The Super Bowl reached viewers around the world, but Olympic advertisers will be communicating with a much broader audience from diverse cultures who will bring with them a different set of interests and emotions. To persuade such a multicultural audience, advertising will need to seek commonalities of the mind and heart. Global advertising agencies have the expertise to create messages that work across borders and avoid the danger of leaving broad groups of viewers bewildered or, worse, offended.
We offer five winning techniques (not exclusive to each other)for creative messaging to global audiences during the Olympics in national and global media campaigns.
Universal human emotions come first. The best brands inspire and capture positive, if not joyful, emotion in their customers. Marketers know that emotion often trumps reason in purchase decisions. Dig deep into any customer psyche, whether of a business decision-maker or a teenage gamer, and you’ll find a bundle of emotions that are common to people across cultures. Although there are cultural differences in what stirs emotion, some things are universal, like love stories and the pursuit of dreams.
For the 2012 London Olympic Games, P&G launched the global “Thank You Mom” campaign that celebrated the love of young Olympic athletes and their mothers. There may be no more powerful bond than the love between a mom and her child and that love is a universal emotion which is why P&G has renewed the theme for 2018.
Expansive imagery is also of major impact. The film industry has conditioned viewers across the world to crave dramatic, expansive imagery. The most successful global films create a powerful impact of sight and sound. The Olympics are a key opportunity for grand imagery. Marketers regularly use striking visuals to capture attention but the bar is being raised.
Inspiring sounds and music follow hand-in-hand with expansive imagery. Music enhances visuals for dramatic and emotional impact. Marketers must be careful with music selection. Coca Cola has long used “happiness” music to appeal to young people around the world. Naturally, if the music is great, people will want to share it.
Then there is symbolism. For simple communication of an idea, it’s hard to beat. Marketers often employ symbolism to enhance and distinguish their campaign and product messaging.
If you can show product advantage in advertising, your marketing effort is working. The trick is to get people’s attention to your message. Also, marketers would be smart to walk away from messaging that depends upon slang or references to national pop culture. If you didn’t grow up watching American television, you might not understand a lot of pop culture references that U.S. audiences instantly absorb.
Super Bowl advertising is uniquely tuned to American audiences while that of the Olympics must be globally focused. Both will employ many of the techniques identified here. Marketers are literally going for the global gold. For the audience, the Olympic marketing messages will be quite different from the ones of the Super Bowl but well worth waiting for.
Prof. Michael Czinkota researches international marketing and business issues at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He served in trade policy positions in the George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations. His International Marketing text is now in its 10th edition.
Charles Skuba teaches international business and marketing at Georgetown University. He served in the George W. Bush administration in trade policy positions in the U.S. Department of Commerce and previously was a senior executive in advertising.