What is transnational marketing? Effective transnational marketing strategies

Expanding overseas is a landmark moment for any organisation, and certainly one to crack the champagne for, however it also comes with a major challenge. Organisations must make the strategic decision on how to reestablish and structure their operations between countries. 

One popular approach is to move towards a transnational marketing strategy and organisational structure. To help you decide if transnational marketing is right for you we’re covering the pros, cons, and requirements for any type of organisation.

What is transnational marketing?

Transnational marketing is the act of decentralising and localising operations across territories. The goal is to create an agile environment and greater local penetration, while maintaining some centralised operations for consistency and cost saving purposes.

Transnational marketing is contrasted by the following strategies:

Global: One centralised operation and strategy rolled out in an almost identical fashion across all markets.

International: Production and packaging and operations are focused on the home country to capitalise on regional advantages and efficiencies.

Multi-national: Decentralised operations across every territory the organisation operates within, acting as separate brands.

Transnational vs international marketing

Transnational marketing refers to the strategy of promoting and selling products or services in multiple countries, while taking into account cultural and linguistic differences. Translation plays a crucial role in transnational marketing, as it helps to overcome language barriers and ensures that messages are effectively communicated to target audiences. 

On the other hand, international marketing focuses on promoting products or services across borders without necessarily adapting to local cultures or languages. Therefore, it may not require as much translation as transnational marketing.

What are the pros and cons of a transnational strategy?

As we discussed, a transnational strategy strategically chooses which operations to consolidate and which to decentralise in overseas offices. As a result, organisations can enjoy local agility while still saving on some major cost areas. On the other hand, transnational marketing can carry more costs than a unified international strategy, and a greater risk of error when relying on smaller localised teams.

Pros of a transnational marketing strategy:

  • Increase market reach: With a transnational marketing strategy, companies can increase their market reach and potential customer base by adapting their local strategy for each territory.
  • Introduce better Diversification: By operating in multiple countries, companies can diversify their product offerings and revenue streams, which can help them mitigate risks and adapt to changes in different markets.
  • Consolidate and save on costs: A transnational marketing strategy can still help companies achieve economies of scale as international strategies do. This can lead to cost savings in areas such as production, distribution, and marketing.
  • Improve global and local brand image: Operating in multiple countries can help companies build a global brand image and reputation, by being more sensitive and reactive to cultural differences. which can enhance their credibility and appeal to customers and stakeholders.

“One of the first lessons at business school is to know your target audience and market to them. And this is even more important when there are different languages and cultures involved. Expecting prospective customers in Spain to a) understand and b) be persuaded by a website that is written entirely in English, exclusively refers to the British currency, and includes British cultural references is a strategy that is doomed to fail.”

Lucy Pembayun, Founder and lead translator of LEaF Translations

Cons of a transnational marketing strategy:

  • Time to localise varying strategies: Operating in multiple countries and regions means that companies need to understand and adapt to different cultural norms and practices, which can be costly and time-consuming.
  • Regulatory complexity: Different countries and regions have different laws, regulations, and compliance requirements, which can add complexity and cost to a transnational marketing strategy.
  • Coordination challenges: Managing a transnational marketing strategy requires effective coordination and communication between different teams, which can be challenging due to differences in time zones, languages, and cultures.

In summary, a transnational marketing strategy can offer many benefits, but it also comes with some risks and challenges that companies need to manage carefully.

Which companies use a transnational strategy?

From an outside perspective, it can be difficult to accurately define if a brand is using a transnational strategy or a different international strategy. However, the following brands operate across multiple countries from a centralised office but with extensive localised operations.

Food brands that use a transnational marketing strategy:

  • Kelloggs Cereals: Kelloggs Cereals are sold across 180 countries and manufactured in 18. Across their key markets their decentralised teams sell different brands of cereals, use varying packaging and trade offers to maximise sales across retailers.
  • Walkers and Lays Crisps: Walkers is a snack brand primarily known for their potato crisps. Depending where you are in the world Walkers utilises different brand names and flavours to win the local audience and enact a successful transnational strategy.

