What does it take to be a global marketer?

The market has changed, and our old one-size-fits-all marketing paradigms are no longer appropriate when breaking into new international markets. Transitioning a brand into the global market requires a new skillset that is responsive and adaptable to the dynamic challenges of international branding.

In the past several years, I have seen businesses that were able to adapt to the international market and have resounding success, but I have also seen some that clung to the “old way” of doing things, which ultimately got them nowhere, or worse.

That’s why today, I’d like to talk about what types of skills and qualities are necessary for today’s global-minded marketer to be successful. But first, let’s put this new type of marketer in context by taking a quick look at how we got to this point.

The rise of global marketing

Post-war global expansion of many Western brands set the stage for what we understand today as the global market. And even in this early stage, some marketers were markedly more successful than others, despite the fact that conventional marketing rules were still being broadly applied, with pre-fab campaigns often being implemented indiscriminately in new markets.

Today’s global market has changed in several ways, with possibly the most important change being the role of the so-called “emerging markets”. Every year, we see that the consumers in these developing countries are increasing their buying power and technical sophistication. Practically, this means that a ready-made marketing campaign that might have been effective 20 years ago will likely fall very short in today’s reality.

And this all comes at a time when consumers as a whole are craving more brand authenticity and a deeper connection with the companies they do business with. The increasing availability and use of the internet and social media have led to a truly global consumer community for the first time in history. However, this does not mean that this global community is homogeneous; consumers continue to have a deep connection to their local culture.

Today’s global marketer

In this new international market, a successful global expansion will largely depend on the approach of the marketing executive and their team. Today’s global marketer has to be enthusiastic, not just willing, to immerse themselves in the culture and nuances of whatever international market they are hoping to penetrate.

Some of the qualities that major international brands have described as key to the success of their global marketing team include humility, cultural savvy and sensitivity, intellectual curiosity and agility, and of course superb communication skills.

Depending on how a business approaches breaking into a new international market, it may also be critical for the global marketing lead to understand how to recruit, develop and retain team members originating in the new market so that they share common goals with the central brand while still being able to effectively manage assignments in their local market.

Building a global marketing team

Part of the challenge of successful international expansion lies in finding the right balance between those common central goals and the unique needs of each international market. A good marketing professional needs to gauge how much control the central brand should have over the international campaigns without being counterproductive.

Although the solution to this challenge is different for every business, a common way to approach this is to slide the company strategy along the spectrum of centralized-decentralized in either direction, depending on the brand’s current status. It is often helpful to create an organizational structure that includes global teams in each international market in addition to a centralized team, with clear channels of communication between the central and local teams.

This means that a good global marketing strategy will depend on a brand’s ability to build a team of qualified, trustworthy professionals in or around each market that needs to be penetrated. Their mission is not simple by any means, but is critical for success in an international market: balancing the nonnegotiable core values of the brand with the economic and cultural differences, subtle as they may be, of the new market.

So, what does it take to be a successful global marketer?

The underlying theme of all of this is flexibility and an enthusiasm for understanding the nuances of new markets and developing innovative solutions to appeal to them while remaining true to the essence of the brand.

I think this quote from the global director of marketing of BBVA, one of the largest banks in my native Spain, sums it up perfectly:

“The true global marketer is constantly wired to what is happening, from technology and pop culture to shifts in shopper behaviour. The people who are naturally interested in and opinionated about the dynamics of the changing world around them are normally the ones who will excel in a marketing career.” – Carlos Ricardo, BBVA bank.