Monday, January 12

Thinking Global: Branding Local

For all the talk of a shrinking world, Nigel Hollis, chief global analyst at the market research firm Millward Brown and author of The Global Brand, has noticed a shift in the other direction.

"There are some underlying decisions people make when they decide to go global," Hollis told the International Herald Tribune. "One is that the world will become more and more homogeneous. That is just not happening. There's a lot of evidence that despite the spread of globalization we still live in a very localized world."

While the article recognizes some global campaigns, especially consumer electronics such as Apple's silhouetted dancers introducing iPods, can work; most brands, from food to personal-care products, make small adaptations in order to capture local appeal. In fact, even the on Web, communities tend to develop over time, creating a feeling of proximity that is based less on geographies and more on topics of interest.

Some companies seem to be catching up on the localization curve on the Web, even if they don't call it that. For example, Adweek noted that among the hundreds of journalists at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, popular bloggers were being tapped by large companies with the hope of capitalizing on these localities. (Seth Godin might call them tribes.)

Prevailing thought, as reiterated by Chas Edwards, chief revenue officer at Federated Media Publishing, is that companies need to give up on the notion of control over their brands. The concept is not new. Companies never had control. And, when you step back and think about it, Hollis is saying something very similar — global branding is customized and localized.

Of course it is. As Phil Dusenberry, chairman of BBDO Worldwide, noted years ago: “Brand is the relationship between a product and its customer.” And that means branding, like all communication, works best when communicators and copywriters think in terms of reaching, or writing to, one person at a time. There is nothing more local than that.


Rich on 1/12/09, 4:57 PM said...

Past Words On Local Branding:

"Thai food reflects the dynamics of Thai culture, its open society, tradition and way of living." — The Nation.

"ContentOne inaugural site will power online coverage before, during and after the Jan. 20 inauguration. It will be one product with local branding, traffic and ad sales." — Gannett Blog

"The Green Bay Packers have a losing record this season -- 5-7 -- but the team is No. 1 when it comes to a powerful marketing brand." —

Raison d'Etre on 1/13/09, 5:32 AM said...

There is a tv ad campaign for McDonalds running in the Philadelphia area transforming the traffic on one of our famous-for-its-traffic highway into coffee-break. Kudos for using the local wink to the Philadelphia commute. However, the brand gets lost in the localization tentative: why would I drink McDonald coffee instead of any other brand when commuting on the Schuylkill?

Rich on 1/13/09, 9:46 AM said...

Hey Raison,

It sounds like the value proposition was off the mark.

From my experience, localizing marketing messages tend to work best when they directly tie into the national campaigns. This would help reinforce the national messages while considering the local audience, which would be critical for someone like McDonalds.

One of our most successful car campaigns for Volkswagen followed such a model. We used the national direction and local market knowledge to create a custom campaign that drove sales, helping a start-up dealership capture fourth in region, which had never been accomplished before that.

Thank you for the great example though, and the inspiration to write a future piece on how to do it.

All my best,


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