A Q&A On How Proactive Do Marketing

Student visitors from the US at Proactive

We recently had the pleasure of welcoming back Todd O’Neill and his Bachelor of Science in Interactive Media students from Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).

Proactive facilitated a presentation on digital marketing trends in Ireland, technologies being used and how we help clients do business across the EU.

As a follow-up to this, one of the attending students, Gwyneth, required more insight into Proactive’s marketing efforts in Ireland and abroad for her report, and we thought we would share it with you.

8 Minute Read Time

1. How often do you market towards other countries and how often do you market towards Ireland? 

Quite regularly, but often for recruitment purposes more so than sales or lead generation.

Ireland will be the main target location for many of our clients and we often target specific counties or locations if relevant to the campaign objective. 

Meta’s ability to target certain street locations is relevant for the likes of Higher Education institutes, and companies within the tourism sector. We have a kitchen client that sells luxury kitchens, so rather than advertising to the masses, we only target selected locations that are known to be luxury areas for example. 

2. Can you provide an overview of your company’s experience in international marketing? 

Galway – our office location – is a hub for Medtech clients, which in turn means we often deal with their international marketing offices as well. 

We have one medical client at the moment for whom we are preparing a strategic campaign in North America. Similarly, an engineering company based in Ireland want to promote their Danish offices, so we are running marketing campaigns there. 

Sometimes however, you need to think outside the box. With a lot of large multinationals that have offices in Galway or nearby, they regularly have senior staff travelling through Irish Airports. So for one particular client, we designed, developed and worked with a partner to display signs and billboards in all Irish Airports. 

We have an e-commerce client who sells worldwide through their Shopify store. We have to be mindful that the same ad copy that works in the US, may not work elsewhere so in this instance we use a VPN to see what competitors are doing and saying in each region and then create the ad copy and campaign messaging based on that.

3. Which countries specifically have you marketed towards? 

  • US
  • UK
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Netherlands
  • S/Africa 
  • Nordics – Sweden, Denmark, Norway etc 
  • EU – France, Spain, Italy, Germany etc

4. Which countries do you work with the most? 

Most of our clients are based in Ireland and the opportunity to market overseas comes typically revolves around their need for recruitment, lead generation, sales or general awareness, especially if they are trying to enter a new market. 

Normally, their Irish marketing team is so happy they refer us to their international offices to undertake their marketing needs as well. 

Word of mouth is still one of the biggest lead-generation tools for Proactive and many of our clients. 

5. Do your marketing/advertising techniques change depending on each country, or do you generally follow the same techniques for each audience regardless of their home country’s culture? 

A copy-and-paste job is possibly the worst thing you could do. 

We have a diverse team, many of whom have experience working abroad, so they tend to be our go-to people if we have a query on cultural aspects. If they don’t know, then we deep dive on Google or reach out to relevant contacts to find out more. 

For large-scale marketing campaigns in foreign regions, we always add time for research around this – the audience, targeting criteria, any limitations, do’s/don’ts etc. For the likes of Meta, we need to be mindful that certain EU countries have different restrictions. 

One thing that always stood out to us was that the colour purple is strongly associated with death in Italy. If choosing the wrong colour can aggravate potential customers, what could the wrong words do?

6. How do you adapt your messaging and communication style to resonate with the target audience in different countries? Can you provide examples of each main country you work with?

This will often depend on the campaign objective and whether it is driving awareness, sales, leads or recruitment efforts. 

We always take into consideration whether the same online campaign will work across all regions or perhaps we need to consider an offline campaign. 

For one tourism client, we regularly advertise within Ireland and across the EU. However, it is expensive to blanket advertise to all of the US. For them, they know their clients well enough to know the main draw is Irish heritage. So with this in mind, we looked at offline advertising options in renowned Irish-American communities. These advertisements include Irish magazines, posters in subways or billboards at sports grounds used for GAA.

Again, by using a VPN to search in those regions, you get a better idea of how users are searching which in turn helps to create more relevant and strategic messaging. 

7. Are there any countries you find it challenging to market towards due to different cultural perspectives and norms?

It is not something that we have come across to be honest.

8. Can you provide examples for each main country you work with on how your marketing approach may change when working with that specific country and why?

For example: Perhaps you work with Germany and when you market towards them your advertisements are more focused on frugality and efficiency since these are qualities Germans value

Yes, that is a great example in itself. Knowing what matters most to the user in each country is key. It should never be assumed and research is the only way to establish a correct approach. 

One thing that comes to mind was how everyone advertising had to change their messaging once Brexit had happened and the UK had left the EU. Suddenly there was no fast delivery, easy passage through airports etc. Everything changed overnight. It caused many businesses to close because they weren’t sufficiently prepared to handle the change. 

In areas like recruitment, you want to consider what may be considered the deciding factor for candidates and this will of course differ in every region. If you already live in a well paid region and a similar region is trying to recruit you then looking at the lifestyle or added perks of the job would be the right approach. 

