Medical device manufacturers looking for rapid growth are looking outside the United States (and most device manufacturers are still located in the U.S.).
Going global is not a fail-safe proposition, however. Many device manufacturers have learned that what sells in the U.S. does not necessarily sell abroad. One of the most common mistakes is to view international sales simply as an "extension" of domestic operations.
Without a well-executed strategy, global expansion can be a very frustrating experience. It is critical that international marketing and sales activities be coordinated with the actions of other departments. For instance, a marketing department's desire to move into a new country needs to be coordinated with product development, finance, and regulatory affairs.
A few issues to be aware of:
- Manufacturers must be very careful about what they write in labeling their products, because many countries consider labeling to be advertising. Therefore, manufacturers must carefully study the advertising rules in force in each country as well as the Advertising, Labeling, and Distribution of Medicinal Product Directives of the European Union before they design the labeling of their products.
- Privacy rules often differ from country to country. Many European countries, in particular, have stringent rules regarding the collection and dissemination of customer and patient data. The Information Systems group will need to modify patient and customer databases for each country.
- Many countries do not allow comparative advertising. Although permissible in the U.S. for the last 30 years, in Germany, for instance, an advertisement cannot say "brand x is better than brand y".
- When selling to multiple markets, packaging and labeling should be "localized" for each market: colors, paper format, and overall designs should be custom-tailored to each market so as to avoid the "insensitive U.S. bully" image. However, the desire for market-specific packaging must be balanced with company-wide branding and image concerns. Should the German package really look and feel different from the Japanese or the U.S. package?
- Companies may decide to centralize manufacturing in the U.S. and ship worldwide from there. Alternatively, the company may build regional manufacturing and/or distribution centers. Supplying global markets with medical devices requires a global manufacturing and distribution strategy that involves upper management and a thorough financial analysis.
In reality though, many companies aim for a "global look" that can be used around the globe. Here is an example from a few years ago:
For a medical translator, it's important to realize that this kind of campaign represents reality for medical device companies: The same layout, pictures, colors, and even paper sizes are used around the world. The text may (or may not) be localized, depending on the "pull" of local marketing managers.
While a full-scale localization effort may not be feasible, medical translation professionals can assist device manufacturers by advising them on what to keep and what to change. Most major U.S. medical device companies derive approximately 30-45% of revenue from international sales - they will appreciate the suggestions and advice!
Want to know more about international marketing? Take a look at the following articles:
- Advertising medical devices in China? Pay heed to regulations
- Why won't alleged advertising blunders die?
- To be effective, drug marketing must be local(ized)
We support the world's leading medical device and pharmaceutical companies with specialized medical translation services for regulatory, clinical, and marketing efforts. Contact us today for more details.