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Going Global: Think bigger and smaller

Going global is about creating value in communities around brands, not just comms campaigns.

The time has come to throw out the "think global, act local" mantra. And, while we're at it, let's get rid of all talk of "glocal" too. What was fundamentally an operational and fiscal efficiency platform, masked as a marketing strategy, doesn't fit easily into a world where technology has made us redefine what it is to be global and made us rethink local, individual by individual.

"Going global" today requires us to "be universal and connect authentically." While that trips rather than rolls off the tongue, nothing about communicating today is or should be easy. Forging meaningful relationships among brands and consumers requires us to be more insightful, more creative and more impactful in how we deliver informative and entertaining brand experiences.

The effort brands and their agency partners put in to thinking globally - defining a brand look and message centrally among a far too small group of people - should instead be put towards generating internal and external community value, and not be based solely around campaigns.

We believe going global means creating consumer communities around brands as much as it does creating employee communities around enterprises. Think how Innocent in the UK, Air Asia in Malaysia and Whole Foods in the US have all created consumer and employee communities that generate far greater value for the brands than would a straightforward communications campaign. Consider those brands and companies that are appearing in both Interbrand's Top 100 Brands and Fortune's Top 100 Companies to Work For.

As one of the first multi-disciplinary, media-neutral communications consultancies in the world, Imagination has been aligning and building brand and employee communities for 30 years. Fundamental to our success has been our ability to align client communities around a central idea based on the sharing of insights from our offices around the world.

This approach has helped us define the employee experience for Johnson & Johnson globally, deliver interactive destinations for Samsung in Beijing, Moscow and New York, and helped us to win the oneworld global pitch.

Our global network is more than just dots on the map. Instead, it delivers greater value for our global clients and transcends its real estate assets and lists of international phone numbers by making each of our locations a "listening post". We see and hear what is happening with the brands and consumers in each of our markets and share how these insights can and should influence what is going on in other parts of our and our clients' world.

We ask our teams in each location to act as barometers of the latest thinking in sectors associated with, but not unique to, their cities. For example, our New York office shares insight with the rest of Imagination about fashion, LA provides the lowdown about the entertainment sector and, in Sweden, we are able to have our finger on the pulse when it comes to the topic of sustainability, which is something that concerns all our clients.

For Ford Motor Company, we have created a comprehensive programme of brand experiences around the globe and have been doing so for more than three decades. The programmes are grounded in Ford's spirit of innovation and difference, and from these we have created physical, digital and mobile experiences. They range from the Ford Motor Company's Global Auto Show Programme and Aston Martin's worldwide dealership environments, through the online, consumer-generated soap opera "Where Are The Joneses?" and the Ford VJ interactive stations that allow people to customise their physical surroundings using their mobile phone, to Jaguar's in-car digital interface and even Mazda's new global branding campaign.

And this network approach works, delivering 35 per cent cost efficiencies over time for some of our key global clients, a 97 per cent overall global satisfaction rating from dealers, and a world first for the award-winning "Where Are The Joneses?", which generated nearly 500,000 site visits in three months.

We are constantly tapping our talent to understand how these initiatives are connecting with our clients' communities and generating increased value for them. Our global efforts are constantly aligned with our clients' global strategies.

Our set-up reflects a company that houses many different communities - more than 20 communication disciplines. Thus, every day, we spend our time perfecting our skills in unifying teams in fluid and adaptable ways.

Authentic connections between a brand and its people are based on giving, providing information or entertainment that is based in the brand's truth, and aligned with the consumer's fundamental needs of the brand. If that effort is authentic, the audience will respond. You give to connect. At Imagination, we call this mutuality.

And, as a result, it is imperative for us to create authentic, informative and entertaining experiences that connect with individuals across multiple channels. The channels are not only digital, but physical, mobile and even virtual. These are the channels in which individuals today establish and maintain mutuality.

Alignment does not necessarily mean looking the same. But it definitely does mean acting the same. Authentic connections instil in the individual a feeling and belief. Maintaining the fluidity of these connections - and the expression thereof - is vital.

So, from a universal truth, a brand establishes the basis of mutuality. Creating aligned experiences across channels that convey information and entertainment maintains the conversation. Contributing meaningfully to a person's life builds belief. On-going truth, unwavering belief. Truth and belief, the new global and local.

At Imagination, we've taken our own brand around the world, based on our community's universal truth of possibility. Our creative community and our partner clients come to us, anywhere in the world, for the experience of possibility, made such because of our skill in "liberating creativity".

Wherever we are in the world, we bring our shared beliefs, our multi-disciplinary teams and a fundamental ability to understand the people we are communicating with. And, wherever we are in the world, we are true to the people and the place.

Going global today is about generating value in community and not in campaigns. When setting out to be global, think bigger. And, when thinking about acting locally, think smaller. Somewhere in between, imagination thrives and communities flourish.

- Douglas Broadley is the chief executive and creative director (London), and Eduardo A Braniff is the global insight director (LA) at Imagination.

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