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Global marketing and advertising campaigns – if planned and executed right – can lead to increased brand equity, better ROI and steady growth in international sales. But all too often global campaigns result in disappointing performance. So why such variance in global marketing results? How can brands reconcile operational efficiency and creative effectiveness on a local scale?

To pinpoint why global marketing is killing your brand’s distinctiveness, we’ve identified the 5 most common pitfalls. Read on to find out more. 

Your campaigns suffer from the ‘global feel’ syndrome

The problem with many global advertising campaigns is that you can immediately identify them as such. A vague tagline that does the job everywhere? Tick. Neutral imagery and decor? Tick. A boringly uniform cast (i.e. 95% Caucasian/Western)? Tick. 

The audience is left with an overwhelming feeling of ‘blah’. It’s that characteristic global feel. Campaigns so generic that you tend to forget what brand they were even created for. The issue often lies with brands trying to please everyone – but ending up appealing to no one – by throwing a wide fluffy net out from a place of central ignorance. 

You might think that the answer is to be more creative, or more daring perhaps? Well, not quite. Brands underestimate how culturally-tied creativity is. And although large creative network agencies will tell you otherwise (after all, they’ve built their empire on the ‘big idea’), creativity alone will get you nowhere. Global marketing effectiveness is about connecting with audiences through a data-driven approach, by combining creativity with insights. Global brands must do their homework and identify the truth that engages their audiences everywhere, infusing it at every touchpoint and measuring its impact. And we’re not talking about uninspiring truisms that could apply to anyone – what’s needed is precise insight into local consumer behaviour. 

Your local marketing teams are running the show

Another trap brands often fall into is letting their local marketing teams take the lead entirely. Yes, local teams are closer to the action and probably know audiences better than global teams do. And yes, some tactical campaigns are best left to local. But if local marketing teams are given free rein, it’s the global brand entity that’s at risk. With a lack of global governance, it’s pretty hard to build a strong, impactful global brand, or gather insight into local performance. When campaigns are thought and executed on a local level, there tends to be duplication of efforts and inconsistencies, leading to poor performance and a dilution of the brand. 

The solution? Effective collaboration between global and local teams throughout the global campaign process. Campaigns perform best when local insights are gathered at the initial stage of the campaign. Using these insights, the global team can define the strategy and campaign idea. Concepts and strategies then get validated by key local stakeholders, before going into campaign creation and localisation phases. By getting global and local teams to collaborate, brands literally get the best of both worlds – campaigns that are 100% relevant locally, while building a strong brand at its core.

Your marketing isn’t embracing digital-first thinking

It’s broadly accepted that in our new era, marketing campaigns need to be created with digital front of mind. After all, buzzwords such as “digital-first”, “always-on” or “real-time” were introduced in our jargon for a reason – they are the reality of marketing today. And yet, digital-first thinking has not quite made it into the way brands plan their advertising and marketing campaigns, especially when it comes to international campaigns. This has a detrimental impact on keeping content fresh and relevant, resulting in a brand that’s not in sync with its audience. 

The conundrum many global brands face is combining this digital-first imperative with the scale demanded of global campaigns. When you multiply the number of target markets by the number of channels and variances in messaging and creative, you’re left with a colossal amount of content to create and update. 

So, how can you infuse digital-first thinking into your global campaigns? The answer lies in two parts:

1. Digital-first planning

Firstly, campaigns must be built out for the digital era. Before your team sets out to come up with a brilliant creative concept, they must consider the channels that will best connect your brand with your local audiences. Combining these channels with local insights will provide you with the foundation on which to build your campaign. It’s key to tailor your creative and messaging to each channel. So, rather than starting with a big creative idea that’s just rolled out across all channels, you need to map out your local audience’s journey and ensure that you engage with your audience at each touchpoint, with channel-specific, insight-led messaging.

2. Test and learn

The second part is to test and learn. And while everyone agrees that performance optimisation is vital in today’s digital world (sorry, more buzzwords) – implementing it on a global scale is complex. The key, once more, lies in collaboration. Agree with all key stakeholders – global and local, internal and external – the key metrics to measure your performance. From there, you can assess how well you’re doing against the metrics. For more speed and agility, give some autonomy to local markets (within a clear framework) to tweak and improve the messaging and creative on a local level. This will ensure that your content remains real time and spot on.

Your global brand’s getting lost in translation

Then, there’s the execution of the campaign. Too often, brilliant concepts aren’t executed or adapted well. Humour might not translate. An expression might sound off in the target language. The translated copy might feel like a google translation or fail to convey the original intention with strength. 

To avoid this, brands must ensure that they produce content with the end audience in mind and localise their campaigns carefully, with attention given to every detail. Globalisation doesn’t have to equate to sameness. Content must feel as authentic and local as possible, through careful use of imagery, cast, language and cultural references.

A dose of local can be injected at different stages of the campaign process. For key assets, you can create different ads for each market or regional masters. For example, instead of creating a single video advert that gets localised across all territories you can create a different ad in each market using the same core concept, but adding some local flavour with a different script, cast and decor. The nuances that make an advert feel more local will result in audiences relating better to the global message. 

And when it comes to the localisation stage of the campaign, it’s paramount to allow sufficient time and budget. This is something global marketers often fail to understand, as their focus is primarily on campaign creation. And yet, their lack of investment in localisation will result in poor performance in-market, essentially sabotaging the fruits of their labour. If, on the contrary, you invest in quality translation and transcreation, you get localised copy that rings true. After all, a strong global brand is the sum of careful local activations. And localisation is not just about words; consider localising imagery and visuals for maximal local impact.

Your brand vision is too short-term

Finally, a problem that too many global brands face is short-termism. It takes time and persistence to build a strong global brand. Of course, in the current global climate, sales activations are crucial and the balance between brand comms and tactical activations has shifted greatly towards the latter. That’s absolutely predictable: brands need to sell. They want results, now. 

And while test and learn and a real-time response are essential to optimise your messaging and performance short term, the key to long-term success is in setting and maintaining a clear vision for your brand. Failing to do so will lead you to shift your strategy too frequently, resulting in a weakened brand due to too many perceived changes in direction. 

To succeed as a brand, global marketing goals must be strongly connected to tangible business needs. Forget about vanity metrics, we’re talking about measuring the real impact of marketing on sales and international growth. Global and local teams as well as external stakeholders need to understand these goals and adhere to the same vision.

Planning your global growth journey

Partnering up with the right global advertising agency can help greatly. At Freedman we help our clients define their vision and take them on a 4-step journey to global growth: 

  • Build: we help our clients build the foundations for their global marketing, with a flexible model for global-local collaboration
  • Launch: we help them launch their campaigns at speed, with impact.
  • Scale: as they grow and take on new markets, we help them scale up their capabilities to manage the complexity
  • Optimise: we constantly strive to optimise our processes, always improving for better results. 

Throughout their journey, we help our clients track their progress and identify areas needing improvement.

If you need guidance with setting your vision for growth and creating impactful global campaigns, get in touch. Our team are always here to help. You can also download our guide to creating successful global marketing campaigns here.