June 11, 2019

Meeting The Global Localization Imperative

Written By: John Harris

Today we are issuing a global referendum on marketing.

Together with the CMO Council, a global peer-to-peer network of 15,000 senior brand marketers, Worldwide Partners has released a report that shows marketing is missing its greatest opportunity, and the change imperative applies to agencies and clients equally.

Here’s why we all need to listen up, and, step up. 

Global brands confront unprecedented expectations of personalization. Customers expect marketing content to match their interests and respect their culture. The more connected customers become, the more personalization they expect. On this basis, they’ll embrace or reject a brand in an instant. 

Marketers have never faced higher stakes. Yet research conducted with over 350 senior marketing executives globally found that marketers are failing to meet the global localization imperative. 

Specifically, 80% believe they are not prepared to fulfill the expectations of modern connected customers who prize accountability, security, always-on service, and culturally relevant experiences. Not surprisingly, 77% of brand marketers indicated that they are not achieving the full revenue potential of the new connected consumer. 

It turns out the greatest threat to global marketing isn’t strategy; it’s the structure of marketing organizations. More than half of marketers (57%) pin their unrealized customer opportunity on the lack of localized intelligence, with a staggering 63 percent of marketers admitting significant dissatisfaction with their current localization efforts.

Marketers need a new structure, and agencies need to provide something most aren’t doing or simply cannot do.  

The CMO Council found significant problems with both ways most marketers are organizing for global localization. Essentially, marketers in 100% centralized organizations say they do not really understand local market needs and they are not close enough to their customers. And those in 100% decentralized organizations do not have a clear vision of the brand engagement strategy.

The answer seems to be a hybrid structure – centralizing strategy while leveraging local market intelligence and execution. The CMO Council found that marketers in hybrid structures report heightened understanding of local customers, alignment of strategy and goals, and operating efficiency. Drawbacks still arise, but they are largely about the speed of decision-making rather than the quality of information, strategy and execution.

Marketers want customer-centric solutions on a global scale, but they cannot get there with a centralized strategy and top-down approach that prioritizes standardization over localization. 

Marketers must structure for market-inspired engagement in order to deliver personalized, contextualized and culturally relevant experiences effectively and efficiently. Otherwise they will miss opportunities, undermine brand perception and compromise business results.  

As marketers re-evaluate their internal structures, agencies need to raise their game, too. Fully 83% of marketers feel they’re not aligned with their agencies and are looking for new power from partners. They’re looking for agencies that can scale quickly, align with localized business goals, and source intelligence, skills and capabilities around the world. 

This matters supremely because many marketers expect to rely increasingly on agencies for support across the communications spectrum. While clients are moving more data-related functions in-house, they’re poised to rely increasingly on outside support with communications, from creative to media to live experiences. According to a recent report from Kantar, clients believe the greatest value of agencies is creative thinking, with 84% saying they will continue to outsource this work.

Importantly, 45% of senior marketing executives say agencies need to overcome silos of execution to collaborate across the enterprise. 

The best business is always built from the ground up, starting with the needs and wants of the people you serve. Marketers going local at scale need agencies that are as great as they are local. They won’t find that in giants that dish assignments to regional offices. They’ll get it from networks of elite agencies with dual roots in their locations and their chosen specializations.    

The comprehensive report of the CMO Council’s findings is available for download at https://www.worldwidepartners.com/WPI-Research

Written By: John Harris