Campaign Report on Worldwide Advertising (IAA Special): How to talk to the global consumer - The world’s most successful brands are those that understand and target the global consumer. Jan Soderstrom reveals to Campaign the secrets of projecting

What do you mean by the ’global consumer’?

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

consumer effectively?

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