Technology brands that use a transnational marketing strategy:

  • Samsung Electronics: Samsung is a South Korean electronics company that designs and manufactures a range of consumer electronics, including smartphones, televisions, and home appliances. The company manufactures in a few key locations and maintains a South Korean head office, but also runs an office in all of its 80 major territories for marketing and distribution. 
  • Microsoft Corporation: Microsoft is a technology company that develops, licences, and sells computer software, consumer electronics, and personal computers. The company operates in over 190 countries worldwide and adapts its products and marketing campaigns to local cultures and languages.

Charities that use a transnational marketing strategy:

  • UNICEF: UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) is a global charity that works to improve the lives of children around the world. The organisation uses a transnational marketing strategy in over 100 countries to raise awareness and funds for its programs.
  • Red Cross: The Red Cross is an international humanitarian organisation that provides emergency assistance, disaster relief, and healthcare services around the world. The organisation uses local offices to correctly identify the most vital causes in the country and the correct approach to appeal to local patrons and volunteers.
1 LEaF Translations

Steps to effective transnational marketing

1. Invest in centralisation that works for all markets

Setting up a transnational marketing strategy involves a lot of front-work. Organisations must understand what can be centralised, what is better localised, and where there might be acceptions or the risk of unnecessary duplication. For example, they may centralise reporting, design and creative, but the implementation of a local brand activation campaign will be better done by experts who understand the local area.

2. Conduct market research

Before entering a new market, it’s essential to conduct thorough research to understand the local culture, consumer behaviour, and preferences. This knowledge can help brands create marketing messages and campaigns that resonate with the local audience.

3. Use localisation strategies

Brands can use localisation strategies to adapt their marketing messages and campaigns to the local language, culture, and customs. This can include translating content, using local idioms and phrases, and incorporating local images and symbols.

4. Upgrade to cloud-based technology

Technology can be used to streamline and automate the translation process, reducing the time and cost of translating marketing materials. Brands can use machine translation software, translation memory tools, and content management systems to manage their transnational marketing efforts.

5. Utilise local experts

Working with local experts, such as marketing agencies or translators, can help brands navigate cultural and linguistic differences in their target markets. Local experts can provide valuable insights into the market and help brands create effective marketing campaigns.

How translation fits with transnational business strategies

“A good transnational strategy simply has to include professional translation – it is the only way to ensure that the content is correctly localised and adapted to the country and culture in question. If you want to win over customers in different parts of the world, you need to speak their language.”

Lucy Pembayun, Founder and lead translator at LEaF Translations

As Lucy explained, translation is any transnational business’ gateway to connecting with their local audiences. In transnational business, companies operate across multiple countries and cultures, so need to to localise their marketing materials for the target audience.

This might include translating everything from SEO product descriptions, to advertising slogans, and website content to the language and culture of the target market. Businesses will also need quality translators for legal documents that allow them to operate in each country. Translation is essential to transnational business strategies for the following reasons:

  • Brands can better connect and relate to customers
  • increase brand awareness and loyalty
  • companies can build stronger internal relationships with staff and stakeholders across territories
  • Finally, drive business growth with higher sales and profitability from well localised campaigns

What to do next for your transnational strategy

Begin your transition to becoming a transnational company by preparing the building blocks such as building a solid translation process. We can help with translation for internal communications to ensure no matter where someone in your company is based, they feel as included as those at head office. We can also provide a centralised solution for translating cornerstone marketing campaigns that are then utilised by local teams. Learn more by browsing our website translation service or even our marketing translation page.

Kitty LEaF blog 2021

About the Author


Kitty Trewhitt is a translation project manager at LEaF Translations. She oversees each phase of the translation project and keeps in contact with both the client and linguists throughout the process. Besides managing our projects, Kitty also translates and proofreads texts from French and Italian into English, as well as creating LEaF’s monthly newsletter and managing the company social media accounts.