Trying to quack a foreign market? Make sure you know the culture and regulations on the product you’re selling

Trying to quack a foreign market? Make sure you know the culture and regulations on the product you’re selling

Imagine that you’re about to launch a new line of high-end duck liver pate into the market in one of the Gulf States. You know that there is a market for luxury products and your distributor has assured you that the pate will sell well in the new market.

Unfortunately, the pate is made with porcine gelatin and your distributor has forgotten to tell you that gelatin is banned in the market that you are exporting to. Your first shipment fails to clear customs, costing you a fortune. Your second shipment arrives in-market, but you discover that duck liver products have fallen out of favour in the target market due to a recent food safety scandal. Frustrated, you decide to give up on the exporting dream.

Before you decide to export to a particular market, carry out thorough research to make sure that your product is suitable for that market. Remember to keep cultural and religious considerations in mind. Different countries have different restrictions around food, alcohol and the depiction of the human form, and many have very strict labelling requirements, all of which could potentially affect your ability to sell a product or service there.

Even if you believe that your product is the best available and the logical choice for consumers in the target market, make sure that there will be adequate demand for it in the market. Remember that you may have to compete with popular local or international brands which are already established and well-known there. You should also consider whether your business model is one that is understood and accepted in the target market.

Consult an expert about your branding before you start up overseas. For an international brand to succeed in the Middle East and North African markets, for example, it must appeal to the local culture and take into consideration the local religion (Islam) and values for advertising purposes. Successful brands realise that fostering a global image while pleasing its Middle Eastern local customers is important.

Make absolutely sure that you have your labelling exactly right before you go to market. If you have adjusted a product to comply with local phytosanitary requirements, such as by removing pork from it, remember that the labelling must be adjusted to reflect this. Otherwise, you will find that, like the duck liver pate, your product will not make it through customs.

This is an extract from Cynthia Dearin’s e-book, 7 Mistakes That Lead To Deal Failure in the Middle East and North African Markets, which is available from the Dearin & Associates website.

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