For international brands, the need for a strong brand story that’s as relevant locally as it is internationally has never been greater. This is the opinion of the Danish advertising agency, Advance, who have helped global brands succeed on the world stage for over 45 years. Their longevity is owed in part to their four guiding principles of international brand success – brand truth, collaboration, clarity and international expertise.
Today’s international CMOs are under pressure to deliver campaigns that are faster, cheaper, bigger and more impactful. This begs the question, how can an international brand communicate with more impact when budgets become smaller, markets multiply and consumer expectations rise?
This is the quandary that Advance helps its clients to solve every day. Agency partners, Ann-Louise Rosen, and Camilla Grove Pelle explain the four guiding principles:
Rediscover your original brand story
Good marketing has always been about daring to take a position in the market based on a strong and differentiating core narrative. It is that brand truth that creates coherence and momentum across markets.
This is a belief shared by Ann-Louise Rosen, who in addition to being a partner, acts as Client Service Director and is responsible for international network relations at Advance.
“Brands do not necessarily have to reinvent themselves. It’s about rediscovering yourself as a brand. Often the story is already there, it just needs to be uncovered and brought to life. What’s important is that you distill what really makes you stand out and not jump on bandwagons or keep adding new threads. That’s what really brings clarity and consistency to your communications.”
This insight is rooted in, among other things, 15 years of experience in working with Johnson & Johnson across several of their household brands, in Europe and beyond.
“We make it a priority to first understand what the brand actually represents in the world of consumers. We then bring that to life in communication across markets. Time and time again, we’ve seen that when you take your brand story seriously in that way, it creates results on the bottom line” says Ann-Louise Rosen.
Create a clear, cohesive strategy across markets and channels
“A strong brand story is only as strong as how it’s told by the brand. it’s just as important for communication to be immediate, distinct, and coherent.”
Says partner and Digital Director of Advance, Camilla Grove Pelle.
But when the same message has to be conveyed on everything from WhatsApp in China to bus ads in Copenhagen, it’s easier said than done. So how can brands and CMOs achieve cohesion in their communications?
“The starting point is, of course, the strong core narrative. But thanks to an ever-expanding social media universe, we only have a few seconds to capture and keep attention. So, what we communicate must be extremely clear, easy to comprehend and decode,” says Camilla Grove Pelle.
As an example, she highlights the agency's partnership with COOLA, a Californian skincare and sunscreen brand. In conjunction with their launch in the UK, Advance produced a campaign that translated the brand story of life in the Californian sun to a UK audience.
The starting point was very simple: Sunlight. The creative team created a visual device where natural light would pass over COOLA’s beautifully packaged glass bottles - emulating a life in the sun. The campaign was a huge success, not least because it helped to triple the brand's turnover in the market.
Work closer together
Of course, as campaigns evolve into multiple markets, complexity increases. The more markets, the more stakeholders, both internally and externally. Very often there also a need to move fast and to hit the market while the need is there and before the competitors do.
“Therefore, it is absolutely crucial that you make sure to work closely together and involve the right stakeholders and specialists at the right time in the process. Drop the formalities and instead hold the meetings often and informally. This means there is always a flow of information. That creates transparency, trust and closer relationships. All three are key if the international brand and its campaign are to be a success” says Camilla Grove Pelle.
It is a shared responsibility to ensure progress in the process. Project stakeholders need to be involved at the right times so that decisions can be made quickly and efficiently.
“Involving local markets directly in the process means that their valuable insights and perspectives are heard and implemented. When working on global campaigns, we’ve found that to be crucial for success. Local players need to be part of the strategy and solution.” adds Camilla Grove Pelle.
Find a partner with global reach
It’s clear that to make an impact internationally, you need local knowledge. Therefore, as a brand or agency, you can quickly get into deep water without a strong, international network. That's why Advance is part of Worldwide Partners, one of the largest international networks of independent agencies in the world with over 70 agencies in more than 40 countries.
"The better knowledge we have of the local markets, the better we are when it comes to finding similarities and shared values on which we can build the brand's core narrative," says Ann-Louise Rosen. Continuing that point, she says,
"But more than that, it’s crucial that we understand the target group, their behavior, the local market's competitive situation and the media landscape. From there, we can assess where there is a need to create differentiated strategies and solutions."
Surprisingly, Ann-Louise tells us that Advance have often come across companies that have minimal or no access to local data and insights. And marketing organizations that are just as often not represented in that market.
“We’re able to draw on our international network of specialists in Worldwide Partners. We can work with the specialists in the network who are best suited for the specific task. With Worldwide Partners, we collaborate on everything from local insights, development of concepts to implementation of local media strategies.” says Ann-Louise Rosen.
Read more about how Advance helps brands create international success based on their four main marketing pillars at, campaign.advance.dk