Marketing anything across cultural and geographic borders has always been tricky, providing room for more gaffes than just about anything we can think of. (Our favorites of
recent memory are probably the promotional tour for Cowboys and Aliens in which the actress promised to speak “in Swiss,” or Puma designing a shoe in the colors of the United Arab
Emirates’ flag to celebrate the country’s anniversary, before realizing Emiratis think their flag is important, and that shoes are dirty.)
But in digital platforms, where initiatives can start locally and spread virally, even the most culturally conscientious marketers can find themselves at sea: In a recent survey of more than 31 global companies by Boston Consulting Group, one marketing exec confessed that by the time his company developed an official approach to social media, there were already more than 200 rogue Facebook and Twitter accounts around the world.
“For global brands, the first challenge is how to manage the brand consistently between its global presence, and important local customization in, let’s say, Latin America or Europe,” says Kate Sayre, a BCG partner and coauthor of the report. “Everything needs to be consistent with the brand, but it needs to be explicated at the local level.”