When Apple rolled out its iPad 2, the multinational company launched the products simultaneously in 25 countries—one day, one message, one consistent marketing proposition around the globe no matter the city, channel, or customer.
Once upon a time, such a one-size-fits all approach was the only way to go for corporate marketers. But as the world has grown more interconnected and best practices have emerged in geographic customization, many CMOs have embraced localized marketing platforms—or so called “glocal” campaigns—that allow local marketing teams to extensively tailor marketing efforts while selectively embracing global tactics.
“So much progress has been made in local customization of campaigns that the marketer following the [truly global] approach is actually likely to experience the biggest headwinds [today],” says Brian Peters, director of management consultancy ARRYVE, in an interview with CMO.com.
Indeed, potential pitfalls abound for modern CMOs embarking on a global campaign, including creating a simple yet meaningful message; enforcing creative consistency; making sure the global position doesn’t get lost in translation; and getting support for a lengthy project that might not deliver an instant return, just to name a few. Yet the global positioning of a master brand or marquee product remains a powerful tool for corporate marketing executives. “It's a great tactic to create a big wave of consistent messaging and brand experience across markets,” Peters says. “It conveys the impression that the business really has its act together.”
While “industries such as auto, apparel, and retail have to focus on local norms and product offerings in each location, companies in the tech section, such as Apple, and brands owned by Unilever—Dove—have been global brands for a long time that use similar positioning worldwide,” says David Cooperstein, Forrester’s vice president and marketing practice leader, in an interview with CMO.com. “The global marketing effort is relevant when the product, message, and brand mean the same thing in every country.”
What’s The Big Idea? And Where’s The ROI?
The starting place for any global campaign is the message—that big idea capable of spanning media, geography, and customer segment. But crafting a position that is at once simple and resonant isn’t easy; it’s equal parts art and science.
Dell’s global tagline—“the power to do more”—didn’t just appear like a light bulb above some conference room table. The company’s marketing team interviewed 9,000 customers the world over to uncover common themes around how the brand is perceived and what they wanted from it—independent of geography, business unit, or customer type. “What we learned is that whether you were a consumer or a Fortune 500 company or a small-business owner, you viewed Dell as one brand,” says Mary Ellen Dugan, Dell’s executive director of global brand and advertising business. “It helped us to figure out what their emotional connection was with the brand and what we could bring to the marketplace globally. Honestly, the amount of research we did made it easier to get to one final platform.”
CMOs creating a global platform must stop focusing on geography and, instead, zero in on “borderless tribes,” explained Robert Wollan, global managing director of Accenture’s customer relationship management practice, in an interview with CMO.com. These groups of customers exhibit similar behaviors regardless of location and can “show up around the world at scale,” Wollan says. “Those companies that can spot these behaviors can more easily develop campaigns for borderless tribes. They can identify a trend in Japan and quickly determine its relevance in the Nordics or Brazil.”
Regional marketing groups can play an important role in message development, and smart CMOs will involve them early on. “This essential step will try the patience of the creative team and often bleed some of their enthusiasm and attentiveness,” says Tom Simons, CEO of Boston-based brand agency PARTNERS+simons, in an interview with CMO.com. Dugan spent nine months holding brand summits around the world to involve Dell’s marketer’s in platform development. “It was an inside-out process,” she says.
Global campaign development takes patience, something often in short supply with the enterprise expectations that marketing do more with less and deliver timely returns. “Global marketing initiatives require a much longer timeline due to the amount of research and testing necessary to make sure that the concept plays out exactly as intended across all audiences,” says Marla Bace, CMO for Brinton Eaton Wealth Advisors and former co-leader of global marketing best practices for UBS Wealth Management.
CMOs embarking on these multiyear efforts have to create a solid business case for them. “If your organization has mature marketing operations and CRM principles, you'll likely be breaking governance rules and ROI thresholds,” ARRYVE’s Peters explained. “The value of a consistent brand, creative, and messaging experience across markets in the campaign must have serious leadership support.”
“Any time that you go about such a big undertaking as global brand positioning, you have to make sure it maps with business priorities,” Dell’s Dugan says. “We say, ‘This is what the market needs, and this is how we can fulfill that need,’ and we took that to all internal shareholders.”
“Without complete buy-in from the top down, any global marketing campaign is just another tactic running alongside the business versus being viewed as [part of] the execution of a strategy to accomplish business objectives,” Bace adds. “[CMOs] must identify the benefits of success and what the liability of failure looks like and what both mean to the company.” Global branding requires good governance, he says, which establishes not only ownership of various aspects of the effort, but accountability as well.
Next Page: Lost In Translation? Ask For Directions
Consistency is critical in global positioning, but extensive testing is required to make sure that the message sent from Baltimore is the message received in Bangalore. Version control become very important, Bace says. “While English may be the official language of the business, the concept is not always interpreted exactly as intended in the initial presentation,” he says.
The most common pitfall in global marketing is laziness, says Simons of PARTNERS+simons. “There is a common misconception that truly global marketing is running the same campaign without accommodating local and regional sensitivities—that somehow there's a win in this uniformity,” Simons says. “Taking the time to understand the regional marketplaces that make up the global market takes patience, grit, curiosity, and professionalism.”
