The International Marketing Mix
The key elements of the international marketing programme that constitute the international marketing mix are international product strategy, international pricing strategy, international marketing communication and international distribution strategy. These elements are also referred to as the “4 Ps” (product, price, placement and promotion).
International Product Strategies
An international product strategy encompasses all decisions that relate to the firm's product and services offerings in the international marketplace. It comprises decisions on which products (or product lines) will be offered in each country market, decisions on product (and product line) standardisation or customisation and new product development. The international product strategy is often regarded as the core of the international marketing mix strategy. The product and its core benefits must ultimately fulfil the customers' desires; the other elements of the marketing mix usually cannot compensate for product deficiencies. The product strategy is often the starting point for further marketing mix decisions. For example, decisions on standardisation or customisation of the communication strategy often depend on whether the product is standardised or locally adapted.
Products are complex combinations of tangible and intangible elements. They not only consist of the core physical properties but also comprise additional elements such as packaging, branding or other augmented features, e.g. support services (Czinkota/Ronkainen 2013, pp. 357).
Several types of international product strategy can be distinguished. Depending on their general marketing strategy, companies have four alternatives for approaching international markets (Czinkota/Ronkainen 2013, pp. 358359; Kotabe/Helsen 2014, pp. 332-334):
■ extension of the home-grown product strategy to foreign markets and selling the same product abroad
■ modification of products for each local market according to local requirements
■ an invention strategy involving designing new products for the global market
■ incorporating all differences into one flexible product design and introducing a standardised product.
In this context, the major question is which product features should be tailored to market conditions. The possibilities and pressures for standardising product elements in the international context differ, with adaptation being most necessary for augmented product features and standardisation of the core product (i.e. functional features, performance) being the easiest (Doole/Lowe 2012, p. 253).
To minimise the cost of customisation, companies can use product design policies that allow them to modify products to meet local requirements with few operating expenses. For example, modular design approaches allow the firm to assemble individual products for each country market using a selection from a range of standardised product components that can be used worldwide. Common platform approaches start with the design of a mostly uniform core-product or platform to which customised attachments can be added for each local market (Kotabe/Helsen 2014, pp. 338-339). A specific strategy that allows a standardised product to be sold in each country market even though there are specific local requirements is a strategy known as “built-in flexibility”. The products incorporate all local differences in one product and adapt flexibly to the local requirements (e.g. mobile phones that adapt to differences in voltage or different network frequencies).
As most MNCs do not offer a single product but a range of products, companies also need to specify their international product range strategy. For each country market, it is necessary to decide on the breadth of the product range, i.e., the number of product lines to be offered, and on the depth of the product range, i.e., the number of products or product variants to be offered per product line. In this context, decisions have to be taken on standardisation versus adaptation of the product range to local requirements.