Marketing & Advertising

How to Become a Global Marketing Manager

How to Become a Global Marketing Manager
A passion for marketing and an MBA or Master of Science in Marketing probably won't be enough to turn you into a successful global marketing manager. Image from Unsplash
Christa Terry profile
Christa Terry February 3, 2020

Free trade agreements and e-commerce have made it easier for companies to enter international markets. What sells at home won't necessarily sell abroad, however. Global marketing managers customize strategies and campaigns to overseas markets.

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Thanks to the rise of e-commerce and the expansion of global supply chains, more companies are doing business internationally. To the casual observer, going global may seem pretty simple: just decide where you’re going to sell next and translate your existing marketing materials into whatever language your new audience speaks. But the reality is that consumer needs and expectations differ widely among nations, and that makes international marketing tricky.

Consider these international branding blunders, culled from Geoffrey James’ list of 20 epic marketing translation fails:

  • Clairol marketed its Mist Stick curling iron in Germany without changing the product’s name. In German, “mist” is slang for “manure.”
  • Nike had to recall thousands of products when a decoration intended to resemble fire on the back of the shoes resembled the Arabic word for Allah.
  • The American Dairy Association replicated its “Got Milk?” campaign in Spanish-speaking countries, where it was translated as “Are You Lactating?”

The challenges of marketing to a global audience aren’t limited to translation errors and logo issues. Global marketing managers (sometimes called international marketing managers) have to understand what international audiences want and need, who the on-the-ground competition is, how to drive brand awareness and brand loyalty in different cultures, and what rules, regulations, and standards govern advertising in each country where their employer does business. Many countries, for example, have restrictions in place when it comes to marketing to children or advertising alcohol, tobacco products, or pharmaceuticals.

In other words, global marketing managers have to do everything domestic marketing managers do—from monitoring market trends to overseeing the creation of marketing materials—in multiple countries for multiple audiences, often while traveling abroad two or more weeks each month. That presents some exceptional challenges, which is why global marketing managers need to develop some exceptional skills. In this article about how to become a global marketing manager, we’ll discuss:

  • What is international marketing?
  • What is a global marketing manager?
  • Where do global marketing managers work?
  • What are the responsibilities of a global marketing manager?
  • What education do global marketing managers need?
  • What is the salary range of an international marketing manager?
  • Is this really the right career for me?

What is international marketing?

The goals of international marketing are the same as the goals of all marketing, namely, to:

  • Reach more consumers
  • Increase awareness of products and services
  • Inspire brand loyalty
  • Drive sales
  • Boost revenue

In fact, the American Marketing Association defines international marketing as “the multinational process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.” That’s a definition that could easily be applied to all marketing if you remove the word ‘multinational.’

What actually sets global marketing apart is that businesses have to apply different marketing principles to be successful in foreign markets. A company’s domestic marketing efforts might form the basis of some campaigns in other countries, but only after an in-depth analysis of each target market can a company reasonably decide:

  • Which markets to enter
  • How to set competitive prices
  • Which market entry strategies to apply
  • What the primary marketing message will be
  • Which messaging should be avoided
  • What individual campaigns will look like
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What is a global marketing manager?

Global marketing managers are the marketing executives who handle the promotion of products, services, and brands in countries other than a business’ nation of origin. They stay abreast of global market trends and international demands, and develop and oversee country- or culture-specific strategies to increase a company’s international market share. They’re not always bilingual, though it’s not unusual for job listings to specify that candidates must have fluent, well-developed written and verbal communication skills in two languages other than English. If you’re already a polyglot, you’ll have a distinct advantage over the competition when you’re job hunting.

Where do global marketing managers work?

The short answer is that international marketing managers work in all kinds of businesses in just about every industry, from healthcare to tech to finance. Even smaller companies that once might have only done business locally are expanding into international markets as the internet lessens the impact of geographical and cultural barriers. These companies increasingly realize that having a general marketing strategy isn’t going to cut it when they’re marketing and selling products across borders.

What are the responsibilities of a global marketing manager?

