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Going glocal is the new flavour of season for brands

Industry experts say not all global campaigns may suit the local taste and brands need to give a regional twist to make a connect in specific markets. They say there may be a need to revisit the classic marketing mix – target group, demographics, product USP, etc. finds out the right formula for brands to go globally local or ‘glocal’

Which brands come to your mind when I say the word ‘global’? Coca Cola, Nike, Gillette, Red Bull, McDonald’s—the list is endless. Global brands launch global campaigns for maintaining consistency but at the same time they often have to give a local tweak to have a more local connect in specific markets.

But how do global brands give a local vibe? Do global campaigns work at all levels? Or are local campaigns more effective? talks to industry stalwarts to find out the nuances.

“A global campaign that taps into a human truth always resonates well with consumers, no matter where they reside. What we have done successfully is to identify consumers not geographically, but as cultural clusters. For example, a millennial consumer in Mumbai might share the same aspiration as someone across the world in Manhattan. The local team is then given freedom to add the right cultural context at the beginning of the idea phase itself. Assets are mostly made available through a single portal, which integrates progress review and feedback within the development process itself,” a HUL spokesperson stated.

For example, before Dove rolled out its #ShowUs campaign across the world, the global-local liaison started out six months earlier, spanning content pegs relevant for country, talent and activation platforms. “We were able to get powerful stories of three women from India embedded into the campaign;relatability with them is indeed the strongest. It is important to keep in mind that today, there’s no ‘global consumer,’ and you cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach. Hence we design to ensure we serve local consumers,” mentioned the HUL spokesperson.

A global brand must be consistent in its purpose and essence across the world. “Yet it can become relevant only if the messaging connects with the local consumers. For that, the messaging must be rooted in the cultural context and speak the language of the local culture,” said Vani Gupta Dandia, an independent marketing expert, and former Marketing Director, PepsiCo, Indian Snacks.

For example, Pepsi’s Live For Now as an idea travelled all over the world. Yet the campaign was tailored for every individual market to suit the local culture.

Sharad Singla

Sharad Singla, Brand Marketing Director, Adidas India, said, “One needs to be cognisant of the proposition that is being driven through the campaign. If it is consistent to the insight of the consumer, then it shouldn’t matter whether it is a globally driven or locally driven communication.”

Manoj Gadgil, Head, Marketing Operations & Services, Consumer, Johnson & Johnson, India, is of the opinion that for multinational brands, it is imperative to localise their global marketing strategy to achieve deeper consumer engagement. “While every brand may have its own manoeuvres to localise their campaign, the most important step is to understand the local consumer behaviour and trends that directly affect the market performance of the brand,” he said.

Pallavi Singh

Pallavi Singh, Head, Marketing, MG Motor India, thinks that in an ideal scenario, global marketing teams will always look at each market with a fresh lens. While a brand’s overarching ethos, purpose and branding should remain consistent, their go-to-market strategy for every new region needs to be examined closely through extensive research. “This requires revisiting your classic marketing mix – target group (TG), demographics, product USP. Deploying local teams and the right strategic partners with a thorough knowledge of your market is the first crucial step,” she clarified.

The next important factor to consider is the creative element. MG, for example, was famous for its bold advertising and taglines in UK back in the ’60s/’70s. “Our challenge, while entering India, was not only to maintain that brand persona, but also tweak the creative elements to appeal to the Indian market. Emotion and humour are other manifestations of creativity which are culture specific. Brands need to tread carefully and weigh up the risks associated with their creative choices which might directly impact their reputation,” added Singh.

Emmanuel Upputuru

Emmanuel Upputuru, CCO, Cheil Worldwide India, pointed out, “The attempt behind all global work is to find a universal insight that can connect with people across geographies. One of the best examples is Levi’s Circles.”

There are, of course, sometimes when you take a global idea and reshoot with local talent. “I worked on a Motorola film that was reshot for markets across Asia and Africa,” saidUpputuru.

Moksh Chopra, Chief Marketing Officer, KFC India, said, “KFC is driven by a heart-led culture, stemming from our founder Colonel Sanders’ personal beliefs and values. We are proud to live up to the Colonel’s belief of giving back to communities in which we operate.”

Last year on the occasion of Colonel Sanders’ birthday, KFC celebrated their first-ever global community outreach effort through ‘Acts of Colonel-ness’. In a fitting tribute to the Colonel, KFC encouraged 300,000 team members in more than 130 countries around the world to participate in random acts of kindness in Colonel’s birthday week.

Adapting this global campaign locally, KFC India celebrated with a birthday party for more than 200 children at local schools in Gurgaon and Pune that are supported through KFC’s anti-hunger initiative – AddHope. Employees actively participated in making the celebration memorable for the children.”

How to get a local taste for a global campaign

A global brand exists in different markets, caters to different people with different mindsets. Also, some campaigns are not released in all markets.

The global process begins with the insight or human truth, while tailoring the context is what makes it more meaningful and relevant to the local market. “We have taken Lifebuoy’s global mission of saving lives with a simple act of handwashing, and reached out to our rural consumers in media-dark geographies by sending them infection alerts on their mobile phones – a ubiquitous device in households today. People need to feel you are directly talking to them and not to everyone,” specified the HUL spokesperson.

