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How global brands can build consumer affinity in local markets

How global brands can build consumer affinity in local markets

By Kate Williams, Managing Director of Columbus Media International.

As the only global platform that has individual reach, digital marketing embodies the philosophy that successful strategies come from a strong understanding of local markets.

In advance of Columbus’ Cannes seminar this year – run in partnership with cross cultural marketing agency Textappeal - we were preparing to launch a report about digital marketing. We presented this report – ‘Digital Across Culture’ – to over 400 Cannes delegates on the opening day of the festival.

‘Digital Across Cultures’ features campaigns that demonstrate how striking universal commonalities, as well as key cultural differences, have affected brands’ marketing techniques.

In Cannes, we took our audience through the five universal rules of digital engagement that the report has identified. Thanks to the insight of Textappeal’s 1470 local strategists and copywriters across the world, as well as knowledge sharing across Columbus’ 28 partner agencies, we have been able to present some of the best digital marketing campaigns from across the world to illustrate the various digital techniques. 

Each of the five themes has one thing in common – integrating imaginative and interesting ideas with individual, cultural relevance. Some campaigns focus on concepts that transcend national and cultural boundaries; others capitalise on regional idiosyncracies in both the creation and execution of the campaigns.

1. Push the boundary: Bring the brand proposition to life with format firsts that reflect its personality – plus crossing the boundaries previously imposed by non-digital advertising formats

A vehicle glass repair company in Germany used this technique to highlight their services. As a vivid illustration of the potential dangers of ignoring a damaged windscreen, Carglass ran a dramatic mobile media campaign informing consumers of their service.

Utilizing a Flash layer animation that covered the phone’s display holohedrally, the interstitial appeared to splinter the screen as the phone itself vibrated. It was the world’s first interstitial with simultaneous layer, sound and vibration.

This shock tactic is well adjusted to markets that have high-speed technical infrastructure for mobile - where the phone is not just a communications device, but has become the most precious, intimate extension of people’s lives wherever they go.

2. Find what’s fun: Engage consumers with entrainment sites and games that subtly add value – converting the advertising into the content

How straight or gay are your Tweets? This fascinating, witty site, launched by Stockholm Pride, analyses the vocabulary used in Twitter feeds to determine the heterosexuality percentage of the Tweeter. The campaign focuses on how heterosexual norms affect the everyday lives of homosexuals, bisexuals and transpersons, and consequently, society as a whole.

Sweden, like other parts of Northern Europe, puts high value on a consensus-driven culture, and is intent on avoiding marginalisation. This campaign encourages people to accept and embrace difference – starting with their own.

3. Make Sense: Enhance brand values by building on meaningful ideas - mixing style and imagination with universally relevant themes

Sometimes, superglobal is no match for hyperlocal. Suspecting that in Finland, Google was not always the best option for local language searches, - the Finnish equivalent - chose to position itself as the place to find all local information.

By creating search boxes as online banner ads, instant trial was immediately generated. Sponsored links on the rival Google site reinforced the message that local language was preferable and weekly site visits increased from 50,000 to 277,000, raising from 55th to 14th amongst Finnish sites.

With the hype around digital brands, it is easy to forget that most of the buzz is in English, and therefore not accessible to 98% of the world’s population outside of English native speaking countries.

4. Seize the story: Tell a story that captures the collective imagination, thus generating a natural, unstoppable momentum

Shy Italian Giovanni, falls in love with his beautiful neighbour Gaia. She says she will kiss him only if 50,000 people ask her to. So Giovanni produces a video and asks for help on Facebook.

The much-loved confectionary brand Baci Perugina (meaning kiss in Italian) becomes an independent supporter of Giovanni’s initiative. Within 10 days, there are 50,000 emails, thousands of visitors to the Baci Perugina site and an impressive number of hits on YouTube. Gaia and Giovanni kiss.

Traditionally in Italy - a conservative and almost exclusively Catholic society - families and the Church were deeply involved in the validation of an appropriate romantic partner. Digital participation turns authority on its head, and allows the masses - and a brand - to become the validating party.

5. Go ‘hyperlocal’: Take a global concept and with local knowledge, understanding and talent, make it locally (and individually) relevant

Coca-Cola’s “happiness factory” campaign was created in the United States and used around the world. It was a global success in most markets thanks to energetic creative work and the promise of instant gratification. It is about enjoying life’s simple pleasures with Coca-Cola, positivity, optimism and fun.  

This concept of happiness is accepted and celebrated in America. However, this is not the case in southern European countries like Portugal and Spain. There, the culturally accepted form of happiness is more connected with lasting things like birth and family. Thus different versions of the ads were used to reflect different local realities.

In addition to a different TV campaign, a website was created for Spanish and Portuguese audiences. People could post their own personal moments of happiness (rather that coca-cola imposing its own meaning of happiness). The site allows users to share their messages with others via pictures, voice clips and happiness stickers.

The ad itself used softer imagery of a baby, with an old man narrator. The key line is, “What would you like to say to someone who is just about to be born in a moment like this”. The message is clearly in line with simple pleasures and happiness in life – i.e. a moment of birth. It kept the central happiness theme but transformed it to into something more culturally relevant to Spain and Portugal.

The Spanish and Portuguese campaigns focus on a longer-term kind of happiness than in the United States, more relevant to societies where kinship and family relations remain vitally important in how people live and work. Thanks to digital, happiness is one word with many different meanings.

There are thousands of other examples across the world – and 45 more in our report. We gathered the case studies in response to an increasing demand from our clients, and other international brands, for insights and examples of the latest, greatest digital work.

The huge team involved in the selection process covers 70% of the world’s markets and population and each campaign was chosen carefully on the basis of strong consumer engagement.

‘Digital Across Cultures’ shows that local knowledge is more important than ever for global success. It demonstrates an exciting number of digital opportunities. It is important to remember that these opportunities present a converse and ever-growing threat. In one click, a brand can upset one thousand people.

At the speed of digital, entire communities can be alienated. Every international brand needs to be aware of activity in other markets, both to inspire other great digital ideas and in order to create nimble, country specific tactics.

The Columbus/Textappeal report can be accessed here:

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