Last Updated: November 19, 2020

Only a few generations ago, it took months to ship products to a market in another country, and doing so was such a difficult undertaking that only huge trading companies were able to take the risk. Then, developments in transportation technology made it possible for people and products to move much more quickly, and the first push towards globalization began.

More recently, information technology—and particularly the Internet—has shrunk the world even further. A business might have partners and employees half a world away, and consumers can get products from those locations in a matter of days.

What is global marketing?

Global marketing is more than simply selling a product internationally. Rather, it includes the whole process of planning, producing, placing, and promoting a company’s products in a worldwide market. Large businesses often have offices in the foreign countries they market to; but with the expansion of the Internet, even small companies can reach customers throughout the world. (See also International Marketing)

Even if a company chooses not to expand globally, it may well face domestic competition from foreign companies that are. This competition has made it nearly a necessity for most businesses to establish an international presence.

Who implements global marketing?

Global marketing is particularly important for products that have universal demand, such as food and automobiles. Thus a beverage company is likely to be in more markets than say, a wooden toy company; but even a wooden toy company may find niche markets in diverse corners of the world. However, even today most companies are focused on the domestic market (which is the largest economy in the world), with only one percent of U.S. companies invested in exporting. Nevertheless, the value of U.S. exports continues to increase, amounting to some $2.1 trillion in 2011.

Some individual examples of global marketing include:

Top 10 Biggest Global Companies

(excluding oil and energy)

  1. Wal-Mart
  2. Toyota
  3. Volkswagen
  4. Japan Post Holdings
  5. Glencore International (commodities)
  6. ING (financial services)
  7. General Motors
  8. Samsung Electronics
  9. Daimler
  10. General Electric

Source: Fortune Magazine

  • Coca-Cola started selling internationally back in 1919, and is now present in more than 200 countries. In order to keep a consistent brand, Coke tastes the same in every region (although outside of the United States, the recipe uses sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup), but the size, shape, and labeling of the bottle are changed to match the norms in each country. While the company formerly used a standardized advertising approach, it has changed to adapt advertising messages to local culture. Additionally, it adjusts its product line-up to fit local tastes; including a number of additional beverage brands.
  • McDonald’s makes certain that a Big Mac tastes the same in every country; but it also varies items on its menu according to local tastes. Customers in Mexico can order a green chili cheeseburger, customers in Korea get to eat bulgogi burgers; and customers in many Arab countries can enjoy the McArabia, a grilled kofta sandwich on pita bread.
  • Starbucks also adjusts their menu to fit local tastes. In Hong Kong, for example, they sell Dragon Dumplings. And as a global buyer of coffee, the company has long had a reputation for engaging local cultures according to their needs.
  • In Japan, Kentucky Fried Chicken has managed to associate their product with Christmas, and every year Japanese line up around the block to get their KFC chicken on that day.

For a non-American example of global marketing, consider Ahava, which started out as a tourist stand on the Dead Sea selling bottles of mud and salt from the renowned body of water. From this inauspicious start they developed a line of cosmetics, and after partnering with an American company that already has a global distribution network, their cosmetics are being sold in high-end department stores throughout the world.

What kinds of customers does global marketing reach?

Since global marketing involves a variety of different products and opportunities, it’s impossible to identify a single customer profile. A global company must be prepared to develop multiple profiles for each of the different regions it trades in. The United States’ biggest trading partners are Canada, Mexico, China, and the European Union; but international trade by no means ends there.

Depending on the product, customers can be reached nearly anywhere in the world. In order to do so, global companies may rely on local distribution networks; but as they grow in particular markets, they may establish their own networks. Companies attempting to enter new markets tend to start with heavily populated urban centers, before moving out to surrounding regions.

Particular attention needs to be paid to the growing international online market, which vastly increases businesses’ access to customers worldwide — if they can speak the language. J.P. Morgan, in a report for the Department of Commerce, estimated that only 27 percent of online shoppers speak English. Nonetheless, in Korea, 99 percent of those with Internet access shop online; in Germany and Japan, 97 percent. Thus, companies who wish to break into those markets need to not only create a good product and do what works stateside; they also need to immerse themselves in the language and culture of the international market they wish to break into. (See also E-Commerce Marketing)

How is a global marketing campaign developed?

When marketing products globally, companies must recognize that a marketing mix that works in the domestic market may not have the same success in another market. Differences in local competition may require a different pricing strategy. Local infrastructure may affect how products are produced and/or shipped. In some cases, it may be more profitable to produce things locally; in others, it may be cheaper to ship them in from across the globe.

The Marketing Mix in Global Marketing

  • Product — Should the product stay the same in each market, or does it need to be adjusted to fit local tastes?
  • Price — Is a new pricing strategy required to deal with variations in local competition? Walmart, for example, discovered that several retailers in Germany already occupied their low-price niche.
  • Placement — How do customers in the locality make their purchases?
  • Promotion — Can your message reach across cultures? Are any unexpected responses due to cultural patterns?