Dell piloted its global brand platform in Germany, a country with cultural affinity to the U.S.—where the campaign launched next. But differences still existed. “The story lines and messaging are the same,” says Dugan, but, beyond the tagline, the words are different. “It boils down to culture and language and how each country speaks.” Dugan learned the importance of deeply involving marketers on the ground in a country in the final product. It becomes a process of “trans-creation,” Dugan explained, not just translation.
Marketing partners can play a critical role in such efforts. “Large agency holding companies have been acquiring firms in local markets, such as China, to enable them to get deeply immersed in cultural attitudes and avoid issues that might backfire,” Forrester’s Cooperstein says.
Bace used the “master brand execution with local application” process when working on UBS’s “You and Us” global campaign a few years ago. The campaign, designed to illustrate the company’s empathy with clients, “was used globally and supplemented by local partnerships that enhanced the brand’s mission,” Bace says.
Having a simple message that’s largely applicable regardless of cultural influences makes the process easier. It “eliminates the risk of major transformation of the messaging once localization is applied,” says ARRYVE’s Peters. “[But] watch out for dumbing down of the message too much in the attempt to apply it globally.”
Puns and country-specific references must be abandoned, too, Bace says. “Also, while the global brand may be appropriate, specific offers [can be] tailored to local audience preferences based on market research, demographic information, and legal and government regulations—to name a few.”
Once local issues are addressed, CMOs must “double down on development of a shared creative platform that all markets and tactics must align to,” ARRYVE’s Peters says. “This removes choices and enforces consistency of look and feel, imagery, and communications templates. It provides a smaller set of options that each market is directed to follow.”
Back To Basics—And Back To The Future
The biggest problem CMOs face when embarking on global marketing projects, however, is the dearth of fundamental marketing skills and processes. “Gaps in core marketing operations will undermine execution,” Accenture’s Wollan says. Accenture’s recent CMO survey uncovered a chasm between importance of function and actual capabilities in that function in four areas: customer analytics, innovation, customer engagement, and marketing operations. Blame the economy and cutbacks in marketing staffing, but CMOs have to find a way to beef up those capabilities when going global. “Those are core elements they have to elevate when going after global marketing campaigns,” Wollan says.
Meanwhile, the age of digital marketing is both boon and bane to global marketing efforts. On the one hand, “it becomes even more difficult to maintain brand consistency and clarity of message online—and even more difficult, still, to track placement,” says Bace of Brinton Eaton. “With trends moving toward social media and digital placements, consistency of message and brand execution become even greater challenges, as consumers and others have the potential to weigh in with no restrictions.”
On the other hand, online and social media can provide a mother lode of data to inform global campaigns that—combined with all the other metrics marketing is throwing off—add up to not just Big Data, but Massive Data. “The attractiveness of digital consumers is that they leave digital footprints in the sand,” Wollan says. “But that [data] can quickly overwhelm the system [and] undermine performance.”
At a tactical level, global marketers have to deal with data in multiple languages, as well as find tools to analyze it that are relevant in both mature and emerging markets. Some of the information doesn’t inform global marketing planning or execution at all. There is a tremendous amount of data being created in the interest of measurement that is not connected to any kind of business outcome,” Wollan says. “Campaign performance is a relative measure and not an absolute business measure. It's easy to run the numbers on the performance of a digital campaign, and it's hard to connect it to a positive business outcome.”
CMOs embarking on multigeography projects can view a global campaign as an opportunity to embark on a “data weight-loss plan,” says Wollan. “They have a chance to lead the charge to re-evaluate the data, strategy, and execution across the enterprise.” The CIO can be the CMO’s best friend during the development of a global marketing effort, as well as during its execution and monitoring.
Now that Dell has launched its “power to do more” in Germany and the U.S., and the platform has been enacted globally, the focus is on follow-up. “We’ve embarked on a robust analytics process,” Dugan says. “Short-term, we’re looking at what’s happening each week and each month, but we’re also tracking how this impacts the business long-term.”
Developing a global platform requires stamina. “It’s a process,” Dugan says. “You have to understand your organization and how much research you need to do in each market to make sure everyone feels they have part in it. But now we feel that this is part of our DNA.” In the end, global marketing requires CMOs to answer the same questions required for any successful campaign, Dugan adds” “What is your brand promise? Are you delivering on it? And is it what customers want?”
“The struggle isn't necessarily the tangible operational complexity issue,” says Peters of ARRYVE. “It's the difficulty of ensuring that the messaging and tactics deployed globally actually engage and work in each market with acceptable effectiveness.”
Mastering the global positioning process remains critical for any globe-spanning marketing executive today. “The assumption that one brand means the same thing in all cultures is no longer relevant, but platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn make brands more globally visible than before,” Forrester's Cooperstein says. “Careful geographic targeting and recognition of cultural differences in how the brand or the industry is perceived must be considered for any brand that crosses geographic boundaries.”