Going glocal: How global brands can meet local customer promises

Just how do brands juggle customising local marketing campaigns while retaining a consistent global brand identity in a digital and connected age?

As customers look for consistent yet relevant brand experiences wherever and whenever they interact with them, the pressure is on marketers to find innovative and creative ways to keep campaigns locally relevant, while maintaining a consistent sense of brand ownership globally.

‘Glocalisation’ is fast taking over the digital marketing landscape as a way of combining the strength of global brands, products and services with a customised flavour and approach for the local market. Dropbox head of marketing APAC, Deeps de Silva, told CMO a key challenge for marketers is ensuring that global marketing campaigns truly resonate with local audiences.

“Often the key priorities for customers will be different from market to market and it’s important to reflect these priorities, and pain points, as part of the localisation process,” he said.

To achieve this, de Silva claimed both social and hyperlocal geotargeting should be key elements brands use as part of their overall marketing strategy.

“Social allows your brand to develop a deeper level of engagement with your audience and provides your brand with an outlet to collect immediate feedback on ideas, releases and services,” he said. “It is also becoming a vital part of the customer service strategy for any brand. “

Hyperlocal geotargeting opens up a whole new world for brands, de Silva continued, with many apps today relying on the concept for their service to work effectively with their users.

“You will often see the prompt to turn on location services when you open up the app for the first time,” he said. “Brands can effectively utilise geotargeting through geo-fencing by delivering relevant content to users that pass through a certain fence around a GPS coordinate.”

Deeps de Silva
Deeps de Silva

To keep a consistent sense of brand identity while simultaneously ensuring local campaigns are relevant and effective, de Silva advised always looking at your brand from the view of your customer and consider whether your global brand identity resonates locally.

“If it doesn’t, you will need to think about the key aspects that are important to the customer and whether you can incorporate these aspects into your local brand identity,” he said. “You can also look at examples from brands who have done it before and how they have approached the problem.”

Another essential aspect of localising a brand identity is to ensure local staff are familiar and closely associated with the overall vision of the brand.

“Make sure your senior leadership is elevated within the market to be known as the face of the brand,” de Silva said. “And make sure your brand is connected with local communities: This a great way to scale and develop relationships with important local communities across your market.”

Plenty of brands are doing it right here in Australia, according to de Silva. Audi, for example, has done a great job of aligning its global premium brand through key local partnerships, sponsorships and ambassadors, he said.

“This includes partnerships with MCA, GoMA, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and local ambassadors such as Hugh Jackman, Naomi Watts and Matt Moran,” he added.

More than mere translation

Mpire Media CEO, Luke Taylor, said that while local language and cultural awareness is a start, conveying a brand’s unique property consistently requires more than just translating the message.

“Marketing is about relationships; it is not just about translating material, it is about understanding the local market as well and making sure the message resonates with them, not simply put in their local language,” he said. “Whatever you are trying to convey as your brand, it needs to be valuable to them. And I see that as the biggest problem.”

Director of HBT Agency, David Hayes, agrees. He said successful international brands maintain a universal theme across the board, telling a consistent story while understanding and being sensitive to the nuances of each of the markets they operate in.

“The brands most successful at taking a product or brand internationally are those who have identified a positioning which translates across different cultures,” he said. “They have a unique point of difference, either emotional or rational, that resonates universally.”

David Hayes
David Hayes


Brands that have successfully created this glocal strategy include Apple and Nike, Hayes said, which both tailor their local marketing activities and understand the needs of their various markets and the value they bring to them even as they maintain a universal message.

“Apple employs a design-driven aspirational positioning that translates easily internationally,” Hayes explained. “The basis for consumers’ almost religious brand commitment is self-evident. Nike equally taps into a universal aspiration - to be a better person.”

Hayes pointed to one of HBT Agency’s clients, The A2 Milk Company, as having a unique product story that sets them up well to take the brand international.

“When we started working with A2 in May 2011, our focus was the Australian market and the immediate need here,” he said. “But A2 is a different kind of milk. There is a protein in regular milk [A1], which evidence suggests upsets some digestive systems. A2 doesn’t contain this particular protein. Our strategy for A2 in Australia was to ‘hero’ their functional benefit in the work we produced for them, which was hugely successful.”

HBT Agency then conducted a small amount of work for A2 in the UK, emphasising the universal problem of digestive sensitivity and how A2 can solve that problem. However, Hayes said the UK has a far more competitive, diverse milk market than Australia, with more complex distribution requirements and strong brands with regional histories.

“We needed to really tailor the A2 message to meet those requirements,” he said. “So branding became even more important there than it has been in Australia. The principals are the same, though. It is about highlighting a unique property, in the context of the local market’s requirements – wherever that is.”

