From global to local. Getting it right.

As international marketers, we know the importance – the reassurance – of having a brand truth at the heart of our campaigns. Ideally one that is truly global. But how useful is this in practice, when the world is really made up of countless individual, local markets to which we must cater?

We’ve all heard stories of campaigns that were simply duplicated from one market to another, failing to engage – or worse, causing offence. Of course the speed at which these events now get retold across the world means the damage they can do is greater than ever.

So what can we do to ensure success in local markets? Here are some of the ground rules we follow.

Preparation is everything

Let’s stop thinking globally for a second (and leave that to criminal masterminds). Thinking locally is a must. Before going into a market, thorough research there will always pay dividends. All elements of a classic marketing mix need to be put under the spotlight: target audience, competition, product offering, tactics. McDonald’s do this very well, keeping their brand essence safe, while literally bringing different flavours to different countries.


Creativity must respect culture

When we try to provoke an emotional reaction with the concepts, words and images in our campaigns, we must realise that the audience is a key variable. The beliefs, history, and references of a culture will determine what emotional reaction we get. And that applies to us too, as we sometimes forget.

Humour is a prime example, as what’s funny is not only subjective, but culture-specific.

Planning early in-market consultation is essential to ensure your message does not go awry.


Carefully chosen words…

You might be surprised by the number of global brands that don’t invest in quality translation and transcreation.

From typos to concepts, lack of attention can be extremely damaging (not just humorous). KFC’s launch into China included a translation of their famous ‘Finger-licking good’ slogan. Unfortunately the chosen words now meant ‘Eat your fingers off’.

Rule of thumb: writers and validators are a key part of the process… choose wisely.


…and visuals too

If an image has the power to create a positive reaction, it can certainly lead to a negative one. Western cultures often find freckles striking and attractive. Not so in China, where Zara used minimal makeup on a Chinese model to highlight them. Why? Because signs of sun exposure are viewed negatively.

Others to watch for are tattoos, bare skin, specific animals – even colours, whose significance can change dramatically.

Once again, in-market specialists can play a swift but vital role in policing this.


Clearing the air

It’s no surprise that different territories have different rules and procedures for ads. Some require ads to be officially cleared. Some ban ads for particular products.

Substantiation is often a key element – if you say a car model is ‘the most efficient’, you’ll probably need the evidence to back that up.

This needn’t be such a hurdle. We’ve found that working with a local authority over time really helps understanding and anticipation of their issues. Leaving it to the last minute can throw out timings, delay campaigns and even miss important windows for sale.


How can we help?

Freedman has been a specialist in international marketing for over 30 years – and our network of experts really does span the globe. We work daily with major brands and their teams to bring their campaigns to life in local markets and drive success for their brands.

If we can help yours, we’d love to hear from you.