Last Updated: November 22, 2020

As technology creates leaps in communication, transportation, and financial flows, the world continues to feel smaller and smaller. It is possible for companies and consumers to conduct business in almost any country around the world thanks to advances in international trade. According to the World Trade Organization, the volume of international merchandise trade increased 33 times between 1951 and 2010.

Brands and products that originate in one country are enthusiastically accepted in others. For example, Louis Vuitton handbags, BMWs, and Columbian coffee, all foreign products, are symbols of status and quality in the United States – and many American brands, like Warner Brothers motion pictures, have similar footholds overseas.

However, globalization has created just as many challenges as opportunities for brands that venture overseas. Because consumers have so many more options for similar products, companies must ensure that their products are high in quality and affordability. Additionally, these products cannot be marketed identically across the globe. (See also Global Marketing) International marketing takes more into consideration than just language – it involves culture, market saturation, and customer behaviors. American and European companies especially have turned their international marketing efforts into something more than just exporting – they have adapted their branding to account for differences in consumers, demographics, and world markets.

Companies who have done this very well include Coca-Cola, who discovered that the word ‘Diet’ carries a negative connotation in Latin America and changed the name of their zero-calorie product to ‘Coke Lite’ for those countries. UPS, known in America for their brown trucks, issued a fleet of a different color after learning that their flagship brown trucks resembled Spanish hearses.

What is international marketing?

International marketing is the application of marketing principles in more than one country, by companies overseas or across national borders. International marketing is based on an extension of a company’s local marketing strategy, with special attention paid to marketing identification, targeting, and decisions internationally (See also Local Marketing).

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA) “international marketing is the multinational process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.”

Who implements international marketing?

Market Entry Modes: Risk vs. Reward

  • Export
  • Licensing
  • Contract manufacturing
  • Joint venture
  • Direct investment

*Market entry modes are listed from lowest risk/reward to highest risk/reward

Rapid technological advances mean that geographical and cultural communication barriers are disappearing, and even smaller businesses without a physical presence in other countries can market and sell their products internationally (See also Diversity Marketing). This means that almost anyone with the desire can market internationally, but will do so with varying levels of success, depending on the thought and research that is put into the international marketing strategy.

Companies selling goods that have customs restrictions, like food and live plants, must contend with a more rigorous regulatory process before marketing their products internationally. While they may have a more difficult time setting up their international export business, they also have the opportunity to expose other countries to native products they couldn’t access otherwise.

Other types of companies that often perform well internationally include those involved in export, joint ventures, and direct investment.

Exporting is the practice of shipping goods directly to a foreign country. Prominent companies that do an excellent job of marketing their foreign exports to the United States include Fanta soft drinks, Honda, and retail giant H&M. In fact, H&M paid $3.5 million for a 30-second commercial during the 2012 Super Bowl, a marketing bonanza that has long been dominated by American brands.

Joint venture companies refer to the combined efforts of two or more businesses to their mutual benefit. One of the most famous international joint venture success stories is Sony-Ericsson, a partnership between a Japanese electronics company and a Swedish telecommunications company. Their international marketing strategy, comprised of bright colors and modern shapes, has helped make the joint venture known the world over. (See also Cooperative Marketing)

A direct investment company places a fixed asset in a foreign country with the aim of manufacturing a product, or part of a product, abroad. Dell computers, for example, is an American company with factories in many other countries that assemble personal computers from parts made all around the world. Dell then markets their computers with an exceptional emphasis on customer needs and customization – unlike other companies that sell pre-manufactured products; Dell computers are custom-assembled after customers place their orders.

What kinds of customers are effectively marketed to with international marketing?

Depending on your brand, any foreign citizen is a potential customer. But how does a marketing team figure out how to tap into an international market? Customers who live in foreign markets have different buying habits, preferences, and priorities than the customers they’re familiar with. By tracking these foreign customers through market research and cultural surveys, marketers can discover the best methods of reaching them.

Trying to market a brand to international customers without researching is just asking for trouble, as companies have proven time and time again. Careful consideration of a culture’s beliefs and prejudices is important in international marketing. For example, the Muslim culture considers dogs to be dirty animals. So, positioning a dog as “man’s best friend” in a Middle Eastern country will surely fall flat.

5 Huge International Marketing Blunders

  • Pepsodent tried to market its toothpaste in Southeast Asia by claiming that it “whitens your teeth,” before learning that some locals chewed betel nuts to blacken their teeth, a sign of attractiveness in their culture.
  • The Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux didn’t account for a common American colloquialism when marketing their vacuum in the U.S: “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux”.
  • The soft drink Fresca was marketed under that name in Mexico … before the company discovered that ‘fresca’ is a slang term for lesbian in parts of Mexico.
  • Pepsi used the slogan “Come Alive With Pepsi” in Taiwan … or so they thought. The slogan was actually translated as: “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead.”
  • The Coors slogan “Turn It Loose,” was translated into Spanish as “Suffer From Diarrhea.”

