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8 Common Mistakes When Expanding Into Emerging Markets

Marketers in North America are under tremendous pressure to find ways to “grow elsewhere” and to deliver successful emerging market penetration plans and associated marketing strategies.

The Weber-Stephen company was facing what seemed to be an incredibly difficult task: successfully launching their classic outdoor barbecue grills in India. The iconic “Weber Kettle” had no local brand awareness and a “backyard barbecue” culture was non-existent in the country.

Enter Sivakumar (“Siva”) Kandaswamy, the man who Weber tapped to take on this challenge. Siva knew that Weber’s successful market entry in India would depend largely on creating demand for its brand while simultaneously creating an entirely new category for outdoor cooking. The cultural differences in India were one of the first obstacles he faced. For example, the typical Indian male does not cook, most Indians believe that barbecue means non-vegetarian food, and “do-it-yourself” outdoor cooking is uncommon. Siva also faced challenges like highly fragmented distribution channels, limited space available at retail, language diversity (23 official languages!), and aggressive price competition from many Chinese and local manufacturers. Significant headwinds for a US-based barbecue grill company! 

Siva recognized the solution would require building the category and the brand from the ground-up in India. With no data available on the current sales or consumer behavior in the category, he gathered consumer insights through primary research. Insights gave Weber a springboard for launching a differentiated Brand Story in India. He followed that up by developing a multi-channel strategic playbook that helped him articulate the plays he would need to run on the ground with dealers and distributors across the country to get the Weber Story in front of the target audience. Finally, he put the Systems (people, process, and technology) in place to execute the Strategy with ruthless consistency and enable Weber to scale up across the country. 

Thanks to Weber, a backyard grilling culture has taken hold in India.  Indian families enjoy outdoor grilling and Weber helps deliver additional functional and emotional benefits by providing consumers with tips, tools, and localized recipes. Weber has been able to “grow elsewhere” by tapping into one of the largest market’s in the world and expanding their global brand footprint in the process.

Rapid economic growth in countries such as India is giving its consumers new spending power and making them extremely attractive targets for brand marketers around the world. India’s economy is one of the fastest expanding in the world, with a rapidly expanding consumer class. Representing the world’s second biggest population, with 440mn millennials and 390mn Gen Z teens and children, the absolute size of its youth population paves the way for India’s consumer story to be one of the world’s most compelling in the next 20 years. India’s economic liberalization began in the early 1990s and has accelerated ever since.

It seems that every year, new sectors of the economy are opening for foreign direct investment. For example, the Indian Government recently decided to encourage foreign investment in the multi-brand retail sector. This will create huge opportunities for companies involved in agriculture, consumer goods, retail, transportation, and infrastructure in the cold chain logistics sector.

However, business leaders seeking to enter emerging markets like India are encountering a marketing environment that it every bit as complex, if not more so, than developed countries. Product choices and communication channels are exploding; so is the potential of marketing automation platforms; and, as everywhere, consumer empowerment is on the rise. Envisioning consumer behavior in these markets as a progression through a funnel is inaccurate – it’s more of a spiral with multiple feedback loops and numerous touch points where marketers can influence (and potentially frustrate) the consumer on their buying journey

As in developed markets, digital media and marketing automation are unleashing the possibility of deeper audience engagement at each phase of the journey, but with some important twists reflecting differences in the characteristics of emerging-market consumers, who generally don’t have the same level of experience with brands and product categories as their developed-market counterparts do. Keep in mind that many consumers in these markets are still looking to buy their first car, first television, or first package of diapers.

Having worked with numerous brands over the past 10 years, TopRight has witnessed many successes… but also multiple failures. Here is a Slideshare of the 8 common mistakes that marketers make when trying to build a brand and launch in Emerging Markets:

So, it’s easy to make mistakes. But as we learned in the Weber backyard barbecue story, there is a step-by-step process that you can follow to increase your likelihood of emerging market success. TopRight has developed a practical, systematic India market entry playbook to help American brands reduce their risks, maximize their ROI, compete efficiently, and win in the India marketplace. With our global vision, hands-on experience, and local network, we assist clients to acquire valuable market information, undertake comprehensive market analyses, formulate appropriate entry strategy, find best routes-to-market, establish distribution channels, and rapidly grow our client’s business in India. If you’d like to learn more, contact us to setup a free consultation.

Cracking into emerging markets and connecting with consumers requires a transformational approach to the overall customer experience and, more importantly, telling your brand story in a way that makes them the hero. A compelling brand story engages and delights consumers; it makes them want to learn more, want to participate, and want to advocate on a brand’s behalf. Learn how to architect a 6-second story that drives business growth – download our latest ebook Transformational Marketing: Moving to the TopRight.

Download the Transformational Marketing ebook now!


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