What we can learn about marketing in the Balkans from a political argument/marketing stunt gone wrong.

Most people have heard of the tensions in our region. So when you mix that with people’s desire to support local brands rather than supporting ones abroad, it’s no surprise that it’s the recipe for a PR disaster. Although, this example we’re using happened a couple of years ago, it’s still relevant today which is why we thought we’d share it.


Back in 2016, Croatian president Kolinda went about her normal duties by meeting school children and gave them chocolate. This doesn’t really sound like headline news now does it, but please bear with us. The whole issue stemmed from the simple fact that instead of giving the children Croatian chocolate, she gave them chocolate from Serbia. This then led to a big, politicized argument about neglecting home brands in favour of foreign ones.


Luckily, with a bit of forward thinking, the Serbian chocolate maker at the centre of the scandal managed to use it to their advantage. By taking action straight away and refusing to get involved politically, they managed to harness all the publicity. And as one of the first real-time marketing examples in the region, although it wasn’t perfect, it was a big

step to modernizing regional marketing styles.


So, what does this teach us about marketing in the Balkans?

Of course, like every region, the Balkans has their own set of cultural do’s and don’ts. However, if you’re looking to do business in the region, political sensitivities are something you really do have to keep in mind. Don’t expand into Serbia thinking that your Croatian campaign will go down fine. Something like this is something you really don’t want to cheap

out on as it’ll end up causing a PR emergency for your brand, just like the one mentioned above. This is why it’s so important to localize and get a professional agency to help you out. They’ll be able to advise you what works in particular markets, and more importantly, what doesn’t.


And what does it tell us about marketing in general?

The real moral of the story is that no matter what happens in the public eye, you can turn it round to your advantage. This company managed to turn a near hate campaign into a positive, so you can too with a bit of forward thinking and a sense of humour.



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