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What is global marketing and why is it important?

Global marketing is the focus on marketing an organisation’s products or services in the international marketplace – and in an increasingly global society, with people more connected than ever before, it’s an increasingly important area of marketing management.

Global marketing sees the world as one unique, individual market. This means that a global business’s marketing messages and approach will be largely the same no matter where in the world they’re seen or heard.

This uniform approach also means that:

  • marketing efforts are typically developed and coordinated from one central location, such as an organisation’s headquarters, rather than within individual markets
  • products and services are largely the same regardless of location – for example, the ingredients and process used to make a can of Coca-Cola are the same in all countries
  • marketing campaigns and brand imagery are typically the same in all countries.

Global marketing is particularly suited to products and services that have universal appeal, and where market research has indicated the products or services are likely to be well-received.

What is the difference between global marketing and international marketing?

Global marketing and international marketing are similar in that they are both focused on the development of marketing strategies that reach people around the world.

There is a key difference, though: while global marketing focuses on a single marketing strategy for a worldwide market – effectively treating the world as a single market – international marketing adapts its marketing strategy and tactics for different countries, typically with marketers knowledgeable in specific regions tailoring marketing activities to suit different markets, different languages, and different cultures. 

It’s worth noting, though, that marketing in a global society doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition, with global marketing on one side, international marketing on the other, and no common ground between. For example, in an article in the Harvard Business Review, John Quelch and Edward J. Hoff at Harvard Business School argued that a global approach can fall anywhere on a spectrum:

“In applying the global marketing concept and making it work, flexibility is essential,” they wrote. “Managers need to tailor the approach they use to each element of the business system and marketing program. For example, a manufacturer might market the same product under different brand names in different countries or market the same brands using different product formulas.”

What are the benefits of global marketing?

Global marketing offers a number of advantages. For example, running a single marketing campaign that aims to appeal to all consumers, rather than several campaigns that are adapted to different target markets, means that businesses can achieve huge cost savings and reduce spend on marketing. They can also benefit from the economies of scale that come with increased production to meet global market demands.

Other benefits can include the following.

Wider audience and expanded customer base

Appealing to the international marketplace means that international brands and even small businesses can grow beyond the limits of their domestic market borders. This diversification also means that organisations are less reliant on single markets – particularly uncertain or volatile ones.

Enhanced brand awareness and reputation

World-wide brands and global companies often have a competitive advantage simply due to familiarity, name recognition, and ease of access.

Additional insight

With a larger target audience and customer base comes more opportunities to gather insight and feedback – especially in online spaces such as social media, where people are more likely to engage with globally recognised brands.

Global marketing strategies

In many ways, a global marketing strategy is like any other marketing strategy. It should outline the four Ps of any marketing mix – product, price, place, and promotion – and take an evidenced-based approach to decision making.

A strong global marketing strategy should also:

  • be underpinned by a strong, consistent global brand that will resonate with audiences around the world
  • include a strong digital component to strengthen the organisation’s reach to people in any country
  • be flexible enough to adjust where required, particularly where cultural differences and sensitivities might arise

Real-world examples of global marketing 

Here are a couple of commonly cited examples of global marketing.


Nike has grown to become one of the most recognised brands on the planet through a combination of global marketing tactics, and strategic international sponsorships and partnerships that appeal to audiences around the world. Nike was one of the earliest adopters of digital marketing such as email marketing and social media marketing.


Coca-Cola is ubiquitous in dozens of countries thanks to its global marketing practices. Its brand, taste, and marketing are more or less identical whether you buy a bottle in New York or Hong Kong.

What does the term “glocal” mean and how is it used in global marketing?

Glocal is a combination of global and local. It’s a concept used in more flexible global marketing strategies where there’s a mix of standardised product offerings and marketing as well as local market or local culture components.

For example, a McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich is the same whether someone is in the United Kingdom or any other country – except in India, where the beef is replaced with a vegetarian alternative – but McDonald’s also has glocal, or region-specific menu items. These have included:

  • the McArabia, a pita bread sandwich specific to McDonald’s restaurants in the Middle East
  • McSpaghetti, a pasta menu item specific to McDonald’s restaurants in the Philippines
  • the Teritama burger, a spring menu item at McDonald’s restaurants in Japan; Japanese customers also have an autumn option – the Tsukimi burger
  • the Cheddar McMelt – a burger with extra cheese, onions, and soy sauce – specific to McDonald’s restaurants in Brazil

Challenges in global marketing

Cultural barriers are one of the biggest challenges in global marketing. For example, marketing messages that are appropriate in Sweden might not translate in South Korea and vice versa. So, even the most standardised global marketing strategies need a degree of flexibility. A multinational or international business should also be aware of important cultural and religious events, such as Christmas, Ramadan, and so on.

Businesses should also be mindful of different laws and legislation in different countries and foreign markets. Regulations can differ in everything from advertising standards to ingredients – not to mention taxes – so being aware of these differences before launching into new markets is crucial.

Explore marketing management for businesses in global settings

Advance your career with the flexible online Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme from the University of York.

Marketing in a global society is one of the key modules on this programme, so you’ll examine global marketing in business and explore the marketing challenges that all organisations face. You will also develop the capacity to learn and engage with the opportunities and challenges of communicating brand images and corporate values across national, linguistic, and cultural borders to a variety of consumers, and consider a variety of methods, including new social media, as a mechanism of distributing knowledge and information.