Aside from the cultural considerations when planning a promotional strategy, companies need to be aware of the regulatory and legal requirements in their selected target international market. Regulations and requirements can affect a great many things from how you use media advertising for your marketing campaigns, the ways you design and label your products for international sale, and even how you choose to package your product.
Regulations affecting media use
In most countries, media advertising is highly regulated. This is particularly true in North America, where strict standards and censorship are prevalent. These regulations are strongest for products that may have risks associated with health or other social acceptance connotations, such as the promotion of tobacco or alcohol products.
Product contents, safety standards or other such required notices or labelling must be adhered to. In addition, product claims or competitor comparisons may also be restricted depending upon the market regulations.
In short, a company needs to thoroughly research the media content and other related regulations prior to launching any promotional campaign in a specific jurisdiction.
Regulations for labelling vary greatly from country to country. For example, in Canada, labels must be bilingual and follow strict guidelines laid down by the federal government. In some countries, as many as five different languages are printed on labels and packages. The exporter will find that, in many countries, superlatives like “the best” or “the most effective” are banned, as are direct comparisons with competitors’ products.
Often, labels must display the word “imported” and the country of origin. Some countries, like France for example, are sensitive to labels on products that falsely imply from their design and name that they are made in France. Shipments will be confiscated if labels are illegally used.
The labelling of ingredients in processed food products can also present some problems, especially if the product contains artificial ingredients. They may require a complete chemical breakdown to make sure none are restricted in that particular country. This applies to items like food dye.
The Standards Council of Canada has a database that contains information on international standards for packaging and labelling. A Canadian trade representative can also help gather information on specific standards in a particular sector. Regulations often change, so the exporter must keep abreast of them.
Trade communities and blocs such as the European Community (EC) often have established uniform standards for products within their borders. However, this does not apply to labelling for imports, and this can lead to non-tariff barriers. For instance, if labelling is done in Canada, a German importer is legally obligated to inform the foreign supplier of all labelling requirements. The importer must supply a sample with the German translation to avoid errors.
Colour and graphics
Colour and graphics are used in packaging and labelling to convey an impression of the contents. They help purchasers distinguish a particular brand from its competition. A consumer product may be on a shelf with dozens of similar product lines, competing for limited space and customer attention. It is vital that colour and graphics complement the product and communicate its benefits clearly. In many cases, photographs are effectively used in place of illustrations.
A Canadian West Coast exporter was not aware of the Chinese interpretation of blue and white. The company sent an order of canned salmon to China. The label on the can showed a white polar bear against a blue background.To Westerners, the image is one of purity and freshness. In China, blue and white are used as funeral colours and the message that was conveyed was that the product was dead polar bear! The exporter had to repackage the goods.
The material must be appropriate for the foreign market and sensitive to the buyers’ culture or additional costs can result.
One important consideration is whether to change design concepts and re-use artwork on packaging and promotional material when exporting. Several multinational companies, such as Microsoft, McDonald’s and Disney use universality in packaging, trademarks and advertising. This approach has been very successful for products with global recognition. Other companies prepare market-specific design work. A product package in Japan is scrutinized as carefully as the product itself. The Japanese have a tradition of gift-wrapping and always equate the exterior package with the quality of the contents. This may mean extra time and money spent to conform to the expectations of this market.
Many European countries have created tough legislation for recycled packaging. North American consumers are also becoming more environmentally conscious, and excess packaging or “filler” can create a negative image of wastefulness around the product. Consumers may also become suspicious if they think they are paying more for the packaging than they are for the product itself.
The package must be aesthetically appealing and practical (e.g., re-sealable, tamper proof). Marketing research will determine the needs of the customer and reveal what the established brands have done to fill these needs. They have usually set a standard for size and shapes.
The package must also be acceptable to the retailer and conform to the allowable shelf space for the product category. The package must travel well, be of quality materials and be designed to withstand shipping and handling.
Mass marketed products now require an accurate bar or UPC code that can be read by computers. Case lots need to be of a reasonable size to prevent storage problems. Generally, allotted shelf space, called “facings,” reflects sales performance. The retailers will need to be provided with conclusive market research to persuade them to feature the product with optimum facings.
(Sourced from FITTskills International Marketing, 6th ed.)
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