As a global brand, it is imperative that one is consistent across markets. “Our aim is to provide a seamless brand experience whenever our consumer travels to any part of the world. This comes with adopting the right approach and delivering the same brand message,” said Singla of Adidas.

If a campaign demands localisation it still needs to be in line with the overall global strategy to deliver the message with impact. Adidas’ recent campaign with women athletes – Hima Das, NikhatZareen and Swapna Barman – is a great example of this. “It has been developed keeping in mind the global strategy — She Breaks Barriers, which celebrates women athletes from across the globe,” stated Singla.

In today’s dynamic markets, adding a local taste to a global campaign can be challenging and competitive, since most brands strive to achieve this. However, it is key for every brand to connect with consumers across demographics and geographies, understand the local trends and review the local communication messages that can be aligned with the global campaign message.

“Here, local brand teams play a crucial role. Together with the global brand team and with the right marketing insights, trust, collaboration, and open channels of communication, brand teams can work towards a successful localised global campaign,” said Gadgil of Johnson & Johnson.

Singh of MG Motor feels that the term worth using here is ‘glocal’. “Think globally, act locally -- has been a very common phrase. But we really need to think and act both globally and locally in the digital world,” she emphasised.

According to Singh, a campaign where global met local effectively was Coca-Cola’s ‘Share a Coke’. The campaign stood out in particular because it maintained the authenticity of each country while tying back to the brand’s main purpose – to open happiness. Coca-Cola was able to identify and deploy a globally relevant sentiment and then adapt it to different markets – all while keeping the visual consistency.

Tarun Singh Chauhan

Tarun Singh Chauhan, Partner, TSC Consulting, cites the example of Surf. “Surf’s ‘dirt is good’ is a global idea. The execution is local. The idea has to be based on a global consumer insight,” he said.

If global campaigns are run as it is, are they able to have a local connect?

“It depends on how universal the insight is, and if it is delivered in a manner that is meaningful to the local consumer. The output shouldn’t be lowest common denominator category generic work, this is what we are wary of,” said the HUL spokesperson.

When Dove talked about creating more inclusive women of beauty around the world through the #ShowUs campaign, the idea was to address beauty stereotypes from around the world, and not just the most common one. This led to a publicly accessible library of over 5,000 images from across the world.

Singla stated, “Any message will be impactful as long as it is resonates with the consumer insight. Depending on the objective of the campaign, the media mix plays an important role to reach out the right consumers and connect locally.”

At adidas, they recently launched a global campaign Ultraboost 19 with a comprehensive 360-degree media approach activating digital, OOH, TV, PR and on-ground. This approach has helped them firmly establish the Ultraboost 19 as the top running shoe in the hearts and minds of the Indian consumer.

Seconding Singh of MG Motor, Gadgil believes that if campaign messages are strong and clear enough to have a global appeal, there is a good possibility of a ‘glocal’ impact.

“Several multinationals often go with this approach to maintain the essence of the brand while showcasing their understanding and relevance for local consumption habits. Ultimately, the effectiveness of a local or a global campaign depends on its key messages, creative foundation and execution” he added.

When it comes to marketing, you cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach. Today, mass marketing has moved to mass customisation owing to varied preferences, interests and market standards. Data and insights have become integral to brands in this ever-changing consumer landscape.

“Brands fail when they do not leverage this data at their disposal. To ensure your campaign is implemented with impact, it’s imperative to build a local market roadmap identifying key influencers and partners as well as cultural moments to act as campaign hooks,” said Singh.

Vani Gupta Dandia

Dandia thinks it depends on the idea and the execution. “In my own experience when I worked as a young brand manager on Fa in the early 2000s, the global campaign had stark naked blondes jumping from planes into the clear blue sea. It was the most beautiful imagery but simply couldn't be run in India, not just for censorship reasons,” she explained.

“They don’t work…most brands stop doing this. Unless its execution has global elements like Nike,” pointed out Chauhan.

Do local adaptations work? Are local adaptations as effective as the global campaigns?

There has been a paradigm shift in the consumer mindset over the years. With the coming of digital, the consumers are more exposed and have made the world a single market place.

“For a global brand, consistency is the key, whether one is launching a local or a global communication,” said Singla.

The line between local and global continues to blur, which means global and local teams need to ideate strategies together to secure a wider, more impactful reach. This balancing act between consistency and appealing to diverse markets is the mantra that marketers need to crack.

“There was an increasing trend where global brands were appointing a single agency across all markets to maintain the brand consistency. However, that approach is slowly fizzling out and more importance is given on choosing partners with the right skills and knowledge. Today it’s all about winning the race to occupy mindspace and brands must marshall all resources at their disposal to win over their target markets,” emphasised Singh.

If adapted well, the local campaign should in no way be a compromise to the global campaign idea. It's important to understand the brand purpose and stay true to that in the local execution.

Dandia said, “When agencies simply change foreign to local talent, and change studio settings without the intent to making the idea connect, then it's a waste and a disservice to the global campaign.”

“Keep the global idea intact, and adapt it locally,” concluded Chauhan.

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