Keep the message universally human

Brands that are truly global are the ones that have a very clear purpose based on true human insights, according to Ogilvy & Mather general manager, Nathan Quailey.

“Cast your mind back 10 years, when global brands were brands that just existed across different markets and they weren’t necessarily connected,” he said. “Now with digital marketing, the pressure is on to maintain a clear, universal message that resonates across the board.

“If you use some examples like Coca-Cola, an Ogilvy client, there’s a very clear platform around happiness, which has no borders. With Ogilvy working on Coca-Cola markets all around the world, we all have a very clear vision of what Coke is globally. Staying true to that allows us to develop a strategy that is very human in its approach and therefore very cross-cultural and very global in its nature.”

Another brand Quailey saw getting it right when it comes to leveraging a consistent global brand identity is Dove.

“A few years ago, Dove developed a very clear mission for the world about real beauty,” he explained. “That has resonated in every community that Dove exists around the world. I think that is a great example of a truly global brand that meets a very truly global need.

“Dove is a great example because the brand has been able to speak with every individual woman about what defined real beauty, but at the same time actually bind every woman in the whole world together."

On top of its universal approach, Dove used social as a powerful canvas to reach audiences at a personal level, with strategies like the sketch campaigns managing to reach out to its global audience in a very intimate way, Quailey claimed.

“Social is a great way to talk one-to-one, in a direct response way, with actual insights that are very global,” he added. “Brands like Dove, that are really effective, are able to take a human platform and deliver it very personally and very one-to-one.”

According to Quailey, brands that start with real human insight don’t just meet a local cultural need, they have a higher order or purpose in the world.

“Otherwise you will struggle to connect with your supporters,” he said. “Start with something simple – that everyone believes in.”

Keeping the message strong and simple

The proliferation of social and digital means things are becoming more complicated when it comes to glocalisation, and there’s more noise to cut through. Quailey insisted this is driving the need for simplicity.

“The more fragmented it gets, the more important it is to break down your core message and make it really simple,” he said. “Another brand we work with is Milo, which has a fantastic global platform that works and it is all about teaching kids to do sport. I think that works universally. It is very simple and I think every parent in the world would nod their head and say yes.

“Stripping away all the complexity and getting back to something very basic and very human - that’s when your brand identity has resonance consistently across the world. But the more complexity you add, the more you open up the door to local nuance that says ‘that’s not for me’.”

Adapt to local marketing expectations

Another brand getting it right is UK online fashion retailer, Missguided, which has more than 3.5 million customers across 160 countries. Missguided’s director of marketing and trading, Victoria Betts, said there isn’t a simple answer to success, but a combination of lots of different techniques and campaigns that help it achieve effective growth.

In order to stay locally relevant while maintaining a consistent global brand identity, Betts said Missguided focuses on retaining a ‘glocal’ strategy.

“What we try and do is stay true to our brand DNA - we are Missguided wherever we are in the world,” she said. “We offer the same brand, the same proposition and the same products, but we tailor it all to make it more locally relevant.”

In France, for instance, Missguided dials up the quality a little bit more, because French consumers are particularly interested in that, Betts said. In contrast, the primary driver in the United States is impatience to gain goods quite quickly, requiring a focus on speed of delivery.

In Australia, Betts said it is transitional layering that is working very well. “Australians are also responsive more to above-the-line, offline media advertising,” she added.

“ TV, outdoor and print are proving more effective than in the UK and in other parts of Europe where it’s more a digital channel that is working for us.”

What is really important, Betts stressed, is making sure Missguided can connect with its customers and engage anywhere, at any time they want to shop.

“The trend we’re observing is the shift from a home computer to a mobile device,” she said. “Whether that is the smartphone itself or a tablet, we’re now seeing about three-quarters of all Web sessions taking place when our customers are on the move. So it’s important to be available and think about your consumer’s journey.”

The global chain reaction

Understanding that what you do in a local market always has a global audience should also be at the forefront of any glocal marketing strategy, according to Quailey.

“This is something we tend to forget when we talk to our local communities,” he said. “CMOs often say ‘well we only have a limited local budget’. That may be true, but the activity we put out there always has a global audience.”

When brands are looking into how they are showing up in local markets, Quailey insisted there also needs to be a collaborative discussion internally.

“What happens in one market will obviously show up on someone’s social feed in another market, and will always have impact the brand’s reputation in that market,” he said. “To be truly global, we need to consistently act as a global community in order to manage the brand. This is all too easily forgotten when we focus too much on local results, media and budgets.”

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