December 6, 2019

How to Balance Global Strategy with Localized Marketing

Written By: Angie Pascale

Localized marketing is one of the biggest challenges that every global brand faces today. In fact, 82% of CMOs told us that their local marketing intelligence is just “OK” in our recent “Reshaping Global Engagement Operations” report.

Yet, it’s a regionally-relevant approach that can truly make or break a marketing campaign. Today’s digitally-connected consumers are seeking something closer to home, something localized and personalized that reflects their own cultural context and situation. If global brands aren’t willing or able to deliver this unique experience, they have no business being in that market (and certainly won’t generate any business either!). 

The Worldwide Partner global network of independent advertising agencies is uniquely positioned to address this localized marketing challenge. With more than 70 agencies in 40 countries, our partners are able to share insights and collaborate to ensure our brands are utilizing the right messaging, media and metrics for local markets around the world.   

At Colab 2019, our Global Summit in Singapore this past October, WPI Partners and other industry leaders shared strategies for localizing global marketing strategies, and provided insights on the variance and nuances across global markets. Following are the key ideas discussed at the event:

Local Opinions Sell

“In China people don’t believe what the brands say anymore, particularly younger people,” Viveca Chan with WPI Partner Agency WE Marketing Group explained. “What is driving them is what other people say.”

Sometimes these people are celebrities, like Chinese Actor and Single Aarif Lee who became the brand ambassador for VisitCalifornia’s “Expert of Play” campaign. But more often, they’re normal people like Li Jia Qi the “Lipstick King,” who was able to establish himself as a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) because he was interesting and entertaining. Come to find out, he’s also really good at selling lipstick--in one day, he sold 50 million lipstick products in just 5 minutes! Now all Chinese brands are going through him to sell cosmetic products. 

GlobalWebIndex backed up these cases with trending data. According to their 2020 Global Trends Report, Chinese consumers are more likely to be swayed by other people’s opinions, especially when it comes to fashion purchases. 

GlobalWebIndex data indicating how opinions and celebrity endorsements impact Chinese consumers.

Dooj Ramchandani with Blink Digital in India confirmed that the same is true in his country, especially when it comes to the two interests that nearly all Indians share--Cricket and Bollywood. Despite all the differences across communities in India, these two things really tie the country together, which is why brands and ad dollars go to Cricket star athletes and Bollywood celebrity actors. 

New, Localized Products are a Boon

Brands that can innovate and diversify their product line to match local interests and taste are often more successful than those offering the exact same products throughout the world. “McDonald’s has done fairly well in Japan,” Cairo Marsh, Managing Partner with WPI Partner Agency relativ* in Japan shared. “They’ve had a clear product story that has created news and marketing. 

Natasha Shamash with Rebel & Soul in Singapore agreed: “McDonald’s and Starbucks are brilliant at creating new products that are relevant for the different markets. They put a lot of thought into [product innovation] and it creates the stories around it.”    

Technology Is Changing Us All

There’s no doubt that technology is changing the way consumers consume and marketers market. This is the case in nearly every region, country and city across the globe. What’s different is how quickly that change is happening, what tech is being used, and how the communities have adapted. 

China is a perfect example. The default technologies, platforms and channels used in the rest of the world are not permitted. So China has created their own digital microcosm (which feels more like a macrocosm because it’s so much more comprehensive and advanced than other global platforms!). If a brand is marketing in China and/or to Chinese consumers, they must be mobile-first, accept digital payments, and above all, they must use WeChat. Learn more about the unique aspects of the Chinese market in our recent blog “Leveraging the Booming Chinese Market.”

Grab is another superapp that is changing both consumers and brand marketers. Across Southeast Asia, Grab is the go-to technology for calling a taxi, booking a hotel room, ordering food, buying concert tickets, even scheduling healthcare or financial services. Grab is improving the lives of citizens, empowering new entrepreneurs, and helping established businesses grow in eight Southeast Asian countries (Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam). Read “Grab App Proves That Social Good and Profitability Can Be Achieved Together” to learn more about Grab’s impact throughout Southeast Asia. 

And while technology is no doubt improving people’s lives, it’s also having a counter effect. Chase Buckle with GlobalWebIndex described this effect as “tech angst”--a certain level of unease and weariness with technology which is resulting from the oversaturation of technology in our lives. 

Tech angst has led to a curious new definition of luxury in developed markets--the ability to disconnect has become a status symbol in the United States. 

Follow the 80/20 Rule

Regardless of which region, country or city you’re marketing in, finding the right balance between global strategy and local activation is extremely important, The overarching brand narrative and voice should be maintained to ensure consistency, but local flavor must be added to reach the community. 

Dooj Ramchandani has a formula: “10-20% needs to be on what the actual brand stands for, 80% completely localized.” 

Dooj explained how Amazon followed this 80/20 rule in India. Levering consumer insights that showed Indians love choices, they launched with the tagline “aur dikhao,” which translates to “show me more,” and took a very localized approach with creative. Apple, on the other hand, is extremely controlled and consistent, and doesn’t showcase a local flavor. And perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple has not been as successful in India but Amazon has.  

Cairo Marsh added: “You have to be true, be a steward of the brand. But you also need to understand what that [consumer] relationship needs to be within a given market. You can’t deviate from the brand itself, but if we’re doing our jobs, we’re focused on [getting] this consumer in this market to connect.” 

It’s a delicate balance between global strategy and localized activation. Yet, understanding how local communities use technology (and also how they don’t use it), whose opinions they’re influenced by (and who they no longer trust), and which product stories are the most compelling (and which are stale or irrelevant) allows brands to create unique experiences and connect with local consumers.

Written By: Angie Pascale