Beware of Misleading Pictures in Media (Open Letter to FT)

Dear Sir,

On Monday (4/7) the Financial Times reported pictorially on the elections in Hungary. To provide a vivid image, the front page of the paper chose to show four women in native (and perhaps medieval) garb. Our first thought was that we were looking at four strange Barbie-dolls in their colorful little boxes.

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Such a presentation of the Hungarian election process is not only inappropriate but absurd and misleading. First off, Hungarian women go to work and fulfill their civic voting duty dressed in business attire, some even wear pants! Also, although not in evidence in your picture, Hungarian men vote as well.

The FT photo very much gave the impression of Hungary being a third world outdated country. One could think that the reason for this front page picture is the fact that Mr. Orban has again obtained endorsement from the voters. Could it be, that the view of the Hungarian ‘ancients’ at the ballot box is designed to connote support by old fashioned folks only?  Or was this the work of an untrained press office? The photo tactic is inaccurate and inappropriate.  Just because some of Hungary’s neighboring EU nations are dissatisfied with the directions of its government, should not lead to derisions of the democratic process of voting.


Ilona V. Czinkota


Michael R. Czinkota


Social Media Success Strategies in International Marketing

Creating a substantial social media presence is not simply about making a Facebook page and hoping customers will drop by. In business, successful communities are developed through the use of skillful marketing research, planning, and strategy making. Social media–based marketing succeeds best when the firm offers products and services relevant to the customer, incorporating substantial value, and provided by an organization deemed trustworthy and reliable. Below are important strategies firms should follow to maximize the effectiveness of social media in international marketing.

Monitor Your Firm’s Online Reputation

Trust plays a critical role in the success of social media marketing. In a world of 24-hour news cycles via practically unlimited news and information outlets, firms can fall victim to gossip and the rants of disgruntled consumers, activists, and others. Thus, marketers need to invest efforts every day scanning the Internet to monitor news about the firm and its brands.

Communicate Your Expertise

Sophisticated companies publicize their expertise in various ways online, such as via websites, podcasts, blogs, and social media, all emphasizing buyers’ needs. Fundamentally, more than caring about products themselves, consumers seek solutions to their specific problems.

Understand Your Markets

Marketers need to devise marketing communications only after acquiring substantive knowledge of the characteristics of intended buyers. By knowing who is using which social sites, marketers can promote their products to their targeted audience at the appropriate sites. For example, the social network site aSmallWorld targets affluent members and others who are part of the international social jet set. Care2 is a social network site that appeals to environmentalists and other interest in green living from around the world.

Manage Information about Your Company and Brands

Many firms today use Facebook and other sites to disseminate continuous news releases that provide value to consumers. Buyers respond favorably to information that appeals to their needs and concerns about products and brands they enjoy. News releases online link to the corporate website, where explanations are offered regarding emergent trends and events that interest buyers. The most successful social media sites incorporate numerous useful links to other sites and provide easy means for customers to contact company representatives. For example, Chinese computer giant Lenovo launched a site called “Voices of the Olympic Games” to collect posts from the athletes competing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The site allowed Lenovo to link its brand to exciting Olympics events as they developed.

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The Global Rise of Social Media

As the Internet gains momentum worldwide, firms are using social media to undertake international marketing campaigns. Because social media are cost-effective, even small firms can market offerings to market niches around the world.

Leveraging social networks can be especially effective in emerging markets and developing economies, where consumers may be less receptive to traditional Western forms of marketing communications, such as TV and print advertising.

Some cultures appear to lend themselves especially well to social media marketing approaches. For example, collectivist cultures characterized by a high need for social affiliation and respect for peers are likely to value the brand-oriented interaction available through social media. China is one of the top users of e-mail and social media worldwide, and the Chinese tend to exhibit a strong preference for online media that enhance social relationships. The market for credit cards in Russia is still emerging, and finding information on the credit worthiness of cardholders is challenging. Banks leverage social sites, such as Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, to identify potential users with strong potential credit ratings.

Marketing communications using social media represent the new frontier in international marketing. Social networks are considered increasingly critical to any interactive marketing communications program. Marketers aim for brand engagement; that is, they want customers to develop a personal relationship with the brand. Social media represent perhaps the best means for achieving this closeness.

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Global Advertising Considerations

The two main concerns when selecting advertising media are reaching the appropriate target audience and doing so efficiently as measured by the cost per thousand (CPM). If the company is in a position to define a target audience clearly in terms of demographics or product-related variables, the media choice will be easier. The more targeted you can become when describing the most likely customer, the easier it is to identify what they read, watch, or listen  to or how to reach them through their key influencers.

Do not make decisions by CPM alone, though. With an integrated marketing communication mindset, media work synergistically. For example, advertisements in publications and directories might drive customers and prospects to a website, while publicity can educate about a product category and advertising provides brand-specific information.

As in the U.S., international advertising vehicles include business and trade journals, consumer magazines, broadcast media outlets, the Internet, and directories. Media availability and spending may vary dramatically around the world, with the U.S. spending more money on advertising than most other advertising nations combined. According to ZenithOptimedia, the fastest growing region includes Central and Eastern Europe while Latin America is seeing more moderate growth in advertising spending. China and Russia are moving up on the list of largest advertising markets, with China estimated at fifth place in 2008 and Russia expected to be in seventh place by the end of 2009.

How and where they money is spent varies, too. Some Latin American nations have the heaviest concentration of their advertising in television, while print media dominates in some Scandinavian lands. Cable and satellite enhance TV penetration in affluent markets, while radio remains a strong medium in many developing markets. Outdoor and transit advertising, cinema ads, and the Internet also compete for a share of the marketing communications budget in many global markets. Interactive telephone and TV are on the horizon, too.

One of the challenges for the international advertiser is the need for market-specific information. A medium popular in one country might well be significantly less important in another nearby, forcing the marketer to, for example, use radio in one market and print in another, which increases production costs. Currency exchange rate fluctuations also complicate media planning and budgeting.

Some of the regional regulations include limits on the amount of time available for ads. In Italy, for example, the state-owned and commercial TV channels have different maximum advertising limits. Other regulations affect how content is presented. In Italy, unlike the U.S., there is a strict separation between programs and commercials. Many countries restrict gender stereotypes and comparative claims.

Thanks to cable and satellite transmissions,  the media in neighboring countries is increasingly crossing global boundaries, generating significant implications for global marketers. The viewer’s choices have expanded, leading to competition among government-run public channels, state channels from neighboring nations, private channels, and pan-European channels. As a result, marketers must make certain that their advertising communicates effectively not only in the region where they make the buy but also across boundaries. This makes ad creation and media buying more challenging, frustrating marketers and their advertising agencies. Agencies often must produce several separate versions of a campaign to comply with various national regulations. As in the U.S., tobacco, alcohol, and pharmaceutical products are the most regulated in Europe.

This is an excerpt from Dr. Czinkota’s book Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead, co-authored by Dr. Ilkka Ronkainen.

Michael R Czinkota and Ilkka A Ronkainen, Global Business: Positioning Ventures Ahead (New York: Routledge, 2011), pg. 124-126.