Posted by: Ohh la la | June 9, 2011

Marmite – a lesson for would be exporters

Marmite, one of Unilever’s major brand, is no stranger to controversy. Ever since it was launched in the UK in 1902 the brand has become well versed in raising a few eyebrows as well as bringing smiles to many faces for its distinctive taste. That it should be banned in Denmark as it falls foul of a law restricting products fortified with added vitamins is something else…

Love it or hate it – over the years the brand has made the headlines with many distinctive tongue in cheek advertising campaigns. Fans have even gone to town by launching branded websites to fly the cool britannia flag for the brand I Love Marmite 

Legend even has it that the Marmite name may have derived from the French cooking pot  ‘petite marmite’. Certainly the rounded shape jar reminds me of my childhood in France – my grandma used to cook a stew either in the “petite marmite” or the “grande marmite”… No marmite involved!

So whilst the recent ban of  the brand in Denmark may be perceived by Marmite lovers as defying common sense, it also brings back home a few truth for the less experienced SMEs seeking export growth.

Marmite – Centre stage in Selfridges Trafford Centre food hall

To avoid costly mistakes and pave the way for the sustainable growth of overseas sales…

  1. Research, research, research is paramount to inform exporting decision – From assessing whether to export to scoping the marketing environment (i.e. what the market wants, who your customers are etc.) and understanding local legislations, there is a long list to tick before you can be satisfied you are ready to make the leap. Too many companies still make the mistake of skipping this step – it’s not because clients loves you product in the UK that they will in another market – and your overseas clients demographics may be quite different too!
  2. Invest in a robust export strategy and sales and marketing plan – Whatever your business size, it is impossible to be everywhere so think strategically to invest wisely.  Mapping out everything right from the shape of your products to how they are going to be distributed and marketed is essential to be successful in a foreign market.
  3. Cross-cultural marketing isn’t optional – Do not get tempted in using the same old marketing communications approach or simply translating a marketing collateral into the local language. It simply doesn’t work. Whilst one market may consider the depth of features a product offers when making a purchase decision, another may focus on ease of use. And whilst the Brits are renown for successfully mixing humour with advertising, misplaced humour could get lost in translation!  A multicultural approach, underpinned by a localised marketing plan, is essential if you are serious about making some inroads in your chosen market.
  4. Forge strong links with your distribution network – Remote management of a market is a recipe for disaster. Visit your new market regularly to spot opportunities, manage changes and crucially build water-tight relationship with your chosen distribution network – whether you have appointed an agent or set up an office, those people are your bridge to the market. Make use of all the intelligence they hold. It’s amazing just by talking and asking questions what you will find out – allowing you possibly to spot new market opportunities. By advising one of my Turkish distributors once to take part in a new trade show, he was able to appoint three new dealers across the country – this decision resulted in a 60% turnover increase within six months. Poor distributors can also cause great damage to your brand, so it’s important to ensure they care about your success!
  5. You don’t have to be a large company to be successful internationally. There many helping hands out there right from the UK  Trade and Investment (UKTI) to local Chamber of Commerces, as well as international marketing agencies with multilingual staff such as Ohh la la to help SMEs work out their export strategies, identify opportunities and implement successful cross-cultural marketing plans. Best of all social networks can prove invaluable both in terms of engaging but also researching your market with tight budgets – though remember cross-cultural marketing approaches apply online too!
  6. In the end this is about respecting people’s differences. Forget about one size fits all. It doesn’t.
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