Market segmentation and customisation key to success among diverse customers
Work with your strengths and sales channels for each market
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “Vitasoy”?
As a green business owner, you might be into natural foods – and you might know Vitasoy as a brand of organic soymilk, with various flavour options and a health-consciousness appeal. You might even know that the company owns several other soy-related brands, including Nasoya and Azumaya tofu products in the US and Unicurd in Singapore.
But in cultures like China, Hong Kong and Latin America, their soymilks – under such names as Calci-Plus, Tsing Sum Zhan and San Sui – are marketed as mainstream household beverages; packages I’ve seen in Latin American markets do not mention the word “organic”.
Vitasoy’s milk is called Soy Milky in Australia – a name that would not go over well in the US.
In short, the same company has very different associations and product lines in various parts of the world.
Let’s stay with green foods for another example: natural breakfast cereals. To a shopper in the UK, Weetabix is a well-known and diverse line of cereals: the regular kind that’s similar to shredded wheat – organic, crispy minis with chocolate, strawberries, peanut butter, or fruit and nuts; baked with golden syrup; chocolate (non-mini); crunchy bran; and then variations made with different grains, such as Oatabix. There’s even an O-shaped imitation of Cheerios. But in the US, it’s unusual to see anything other than the basic biscuits, long known as a green product.
So what’s the point? It’s that large companies – in the green world or in the general consumer marketplace – go after different markets and market differently in different parts of the world, or in different market segments within the same country.
In fact, smart companies segment much more closely than by country. Within 16 km of my house, the same supermarket chain has stores in four communities. Walking the aisles, you’d think they were different companies entirely. Two are geared toward the adventurous tastes of healthy-living folks in the nearby college towns, with a lot of natural products, green packaging, exotic local fruits and vegetables, and so on. And one of those, in a more international community, has an Asian foods section that’s bigger than some Asian grocery stores. One of the others, in a heavily Hispanic neighbourhood, has a product selection geared to Puerto Rican tastes. And the fourth, in a working-class city that hosts a large military base, is the land of packaged, bland convenience foods catering to a burger-and-pasta-salad crowd. It would be hard to find anything organic on that store’s shelves.
You’ll find examples of this kind of segmentation in industry after industry. Even something like book cover design will be startlingly different for the same book in different parts of the world.
Thanks to globalisation, most businesses today must consider different markets and culture in order to adapt and build relevant brands internationally (photo credit: istockphoto)
You may not be a giant multinational company with resources to create different product variations all over the world, but these days, all of us are global businesses. As a green marketing consultant and copywriter working solo from a farmhouse in the northeastern US, I’ve not only served clients from all parts of my own country, but also all across Asia and Europe. And this column is read in Australia and Asia, as well as in the US.
If an international client comes to me to reach the green market in the US, that’s easy for me. But if that client wants to reach an audience in a different market, I have to find ways to put myself in the mindset of a potential customer who thinks very differently from me, and that can be a challenge.
For me, the way around this is to focus on the slices of the market that play to my core strengths. For instance, if a company wants to reach the green consumer, or market green products and services to either green or non-green audiences, my subject knowledge is strong enough to make up for the cultural differences.
If you want to go into different markets, ask yourself questions like these:
• What do you offer that a customer can’t find at home already?
• How will you deal with shipping, customs and tariff costs, and will you be able to compete after factoring those in?
• Who will sell and service your products in that country?
• How might a tweak in the product, packaging or marketing make it more attractive in that market?
• How does entering this far-away market make the world better or address environmental and social problems – and how can you use that commitment in your marketing?