly and respond to the negative and positive posts.

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The Netflix Method

Going International

Over the last few years, Netflix has expanded to almost all of the countries in the world in its aim to widen its international market. This means a wider target audience and heavy restructuring of its international marketing strategy to recognise and appeal to the diverse markets that they acquire. How does Netflix optimise its reach over such a fragmented market?

Marketing Communications

This is where Netflix made an astute decision of focusing a majority of their marketing and advertising efforts onto the digital media channels. Not only does digital media provide them with platforms that have an easier reach to such a diverse audience, but it also provides them with an immediate feedback loop to track their target’s responses.

Along with its decision to concentrate on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitters, Instagram etc), Netflix has also aligned with a ‘product based’ marketing strategy over the usual ‘brand based’ marketing strategy. This means that Netflix advertises its exclusive ‘Original Shows’ instead of the traditional method of advertising their entire brand as a service that is provided. Netflix seems to believe that creating a loyal fan base for its original content and getting their audience hooked onto their programming is what in turn will increase their overall subscription numbers. In support of this strategy, Netflix has been continuously adding original content in various languages to accommodate their wide market, leading to over 148 million streaming subscribers worldwide in the fourth quarter of 2018. Of these subscribers, 60.55 million were from the United States and the rest 59% being international subscribers.


Number of Netflix streaming subscribers worldwide tracking Q1 2016 to Q4 2018 (in millions) Source: Statista

Native Advertising

Native Advertising creates advertisements that are in the same style and format that the content audiences are there to consume. Hence marketers provide a much less disruptive advertising experience and in turn draw a higher click rate than the traditional banner ads, particularly on mobile devices. Desktop native click-through rates (CTRs) averaged a respectable 0.15%, while native-mobile ads had CTRs over 1%, according to recent data from Polar Media Group and Celtra, respectively.

What is Native Advertising?

Netflix cashed in on this high ROI with some very successful Native Ads in recent history. They started collaborating with reputable online publications and news outlets to provide content that apart from a few references/connections to their exclusive content (that they wanted to advertise), could very well be perceived as credible journalism addressing the needs of the society.

Wall Street Journal – A series of articles about Cocainenomics and the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar just in time to promote their new series ‘Narcos’.

The Atlantic – A multimedia long thread about the dynamic between U.S. presidents and their wives. Titled “The Ascent: Political Destiny and the Makings of a First Couple” the thread is a stylish piece of native advertising, created by The Atlantic‘s in-house agency Re:think to help promote the third season of ‘House of Cards’. The piece was pretty clearly marked as a sponsored content effort on behalf of Netflix and even carried the Netflix and House of Cards logos.

The New York Times – In-depth multimedia feature on women in prison and why the male model doesn’t work, as a piece of native advertising for their series ‘Orange is the New Black’. Even though the article was marked as a paid post, the only direct reference to Netflix in it was Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is the New Black, and the subsequent launch of the Netflix original series.

The common thread between all of Netflix’s native advertising campaigns is that each of these stories would have worked equally well as part of the editorial content of these individual publications. That is what sets Native Advertising apart, the fact that it compels the advertisement to be as true and non-intrusive to the customer’s experience as possible.