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Glocal or Go Bust

Global marketing strategy needs to be balanced with local relevance and response

The essentials

John Thompson worked in brand management, sales, and brand communications at Nestlé for 26 years, based in Canada, Russia, West Africa, and Switzerland. He has an MBA from Smith School of Business. The following is an excerpt from the webinar presentation Emerging Issues in Global Marketing.

One of the keys to a successful global marketing strategy is to know all your local consumers at the global level. Those who develop global strategies must understand that their brands’ consumers are made up of an aggregate of local consumers, so it’s important to know who they are and what motivates them.

Then it is about finding the right global-local balance for your category. That will vary. In food categories, firms will lean more on the local because of different cultures and food habits. A Nescafé in the UK, for example, is completely different from a Nescafé in Japan, even though they carry the same brand and icons. For a product such as jeans, which is more targeted to millennials, there will be more in common around the world.

What is the perfect balance? It’s when you have a single global campaign idea with a resonating local execution. By “resonating” I mean one that really touches consumers and elicits a response in terms of ultimately buying your product.

The Coca-Cola “Open Happiness” campaign was a single idea that was created centrally in the U.S. and rolled out around the world with local adaptation, by the local agency and local office of Coca-Cola.

The Dove “Campaign for Real Beauty” was a big winner at Cannes several years ago. Real Beauty was developed in Canada before becoming a global campaign — an example of bottom-up development of a campaign idea. Parts of the campaign are still running in different parts of the world. (The "Real Beauty" campaign did not resonate in Russia because there’s a perspective on beauty in Russia that is different than anywhere else.)

Lessons Learned

How does this global-local balance work out? You start with a global strategy, win buy-in locally, and integrate local consumer insights to create local execution. The effectiveness of that local execution is measured and the learning is incorporated into future global strategy changes — a continuous process-improvement loop. 

Here’s another example: Maggi is a huge global brand, one of about 30 “billionaire brands” within Nestlé. As big a brand as it is, most Maggi products are very locally specific. There are German, Russian, Nigerian, Malaysian, Ghanaian, French, and Mexican products all carrying the Maggi brand but all distinct for those markets. It is a massive range of bouillons, cubes, and seasonings.

We executed a campaign in Nigeria, “Happiness is Homemade.” You can imagine the dynamic with the global strategy people: global brand managers pushing stuff down to us and saying, “You must do it in this way,” and us saying, “The stuff you’re giving us is not going to apply locally. Let’s use local insights to make our own relevant execution based on the same campaign idea.”    

To drive home the point that the same execution doesn’t work everywhere, we had to make two different ads in Nigeria: one north and one south. It was mainly due to different culture and traditions. Our creative idea was about a mother who was sharing her secret for a happy home with a bride-to-be. But the celebration of a marriage is different in the north than in the south; in the north, men are not even involved for the first couple of days.    

Everyone may share the motivation for efficiency, but almost always with global marketing strategies, relevance should trump efficiency

Global marketing ideas are not easy to develop because they involve input and insights from many markets. But they are quite common. Global execution, however, is very rare.

The Nespresso “What Else?” campaign with George Clooney came close. It was a global campaign outside of North America. For the U.S. and Canada, Nespresso had to bring in a new character, Danny DeVito, because the other characters were unrecognizable to the American audience. The product itself was somewhat different as well; it used a long cup instead of a short cup.

One of the motivations for applying a global marketing strategy is efficiency. You can save a lot of money if you don’t have to create 10 different executions. But at the end of the day, the campaign must be relevant locally. Everyone may share the motivation for efficiency, but almost always with global marketing strategies, relevance should trump efficiency.

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