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The Problems in International Marketing Communication

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Marketing
Wordcount: 3334 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Whether it’s a manufacturing company or service company,Communication is a very crucial element it’s marketing process. This is clear in the definition of Marketing: “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large” [1].

Marketing communication is also considered as one of the four most important elements in every marketing process, the 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix. The 4 Ps are: Product, place, price, promotion. . Every company specifies the product or service it wants to sell “product”, where these products are delivered “place” , how to set a price “price”, and how to promote its products “promotion”. Marketing Communication falls under the promotion category. Three vitals roles fall under it: providing needed information and elaboration on a product, persuading target customers of a specific brand, and encouraging them to take actions and buy their products.

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It serves both types of customers: existing customers, and prospective (potential) customers. It serves the existing customers by maintaining relationships with them. This can be done by database systems for customers and direct selling. Marketing communication serves the prospective customer by communicating the information and advice this customer needs. Such information are like: cost of the product or service, specific features, benefits and functions [4].

Elements of the communication mix:

Below are some ways to communicate information:




“A paid insertion of a message in a medium”

Public relations

” the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between the organization and its publics( users, potential users, and employees)

Sales Promotions

Activities done to attract customers and boost temporary sales. Examples: the buy one get one offer, distribution of free samples.

Personal Selling

Face-to-face communications between buyers and sellers


Taking orders by phone (inbound), Selling through phone or teleselling (outbound)

Ambient Advertising

Messages places on items such as bus tickets, stamp franking, till receipts, petrol pumps, and so forth. Any message that forms part of the environment

Press Advertising

Any paid message that appears in a newspaper or magazine

TV Advertising

Commercial messages shown in breaks during and between TV programs

Database Marketing

Profiling customers on to a database and sending out personalized mailings or other communications to them. Example: Sukar.com “sends emails with pictures of products and price offers.

E commerce

Use of websites to promote and sell products

Corporate Identity

The overall image that the company projects; the company’s personality


The mechanism by which marketing communications are coordinated

Off-the-screen selling

Using TV adverts linked to inbound telephone operations (taking orders by phone). Also, home shopping channels such as QVC.

Figure 1 Source: Blythe J. (2006) Essentials of Marketing Communications, 3rd edition

Figure 2

Message channel

Advertising media and/or personal sales force


Message translated into

Appropriate meaning


Competitive activities, other salespeople, confusion, and so on


Encoded message interpreted

into meaning

Information source

Marketer with a product


Evaluation of communications process and measure of action by receiver


Action by consumer responding to decoded message

The sender’s culture (A) The receiver’s culture (B)

Source:Cateora P, Graham J. (2008) International Marketing [ 3 ]

The Challenges of International Marketing:

Cultural Diversity:

Marketers need to develop understanding and empathy with their target audiences. Marketers need to assure that customers receive their messages without any altering of the meaning intended in the first place. Meanings of words can be denotative or connotative. Denotative means: having the same meaning for everybody. Connotative means: having a meaning which is unique to the individuals. The customer’s opinion of the advertisement is subjective. “Strawberries” mean the red small fruits. For some people, which are allergic to strawberries, it means allergy and disease. This is easy when the marketer and audience share the same background and outlook. [2]. In international marketing, , the audience “customers” are diverse, the same message can be understood differently from one to another. So, the message has to be clear enough to be understood by almost all types of receivers.

Only 30% of communication used words. Examples are: numbers, space, artifacts, and kinetics. If the company is international, then their audiences are from diverse cultures. A message might resemble a meaning in a country and a very different meaning in another country. For example: the sign of the thumb and index finger circle means “OK” in America. In Brazil, on the other hand, it is considered a rude gesture. So, if a marketer is targeting Brazil and America at the same time, he/she should use unique advertisements for each country. Toyota introduced the Prado SUV in China. The names sounded the Chinese word for “Rule by Force”. It reminded the Chinese people of invasion by Japan 1937. It was not a nice memory at all. [3]

Production and Cost Limitation:

A challenge that faces international marketers is that they have to be as creative as possible, especially when there are severe production limitations. Some magazine papers in some countries are made of severely poor quality. A product like a shampoo might have to depart from the print media if it is of low quality. In Egypt, the poor quality billboards and poor-quality televisions have led big companies like Coca-Cola to advertise their products on boats that sail along the river.

Direct Mail

In Southeast Asia, printed press is not widely used. Thus, Direct mailing databases form a basis mean of advertising. Any international company that wants to market in Southeast Asia needs to use the Direct Mailing pattern. The problem about it is that the sender has to pay only a part of the mailing fee. The receiver has to pay the rest.

