There were two broad reactions to Marathon’s rebranding as Snickers – and, later, Jif’s transformation into Cif. Many consumers no doubt wondered what the point of the exercise was. Others would have realised that the move was a symptom of globalisation. If a product is to work across several countries, every aspect of the marketing strategy has to be streamlined to flow smoothly through diverse cultures and markets, and point-of-purchase marketing (PoP) is no exception.
For instance, In August last year Shell set out to increase customer loyalty at its petrol stations in nine European markets, with a consumer promotion that involved PoP displays supported by outdoor advertising and a radio campaign. Consumers collected single-letter stickers, issued when they purchased petrol, in the hope of spelling out “Shell” on a gamecard to win a Mazda MX-5, or tickets to a theme park . The campaign was developed by integrated agency Tequila/London and was the first time Shell had run the same promotion in several European countries.
In addition to creating opportunities for marketers, globalisation presents problems of national regulation and logistics, including sourcing and differences in retail outlets across the world. Working methods must be adapted, and marketers must consider the sophistication of different markets, devising campaigns that meet the dual needs of creativity and comprehensibility.
In terms of regulations, Joseph Casper, vice-president of corporate communications at trade body Point-of-Purchase Advertising International, warns: “There are many pitfalls. Regulations differ from country to country, and shipping and customs issues can be very complicated.”
When it comes to putting together campaigns, Casper points out: “Clients need to make sure that in-store advertising is going to fit well with the other media being used; mis-matching the creative work, or failing to co-ordinate timing of campaigns, can be a regrettable squandering of money and, clearly, a lost opportunity.”
Retail outlets also vary across the globe. Tequila/London managing director Tim Bonnet says: “Floor space is a huge issue. In French hypermarkets, space is readily available: you can have large dump bins at the ends of aisles. In the average UK store, this simply isn’t possible. This being the case, the size of PoP materials have to be very carefully considered to ensure that branding is consistent.”
How do all of these factors impact on the working process? Bonnet says: “Probably the greatest challenge for an agency is consistency, in design and in setting up a creative template that can work in many different languages and cultures.”
There seem to be two schools of thought on the best way to put together a global PoP campaign. One school suggests that even the best campaign will founder if it isn’t championed at a local level. One adherent of this view, Interfocus chief executive Matt Atkinson, says: “Depending on the campaign, it is wise to agree on the idea at a local level and then pull the promotion together from the centre. You have to think through every aspect of delivery in every setting. It’s no good providing brochures in boxes that won’t fit into a car in a travelling salesforce-led territory.”
The other strand holds that campaigns should be organised centrally, using extended international networks for everything from translation to sourcing, before being diffused globally. Bonnet says: “Where the client’s office is located tends to be a big influence. For instance, when we worked with IBM the lead agency was our Paris office, as that’s where the client was based.”
When it comes to the actual design of campaigns, countries differ, not just in terms of culture, but in terms of sophistication. Bonnet says: “In some markets a scratchcard would be considered advanced, in others it’s ten years out of date. So what we try to do is produce a global template of activities that can be adapted to the different levels of sophistication in local markets. For instance, in a token-based campaign you could use scratch cards, smart cards or SMS messaging in different markets.”
There are also important differences when it comes to product presentation. Jon Davies, structural creative director at brand identity consultancy HMI, says: “Different markets and cultures prefer different pack sizes. The Japanese have been known to prefer smaller containers, in contrast to larger European preferences and the ‘big-is-beautiful’ US market.”
Shopping habits also differ between cultures. Mark Ransom, sales director of retail interior solution provider Antone, says: “Italian consumers can be tactile, handling a product prior to purchasing, whereas a Japanese consumer may prefer to look at a product and then be served by an assistant.”
But it is the area of translation that seems to hold the greatest potential for banana-skins – and hilarity for anyone not involved in the campaign. “Come Alive with Pepsi”, when translated into Mandarin Chinese is supposed to have become the startling “Pepsi brings your relatives back from the grave”. Journalist and author Bill Bryson devotes a chapter to mistranslations in Mother Tongue, his book on the English language, in which he reveals himself to be the proud owner of a Japanese eraser, emboldened by the bewildering legend: “Mr Friendly Quality Eraser. Mr Friendly Arrived! He always stay near you and steals in your mind to lead you to a good situation”.
The trick, where language is concerned, would appear to be to keep it simple. But does this mean creativity has to be sacrificed for clarity? Bonnet says: “This should never be the case. Good creativity can only be achieved through consistent brand communication. Strong visuals and simple copy are instrumental in the creation of a successful campaign. What takes two lines in English will probably take four in German.”
Neatly hurdling all of these obstacles doesn’t necessarily mean that you will win the globalisation race, however. Atkinson, who spent a number of years working overseas, suggests that the greatest threat to global PoP campaigns is the rise of the branded retail outlet. He says: “In certain categories the promotional PoP is finding it harder to get into stores. A lot of display materials are not being used in multiple outlets, where the owners wish to have complete control of the retail environment.”
He suggests that the solution lies in bringing PoP back to packaging, or as he puts it: “Intelligent design that means the packaging adds value and the PoP element can’t be removed. Also, PoP was traditionally designed for consumers, but now we need to think of the retailer, the retailer’s environment and how PoP can help them.”
While in Asia where the branded multiple outlet has yet to take off, Atkinson was interested to see that the brands with the greatest PoP presence were those which wittingly or unwittingly helped retailers to sell merchandise by providing packaging or other elements that could be used in a number of different ways. He recalls seeing durable, unmistakeable Red Bull cases, stacked Lego-fashion and piled high with all manner of merchandise. It may be unintentional, but it’s certainly effective.