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September 27, 1997. Globally Local Advertising

Author: Dr. Augustine Fou, go-Digital Internet Consulting Group, Inc.


     This short article is based on the comments and insights of the following advertising luminaries who debate the merits of global versus local campaigns, offer case studies of how a brand's essence should remain the same while local implementations vary, and address how the Internet affects world advertising.

Lee Johnson Worldwide Account Director, McCann-Erickson Worldwide

Arnie Arlow Partner and Creative Director, Margeotes Fertitta & Partners, Inc.

Jo Melvin Muse Chairman and Executive Creative Director, Muse Cordero Chen, Inc.

Elissa Moses Director of Global Consumer Intelligence, Philips Consumer Electronics

Chris Clark Senior Vice President, CGI Group.

      In this age of globalization, multi-culturalism, and falling borders, companies must be increasingly active in extending themselves globally, across cultures, and across borders not only to grow but also to grapple with global competitors that they never had before. The age-old art of advertising must parallel this evolution of attention and focus. Companies are no longer just selling to their own city or even their own country. They are selling to the world. Their name, brand, and image are now accessible to a global customer base. Will an advertising campaign made for one audience be acceptable to another, be understood in translation, or even convey the right message? Compound this complexity with the evolving customer, the moving target who is becoming more like a global citizen. And finally, add the Internet to the mix. As the new mass medium that sprang up virtually overnight, the Internet's characteristics of being global and individual at the same time present unique challenges to the way people deal with advertising.

      This article deals with the issue of global branding versus local branding. What part of the brand transcends borders, culture, philosophy, history, etc. And what parts are germane to a culture, a people, a language. To get at the answer we will look at case examples of well known brands. Characteristics of a brand campaign that are desirable include 1) having the name of the company or product in the advertisement, 2) some verbal or visual pun on the name or the product to increase recall, 3) the product itself as an integral part of the ad, and 4) a consistency among ads of the same campaign. And, as we shall see in the following case examples, the brand essence is what is global, transcending border, culture, and language. The delivery of the brand essence is what varies from one local market to another. And locality does not just mean geographic location; it refers to "like-mindedness" (e.g. common culture, language, religion, philosophy, etc.).

      The first series of examples comes from Arnie Arlow, Creative Director of Margeotes Fertitta & Partners. Absolut vodka is extremely well known due to a highly successful brand campaign which has all of the desirable ingredients mentioned above. The name Absolut is in each ad; there is a verbal and visual pun on the name (e.g. Absolut perfection bottle with an angel halo, Absolut Chicago bottle with the letters being blown off, Absolut citron orange motif for the flavored vodka, and even Absolute centerfold "nude" bottle for Playboy spread); the product is in it (highly recognizable bottle shape); and entire campaign is highly consistent. The brand essence of this colorless, odorless, and tasteless liquid underpinned the local variations. These "local" variations spanned geographic locations, cities, industries, celebrities, concepts and flavors. Another liquor campaign that was highly successful and highly consistent is the Stolichnaya vodka campaign. While Absolut is really a Swedish vodka, vodka is typically thought of as a Russian product. Drawing upon this, Stolichnaya which is actually the Russian vodka uses Russian motifs and artwork to brand itself. The tagline "Freedom of Vodka" conveys the freedom of choice to drink "Stoli" versus Absolut and be different. Finally, Blue Sapphire vodka presents another highly consistent campaign with its blue bottle next to different designer glasses, each the handiwork of a famous artisan. This campaign delivered Blue Sapphire's brand essence which was refined, artistic, and on a pedestal. These three examples clearly show how a brand essence can be global but the diverse variations, local.

