What do you mean by the ’global consumer’?
The global or ’borderless’ consumer experiences and perceives brands on
a worldwide scale, not solely in the context of his or her home country
or cultural market. This class of consumer has emerged as a result of an
increasingly global media environment and the growth of frequent
international travel. The media environment has been changed forever by
the Internet, which gives consumers around the world access to the same
information. The advent of more satellite broadcast networks, bringing
TV shows into the homes of consumers worldwide, plus the distribution of
movies across national boundaries, are two other examples of how the
globalisation of the media is creating borderless consumers. In terms of
travel, more individuals are visiting more countries for business, as
well as for personal interest. As a result, they are exposed to foreign
and global brands first-hand and begin to relate to those brands outside
their home countries and cultures.
How can international advertisers and marketers reach this new type of
It is most important to define clearly the core elements of a brand and
communicate those elements consistently. At Visa, for example, our aim
is for consumers anywhere in the world to, on some level, provide the
same answer to the question: ’What do you think and feel about
For all global brands, the core elements are brand positioning, brand
personality and brand essence. Brand positioning is the key information
people should know about the brand. By brand personality, I mean the
characteristics of the brand that are viewed consistently around the
world, regardless of cultural differences. Brand essence is the key
attribute people perceive of the brand. It is also important that
standards, or the way a brand is physically represented, are
consistently presented internationally.
Agreement on these core elements requires extensive co-operation between
a company’s corporate headquarters, regional organisations and local
markets. It is essential for companies to create and maintain a culture
that encourages consistent application of the core brand elements
What are the most common mistakes that global brands make when trying to
appeal to this consumer?
Companies often fail to reach the global consumer when their own
organisations are not borderless. They have to create a seamless team
that involves the headquarters, regions and individual markets for
identifying and communicating clearly the core elements of the brand. In
many organisations, these different components of a company actually
compete with each other instead of working together.
This problem escalates when a company assigns different people, often
based in different regions, to individual aspects of a marketing mix,
despite the fact that all parts of the campaign need to reach the same
target consumer as an integrated whole. When there is insufficient
communication among individuals or regional departments, there is no
consistent message, eliminating the ability to create a coherent global
brand. Companies need to consider the end result of an integrated
marketing campaign through the eyes of their consumers.
How will the Internet change advertising and marketing?
The Internet is the most borderless of all media. Through the Internet,
consumers from around the world can see the same brand at the same time
and in the same context. Information is in abundance and can be accessed
instantly. The Internet is making consumers more global and more
As the reach of the Internet continues to grow, companies will no longer
be able to isolate messages to a single market or culture. Consumers
will gain more control over choice, and comparison-shopping will
It will be more difficult to differentiate a brand in terms of physical
product features, price or by using various distribution channels. With
the Internet, brands will become more important as consumers look for
shortcuts through the clutter. Brands can serve as trusted signposts in
the virtual world.
What common challenges do advertisers face worldwide and how can they
tackle them effectively?
Many advertisers and marketers face the challenge of overcoming internal
disagreement over what the core elements of their brand should be and
how to ensure these elements are applied consistently around the
The best brands have been successful because they have achieved
consensus on these issues. Taking this to the next step, there has to be
agreement on when it is important to add local variations, in
particular, on how to apply ’glocalisation’.
Another significant challenge facing global organisations is developing
qualified global marketers who are borderless in their thinking, not
rooted in just one culture. What is important is developing the
sensitivities required to know when to seek counsel and do the proper
’due diligence’ as part of developing global campaigns.
What do you mean by ’glocalisation’? Why is this concept so important to
an international brand’s success?
Glocalisation is acting global while being local. It combines the
efficiencies of consistently communicating a brand’s core elements
worldwide with the flexibility needed to adapt a brand to a local
Can you give Campaign some more specific examples of
Acceptance - the core brand equity of Visa - is the basis of our
positioning globally, but that equity is translated differently in
different countries and cultures. For example, in the US, Visa can be
very aggressive in making direct comparisons with competitors - a
practice widely accepted in US advertising. But in Latin America, we
find the market responds better to our communicating the prestige of
Visa’s acceptance without directly referring to the competition.
Jan Soderstrom is the executive vice-president of international
marketing for Visa International, where she is responsible for all
international marketing activities, ensuring a coherent worldwide brand