Aunt Abby, may you rest in peace

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Eleven years ago I experienced the first of many well-intentioned but ill-fated global marketing campaigns. Working for an IT services company in the U.K., I sat down to review some global campaign materials created by the corporate marketing team in North America and came face to face with Aunt Abby. The cover of the direct mail piece featured a crazed, middle-aged lady who was clearly having more than just a bad hair day. Failing to make a link between the American-styled Aunt Abby, the U.S.-centric mailer headline and the underlying IT services proposition, I scanned the copy. It was full of American-speak and references, with the densest content I had ever seen. A quick round of feedback from my European counterparts confirmed my fears: the mailer format, creative, copy and offer were all unworkable in our region, not to mention Asia Pacific and Japan. Our first “global” marketing campaign turned out not to be so global at all. Have things improved more than a decade later? Yes and no. Certainly the appreciation of a global marketing campaign has increased. As the domestic U.S. economy weakens, and resources and budgets are stretched to the max, companies are recognizing and actively pursuing business opportunities overseas. And marketers have learned the benefits of global approaches, such as consistent branding and messaging, planning, integration and campaign measurement, to name a few. Yes, global marketing teams and processes are being put in place, and worldwide contact management systems are being deployed. But there's still big room for improvement. Many of the same core mistakes are being made time and time again. Below is a simple checklist of some of the fundamentals for a successful global marketing campaign. These points aren't radical, but, honestly, you'd be amazed how often they're overlooked. ? Set tight objectives at the outset, and be specific. If cost-efficiencies are a key objective, what exactly are you trying to achieve and how are you going to measure success? ? Have a clear global program plan in place that runs at least two or three quarters in advance, so regional folks can plan to integrate campaigns upfront into their overall regional marketing plans instead of trying to shoehorn them in at a later date. ? Global campaigns require global input. Don't be tempted to even start developing campaigns in isolation in the field. Get the input of regional marketing folks right at the outset and continually throughout the process. ? Flexibility is key. With so many different cultures, languages and market maturities to consider, a “one-size-fits-all” approach just won't cut it. ? Be aware of different regional communications preferences and legislation. While e-mail marketing might work well in one territory, it won't necessarily be effective everywhere. ? Remember that global marketing campaigns will never completely replace the need for tactical local marketing initiatives. ? Be prepared to re-engineer marketing processes, resources and contact management systems around global marketing needs. ? Remember above all that nothing will be perfect the first time. Persevere, learn from experience and continue to make improvements. Follow the above and you'll at least be heading along the right track. And Aunt Abby can stay where she belongs, in the rest home for retired marketing campaigns. Lilian Keaty is global development director of Marketing Options, a global direct marketing agency focused on the hi-tech sector. She can be reached at [email protected]
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