What Does It Mean to be a Global Marketer? (And other complicated questions)

I had listened to Jeff Julian’s interview with Jason  A. Miller earlier this month and I remember getting extremely twitchy and jumping up and down because it is such a gosh darn, interesting topic.  I just listened to it again and started bouncing in my chair because Mr. Miller has a very sweet gig and I am envious of his adventure.  He is doing incredible work for LinkedIn and Mr. Miller, I can tell you from personal experience that I saw LinkedIn explode in Denmark in the summer and fall of 2015.  From this writer’s perspective, if you are a professional and you are not on LinkedIn, you are truly missing more opportunities than I can spell out in one post.  I also started talking to my desktop PC because I might have a couple of ideas to add having recently lived and worked in Copenhagen for the second time and can still vividly recall my time in the workforce in Bejing, China (but that is a post unto itself)!  If you haven’t listened to the podcast or watched the video as of yet, please do because not only will you get a taste of Mr. Miller’s experiences in London and his expertise in global marketing,  you will also be treated to some primo 80s movie and music references.

Global marketing has always fascinated me because it is so tough to achieve effectively.  I used to teach Principles of Advertising and always included a unit on global advertising because it invariably elicited a chuckle from students to see how often a concept simply, doesn’t translate.  img_2225But what does it mean to be a global marketer?  Does it mean that you develop campaigns that are always global in scope?  Does it mean you have to have a working cultural knowledge of all the countries in which you market (which would be awfully difficult)? Do you tailor each campaign for the specific market that may be a market within a market (as is the case for rural Denmark)? The answer is: all of the above and Mr. Miller nails it when he says, “You can’t have a global marketer who lives in the U.S.”

Mr. Miller reminded me about Pam Didner who is a wealth of knowledge in global marketing.  I remember chatting with my brother in law (a creative for the Danish Lottery) about the marketing of the lottery in our respective countries and telling him about Ms. Didner and the fantastic book she wrote on Global Marketing that I read shortly after it came out.  Ms. Didner is incredibly sharp and addresses everything from the development of global content to how to scale a campaign.  There are, however, some things that one can only learn through experience and Jeff Julian and Jason Miller both aptly address the value of not only living but working in another country.

As they discuss, some of the most apparent differences are the ever-present newspapers and magazines!  Print is still quite popular in much of Europe and in many countries, a great deal of value is placed on rich, artistic, images that harken back to the “golden age” of advertising depicted in Mad Men.  That is not to say that marketers in Europe aren’t embracing other marketing practices including data-gathering to enhance the customer experience–they just do it in a slightly different way.

img_2088Here’s an example: I did all of my cosmetic shopping at Matas in Copenhagen and signed up for their rewards program and like all rewards programs, I began receiving emails from Matas about sale products.  In fact, I am still getting emails from Matas because now that I am back in the U.S., I am not able to unsubscribe because in order to log into my “Matas Profile,” I have to verify my identity using a code that is being sent to my old mobile number in Copenhagen that no longer exists.  Very clever Matas!  This “profile” is protected for very important reasons, though:

  1. Due to different laws and practices than in the U.S., Matas does not utilize my purchase patterns to market to me.
  2. As the Matas consumer, they ask me to go in and set up my profile (in great detail I might add)
  3. When I visit the Matas Website, a pop-up informing me that it is collecting cookies appears as is the case with nearly all Websites in Denmark.  In fact, some of the warnings are so explicit that I actually deny them access!

Contrast my experience with that of CVS–CVS knows everything about me!  I signed away all of my rights to privacy in that regard when I signed up for the CVS rewards program.  CVS sends me coupons for the specific products I use and frankly, I find the program very useful.  The degree of personalization that CVS offers me would horrify most Danes in addition to the fact that the degree of data gathering we do here in the U.S. is actually illegal and/or considered unethical in Denmark.  And that brings us back to Julian and Miller’s point that it is very difficult to truly grasp cultural differences if you have never lived outside these 5o states.

So what can one do to get closer to a global perspective or (as in my case) try to hold on to the lessons I learned living abroad?

  • Watch BBC and Al Jazeera World News (in English) to see what stories from the U.S. are resonating around the world and why and to stay informed about the political climates and conflicts in other countries that affect global markets every single day.
  • Watch television and films from other countries (with subtitles) to get a sense of another culture, how they use visual imagery, what slang they use (and how often they use American slang and profanity), and what type of marketing is depicted on billboards and through commercials that are easily accessed online.
  • Test your assumptions with your global contacts.  I am lucky in that I am married to a European and when I was working in Copenhagen, I would run my jokes and anecdotes by him first to see if they would work with my Danish audience.

As Mr. Miller points out, marketers are creatives but ensuring that our creativity translates globally is not only a skill, it is an art.  An art that requires a larger perspective and intentionality.

My advice is to work to develop a global perspective even if you never plan on living abroad.  As a marketer, you are likely to find yourself in a global arena at some point be it through a global enterprise or marketing conference abroad and you want to be informed.   That’s just my advice but as the slogan for Matas goes, “Good Advice Makes the Difference.”