How to reduce risk of failure for international advertising campaigns

Here are six steps to increase success in your next global marketing campaign.

International advertising is tricky. You have to navigate fundamentally different market segments, languages, and cultural nuances. Even giant companies like Dolce & Gabbana sometimes fail to take these issues into consideration. If you are looking to expand your market to include international clients or customers, there are several factors to consider, including how well your product will be received, how your marketing language translates, and if cultural differences impact what benefits you should focus on.

So, how can you reduce your risk of failure in international advertising campaigns? Here are six steps to increase success in your next global marketing campaign.

Research, research, research

Doing research is nothing new in marketing, but when it comes to creating international campaigns, it is critical to take the time to do in-depth research about cultural norms, values, privacy issues, and even regulatory issues that may be different than your local area.

Consider polling local audiences or working with a local team to better understand who your audience is and what is important to them.

For example, when toothpaste company Pepsodent tried to market their toothpaste in Southeast Asia, they focused on their products ability to whiten teeth. The issue? People in the region actually chew nuts to darken their teeth, so the whitening benefit fell flat.

Make sure the benefits you focus on are factors your international audience cares about.

Hire a local consultant

The English language includes dozens of idioms that do not make sense when translated. Origin stories and childhood stories vary by region. A local consultant who understands the nuances of the local language and culture can ensure your advertising campaign is well-received.

Colgate learned this the hard way when they launched a toothpaste in France named "Cue." What they didn't realize is that Cue is also the name of a French pornographic magazine.

Look for international marketing consultants who understand your brand, the local market, and popular culture in the region.

Partner with local brands or companies

Local distributors, brands, or affiliates who are already familiar with your audience can be an invaluable resource when advertising to international consumers. They may be able to help you navigate local regulations and ensure your campaigns land well with consumers in your new market.

Partnering with local distributors, in particular, may lend your brand a sense of authenticity with local consumers who might view outsider brands with a level of suspicion.

Create different ads for different markets

Advertising campaigns do not tend to travel to other markets as well. With varying demographics, different brand perceptions, and unique social values, success relies on treating each geographical location as their own market.

You wouldn't use the same ad to target both Gen Zs and Baby Boomers, right? So, you can't expect the same campaign that works in the United States to be effective in South America.

Car manufacturer Ford discovered this when marketing their Pinto car in Brazil. Why? Well, in Brazilian Portuguese, Pinto means "tiny male genitals." Not the look they were going for.

Creating unique ads targeted to local audiences increases your likelihood of success.

Create a long-term advertising plan

Successful advertising campaigns aren't created overnight. The incredible success of one campaign may seem like an overnight success, but in reality, that campaign is often based on years of building customer awareness and brand value through content marketing, social media, print media, and other advertising methods.

One international ad campaign simply won't reach the same heights as local campaigns reaping the benefits of years of advertising. For a more effective campaign, create a long term plan and be willing to invest more resources for the same results in international markets.

Reconsider your expectations

Getting your international advertising right is just one step in building a successful international marketing campaign. It is also important to ensure your strategy does not place unrealistic expectations in terms of ROI.

Entering a new market requires careful consideration of your new audience and paying attention to cultural norms and translations. To reduce risk of failure, businesses need to perform in-depth research, be willing to listen, and partner with people who understand the local market.  

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Neil Patel Digital. He is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations.

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free