The Problematic Of Standardization And Adaptation Marketing Essay

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Abstract: In the new conditions of business environment, international activity has to respond to some specific challenges, which point to all the aspects of marketing philosophy and action. Marketing communications is one of the strategic instruments used in international marketing and has to face these challenges too. Advertising, as a part of it, has attracted attention of specialists because the difficulties regarding the decisions in its area. The run for better solutions has one end. This end took the form of models that tried to explain how the international advertising works. This paper concentrates on this explanation models of international advertising.


Economic opportunity and environment and organizational restrictions are fundamental factors, which have to be discussed when taken marketing decisions. In international business, these factors differentiate the possible strategies to follow. Economic fructification of international similarities, on the one hand, and accounting of organizational and environment restrictions, on the other hand, are start hypothesis in selection of international strategies and application of marketing programs. International marketing practices point toward existence of two important kinds of strategies: standardization and local adaptation. These strategies focus on meeting the marketing performances by two separate ways: considering the economic rationality and increasing empathy in marketing decisions.

From strategies to models in international advertising

Each one of marketing-mix elements can be the object of strategies of standardization and adaptation, so communication strategy is included in this problematic [6]. Regarding the same communication strategy, the motivation of using the strategy of standardization or strategy of adaptation is based on some advantages. First, scale economies in creative work, in media buying and experience effect with bring the possibility of using the same campaigns in the different markets are advantages of standardization strategy. Second, marketing communication standardization lead to the coherence of corporate and brand identity through the international markets, with some important effects on consumer's trust and fidelity. Brand image consistence is related with consumer's perception of the products and services recognized value at the international level [5]. Third, globalization of the media and accentuated mobility of population create the condition for an increased familiarity for the international product and this aspect is favorable for standardization strategy [3].

Adaptation, as the other important option, is sustained by the cultural differences between the markets. The cultural values and norms, the languages, the behavioral specify are factors that have effects on marketing communication.

Utilization of advertising, of comparative advertising, the management of sales forces, all are dependent of the economic and social role associated at the level of international markets. The adverting budgets and its structures depend on cultural behavior and the consumer cycle in each market. The symbolism and linguistic signification of advertisements are the most sensible to cultural impact [4]. Next to these factors, there are institutional and legal aspects that can favor the adaptation strategy.

Advertising as an object of theoretical development and as a mean of action is strongly integrated in the problematic of standardization and adaptation strategies. Both the academic and business community show their interest in the direction of analyzing and moving advertising practices to better performances, even the opinions regarding these aspects were sometimes contradictory.

The new business conditions, permanently in a strong dynamic, make necessary the existence of some answers that marketing and, implicit advertising, should give. The new interactive media, the accentuated fragmentation of markets, the globalization tendencies are factors that complicate the existence of any organization.

Of the multiple aspect of the advertising theory and practice, the strategically options in international advertising are the more often discussed. Standardization and adaptation in international advertising is logical derived from the general marketing strategy.

International advertising models

Marketing literature not only search for possible strategic options for a better performance in international advertising, but proposed as well the models that can assist managers in the sensible advertising area. Some of these models have a descriptive nature, and others bring a series of recommendations regarding advertising processes.

A well-known model of international advertising is the one proposed by Papavassiliou and Stathakopoulos (figure 1). This model suggests that there are a number of relations and influences between three categories of factors and advertising strategy. One end of the strategy is standardization and the option for it appears when met next conditions are:

There is a great similarity regarding economic, legal and cultural conditions of the markets;

A low specificity of consumer profile;

Organization orientation is not cultural-related;

Decisional authority is centralized;

Competitive pressure in markets is low;

The product is not cultural sensible;

Similar advertising infrastructure in the markets;

Advertising objects are more related with information and recall and less with conviction;

There is an overlap of media in the markets;

The presence of the support activities, like strategic orientation, information facile access, scale economies and the lack of barriers, such as cultural specificity.

