When designing a global marketing strategy for your brand, you should consider two main approaches: global marketing standardization vs. localization. Both strategies can bring value to your brand, but the best choice for you will depend on many factors—including the products or services you offer and the markets you want to reach, plus your current marketing strategy, budget and goals.

Below we’ll compare and cover what global marketing standardization and localization entail, the advantages and disadvantages of standardization and provide key examples from top brands. 

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What is global marketing standardization?

Two colleagues discussing their company's global marketing standardization strategy.

Its name says it all. Global marketing standardization focuses on creating a standardized plan of action across the board for marketing your brand or product in various countries. 

The ultimate goal is to achieve consistency and create a global appeal to a brand and its standardized products. Think standardized packaging, a recognizable image and slight variation in strategy across international markets. A lack of standardization can easily create confusion and misalignment among both your customers and global teams.

Note that while the objective of global marketing standardization is to achieve uniformity across markets, adapting your strategy to a country’s cultural and social norms when necessary is crucial to the success of a standardization approach.

In a recent interview on our podcast about launching successful global marketing campaigns, Portugal-based marketing and communications director Mário Costa explained:

“Having a global strategy when you work in so many different markets is key. Without some high-quality standardization, you lose the identity, experience and sense of belonging to your brand—both among employees and customers.”

See also: International audience research methods: How to reach new markets effectively 

What is localization in global marketing?

Localization in global marketing focuses on creating localized content in each region. It’s the process of adapting all elements of your international marketing to your target markets—from using different languages to adapting your messaging, visuals and campaigns. This helps ensure that your marketing reflects the interests, needs and context of your target audience in each region.

Localization doesn’t just involve translation but also understanding each market in terms of cultural values, economy, social trends, legislation and social nuances. The localization process involves a deep commitment towards creating a marketing strategy that specifically speaks to each target audience.

Ideally, you’d want to localize all of your global content marketing efforts—including your website, social media, global communication campaigns and other marketing materials. 

So, when considering global marketing standardization vs. localization, the main difference would be whether or not you adapt any part of your marketing strategy when entering a new region.

See also: How to localize your content for more effective marketing in Europe

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Advantages and disadvantages of standardization in international marketing

Going through the advantages and disadvantages of standardization in international marketing

There are many upsides to implementing a standardized global marketing strategy and achieving consistency in your brand’s image and products.

Standardization can help keep costs low, as you don’t have to invest in a new product or design for every market you want to enter. Plus, the approach is a great way to create an internationally recognizable brand image, which is crucial when expanding into global markets. 

However, you should also be aware of the caveats of a standardization approach. First off, this type of strategy may face challenges in markets with significantly different cultural values and norms. For example, if you first launch your brand in a European market, you’ll likely have to make some important adjustments when entering an Asian market.

In a podcast interview with Gastón Tourn, he spoke about his experience with this while working with dating app Badoo and how they adjusted their marketing in the different regions:

“People behave so differently when it comes to dating and relationships in different countries. For example, in New Zealand, women are much more in power in terms of taking the first step in conversations. Other countries, like the Nordics, have a much higher proportion of people who consider themselves non-binary.” 

This is why the app couldn’t use a standardized approach to marketing in different countries; they had to localize their content and take into account the cultural nuances of their specific audiences.

It’s important to consider both the pros and cons of standardization. Each local market has its own unique needs and preferences, and applying an overarching standardization strategy without considering any local adaptations can result in adverse outcomes. So, even if you go the standardization route, integrating at least some form of localization into your marketing will help you.

Check out our case study with IE University, where one of our many projects with the brand involved brochure standardization.

3 companies that use a standardized approach to global marketing

Coca Cola global marketing campaign

Many successful brands use standardized global marketing strategies. Let’s take a look at some great examples. 

See also: 5 global marketing strategies to inspire you in 2022

Global standardized strategy #1: Coca-Cola

We’ll start with one of the most recognizable brands globally: Coca-Cola. You can find their beverages in over 200 countries, and regardless of whether you’re in Mexico City, Berlin or Mumbai, you’re sure to find their timeless red and white label.  Coca-Cola is also all about product standardization—the timeless beverage tastes and looks the same across the world.

One of Coca-Cola’s strategy pillars is its uniform image, but it also implements numerous other global marketing efforts. Their new global brand philosophy and platform, “Real Magic,” aims to unite people, emphasizing common ideals like unity and a shared sense of humanity. They recently launched their first global campaign under the “Real Magic” brand philosophy with the short film, “One Coke Away From Each Other” in September 2021. 

The big takeaway from Coca-Cola’s new “Real Magic” strategy is its many virtual components, like social media and gaming initiatives, allowing them to reach international audiences with ease. 

Coca-Cola is also an excellent glocalization example. While maintaining a standardized branding approach, they adapt their marketing and product line to specific markets where necessary.

See also: Building a profitable glocalization strategy for your brand

Global standardized strategy #2: adidas

You’ll find the iconic adidas three-stripe logo in over 150 countries. Their standardized marketing efforts focus on universal values like “brand credibility, consumer experience and sustainability.” 

You can find these types of efforts in their global “Own the Game” campaign, focusing this strategy in their Asian, EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa), and US markets. Their approach centers on consumers and their preferred sports, namely football. 

Global standardized strategy #3: Red Bull

Finally, let’s look at Red Bull, the energy drink brand that’s dominated the industry for over three decades. A large part of the brand’s success is thanks to its strategic standardization efforts and widely recognizable image.

You’ll find the same Red Bull cans in almost every one of the 170+ countries that the drink is sold in. But the drink started off quite differently to what you now buy in the store. The original Red Bull is a local Thailand drink called Krating Daeng, a non-carbonated tonic that tastes like traditional medicine—but cured jetlag.

Austrian Red Bull founder, Dietrich Mateschitz, adapted the drink and its image to international tastes, adding carbonation and designing the emblematic blue and silver can. Thailand is the only market that has different packaging featuring yellow and red coloring. Apart from that, Red Bull maintains one strategy for all markets.

One of the reasons that Red Bull is so successful is that it doesn’t sell its product: it sells its brands. In every one of its markets, it targets adventure lovers and adrenaline seekers, hosting international events and coming out with exciting digital content

Should you standardize or localize your marketing strategy? Or do a mix of both?

Developing a global marketing strategy based on localization

If global standardization is all about finding common ground and ensuring brand consistency, localization centers on tailoring marketing strategies to the nuances of local markets. Both are global approaches that can benefit your company, and in many cases, the best option is usually a combination of the two.

If you implement a marketing and product localization strategy, you will want to pay close attention to the cultural differences that set each target market apart and adapt your image and product to fit those variances. Companies who take this approach generally have the necessary funds to manage the expansion and see massive growth potential in key target markets. 

Companies taking the standardization approach often tend to be startups looking for scalable growth in new markets, first focusing on using existing marketing campaigns to test the waters.

When deciding on global marketing standardization vs. localization, it’s important to be intentional about your chosen strategy. In most cases, you need both. 

VeraContent is a multilingual content agency that helps brands develop and carry out effective global marketing standardization and localization strategies. Reach out to discover if we can help you build your brand across borders.  

If you’re looking to launch into new countries, download our worksheet for a guide on how to adapt your content strategy to local markets.

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