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Overseas firms target U.S. market

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As many U.S. companies expand their marketing presence in China, other global companies are targeting the U.S. with new marketing efforts.

Two notable companies that are pumping up their marketing in the U.S. are DHL International, a German-based shipping company owned by Deutsche Post World Net, and BT, a London-based telecommunications company.

DHL and BT last month launched new ad campaigns in the U.S., and their strategies demonstrate the ways in which global marketers approach the unique challenges of reaching fragmented U.S. audiences.

"As companies come to the U.S., the major challenge is about brand management," said Bill Engler, senior VP-strategy at brand consultancy BrandLogic. "It really gets down to consistency and flexibility, and creating a brand guidance system that allows for both."

Engler said foreign companies coming to the U.S. should employ global strategy and local execution, taking into account local language, humor and imagery.

Karen Jones, VP-advertising, brand and promotions at DHL Express USA, said the company faced challenges when it began a major marketing push in the U.S. last year, following its acquisition of Airborne Express in late 2003.

"The U.S. is such a huge marketplace, with so many different markets," Jones said.

"It is so huge, no one's budgets are robust enough to invest the way we would like to, so we have to be strategic in our marketing investments."

DHL, which had done no advertising in the U.S. since the early 1980s, last year launched a $150 million campaign to position it against rivals United Parcel Service of America and FedEx Corp.

That campaign, with the tagline "Competition. Great for you. Bad for them" succeeded in raising unaided brand awareness of DHL from 11% prior to the campaign to about 58% this year.

"We were able to establish overall awareness in the U.S. by helping people understand that DHL is a player in the shipping category," Jones said.

"Now that we've entered the market, we need to get very serious about our unique point of differentiation."

Point of differentiation

That point of differentiation is the theme of a new, $50 million campaign that DHL launched Sept. 12, with the theme " Customer service is back in shipping."

The campaign kicked off in Times Square in New York, with DHL staffers performing "random acts of kindness" to demonstrate their commitment to customer service, such as passing out free umbrellas and bottled water or offering free taxi and rickshaw rides.

The campaign, developed by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, also includes TV, print, outdoor and online.

"If you have entrenched competition like we do, with great brand awareness and marketing dollars, it becomes challenging," Jones said. "You have to be wise in your media mix. How do I make my $5 look like $5 million?"

To do that, DHL's media agency, mediaedge:cia, has come up with unique media placements to reach diverse segments of the U.S. market, such as projecting images onto the sides of cruise ships in the port of Miami and using wall-size ads on buildings in Los Angeles.

BT's advertising beachhead

BT is also reaching into the U.S. market with new advertising. The company has had a presence in the U.S. since the late 1980s through partnerships with U.S. telecommunications providers and has done some advertising in support of those partnerships, said Colin Spence, head of business management for BT International. Its most recent North American partnership was a joint venture with AT&T that broke up in 2002.

In 2003, BT unveiled a new marketing strategy in the U.S. to provide multisite global corporations in the U.S. with comprehensive telecommunications services. It also launched a print campaign to drive awareness of its positioning as a provider of information communication technology.

"For us, the challenge is one of scale," Spence said. "It is a huge market, and probably the biggest issue we face is being a foreign company. Our competitors-AT&T, MCI and Sprint, plus companies like IBM, HP and EDS-all have very established brands in the U.S. market."

"While we've been here for 20 years, we've never really focused on pushing the BT name in the Americas," he added.

With its new advertising campaign, which broke Sept. 12, BT aims to establish itself as a global provider of networked IT services. The $33.6 million campaign was developed by London agency St. Luke's Communications; online advertising was created by Agency.com, New York.

While the global effort includes TV, print, outdoor and online, the U.S. campaign will be limited to print, outdoor and online.

"We are targeting decision-makers at multinational corporations headquartered in the U.S.," Spence said. "TV simply isn't the way to go."

Instead, BT's U.S. campaign will be highly targeted, including print ads in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, BusinessWeek and Fortune; online ads; and strategic outdoor ads, such as billboards on Wall Street in Manhattan and elevator ads in major corporate headquarters buildings.

"Our biggest challenge was re-establishing the BT brand within the U.S. market," Spence said. "We've been successful within our target market."

Since BT launched its first rebranding campaign in the U.S. two years ago, brand recognition has increased from about 20% to roughly 75% among its target audience of senior decision-makers, Spence said. 

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