From cultural branding to local branding

Week 1 was about cultural branding and branding culture, since I was discovering the agency’s mission « to reinvigorate iconic American brands through cultural relevance. ». My first learning was that culture is at the heart of the agency’s business model and…of the agency itself.

Well, to me week 2 was all about discovering how exactly the Agency proceeds in helping brands become « culturally relevant ».


I was surprised to discover that here the « big word » is LOCAL. Everything is thought out from a local scale, putting the city of Chicago at the core.

Here is the idea : « Think global, act local ».

This claim was used for the first time in 1972 by the ecologist René Dubos during an Environment International Summit. But to me, it illustrates the Agency’s motto very well …

Of course being « local » is not a new trend. For ages, (global) brands have used their « local / territorial DNA » as a way to give value to brands — there are a bunch of examples (e.g. Ikea or Chrysler…). And today more than ever, being local is a real selling point: people want to buy local.

But above all, being local is a question of « cultural relevance » : trying to understand the sensitivity of each place to engage its audience — in an authentic way. As the world economies merged into a single market, all companies were forced to build « global brands ». Brands made out of a unique & consistent identity to live « worldwide », whatever the local culture. While becoming « global » these same brands can disconnect from local considerations of the marketplace & consumers…losing their authenticity.

The core of Havas Chicago’s strategy : local environment & community.

Let me give you two examples of how local is considered & organized here.

#1 — The Annex, a local cultural epicenter

The Agency created a space in Chicago devoted to emerging culture : The Annex.

This cultural epicenter gathers people who are at the heart of emerging culture. They are creative minds from more than just advertising backgrounds. The Annex is a place where people do not observe the existing culture, but create the emerging culture. What has led to this idea? According to Paul Marobella, Chairman & CEO, Havas Creative, US, « many brands have an evolving consumer base and have lost relevance with emerging American consumers that are gaining a larger share of the overall spending ». They have to reconnect with these new audiences. In order to do so, brands have to first understand the territory they’re going into.

#2 — « Havas Latino », the very local agency

The Agency created Havas Latino. An agency within the agency that focuses on Latino’s brand.

What has led to this idea ? The contribution of Latinos in the US — including Chicago — is very important. It drives almost 40 percent of the spending power and it has an obvious cultural impact on the way people consume in Chicago. For this reason, the Agency has gathered a Latino team : people who are part of the community and really know the codes and the expectations — at a local scale.

Interesting, isn’t it?


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