Avoid being mindlessly global or hopelessly local

How do large multinationals market themselves to a region such as the Middle East? We asked two marketing experts for their views. Ian Potter vice president marketing, home and personal care, Unilever Arabia; Faisal Sabzwari corporate marketing director for Procter & Gamble, Gulf
Avoid being mindlessly global or hopelessly local
By Staff writer
Sun 03 Dec 2006 04:00 AM

How do large multinationals market themselves to a region such as the Middle East? We asked two marketing experts for their viewsIan Potter vice president marketing, home and personal care, Unilever ArabiaFaisal Sabzwari corporate marketing director for Procter & Gamble, Gulf

How does your marketing strategy in the Middle East differ from elsewhere in the world?

:

Unilever is a strongly marketing-oriented company and our marketing strategy in the Middle East is based on the same principal, which is to deliver innovations and communications that meet consumer needs, both from a functional and emotional level. We recognise the fact that there are some brands whose basic propositions are so universal that they work well in almost every market. However, we will not hesitate to tailor the recipes or formulations to of these to suit local market conditions.

:

As with all P&G offices around the world, we are externally focused and concentrate on developing superior understanding of our local consumers and their needs. We put a lot of effort into our local consumer and marketing research to ensure we understand our customers' needs, mindset and motivations. The marketing strategy would still remain the same but what differs is the consumer needs per market.

Does being one of the biggest names in the FMCG business help or hinder your marketing strategy?

:

Being a multinational company allows us access to the latest technologies and innovations. However, we need to make them locally relevant. We strive to be neither mindlessly global nor hopelessly local. To achieve this requires a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions in which we operate around the world and a respect for differences.

:

Procter & Gamble has a unique portfolio of leading brands that we offer to our consumers and, being one of the largest FMCG companies, we can organise large scale international initiatives with a broad audience reach. We have access to corporate worldwide deployment of plans and best in class practices which we reapply in respective regions if plans fit with our target audience.

How do you organise your marketing/branding teams to effectively market the different products you offer?

:

Unilever is focusing its marketing resources behind two main pillars. One, global and regional brand development for advertising and innovation, and two, local brand building that is centred on local marketing and customer management. The aim is to bring innovation quickly and consistently to the market across a region at the same time as giving the right amount of focus on ensuring that marketing plans are tailored to local needs.

:

Every brand has its own leader who works closely with a set of multi-functional teams that provide specific expertise and support to each brand. Multi-functional teams include: brand responsible for overall marketing strategy; media responsible for overall media strategy; corporate marketing responsible for overall in-store activations and point of market entry; external relations responsible for overall external communications strategy, including government relations, public affairs and public relations.

What are the key ingredients of any successful FMCG brand?

:

At the heart of all successful brands is consumer understanding. Consumer understanding is a much harder nut to crack than conventional market researchers are ever prepared to admit, particularly in the Middle East where market research is relatively under-developed and consumers come from diverse nationalities and are hard to access. It's the ability to turn intimacy and insight into a compelling brand proposition that is the key ingredient of a successful brand.

:

Real life inspiration P&G brands reflect the everyday life of our employees and the world's consumers we serve. It is extremely essential to understand your consumers' needs and wants and that is why we invest heavily in that area. Also very important is packaging, pricing, availability and, needless to say, performance.

What is more important word-of-mouth or aggressive advertising?

:

Increasingly, alternative media channels as well as word-of-mouth are becoming critical to connect with consumers. Having the media and key influencers talking about your product is more convincing that talking about your products directly. Nevertheless, television continues to be important because of its reach, but it should be complemented with other channels.

:

An integrated marketing communications campaign would be more aggressive. Synergy between disciplines proves to be very effective as each discipline provides its own unique value. Generally, the best formula would be advertising to spread the awareness, backed by a solid PR campaign to raise the education, supported by an in-store drive to induce sales and generated results.

How are you working to develop the ways in which you target consumers? Where do you see opportunities in terms of how to reach people with marketing messages?

:

We used to think of the choice of a brand in a one-dimensional fashion. We now have to face the uncomfortable reality that the choice available to people is rich and wide and the decision making process is inevitably much more complex. We try to break down the shopping process into its component parts, starting with the thought given to the task before leaving home, then to the choice of store right through to the retail experience and the ultimate choice of brand.

:

Now, as always, continuous consumer understanding is helping us learn how to target consumers. A key area that needs work is the ability to measure ROI of every method we use to touch consumers. If the outburst in touch-points such as TV channels, and internet sites requires us to just keep increasing our investments across the new media, we'll soon spread ourselves too thin. We need to be able to better learn how each touchpoint works, and how well it works to choose the right mix for our brands.

How do copycat and couterfeit products affect your business? What are you doing to address the problem of illicit trade?

:

This form of deception takes advantage of the trust that a consumer has in a preferred brand. Our consumer protection efforts range from our own efforts of auditing outlets and partnering with reputable distributors, to working with the authorities and with other companies.

:

In building our Anti-Counterfeit Programme, we have hired an anti-counterfeiting/brand protection agency to work on our behalf in Oman and Yemen. This is a milestone step to activate our anti-counterfeits program in these countries. We already have established operations in AP's two largest markets KSA & UAE.

 

For all the latest business news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.