Cultural Whisperers: How the Biggest Brands Do Global Marketing

Cultural Whisperers, How the Biggest Brands Do Global MarketingThe biggest brands today did not grow to become successful by staying in a single market.

However, prominent brands face their own unique challenges when it comes to global marketing. Let’s look at a few of the most recognizable brands in the world, the challenges they successfully overcame, and what agencies can learn from them.


Airbnb is a sort of Craigslist for travelers; people who are looking for a place to stay in a new city but don’t want to book a traditional hotel can browse Airbnb’s listings to find a room, cottage, guest house, or couch for their travels. Those who are interested in renting out part of their living space can place a listing on the site to entice travelers.

Since its inception in San Francisco in 2008, Airbnb has seen tremendous growth. In 2011 alone, it experienced 425% growth in France, 719% in Spain, and 946% in Italy. How did they go from the startup phase to nearly 1000% growth in a completely foreign market in only three years? Some of this growth can be attributed to social media and the global connections forged by the rise of the Internet.

However, agencies looking for a good example of successful global marketing in this startup success story should focus on Airbnb’s deliberate efforts to grow international business. After identifying a market they wanted to enter, Airbnb passed out fliers, held parties, and interviewed existing customers in an attempt to better understand what these new markets were like. The lesson here for agencies is that while Internet advertising and digital mediums can be valuable, The “boots on the ground” approach can be insightful and just as powerful.


Durex is a leading global manufacturer of contraceptives that was founded in the United Kingdom. Despite a significant disadvantage in the U.S. market when compared to the more popular Trojan brand, around the world Durex accounts for over one-third of the market.

How have they achieved such tremendous success? They’ve partly done so by creating an internal brand center to be used by marketers at the company all over the world. This has allowed Durex’s branding to stay consistent no matter which market is being targeted.

Another way that Durex has been able to increase sales worldwide is by tailoring its strategy to the specific markets the company wanted to enter. For example, in China, where traditional advertising costs were high, Durex decided to abandon these traditional methods and focus instead on an all-digital strategy. As a result of their efforts, Durex’s market share in China grew 15%. The global marketing lesson here is to always be willing to adapt your strategy based on the specific needs and traits of the market you are targeting.


Costco is a wholesale retailer that allows customers to save money by purchasing things in bulk. While the company has enjoyed healthy double-digit sales growth in the United States in recent years, many have expressed some surprise at their relative lack of expansion into rapidly growing economies like China, which has a $2 trillion retail market.

Interestingly, Costco recently did enter the Chinese market, but in an unconventional way: e-Commerce. While this entry was a success, netting $6.4 million in sales in the first month, the company is still hesitant to set up brick and mortar stores in China, in part because some other major U.S. retailers like Best Buy and Wal-Mart have had some struggles in China. For those interested in global marketing, a good lesson to take away from Costco’s international growth plan is to not rush things; even if you feel like you are losing out on sales because of an untapped foreign market, if you enter the market and are unprepared, your losses might be much worse.

By keeping these stories in mind and obtaining the assistance of a capable localization services provider (LSP), it is possible for any brand to emulate the carefully calculated success that major companies have had with global marketing.




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