The Challenges on the Marketing Message:

An information source an international marketing executive that has a product message to


Encoding converting the message from the source to the receiver. The message is transmitted to effective clear symbols.

Themessage channel the sales force and/or the media that transfers the coded message to the intended receiver.

Decoding The interpretation and understanding by the receiver.

Receiver The targeted customers.

Feedback The customer’s opinion on the message. He gives it back to the information source.

Noise any external obstacles that hinder the communication process: physical

and non-physical “competitors, other salespeople, and confusion)

What is obvious from the above figure is that the message starts from a point and ends in it. The message is produced by the information source “the sender”. Then it is encoded into an appropriate meaning. After that, it goes through a message channel: “advertising media, personal sales force”. Later, it is interpreted into meaning. Then, the receiver responds to it. Afterwards, the receiver evaluates the communication process “feedback”. Finally, the feedback is transferred to the information source. This is the flow of the international communication process. “The noise” is any external obstacles that come in the way of any of these steps. It hinders the transfer of the message. Any problem that affects any of these steps will affect the correct understanding of a message.

A problem with the information source:

The marketer is supposed to know the needs of the international target market “ex: The whole world” , and not limit them to the needs of the national market “ex: USA”. A good example is the mobile phone industry. If a company is doing well with selling luxurious mobile phones, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to do well in selling the same phones in another country. The first country’s market need is luxury “Ex: Qatar”, while in the other country is it only communication “Ex: Syria”. Such problem can happen if the information source or the marketer relies on the self-reliance criterion (SRC). The information source might depend onhis own market’s success and assumes it will succeed in marketing to other countries.

“If it sells well in one country, it will sell in another” [3].Clearly, this assumption is definitely wrong.

Also, general lack of knowledge of the target market’s need will result in sending a wrong message through media or personal selling to the existing of prospect consumers.


A marketer for certain relaxing drug chooses the white color for an advertisement, assuming that it has a relaxing effect. Patients might relate it to hospitals this will have a negative effect on buying the medicine. Thus, to transfer the correct message, all factors relating to the target market have to be taken into consideration. In the United States and Canada, Toothpaste is important because healthy teeth are perceived as important. In European countries, on the other hand, it is mainly used for breath control. So, an advertisement of toothpaste for European citizens has to stress breath control instead of healthy teeth.

3-­The Message Channel

The channel has to be carefully chosen to assure the message is delivered and understood by customers. Sending messages through internet means, there has to be a reading role from the receiver’s side. If the medium internet is used for an intended market in which there is a lot of illiteracy, the message will certainly not be understoodby those intended customers.

The language

For advertising for a product on TV for instance, the language of the audience have to be considered. If the advertisement reaches countries in the Middle East, they have to be translated to the Arabic language to assure proper understanding. This is not applicable on all products. For instance, Arabic is the spoken language in the Middle East in a lot of industries. At the same time, English is used in the technical industries in the Middle Eastern countries. So an advertisement in the technical field requires using the English language, even if it is intended for Middle-Eastern customers.


Chevrolet launched a brand name for a car model called “Nova”. It means New Star. According to the Spanish language, on the other hand, Nova means “It doesn’t go”. Another similar example is Coca Cola’s “Come alive” slogan being decoded as “Come out of the grave”. [3]

Although Europeans and American speak the same language, but their perception and way of thinking is different. An ad transferred from the United States with an American Celebrity standing atop a mountain with a Lipton tea’s mug didn’t make sense for East Europe citizens. [3]

So, Errors at the receiver’s side are mainly due to:

Improper message because of improper knowledge of use patterns

Poor encoding (building a message’s meaning)

Poor media selection. The wrong mean for the wrong message.

Poor decoding by the receiver

Least possible bad luck

Ex: When The Paris government didn’t get along with the attack in Iraq in 2003. A lot of French products were boycotted. French’s Mustard was mistaken for being French, while it was named so after its founder Robert French. It was accidently boycotted along the other French products.


As much as delivering the message correctly is important, acquiring feedback is important. Companies have to do surveys and research on how effective was the responding to its marketing messages to decide whether to carry on with them or not. If the feedback of receivers was not taken into consideration, this will allow the same mistakes to be carried on again and again. A detailed research with causes and effects of factors regarding the marketing messages on the customers is very essential and important. It will assure success in the future messages.