Partnerships with local businesses may be an important step in expanding into one market; while in another market, such partnerships might dilute the brand (See also Local Marketing). The savvy global marketer must consider all these aspects of marketing in addition to the task of communicating cross-culturally.

When promoting a product or brand globally, a company must make decisions regarding trade-offs between standard and local messages. A single message is cheaper to produce and maintains the consistency of the brand; but it may not perform well in some regions due to differences in cultural values or expectations.

A global company must carefully research the various markets, and prepare to make adjustments to its product and messaging wherever required. Sometimes this requires changing a name (for example, the Chevy Nova didn’t sell well in Spain, as “no va” in Spanish means “no go”). Sometimes it even involves changing the packaging (in America, Gerber baby food has a cute baby on the label to represent the brand, but in some countries shoppers expect the picture to represent the contents of the jar, and were appalled by the image).

Individual marketers working with global campaigns should strive to learn the language of the market they’re assigned to, both for the purpose of managing business relationships with local companies and in order to verify translation efforts. For example, how do you evaluate the work of someone who has translated your company website? Is it a meaningful translation, or just full of buzz words?

Additionally, marketers should personally visit their target markets, and spend time in them—even moving to them for a time. Here they can develop local contacts, as well as gain a deeper understanding about how business is conducted in the area. In Japan, for example, it is not enough just to speak Japanese; you must also conduct business the Japanese way. Learn what is valued culturally—and what is offensive.

Developing, and respecting, the local business talent is also critical to global marketing. If you have an office in Hong Kong, for example, you want to make full use of talented Hong Kong Chinese professionals in your marketing, advertising, and distribution. Many companies have lost opportunities and alienated allies by having the attitude that as Americans, they automatically knew better than their foreign partners.

What career titles work with global marketing strategies?

Global Marketing Managers

Global Marketing Managers direct a company’s strategy and interests abroad, and may be posted in a specific foreign market.

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager (Global or Internet)
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top earners: $187,199+
  • Market Research Analyst
    Median annual pay: $60,570
    Top earners: $111,440+

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012

  • identify international market opportunities
  • advise on the appropriate market mix (product, pricing, placement, and promotion) for various international markets
  • establish relationships with local businesses in foreign markets in order to develop product branding and distribution in the location
  • investigate and advise on the local conditions, including legal environments
Education and Skills

Most marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree, often in marketing, advertising, or business management. Education preparing them for a global marketing career includes classes in marketing, market research, and international law. The ability to communicate in another language is especially important; therefore, a global marketing manager will want to cultivate a proficiency in a foreign language (such as Mandarin or Japanese) or learn some of several different languages. Most marketing managers will also have substantial experience in their industry, in marketing, advertising, and/or public relations.

Internet Marketing Managers

Internet Marketing Managers develop a company’s online business.

What do they do?
  • develop company websites in multiple languages in order to tap into the global online market
  • evaluate search terms used in other languages to optimize the website for increased traffic
  • develop online advertising that can immediately access foreign markets through the web, often focusing on the visual (non-language) aspects of the message
  • use online data to identify opportunities for expanding the physical company’s presence in the global market
Education and Skills

Internet marketing managers typically require at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related field. Important courses in their education will include information technology, market research, communications, and consumer behavior. Internet marketing managers must have several years’ successful experience in online marketing and/or business development.

Market Research Analysts

Market Research Analysts gather data about foreign markets.

What do they do?
  • use a variety of methods (including interviews, questionnaires, and statistical analysis) to gather data on a foreign market’s consumer base
  • identify the demand for a company’s products and estimate the prices those products can sell at, taking into account local competition and particularities of taste
  • identify the channels available for both product distribution and communications, and determine how costs in the foreign market will differ from domestic costs
  • investigate foreign cultures; evaluating and predicting cultural responses to product messaging
Education and Skills

Market research analysts need at least a bachelor’s degree in market research, or in a related field such as statistics or computer science. Research analysts involved with global marketing will also benefit from a background in cultural anthropology. Before examining global markets, researchers often gain experience in domestic markets, or in research assignments such as ethnographies.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

A good marketing program allows students to build a significant knowledge base and highly developed skill set in communications and management — key skills in the global marketplace.

As a marketer—as opposed to merely an advertiser—you’ll learn about economics, business management, and product development. Additionally, courses in market research will teach you how to gather the data you need in order to make marketing decisions. You’ll develop a variety of tools for both collecting and analyzing data, in both domestic and foreign markets. To prepare specifically for global marketing, you’ll also take advantage of classes offered in cultural anthropology and international business law.

Effective communication is crucial to any marketing strategy, and particularly in the global market, where communication can easily go awry. Developing communications skills will be a core part of your marketing program, and will not only equip you with speech and presentations skills, but also give you a background in both organizational and cross-cultural communication. You’ll learn how to use both verbal and graphic messages, and how to tap into the values of your target audience to create a powerful message.

To learn more about what a marketing school can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing, and open up a whole new world of opportunity.