Local first: why marketers need to build global programmes from the ground up

The new route to global relevance puts a premium on brand coordination

Local first: why marketers need to build global programmes from the ground up

As technology enables micro events and trends to morph and globalise overnight, marketers need to adapt faster and more deftly than ever to changes in consumer attitudes and appetites.

Yet people around the world get quicker to reject messages that don’t fit them, so multinational brands face a daunting challenge: How do you establish and sustain personal relevance on a global scale? 

The answer is strategy and advertising created from the market, not adjusted to the market, and then coordinated globally at the brand level. That’s the key takeaway from a roundtable of leaders of global agencies and marketers during a roundtable at Campaign Connect hosted in partnership with Worldwide Partners (WPI), a network of 70 independent agencies in 40 countries. 

“Whoever is in charge of the global brand needs to be a global citizen,” said Viveca Chan, CEO of WE Marketing, one of China’s biggest ad agencies, part of the Worldwide Partners network. “They need to understand how value is translated in different cultures. That’s very different to just talking about the features and functions of a product in different markets. Values can be very specific to a market.”

Communicate and coordinate
The group agreed that brands can only localise successfully if they run a highly effective and efficient system of communication and coordination between the global team and local markets. 

“Sometimes, I walk down the high street in the evening and notice a display in Louis Vuitton. And the next morning, that display has totally changed,” said Jonathan Lowth, global brand director at Danish premium watch manufacturer Nordgreen. “That means it will have changed for all Louis Vuitton stores, throughout the world, in that one night. Now, that’s brand coordination.”

“We work very closely with HQ on creative,” said Linda Pengelly, operations director of integrated creative marketing agency and part of the Worldwide Partners network, Five by Five Global, which handles global launches for Activision Games. “We structure our communications with the local markets to allow them to act fast, think local and take the initiative, while preserving the integrity of the global brand.”

Local must lead global
John Harris, CEO of Worldwide Partners, cited a WPI survey that found two-thirds of CMOs admit their organisations get global wrong. And one-third said they ran a fully-centralised brand platform, with the global team pushing campaigns and creative out to the local markets. “It’s very hard to get that right if you always prioritise standardisation over localisation,” said Harris. Efficiency at the expense of efficacy is a flawed strategy.”

“Good ideas can come from anywhere,” said Greg Paul, founder and CEO of New-York-based media and marketing agency R3. As an example, he cited an ad on water economy for Colgate by Y&R Peru, using the hashtag #EveryDropCounts, which was so powerful, the global team ended up running it during the 2016 US Superbowl. 

UNiDAYS, a discount website for students around the world, lets local offices take the lead on campaigns, and then works centrally to coordinate rollouts to other markets. “Our creative ideas and approaches aren’t always driven by the preferences of the global team based in the UK,” said UNiDAYS marketing and media leader Viviane Paxinos. “At the same time, centralising key moments in each campaign has allowed the brand to make significant savings on execution, without cramping the local markets’ freedom.” 

“The local has to trump the global,” said Harris. “If it doesn’t, you strangle your own chances in the local markets. And if you’re nervous about switching to a local or hybrid model, pick a market and test. Run it against a similar market and see how it performs and whether you get better results by giving your local market greater freedom.”