Media Limitations and Personal Selling:

An international marketer might be forced to use other promotional means if he/she is exposed to media limitation. In Italy, a television commercial for instance is limited only to 10 showings a year, and with no exposures closer than 10 days. [3] This will definitely hinder the use of advertising and the marketer is forced to look for other promotional means. In Latin America because of media limitations, Coca Cola and Pepsi-Cola shifted to carnival trucks. Carnival truck make frequent trips to rural villages to promote their products. The carnival truck stops in a village, gives a TV show about them for a low admission price. The price is an unopened bottle that is exchanged for a cold bottle and also for a coupon for another bottle! These kinds of promotions attract customers widely, and are considered aw ways to deal with media limitations.

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Studying of the behavioral habits of an intended market produces positive results. This strategy was done by Nestle’ in France. A lot of French take off for a long vacation in the summer time, taking all their family members in the car heading to campgrounds. Nestle’, as a result, provided rest stops along highway for changing and feeding babies. This strategy allowed the French people to be aware of the samples of Nestle’ diapers and food products. By that, it branded its name by sampling and promotion.

Local Laws:

-May not permit premiums or free gifts be distributed.

– Some countries may control the amount of discount given at retails

-Permits for all sales promotions. “A waste of all the promotional strategies that are undertaken in other countries in which it is legal”

– it will affect personal selling negatively

Challenges for international emailing marketing:

– Message form: The amount of message that works in one country doesn’t necessarily work in another. In USA, it is common to post main headlines of articles with the links to the full article. In other countries, like the Middle East, customers expect to see the full article. This depends on how the consumer is used to receive knowledge.

-Personalization and salutations: Examples: Dear John, Dear Sara…etc. In US, the use of salutations has a positive effect on the recipients. On the contrary, other countries consider it as invasion of privacy and people of this country don’t feel comfortable receiving emails with salutation.

-Local norms: There are many norms that can’t be predicted if you are unaware of local norms. For example, in the U.S. it’s quite common to post prices exclusive of tax. In some other countries, this is simply not done and may even be not allowed by local law. In France, it’s common to ask recipients to print out a form and fax it back, whereas in many other countries this would be considered absurd.

-Local laws: The most obvious laws that apply to international e-mail are anti-spam requirements, some countries may have additional laws and requirements for doing business electronically, especially related to privacy and use of personal information.

-Send time: When to send is another important question. Countries have different time zones depending on their geographical location. While 3 pm “Canada timing” is an appropriate time to send emails for customers, it is a very inappropriate time in countries on the other side of the world. [4]

-Stereotypes and marketing communication:

First to define stereotypes: It is a commonly held popular belief about specific social groups or types of individuals. The concepts of “stereotype” and “prejudice” are often confused with many other different meanings. Stereotypes are standardized and simplified conceptions of groups based on some prior assumptions. Sometimes, there are certain perceptions or ideas people relate to a specific country, and these ideas might be wrong. For example: If an Egyptian company is advertising for a perfume with a drawing of the Egyptian flag. Egypt is not considered as a leading country in producing perfumes. France, on the other hands is considered so. So, European citizens might assume that this perfume is not worth buying. Hence, they will not respond positively to the commercials of perfume from USA. [5]

Country of Origin Effect

The issue about international marketing products, whether by personal selling, TV Advertising, or even off the screen selling, is that marketing the product outside its home country is not as easy as marketing it inside it. This is due to the many factors that need to be known about the consumers in countries the company is intended to export to. Such factors are like consumer behavior. [5] Consumer behavior dictates when, why, what, and where a consumer buys or doesn’t buy a product.


If any company doesn’t last for three years, this means the company is a failure. To assure success for a company, the marketing mix have to be well designed whether it’s a service or a manufacturer company. A very important and crucial aspect of the marketing mix is promotion, which is understated under “Marketing Communication”. To Assure proper communication of a message, all the above factors have to be taken into strict consideration: The message, the means, the market, the external legal and local factors. The message have to well-designed before it is sent. Thus, being aware of legal and local restrictions of countries is essential for giving green and red lights to marketing communication strategies. The marketing strategies have to be tested on the various markets, to prospect the outputs. Then, proper knowledge of the market needs is studied. Then, the right routes of communication are chosen to assure transferring of the message. The message has to be matched with the receiver’s point of views. The major problem facing international advertisers is designing the best messages for each market served.[3] Taking some factors in consideration and neglecting some cause big problems, because in international marketing everything is related to one another.Since the sales amount depend largely on Marketing Communication, the sales department depend largely on the marketing department. Thus, The effective Marketing Communication is one of the keys to success of two departments in a company. Hence, no one in a company can deny the effective outcomes of effective commination.


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