International businesses rule our world in a way that they provide us with the best quality, best price and variety of products and services throughout the entire globe. From the standpoint, doing business internationally gives them incredible opportunities to boost their sales, reach out to the vast majority of people and become known in the foreign markets. Some companies and organizations manage their marketing doings so wisely that they success big. And marketing is important even for small businesses. However, one of the very important factors that some of these companies forget to factor in their marketing operations is the issue of “culture”. Here is what happened to Gerber’s Baby Food
Every country, every nationality has its own unique culture: with its history, arts, music, its societies manners, and tactics. When exporting their products and services to different continents and countries some businesses fail to adapt to the certain country’s cultural and behavioristic psychology. One example that crossed my mind is “Nestle” brand’s subsidiary “Gerber”, purveyor of baby food. This piece is about Gerber’s baby food: a catastrophic marketing failure when exporting its product to Africa, which unfortunately played a big role and brought its business to an edge, and how it overcame the problem from a marketing perspective.
Gerber’s Baby Food: marketing failure
As one can find out with a click of a hand on the Internet, in Africa the meaning of the picture on the packaging differs from the meaning for most of the people around the world. Africa is a continent and a sum of individual sovereign states. Some parts of the continent are more developed than the others. South Africa is both a developing and a developed country. The country is known to be developed for its good infrastructure. However as the country has huge social and economic problems, it is called to be developing. And in Sub-Saharan Africa, one out of three people can’t read. But it doesn’t matter: the point is that African people, all together from Tunisia to South Africa and from Senegal to Somalia represent one culture, have similar behaviors, beliefs and therefore think alike.
This brings us to the point, that in some illiterate parts of Africa the packaging has to have a picture of what the product is; meaning what is inside the packaging, otherwise people won’t understand what they are buying. However, when Gerber started selling its baby food in Africa, they didn’t change the packaging individually for the African people, but they used the same one they had for the US market: there was a cute Caucasian baby on the label. A catastrophe. People in Africa thought, that the food contained babies. This was horrifying for them and it led to dropped sales. Gerber’s example is a good example of how big companies fail when they don’t do their marketing right when they don’t do research in order to analyze and understand the new market they are entering too.
All comes down to the marketing plan
Introducing a new product to a new marketplace contains a lot of risks. It can become a headache if done wrongly. Many of the times the risk is not related to the quality of the product or service the businesses are introducing. It is related to the way the product is being introduced, hence it all comes down to the marketing plan. This is known to every marketer. Having a great marketing plan doesn’t ensure the success of the business if even one of the steps fails to perform with a 100%. Creating great slogans, advertisement and banners are not the only important marketing activities. But to also to know and understand its target audience perfectly. To know who are you trying to sell your product, whose needs and pains are you trying to solve.
A great way of learning one’s target market is by learning about its culture. The reason is that it is interconnected to the customer’s buying behavior. Is your target market sensitive to the prices? Do they put quality above all functions? Hundreds of questions can be asked to get into the minds of the target audience. However, for understanding the culture of the people the business wants to sell its products to, it needs to do great research. Find out about all the important and even unimportant characteristics of those people’s culture. In our example, Gerber failed to do its marketing activities; it entered the market without knowing the people, their unique characteristics, and habits.
What do people actually buy?
People don’t buy products, they buy people, purpose, and promise. This saying perfectly sums up the meaning of what a brand is. When thinking about Gerber’s example and catastrophic failure, I thought about its brand. I think, that when the customers fall in love with your brand, they are going to buy from you even if you provide not the best quality. They are going to buy from you because you give them emotions that they seek. When the brand loses its imagine, name, pride from the customers, it is very hard to gain the trust back.
How can you fix it?
However, every problem has a solution. I think that if you identify where your company’s marketing activities went wrong then you can take some actions on solving them. Gerber’s problem was very clear. Now they had to fight to earn the trust back. Here are some techniques. First of all a lot of incorporating marketing campaigns; showing to the customer that they are aware of their culture and are ready to start from a scratch. Second, donating to the poor is a great way for a company to earn the trust of the audience. And third and most important action that the company should have taken was changing and adapting its packaging to the African market.
We all use products of international brands in every day of our lives. I wrote this sentence on my MacBook Air laptop, as I was eating a chicken cheeseburger from KFC while wearing my H&M pajamas. Some of the international brands play their big marketing strategies, earn our trust and stay in our hearts forever. Some of them fail to recognize the importance of their customer’s identities. The important thing is that the one’s that fail must stand on their feet again. Do right marketing in order to win back their customers. Gerber’s baby food: the brand failed hugely in Africa. But gave a good lesson to all of us marketers throughout the world.