Global versus local advertising is something multinational marketers
have been wrestling with over the past few years. The efficiencies related
to cutting production costs via a global campaign are very appealing to
corporate bean counters. However, many international brands are implementing
local campaigns, or at least tweaking global efforts, in the realization
that TV executions often don’t effectively transcend borders. According
to a study released by ACNielsen late last year, there are relatively
few brands - only 43 - that can be considered global brands, with annual
worldwide sales of more than US$1 billion. The leading category is beverages
and its leader is Coca-Cola, which logs over US$15 billion in sales. So
Coca-Cola would seemingly have the most to gain from a global campaign
agenda. Yet, the Atlanta-based company is backing away from the global
strategy launched just a year ago. Its "Life tastes good" campaign
hasn’t lifted Coke’s sluggish North American sales over the
past two years, according to financial reports. Although a consistent global
positioning and strategy will be developed at its Atlanta-based headquarters,
Coke’s new approach will be less rigid. Local Coke marketers will
be guided by Atlanta and tailor the campaign according to market needs
rather than have to execute a script developed in a central location.
Perhaps most indicative of how much leeway is allowed: Stephen Jones,
Coca-Cola’s worldwide chief marketing officer, stated recently in
the marketing publication Marketing Week that the "Life tastes good"
tag will disappear in most countries and could be replaced by regional
rather than universal theme lines in others.
Mars Inc. has begun a "local" strategy for its rebranding of
Mars Bar across Europe. Individual taglines have been created to appeal
to the various cultural differences of each country.
The call to candy bar lovers in the U.K. is "Pleasure you can’t
measure" while their counterparts in Germany and France will be targeted with "It
is Mars - that’s it" and "Mars - What happiness."
Alan Kay, president of Toronto consulting firm The Glasgow Group, says
product category should be a key factor in the decision of whether to
run with a global campaign. He says technology and apparel brands tend
to travel well, while food, beverage and packaged goods fall prey to obstacles
such as cultural differences, brand experience, category development and
And while some packaged goods firms believe what works in one country
often works in another, "how you promote Tide in the U.K., versus the U.S., versus Thailand really does need a lot more attention paid to consumer behaviour,"
says Kay. For many countries outside of North America, he adds, mainstream
brands such as Coca-Cola or Tide would be luxury brands for the "wealthy."
Kay says cultural differences are most evident in food categories where
there are not only regional taste issues but also category development
obstacles. One example he points to is Oreo. It is a popular North American
cookie brand but as a chocolate-based biscuit with iced filling, it is
not a brand that does well in the U.K. because that segment of the category
is not well established there.
Even in categories where global advertising is feasible, some companies
believe you must still address each region specifically for some brands.
IBM found the face it presented to the world can be coherent without
entailing rigid adherence to a cookie-cutter approach. Keyvan Cohanim,
VP of marketing and communications for IBM Canada, says it is very important
for IBM to have a common look and feel around the world in the 160 different
countries in which it operates. "We’re really trying to portray
ourselves as a single global company. The IT industry we participate in,
the services area of consulting with customers, and the solutions we talk
about are all applicable globally."
Cohanim says this standardization began in the early ’90s when
the company operated under a different model, one where every country
pretty much did its own thing and IBM had a different image in each place.
For global customers it must have been very confusing, says Cohanim, and
that’s when IBM moved from a total of 88 different ad agencies to
just one - Ogilvy & Mather. "We ensured that we had a common
message around what our strategy and our value was to the marketplace.
That started with ‘Solutions for a Small Planet’ and evolved
to our current e-business sub-brand and strategy."
Still, he says there is flexibility to tweak a campaign, and that will
happen with the new US$375 million global campaign, "E-Business is
the Game. Play to Win." The campaign launches next month and the
Toronto office of O&M will be tailoring it by adding some Canadian
IBM customers to the spots, which feature international companies reaping
the benefits of IBM’s e-business solutions.
While messaging is consistent, Cohanim says that often the timing is
different from country to country where category development, economic
factors and even regulatory elements come into play. Wireless technology
for business applications is one example. Cohanim says the U.K. is probably
18 months ahead of Canada in establishing a wireless infrastructure (facilities
and equipment) while Canada is about a year ahead of the U.S.
Indeed, marketers in most categories are finding that a mix of global
positioning with local advertising is the best recipe. The Coca-Cola Company,
for example, recently pulled back from its global advertising strategy
to take a more regional approach.
The branding and positioning of Coca-Cola will continue to be consistent
around the world, says Alison Lewis, VP of advertising for Toronto-based
Coca-Cola Ltd., but how it is executed locally is based on what is best
for each market. Currently, 30% to 40% of the company’s advertising
is made specifically for the Canadian market.
"A Coke is a Coke is a Coke no matter what country you go to, however
the local activation is different so you won’t see exactly the same
advertising. In Canada we’ve got to do what’s right for the Canadian
market and the Canadian consumer," says Lewis, who adds that marketing
schemes developed at the soft drink manufacturer’s Atlanta-based
headquarters will still be used in Canada "where it makes sense."
One example of how Coke’s strategy is working is with the new Sprite
spot from Cossette Communication-Marketing of Toronto that builds on Sprite’s
global positioning around basketball, but features the Toronto Raptors’
feisty star Jerome "Junk Yard Dog" Williams. Around the Olympics,
Coca-Cola’s nostalgic "He Shoots. He Scores" commercial
from MacLaren McCann resonated with Canadians in a way that no offshore
campaign could have.
And a made-in-Canada commercial is still on the air to support last fall’s
launch of Diet Coke with Lemon. The U.S. decided not to support the launch
with television advertising, but in Canada Lewis says they wanted to get
the broadest reach and maximum awareness of the product as quickly as
possible. Television, she says, was the best vehicle to accomplish that.
Rick Wolfe, president of PostStone, a Toronto research and strategic
planning company, says unless results of global campaigns are fantastic,
there is going to be constant pressure from local marketers to tailor
advertising for the unique needs of their marketplace.
Wolfe was an account executive on the Coca-Cola business at McCann-Erickson
(now MacLaren McCann) when Stephen Jones of Coke was brand manager on
Sprite in Canada. At that time, they worked with their bosses to prepare a presentation
to the head of global advertising for Coca-Cola on why Sprite advertising
in Canada should be local.
Wolfe says, "If Coca-Cola and other global marketers are moving
away from global campaigns, it would seem they can’t find global
consumer segments big enough to market to. But none of that invalidates
a global brand.
"You can still have a strong global brand identity and still have
a positioning in different markets that is tuned to the needs of the marketplace."
He says brands have histories and those are the intangibles that push
global marketers to local campaigns. A case in point is Kraft Dinner.
"There’s a real Canadian heritage for that brand," explains
Wolfe. "There are all these built-up memories and feelings about
Kraft Dinner from the experiences we had in college."
However, he adds: "There are different rituals about going to college
in the U.S. and no amount of advertising could turn Kraft macaroni and cheese
into the same brand there."
Unilever, one of the world’s largest marketers, has worldwide agency
relationships but relies heavily on localized advertising. Notable successes
in Unilever’s decision to go local include Sunlight laundry detergent’s
long-running "Go ahead. Get dirty" campaign, as well as Lipton
Chicken Noodle Soup and Dove.
Stephen Kouri, VP of brand development, personal care for Unilever,
says with a big company like Unilever it’s very important to find
the right balance of global and local advertising. Brand propositions
travel well, but TV executions may not, he says.
"It really depends on the situation of the brand, the brand proposition
and certainly in our case, we’re encouraged to use advertising from
the U.S. or afar when it’s good and when it’s right."