How is an international marketing plan developed?

It can be difficult for a small or medium-sized corporation to initially build an international marketing plan, because they generally don’t have the expertise or budget to launch the campaign. By partnering with another group or hiring marketing experts with knowledge of foreign markets, smaller companies can build their cultural research and implement more successful campaigns. (See also International Marketer )

Whether a company chooses to partner with another foreign agency or hire an inside international marketing representative, the most important facet of building a successful international marketing campaign is the research they conduct. Research will inform the company’s marketing mission as they proceed, allowing them to maximize potential in new markets.

Once research is completed and a market is chosen, experts should examine and modify a brand’s marketing strategy so that it fits their target demographics. Hiring representives from the country will help ensure that all cultural differences are handled appropriately and with sensitivity.

For an emerging international brand, establishing partnerships and networking with other companies in the country are essential for success. Partners within a target market help new companies establish themselves in markets where they would otherwise have gone unnoticed.

Finally, it is important to review an international marketing strategy on a quarterly basis. Even if a company sends representatives to travel to the foreign market, it is much more difficult to keep a finger on the pulse of an overseas marketing campaign. This means that results need to be tracked extremely closely, and tweaks should be made regularly to help a product gain the appropriate foothold for success.

About the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) ...

  • 95% of WFA members believe their future growth will come from outside the US
  • Over 71% think some of the best ad campaigns are being developed abroad
  • 75% of marketers think that American brands can learn a lot from foreign campaigns
  • Only 11% think that US marketers pay enough attention to the rest of the world

What types of careers work with international marketing strategies?

Because international business is largely conducted over the telephone and internet, an international marketing professional should have a firm grasp on changing technologies as well as an understanding of different cultures and global economy. An international marketing career is especially suited to an individual with political understanding, good economic and communications skills, and an ear for language.

Marketing Managers

What do they do?

Salaries of Event Marketing Careers

  • Marketing Manager
    Entry level: $37,869
    Experienced: $91,314
  • Marketing Coordinator
    Entry level: $27,799
    Experienced: $52,807
  • Translator
    Entry level: $10.95 hourly
    Experienced: $39.87hourly


International marketing campaigns are generally led by a marketing manager with the knowledge and training necessary to manage and effectively direct a comprehensive global campaign. Typically, marketing managers oversee all activities within a company’s marketing, advertising, and promotional department, locally and abroad. They establish brand guidelines and growth strategies, evaluate customer needs in foreign markets, and tweak marketing plans dependent on culture. This position is a key component in ensuring the success of an international marketing campaign.

Education and Skills

Most marketing managers have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing or a related major like communication, advertising, or business. For an international marketing manager, a second major or minor in a foreign language, and retained fluency in that language, would also be extremely beneficial. Marketing managers generally begin in entry-level marketing positions and work their way up the career ladder.

Marketing Coordinators

What do they do?

A marketing coordinator organizes and implements the day-to-day tasks of personifying a brand across all markets. In the case of international marketing, a marketing coordinator may be hired for each foreign market, to ensure that the brand and its message are being utilized appropriately across all cultures in routine application.

Education and Skills

Most marketing coordinators need a bachelor’s degree in marketing, event planning, or a related field, but generally need less experience than other positions in the international marketing field. They should have excellent time management and organizational skills, and should be able to manage multiple projects on tight deadlines. Again, fluency in a foreign language is extremely beneficial.


What do they do?

Even if most members of an international marketing team are fluent in a second language, it is best practice to keep a translator on staff who is familiar with the subtleties, nuances, and unique sayings of a language in the target market. As the language expert, a translator helps keep business transactions running smoothly across linguistic barriers and can prevent mishaps in marketing.

Education and Skills

In most situations, a translator will have formal study in his or her specialty language, like a bachelor’s degree in Spanish or Farsi. However, a translator can also be a foreign-born professional whose second (or third, or fourth) language is English.

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 marketing degree is essential to begin a career in international marketing. Education at a marketing school will cover:

  • Broad market and cultural understanding
  • Customer need and behavior identification
  • Product development and delivery
  • Branding techniques
  • Communication strategies across all media

The best way to pursue an international marketing career is to earn a marketing degree. Marketing graduates have the advertising knowledge, consumer and cultural smarts, and communication skills necessary to build a successful career. Most organizations that hire an integrated marketing team require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in marketing. They also look for individuals with strong creative skills, an ability to see the big picture, and an attention to detail. Earning a degree from a marketing school ensures you have the proper background knowledge upon which to build your career.

To learn more about how a marketing degree can help you build a successful international marketing career, request information from schools offering marketing degrees today.