Brands: From Global to Local

Tim Hughes Social Selling Pioneer and Innovator

Tim Hughes is a top 35 blogger in the UK. He blogs on subjects such as Social Selling, Social Media and Marketing.

Many articles have been written about marketing and the move to create global brands. However, little tends to be written about brands as they fit into a globalized environment and localization around category and sub-category.

The Big Brand Dilemma
Consider Nike. Most people understand what Nike stands for and can recognize the “swoosh” logo. Typically, the best form of flattery in the industry is that there is an industry built around copying and counterfeiting similar products. Yet where Nike stands on a day-to-day sales basis, things are very different. The Nike brand has sub-brands that need to be localized for various markets. For example, Nike will have rock climbing, cycling and rugby customers within Spain, Catalonia and South America, which require recognition at the brand level, but also at category and sub-category levels. Nike will need to learn and understand these geographic areas, social standards and communities, and create brand messaging that suits their local language. There are many global companies whose product launches have failed due to improperly addressing cultural sensitivities.

Specialized Products, Delivered Locally
So what’s a brand to do? Where does the “big brand” define the process? Where do you measure? How do you provide consistency around price? What about discounts and promotions? How do you communicate in both local and global languages? With any process, there needs to be some underlying technology. For example, if you want to talk to somebody long distance, you use a telephone. The key for a big brand is delivery — a consistent experience, regardless of category or country boundary. To communicate your message properly for a specific region, companies should employ a central working team that has local representatives. These stream leaders provide direct input into a central model, giving bottom-up input, as well as leading the implementation at the local level. Ensuring each piece of the messaging — from the audience messaging to the marketing to the slogans — links to the brand while communicating properly to that region.

A social media listening and market influence program should be implemented at the country level (in local language) so the team can learn and change. The B2C market and social media is a fast-paced set of medium — consumer attitudes are always changing the project, and stakeholders need to understand this is not a point in time but a journey.

And Finally…
Big brands offer companies a global vision, but this is not the “real world.” Customers want small niche brands, personalization and localization. While big brands are important, revenue and profit is created at category and sub-category levels. The battle within companies is the need for centralized control and recognizing that it’s not “business as usual” through the democratization of information in the new Social World. Big brands rule, but small brands pay the rent. Communication and consensus is key. While I’m not advocating a committee-heavy structure, there has to be centralized control and local buy-in. The Pareto principle applies. Go live with a plan and authority to manage locally. Be ready to change and keep changing — the social customer is a fickle creature and you need to keep up.

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