Meanie Marketing – How cost cutting could damage your brand.

Accountants beware. Bean counting is dangerous!

Copywriter and creator of ads, Babu Basu, warns big business not to be mean with their marketing. Rather than increasing efficiency, being parsimonious can actually harm your business.

Imagine that you’re a senior operating officer of a sprawling multinational company.    (Did you feel a shiver run down your spine?) Your job is to generate money and reduce costs.


But bringing in new money is hard.
It requires growth, inspiration and originality and complex mix of commercial, technological and legal understanding. It’s no mean feat.

You look at your balance sheet and company environment (which in theory, you control) and you make the definite decision to squash your costs.

How very efficient of you.

If you’re company is big (really BIG), you can dictate how much you pay suppliers (think supermarkets paying dairy farmers).

You can choose to pay your employees less in real terms year on year (think NHS staff).

You could choose to put off pay rises by staggering payment over a number of years (think UK Firefighters and Police).

Or, you could move your customer service operations to countries where the salaries are cheaper (think BT or Talk Talk with customer service in India and South Africa).

All sounds a bit controversial? Well, why not just reduce marketing costs?

Sounds easy enough.

Why bother making expensive adverts for every market place? Make one advert and use it in every territory. You’d save thousands. What a brilliant idea!

Well actually, it isn’t.

One size definitely does not fit all.

It can’t.

Shock horror! – Consumers are not the same the world over. Nor, are they the same within one territory. Who knew? Well most of us, actually.

Economists and Psychologists know that demand is driven by a bewildering number of factors including culture, media, finance, legality, ecology, desire and need.

Oh ok. But what about where markets share the same language? Surely then we can use the same advert?


It doesn’t matter if we speak the same language. Our cultural and linguistic references are different.

Think about America, Britain, Australia and India.

In theory, each market has a substantial number of English speakers. In theory, you could use the same adverts.

You could.

I wouldn’t.

Each culture and therefore, each market place is different. Yes Australia and the UK might be closer in culture than say Japan and Italy, but what drives taste, fashion and social values is different in each society.

With resources around the world and capable staff in each country, you might think that all multinationals are experts in international marketing. Alas, no.


Companies that got it wrong

Wayfair is an American e-commerce company selling home furnishings. Founded in 2002, this Boston based retailer now has offices and warehouses in Canada, UK and Germany.

When it began advertising in the UK, the company made the mistake of thinking their American English marketing message – a very nasally American marketing message would appeal to Brits.

It didn’t.

Wayfair hadn’t realized that their message only appealed to the American market.

Brits assumed that this company was by Americans and for Americans. Trade wasn’t great. It didn’t matter how many times Wayfair ran the ad on TV and radio. The message did not connect with the audience.

Thankfully, Wayfair now understand the need to speak to Brits ‘in their own language.’ The nasally American jingle (“Wayfair is all that I need”) has been dropped in the UK and the American voice-over has been dropped.

Instead the company have employed a much loved British TV Presenter – Lorraine Kelly to give the brand a local, more approachable face. Expect sales to pick up sharply.

Scholl, the American footwear company, who have been selling to the UK for years, seemed to forget that British English is different.

Over the last few years, Scholl ran a very visible (and therefore, expensive) ad campaign selling their high heel shoe inserts. These inserts were meant to make high heels so comfortable they had a ‘sneaker feel,’ ie as comfortable as sports training shoes.

There was just one problem with the campaign.

Brits were not familiar with the term ‘sneaker.’ To us, ‘a sneaker feel,’ sounded sinister, perhaps something a stalker might do. (In case you don’t know, a stalker is someone who follows you obsessively).

The British use the term ‘trainers,’ to describe sports shoes.

Thankfully, Scholl now understands this and is now replacing ‘the sneaker effect’ with the ‘trainer effect.’ Perhaps now they’ll sell their inserts more and creep out customers a little less.

However, Scholl are still making mistakes.

They keep running ads for their mens’ range of inserts that are obviously dubbed from another language. What message does this send out to a customer? You’re obviously not worth my time so I’ll do a second rate job when marketing to you.

The whole point about advertising is to create brand loyalty. If you’re mean with your advertising, expect customers to be mean with you.

Brand loyalty goes out the window and potential customers turn to rivals whose marketing or pricing, appeals.

Here’s the truth – Customers notice more than some companies give them credit for. Patronise them at your peril.


Here’s who got it right

Pantene sells a range of hair care products first introduced in Europe in 1945. Their adverts look the same the world over and sound the same. But Pantene understands that each market they sell to needs ‘a face’ that customers connect with.
Pantene adverts in the UK may have British models or popstars, whilst the Indian adverts have Bollywood actresses. The script is the same, but the faces are different.
We buy from those we accept are the same as us, or those we look up to.

There are times when the rules don’t apply.

Luxury marketing is different

Luxury marketing throws standard marketing rules out the window.
Aspirational marketing often relies upon the heritage of the brand. In this case, it is usually better to stay true to your original offering. (Think designer clothing brands like YSL, Chanel or Dior.

Their history and originality is what makes them influential and successful.

But their marketing isn’t mean – far from it.

Luxury marketing appears mystical, exotic and other-worldly. And here’s the biggie, it works.

Standard marketing might claim a product will beat a rival. Luxury marketing suggests a product has no rivals. The term, ‘Peerless Marketing’, is often used.

But even if your brand has history and mystery you still need to target your consumer.

Rolls Royce, which describes itself as one of the best known brands in the world, refer to their heritage and innovation, but also adapt their marketing, their service and, their showrooms.
When customers are expected to pay 100s of 1000s of pounds for one car, targeted marketing has to be effective, especially when fewer customers can afford your products.

Still think that meanie marketing works?

If you’re in any doubt, think about this:

If you have great expectations of a market or territory, understand that a mean budget will usually garner mean results. Why wouldn’t it?

Never forget, consumers are savvy and well informed. They can go elsewhere. And often do.

So don’t be a Marketing Miser.

Make an advert for each of your territories. And make it a good one.


Babu Basu is a Copywriter and Head Honcho at CREATIVE GLUTTONY, a creative studio based in the East Midlands.
If you’d like to write to him, please email
Thank you.


About babubasu

Babu Basu is an engaging freelance business writer living and working in the thriving East Midlands. He writes articles, adverts, presentations and web content. You can benefit from Babu's creativity by contacting him. Visit Babu's website: or email him directly at
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