Elad Ben David Tue Feb 24, 2015

As a global marketer, how do you effectively address cultural differences among your customers across regions?

Globally, we’ve shifted to a customer-centric world in which consumers choose to do business with the brands that speak to them as individuals. As such, marketers are adapting their ad programs to better relate to consumers on an individual level, but those targeting a global customer base still need to heed cultural differences to make their ads more effective across continents. For example, the North American competitive landscape has changed so that a brand’s biggest competitive differentiator is now the customer experience it delivers, rather than its product and service differentiators. Conversely, European consumers are still more likely to evaluate brands based on their product advantages rather than the lifestyle the brand evokes. Recognizing these regional differences is the first step in creating the best possible advertising experience for the customer.

How North American and European Ads Differ
It’s difficult to generalize advertising preferences across regions as each advertiser is striving to be more unique and innovative than the next, but we can extrapolate a few common themes. Consumers in North America are accustomed to forming a direct relationship with big brands, so ads tend to focus more on the brand experience. U.S. marketers use the power of storytelling to help define the consumer’s persona traits, and then create an ad story that places the consumer within that storyline.

On the other hand, European consumers don’t tend to formulate that relationship with a brand. Consumers respond better to ads that contain brand messages around product cost and value. It’s typical to see ad messaging in Europe touting the unique selling points of the product or service, versus emotional selling points. For instance, the underlying tone of a European ad might be, “you should buy these shoes for their durability,” versus the North American tone, “you should buy these shoes so you can feel like LeBron James.”

Highly Relevant Ads Perform Better
Brand marketers create regional-specific advertising programs (whether by country or even by city) because they know that the most effective ad experiences are those that are highly relevant to the customer and use an engaging medium, such as video. Marketers now have the capability to stop thinking by geographical segments – which still require assumptions about a large group of people to create one message that’s intended to fit the entire target population – and truly speak to each customer as an individual.

By leveraging first-party customer data (both on-site historical and offsite behavior) brands can deliver video advertising programs that generate the content and creative in real time, and best connect with the consumer. Data-driven creative can be used across regions to pull in the most relevant assets, products and information for varying consumer cultures. Personalization and real-time relevance are the most important elements to deliver the most engaging experience for a consumer. Marketers are truly able to speak one-on-one with a consumer and highlight the unique and emotional selling points that matter most, whether it’s cost and features in Europe, or brand lifestyle in North America.

Personalized online advertising, which first emerged in the North American marketplace, is gaining traction in the European market as well. Today, personalized video advertising is still developing in both regions, though it is, for now, more prevalent in North America. The reality is that no one wants to be approached like he is just another consumer, and brands are taking note.