The Native Versus International Advertising Debate
All generalizations are wrong. Including this. Local campaigns always beat global campaigns. Always. Except when they don't. If there's ever a hot topic, it's the local or global marketing debate. People get angry.
“Our market is different. Yes, France / Germany / England / Canada / Australia is different. “My local marketing colleagues have told me several times that all of these countries are different. I am also guilty, arguing that Ireland was different than I was in a local role.
I even fought for an Irish actor once to do the voiceover for a TV campaign that we started in the US. This was particularly time consuming – the ad was created, but the campaign was canceled before anyone saw it.
In truth, all countries are different. Although that doesn't solve much. The global team is accused of not understanding local nuances. And people at headquarters feel that the local team is exaggerating how different their market is, that the differences are trivial, and that the cost, effort, or time is not worth it.
Paranoia sets in. We assume that each group wants to “own” the work. Make decisions. Take the glory. Territorial stuff. Sometimes that's the case. But I think most people really believe in what they're fighting for. And don't make a mistake – it's a struggle.
Global and local: the Snickers example
Does local always strike globally? Well, no. Few things in marketing are so absolute. If you advertise for many markets, you run the risk of getting watered down. It ends up being acceptable everywhere, but nowhere exceptional.
And I believe that campaigns that address local cultural issues can outperform global campaigns that are designed for many markets. However, most of the local advertising I've seen is not too deeply embedded in the culture. So maybe it depends on your ambitions.
The Snickers brand was very effective in both approaches. "You are not yourself when you are hungry" was originally a global idea that was implemented locally in many markets and often used local celebrities in their mass marketing television advertising.
It worked well in most markets.
A few years later, when the marketing team faced new challenges, it continued to develop this concept. They kept their big idea, but this time invested in creating a single global TV spot for all markets. This was the television commercial with Rowan Atkinson as his Mr Bean character in a crouching, tiger-like environment. This global ad has surpassed the previous approach of using local ads in every market. Global Beat Local. In addition, creating just one television commercial instead of multiple local commercials saved about $ 14 million in production efficiency.
Global versus local: the better option
What should I do? It’s really difficult. Some differences seem important, but they are not; others seem trivial, but they are not. It took me years to see the perhaps obvious differences between advertising in the United States and the United Kingdom. The American audience is used to it and expects a harder sale. The audience in the UK and perhaps Ireland is more used to playful, subtle advertising.
This is not a rule, but I believe there is something true here. And there are differences between the individualistic western cultures and the more collectivist ones like China, India and Latin America.
I asked Peter Field if he had any opinions based on his experience. He told me that a sensible approach would be to try to get the global strategy going first. We should try to optimize or change the global campaign only if we know that the local market is hampering something.
While Peter thought that the cultural problem was often outplayed, he believed that one reason brands could choose a local strategy was that the competitive challenge in a market or region is very different. If you are a market leader, your approach may have to be different than if you are unknown.
As is so often the case in marketing, there is no approach that is always the better option. As Mark Twain said, "All generalizations are wrong, including this one." It is too easy to find cultural and market differences. We will always find them when we want. A starting point for teams could be to recognize this in advance and then work on the more difficult task of finding similarities.
The first task in making global and local decisions is to recognize that there are differences, but to look for similarities.
Contribution to the Branding Strategy Insider by: Paul Dervan. Excerpt from his book Run With Foxes (Harriman House)
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