Telling global stories with a local tongue

Interesting article on global brands adapting to local culture in Market Leader by Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown. Nice one Nigel.

First thing that hit me was that global brands beat local brands in the five categories researched across eight countries. The global brands were more often considered for purchase, and scored better on statements including 'easy to recognize', and having 'distinctive identities'. The two global brands which stood out were Coca-Cola and McDonald's. Interestingly, both of these were seen by a significant share of local consumers as being part of their own national cultures. So much for the image portrayed by doom-mongers in the press of these brands being multinational, American dictators.

So, what did these global brands do well to be successful? The key is to have a big brand idea and story, but tell this in a local tongue. Let's look at some specific learnings.

1. Great ideas travel

Millward Brown analysed 50,000 ads (nice database eh?) to look at how well ads testing exceptionally well in one market did in other countries. The bad news is that overall the majority of such ads didn't do well outside their home market. The good news is that this changes when you look at exceptional ads. In this case 60% of them did well in other markets, compared to only 20% of average performers.

2. Imaginary worlds

One way to make ideas travel is to create an imaginary world that transcends local culture. This was the case with Coca-Cola's 'Happiness Factory' for example. 

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3. Tap into a human need

At the other end of the creative spectrum are ideas where a brand can meet a shared human need with a clear functional benefit. The study quotes the example of Nicorette's 'Craving Man' campaign, which features a 2 1/2 metre cigarette man and the tagline 'Beat cigarettes one at a time'. The campaign helped build sales from $194 million in 2000 to $295 million in 2004, and establish itself as the clear leader.  

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4. Use a local tongue

Even better results can be achieved when the big global comms idea is adapted intelligently for local cultures. A good example of this is the Mac vs. PC ads, featuring a geeky guy as a PC and a cool dude as Mr Mac. We posted here on how the US ads were adapted for the UK using local comedians Mitchell and Webb. The post has the UK and US ads. Apple also adapted these for the Japanese market, where its rude to brag about your strengths. The Japanese version contrasts the two brands' use at work and home instead.

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5. Global with with a local twist

A hybrid approach used by Gillette is a global campaign with a local twist. The Best a Man Can Get campaign features 'champions' Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Thierry Henry everywhere. This trio are complemented with local champions picked by market: soccer player Messia in Argentina, Kaka in Brazil and rugby star Bryan Habana in South Africa.

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In conclusion, the best global brands blend the best of big global ideas with smart local execution that taps into local culture. Which proves that local marketing teams still have a key role to play, even in the era of globalisation.