What marketing managers do can vary from industry to industry, but in general, the responsibilities of global marketing managers include:

  • Overseeing international market research to help a brand understand business opportunities (or lack thereof) in new markets
  • Researching global market trends and determining which products or services best meet international demands
  • Assessing viability and sales potential for new markets and audiences
  • Segmenting broad geographic markets into individual regions to set distinct revenue and lead generation goals
  • Conducting competitive intelligence analysis
  • Putting together a brand’s international marketing plan and marketing budget
  • Developing country- or culture-specific brand and product marketing strategies
  • Managing and supervising marketing associates, domestically and abroad
  • Managing the development of creative assets for international marketing campaigns
  • Adjusting global brand strategy elements to meet the needs of specific regions or audiences or for demand generation
  • Establishing and maintaining useful connections in target countries
  • Ensuring that social media marketing messages are cross-culturally appropriate
  • Monitoring the performance of ads and other campaigns targeting specific markets
  • Monitoring customer receptivity to the products or services being marketed and creating consumer-opinion-based recommendations for improvements
  • Assisting with regional price-setting and promotion-planning
  • Assisting with regionally or culturally appropriate packaging redesigns
  • Finding marketing, automation, and payment processing tools that will work in different languages and in different regions
  • Handling public relations in target nations or regions

Global marketing managers must also consider whether new markets are even familiar with a brand’s product or service and whether that offering will sell well in that culture, as well as what sales and marketing channels are most successful in different countries. Consistency is an essential element of branding, but if a product or service is relatively unfamiliar in a new market, the marketing strategy has to address that. Sometimes it will make more sense to explore other markets that won’t require making significant changes to the product/service or to the messaging.

What education do global marketing managers need?

To become a global marketing manager, you will need at least a bachelor’s degree. If that’s your highest degree, it should reflect significant work in business or a field related to your industry. It likely won’t be enough, though. When you look at job listings for global marketing managers, you’ll see many listings requiring candidates to have five to ten years of marketing management or industry experience and to have spent at least five years in a supervisory role. Some posts state “MBA preferred” outright. What all this means is that most of your job searches will require you to go head-to-head with MBAs. That degree will give them a significant advantage.

Ideally, you’d get a bachelor’s degree in international business and then go back to school for an MBA in International Marketing. The problem is that these programs exist mostly at colleges and universities in Europe and Asia. If you’re interested in studying abroad, check out programs at:

Studying abroad will certainly bolster your ability to become a global marketing manager. The network you build in graduate school will be multinational, and you’ll have opportunities to complete business internships and externships at companies headquartered outside the US. You will also have ample opportunities to pick up a second or third language while studying.

If you prefer to, or have to, study in the US, you won’t find as many marketing master’s degrees focused on international marketing and almost none focused on international marketing management. The MS in Global Marketing Management offered by Boston University may actually be the only current degree program tailor-made for this role. However, you should also look into these degrees:

Global business, international business, and global communications master’s degree programs may also be a good fit. Don’t rely on degree names alone when researching the best programs for global marketing management. Read program guides to find degree pathways that include coursework covering topics like:

  • International business operations
  • International markets
  • Consumer behavior and culture
  • Cross-cultural awareness in communication

Given that there’s no one perfect educational pathway for this role, you may have to cobble together your own set of global marketing management credentials. You could, for example, earn an MBA in International Business and then pursue an additional Global Marketing Management certificate (BU has one and Georgetown University offers one intermittently). From there, you can earn the Global Branding & Marketing Certification from Brand2Global.

How long does it take to become a global marketing manager?

The quick answer is ten years or more. You’ll have the best chance of landing this role if you complete both a four-year bachelor’s degree program and a two-year master’s degree program. You may need to spend a few years working as a marketing assistant, marketing analyst, communications specialist, or marketing specialist before enrolling in graduate school if the programs you’re interested in require applicants to have work experience. Most employers are looking for applicants with at least five years of experience in global marketing, international business, or industry-specific marketing. You may also need to have several years of management experience.

What is the salary range of an international marketing manager?

This isn’t an easy job, which is why global marketing managers tend to make more than their domestic counterparts. According to PayScale, the average salary for marketing managers in the US is $64,818 while the average salary for global marketing managers is $98,892. The top ten percent of international marketing managers make around $141,000.

Is this really the right career for me?

To answer this question, consider the following:

  • When you become a global marketing manager, you’re going to spend at least some of your working life on the road and in the air. You might not rack up salesperson-level frequent flyer miles, but international travel is definitely a reality of the role. If you really dislike sleeping in hotels, eating airplane peanuts, and adapting to the cultural mores of other countries, a domestic marketing management position might be more your speed.
  • This is an excellent career for marketing professionals who like traveling, meeting new people, and learning new things. International marketing managers work in all kinds of companies and in different industries, so you won’t be limited to working in one field for your entire career when you become a global marketing manager. If you are curious and outgoing, you may just thrive in this role.

The bottom line is that your passion for marketing and an MBA or Master of Science in Marketing probably won’t be enough to turn you into a successful global marketing manager. To make it in the international marketplace, you really need to be an expert researcher and to have a highly developed sense of cultural sensitivity. The most important thing you can bring to the table in this role is a passion for people and other cultures. If you don’t have that, this probably isn’t the job for you.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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