Figure 1 Standardization and adaptation in international advertising

Influence factors

Advertising strategy and tactics

Environment factors

cultural environment

economic conditions

legal conditions


advertising infrastructure

consumers profile

country of origin image

Creative strategy and tactics


Organizational factors

managerial and financial characteristics

corporate strategy

oraganizational culture

decisional authority

financial conditions

product nature

A continuum of adaptation levels

influenced by the existence or

inexistence of environment,


and domain factors




Domain factors

international advertising objectives

organization-advertising agency relationship

creative strategy

media strategy

other communication-mix elements

support-activities and barriers

Creative strategy and tactics


Source: Nikolaos Papavassiliou, Vlasis Stathakopoulos - Standardization versus adaptation of international advertising strategies: towards a framework, European Journal of Marketing, vol.31, no. 7, 1997

The conditions presented in previous paragraph guarantee the possibility of using the same creative concept or theme, as a strategic element, and the same execution of advertisement, as a tactical element. Regarding the creative concept, the advertiser's options are directed towards rational or emotional concepts. Rational concepts are more efficient the case of industrial products or when the consumer's level of implication is high. Emotional concepts are used when the advertising is developed for consumer markets and the level of consumer's implication is low. From this last perspective, the utilization of emotional concepts can be more associated with the standardization strategy of advertising [9].

At the opposite side of the model, we can find the option of adaptation. This option is necessary when met the following conditions:

the product is addressed to individual consumers;

the advertising objectives are related to conviction;

other factors action are opposite to the situation of standardizations.

In these conditions, creative and execution options must be adapted to local specific. It is been considered that the adaptation strategy is related in a special manner with the products addressed to individual consumers and to situations where de the degree of implications is high. In practice, the used forms of adaptation vary from simple translation of the message to complete modification of the message. First and most simple form of adaptation is represented by the translation. The efficiency and the communicational impact of the message depend, in this situation, by the conditions: 1. very good knowledge of initial and final languages and 2. very good knowledge of product characteristics and the concept evocated with the scope of creating impact [8]. Over this simple solution, these condition presented in the past lines can make it necessary a reinvention of the message. The scope of adaptation is the one of reestablishing the wanted signification and the placement of it in a certain cultural environment [2].

Starting form this model, we can say that the strategic alternatives in international advertising represent a result of combination and variation between different degree of standardization and adaptation.

Another model, proposed now by M.G. Harvey, identify six variables that can influence the degree of standardization or adaptation of international advertising (figure 2). These factors are:

product factors - the universality degree of product;

competition factors - the structure of competitive environment;

organizational experience and the degree of control - the level of organizational experience at corporate level;

infrastructure factors - the degree of similarity regarding the media;

legal factors - restrictions over mass-media;

cultural and societal factors - the cultural differences between the markets.



Competitive variables

Legal restrictions

Organizational/ control variables

Infrastructure restrictions



Societal / cultural impact

Manufacturer Figure 2 The influence factors of international advertising strategy

Source: M.G. Harvey - Point of view: a model to determine standardization of the advertising process in international markets, Journal of Advertising Research, Vol. 33 No. 4, 1993.

Essentially, the model suggests the existence of the categories of factors that influence selection of international advertising strategy: product, competition and organizational profile. Next to these factors, legal conditions and local culture have a arbiter role. The new thing brought by this model is that these factors have to be considered at every decisional step so that for every process to be defined the right strategy.

Sandra Luxton proposes a more recent model. This model has some common points with the one proposed by Nikolaos Papavassiliou and Vlasis Stathakopoulos. The advertising strategy implies a degree of variability between the total standardization and total adaptation (figure 3). The influence factors are in principle the same: nature of the product, local market characteristics, advertising processes, organizational characteristics, global business environment characteristics, and they have the potential to limit or to create opportunities for advertising standardization strategy. Supplementary, the model brings into discussion the development degree of consumerism in markets. The relationship between the consumers and brands, the level of competition, the advertising practices have to be integrated in the area of international markets similarities. This view creates the condition for adopting one of the two possible strategies.

Figure 3 The advertising response through standardization model

Type of product

Local market

Advertising process

Organizational characteristics

Global characteristics

The advertising response throughout standardization


The level of standardization extent

Inexistent language creation final product total

Level of market development

Sellers market

Post- modern marketing

Consumers market

Classic branding


Source: Sandra Luxton - Time For Advancement: A Framework For Standardization Of International Advertising Strategy, ANZMAC 2005 Conference: Advertising/Marketing Communication Issues 105


As we can saw, the models presented have some common points and focus on the factors wich has the potential to influence the selection on international advertising strategy. There is not a unique manner to develop these strategies, but it is necessary to adjust the selected strategies to a multitude of factor that manifest in a variable ways. Therefore, we can conclude that it is useful to continue analyzing more in-depth these factors with the scope to see exactly how can they are influencing advertising strategies. These can surely bring more understanding of such complex area of advertising.