      The next examples come from Jo Melvin Muse, Executive Creative Director of Muse Cordero Chen. Compared with the previous products, brands like NIKE have the more difficult task of conveying an intangible brand essence, the essence of sport. NIKE also had brand attributes attached to the company such as irreverent, unorthodox, and upstart. How could these attributes be conveyed across the world, across different sports, and across the diverse cultures and people of the world who watch these sports. People from Latin America had their own sports heroes and legends that were different from American or European sport heroes. People developed their own "relevancies," their own perceptions about the sport, and their own loyalties. For example soccer in America is very different than soccer in Latin America. Furthermore language didn't always translate well. Their solution was to use as few words as possible (sometimes no words), use local sports celebrities in the ads, convey the fun, energy, and excitement of sport, and always end with the NIKE swoosh. Using local celebrities, people could develop their own relevancies to the essence of sport, NIKE. So NIKE built their brand by "thinking globally and acting locally." A unified brand essence was delivered in different ways to local consumers.

      Elissa Moses, Director of Global Consumer Intelligence for Philips Consumer Electronics then addresses the issue of the convergence of cultures, led by the youth around the world. Due to rapidly evolving communications technologies the world is getting smaller and smaller. The media serves as a great global cultural unifier with brands like CNN and Reuters zipping worldwide news around the world in seconds. And the young people of today are global citizens and global consumers, aware of and participating in philosophical, cultural, fashion, and culinary trends around the world. How does a company like Coca Cola, Levi's, or MTV advertise to this global consumer? It is Elissa's viewpoint that while global culture continues to evolve rapidly, local ties are always maintained. Whether it is language, eating habits, or idiosyncrasies, the global citizen remains rooted. Similar to NIKE's campaigns, Coca Cola and MTV uses local talent and in-language variations of their ads for local markets. And, the fewer words, the better. Less is lost or misrepresented in the translation. Using images, sound, and action, the brand essence is delivered, and in some cases mixed with the viewer's own brand attitudes.

      Finally, Lee Johnson of McCann-Erickson Worldwide speaks to the concept of a brand "footprint." The analogy is taken from the dinosaurs. If an archeologist can reconstruct what the entire dinosaur looks like just from its footprint, then all of the local variations of a global brand can be constructed from the brand "footprint." This method of work helps to ensure that the local variations remain true to the brand essence, the "footprint." For example, Mercedes' brand footprint is "the engineering standard, the luxury standard, and the world of powerful wealth." However, BMW's brand footprint is "the performance standard, the world of the enthusiast, and dynamically successful." Having identified these differences, local variations will use suitable images, sound, and motion to convey the brand essence. The brand essence is what ultimately gravitates older, accomplished, wealthy persons to buy a Mercedes while it gravitates younger, dynamic, entrepreneurial persons to purchase a BMW. Another pair of examples is Waterman pens and Parker pens. Waterman stands for the "world of style" while Parker stands for the "world of craft." Therefore the Waterman ads place the pens in a highly fashionable context while the Parker ads literally zoom in to magnify the exquisite craftsmanship of the tip of the Parker pen. Again using images that are flavored by the locality, each ad stays true to its brand essence and gravitates a its target audience to itself.

      And now the Internet. The phenomenal growth of the Internet medium has made it a global mass medium in the short span of 4 years since the invention of the browser. The global nature of the medium is simply the endpoint of a globalization process already begun by other traditional media; it just happened a whole lot faster. So advertisers must deal with the global consumer now rather than ten years from now. Although the Internet presents new challenges for advertisers, it is a medium which also enables unique opportunities. Never before could companies so easily reach a global audience and at such low cost. Never before could companies so easily interact with their customers and get valuable demographic and personal information. And never before could companies use this information so easily to tailor a customized advertisement, product, or solution for each customer. Granted, the enabling technologies of the Internet do take time to evolve; but if advertisers utilize the tools that are available at any given stage of the evolution, they will have incredibly powerful new tools that were simply not available before. The lessons learned above apply on the Internet as well. The brand essence must be identified and made uniform across the entire campaign, no matter what medium is used to deliver the ads. The local variations can be endless. Especially with the Internet's ability to deliver to an audience of one, unimaginable variations and customizations can be achieved, all in good time.

     By combining the lessons learned from traditional advertising and the unique capabilities of the Internet medium, companies can now deliver to their consumer "globally local advertising."


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