Global brand leadership needs head, heart and hands
A view from David Taylor

Global brand leadership needs head, heart and hands

The benefits of moving regional teams to agree rationally are huge for a global brand director, even if it takes several years.

Working in global marketing is far from an easy job, as Helen Edwards vividly illustrated in a recent Campaign column, commenting that, "Some of the most powerful people in the organisation would prefer it didn't exist at all."

I’ve seen first-hand how tough the challenges can be, when working at Procter & Gamble as a global brand manager and on numerous global consulting projects. But I’ve also seen the huge benefits of global branding when done well. Based on this experience it seems there are four critical success factors: "Organisational Structure", "Head" (results-focus), "Heart" (inspiring vision) and "Hands" (creating global ‘assets’).

1. Organisational structure

Global brand teams sometimes suffer from a lack of 'clout' (power to influence people) and ‘sanctions’ to use when regions don’t stick to the global strategy.

The most effective global brand directors work closely with senior management up to chief executive-level to get their support and push regional directors to implement global initiatives.

In addition, people taking on global roles need to campaign to get as much resource as possible in three areas:

  1. Budget: push to secure as much funding as possible to carry out some global activities or at least global research;
  2. People: push to get a proper team and work on expanding this as you demonstrate results;
  3. Unique tools: design and create unique business-critical tools or processes, such as a global brand equity-tracking tool used to identify issues and opportunities by region.

2. Head = show them the money

One risk with global branding is to fall into the trap of "brand bureaucracy", where the emphasis is on ‘policing’ regions to comply with a set of global brand guidelines.

Instead, global brand directors should anchor their work on driving growth in the regions. The ambition should be to demonstrate how global branding can deliver growth that the regions couldn’t create by working alone.

For example, Surf’s global brand created a new global fragrance that was a blind-test winner and delivered cost savings. The regional teams got a ‘double whammy’ of a better product at a lower cost.

A consistent way of measuring global brand and marketing initiatives is key to this approach. Having different research methods in different regions is a way to maintain "brand anarchy", where local teams do their own testing with a different methodology and say: "Look, it doesn’t work here!"

Back to Surf again – the global and regional teams agreed a set of action standards for centrally developed activity to achieve in order to be run locally. For example, on communication, preview testing was used in three key markets to test new campaigns with agreed "hurdle" scores.

3. Heart = inspiring vision

The most effective global brand directors create an inspiring brand vision that regions want to sign up to. Of course, the initial reaction of regional teams to a global branding project may be to express doubt about local suitability and relevance. But a carefully designed project can take a team of global and regional managers on a ‘journey’ to co-create a compelling global brand vision.

We helped the global brand director of Unilever’s Top Clean brands do just this. Top Clean was the internal name for a group of laundry cleaning brands including Skip, Persil and Omo. The brands had a hotchpotch of different product formulas, pack designs and ad campaigns.

Immersive insight into consumer needs across the world threw up a powerful insight that was the catalyst for the successful and long running "Dirt is good" campaign. Our approach was not to try and patch together the multiple local positionings; this risked ending up with a lowest common denominator solution. Rather, we projected the team into a future and then worked back to the transition path for each region. The brand is now called internally "DIG". The global brand vision led to harmonised and more effective pack design, product formulations, communication and activation (see below).

4. Hands = global assets

The final and perhaps most important success factor for global brand teams is to go beyond brand positioning to create assets that can be amplified regionally. These are tangible marketing mix ideas that local markets can adapt locally.

For example, WD40 centrally created an activation campaign called "Mythical road trips" with input from local marketing directors. The artwork, displays and pack design were all created centrally, producing economies of scale: costs were cut by 65% and the number of man days used by 75%. But the campaign also created economies of ideas, by spreading an effective campaign across markets to boost local business performance. We call this approach of creating and housing brand assets for local team to adapt ‘The Marketing Shop’, as covered in this post.

In conclusion, I agree with Helen when she says: "Global marketing is a thing of beauty when it’s done right: unified brand meaning, universal fame, more inspiration on less budget."

An approach covering head, heart and hands increases the chances of achieving this sort of success and overcoming the challenges Helen highlights.

It’s not an overnight job. It takes several years to move regional teams from agreeing rationally, to buying in emotionally and finally changing behaviour. But the benefits of persisting are huge, both for the company and the global brand director.

David Taylor is the founder and group managing partner at The Brandgym @thebrandgym 

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