The messaging for a leads generation campaign rarely changes because you are always talking about a specific product, solution or service and there are only so many ways you can talk about it. 

For an awareness campaign, it definitely comes back to the need of the user and their search intention. Are they seeking more information or are they ready to convert? One of our newly onboarded client weren’t getting any leads from France but when we did more research, their lead generation campaign was targeting installers and distributors in the region when everyone else was using Google Shopping to push their products directly to the end user. This meant that there was no space for the lead gen ads to distributors for the companies core product keywords.

9. Are there visual changes in your advertisements based on the country you’re working with?

For example: do certain colors tend to appeal more to different cultures or perhaps with some countries your visuals are more straight to the point while others are more creative. 

We do try and keep costs down for clients by repurposing creatives where suitable. Similarly, the companies that we work with tend to have very defined brand guidelines so there are restrictions on the colours used. 

The content type is probably the biggest factor. Does the respective region engage more with video over imagery? Or do they use LinkedIn more than Facebook, for example?

10. Have you faced any cultural misunderstandings or missteps while marketing internationally, and if so, how did you address them? 

We have not thankfully, but it is not to say we dont get nervous at the thought of it happening. We’ve seen other US companies use a four-leaf clover instead of a Shamrock (which has three leaves) to represent Ireland or include Ireland in Great Britain so we are very mindful of getting the small details right.

11. What channels and platforms do you prioritize for marketing in other countries, and why?  

The core marketing channels would be LinkedIn, Google Ads, Meta, TikTok and Snapchat. However depending on the region there may be a more popular platform. 

In China, for example, they don’t use Google as a search engine so Google Ads would be wasted there. 

In the Philippines, Facebook is their go-to platform for every aspect of business, whereas in Ireland/UK we would use LinkedIn because it is considered more professional.

12. Do some countries perhaps respond to marketing through apps or media that are different from apps and media Ireland typically uses?

For example: perhaps you advertise to the  French mainly through Twitter but Ireland mainly through Instagram? 

Yes as mentioned above, there are so many social media platforms and advertising platforms out there and it is always something we give great consideration to when preparing a marketing campaign strategy. 

We had a client recently that had a presence on all the most popular social media platforms but they found that in certain countries, Pinterest was a massive marketing tool for them. 

Google Analytics can drive some of this insight too, looking at where your site traffic is coming from. Is it through organic search, social media? Or is it is referrals from relevant websites? 

For most of our B2B clients, as much as they want to have a presence across all social platforms, LinkedIn and Facebook are the key channels. Instagram doesn’t tend to work well and Twitter at the moment is somewhat unpredictable so we are advising against using it.

13. What are some examples of marketing techniques and strategies you use when marketing with Irish audiences? 

  • We have used ABM – Account Based Marketing – through LinkedIn for both recruitment and lead generation. 
  • Paid Advertising
  • Organic social media
  • One of our higher education institutes utilises Snapchat lenses. 
  • We have created Google Shopping ads alongside YouTube Skippable ads so you are capturing both user intents – informational & commercial. 
  • Billboards and offline advertising in select locations
  • Location-specific ads on Meta for better ROI
  • Leaflets with QR codes to bespoke landing pages on the website 
  • Company car and van graphics 
  • Content creation in the form of news or blog posts mainly 
  • Whitepapers or case studies to help a client be perceived as a thought leader 
  • Event promotion – discount codes
  • Influencer marketing 
  • For improved organic online visibility, SEO, and listings on relevant business directories, Google My Business or Bing profiles. Optimised images and videos as well as news article mentions. 
  • Email marketing
  • Radio advertising 
  • Retargeting 

We dont have any community-building clients but that is definitely still a big marketing technique in Ireland.

14. What do Irish audiences tend to value or what gets their attention in an advertisement? Examples: humour, creativity, factual etc 

For us, a lot of this will depend on the client. Many of our B2B clients have to come across as professional whereas we can be very funny and creative with our tourism clients. The higher-education clients are definitely factual.

15. What countries do you think are the most similar to Ireland when it comes to how to best market towards them?  

The UK is very similar to Ireland, especially Scotland – a similar sense of humour. The US is also very similar to Ireland as long as we are mindful of spelling differences especially using ‘s’ or ‘z’. Some words have very different meanings with embarrassing consequences if you get it wrong.

16. Which countries do you find are the most different from Ireland when it comes to effective marketing techniques?

The Netherlands have a very direct approach to doing business and the friendly, informal and personal touch from Irish businesses isn’t always appreciated.

17. Could you give examples of marketing campaigns that have been successful in reaching the target audience in a specific country?

We were surprised to see how responsive audiences were in Britany and Cornwall when prompting Irish Celtic Jewellery in Europe – the culture in these regions is very aligned to Celtic mythology.

18. What insights and lessons have you learned from marketing in various countries that you would like to share with others in the industry?

Always get a native speaker to check your campaign copy and visuals – do not depend on a translation agency to pick up on the local nuances and slang.