Why your brand needs a ‘glocal’ strategy (and it’s not just a buzzword)

Azadeh Williams

Aussie brands serious about competing in a global marketplace are fast embracing the ‘glocal’ trend, but are they getting it right? We speak to brand, marketing and business experts to see why glocalisation is such a big buzzword in today’s digitally connected market.

So what’s the idea behind going glocal? It’s about boosting the strength of your global business offerings by customising your advertising and branding strategy to meet the cultural and consumer expectations of local markets. But according to Dr Matthew McDougall, founder and CEO of a cross-cultural digital marketing consultancy Digital Jungle, there are a huge number of considerations in determining the level of localisation required for taking a new product into a new market

“For example, when we work with FMCG brands from Australia or New Zealand and take them into China, we need to consider a very broad range of issues – including the use of local language, the ways we communicate the brand, position and heritage, imagery, product cost, consumer needs, ingredients, taste profiles, logo, tag line, brand name and channel to sales,” he explains.

“All of these considerations have their own set of nuances but without a clear view on the target consumer, many brands will fail to engage and connect with the new market.”

Understand how to tell a great story

Dr McDougall says a good glocal-savvy marketer takes a strong story-telling approach that is sensitive to local cultural nuances and expectations.

“For Western markets where English language is common, the considerations are more along the type and nature of the communications being expressed,” he adds. “Brands are often taking a ‘story telling’ approach and therefore need to find relevant narratives and context that work for that specific target audience.  For example, the US market and UK market tend to respond differently to humor and therefore the marketer would need to customise the campaign idea to be able to accommodate both markets.”

Prioritise the market

Claire Mula, co-founder of connected shopping platform, Sprooki, stresses that unless your product is infinitely scalable or goes viral from day one and requires none-to-low sales and marketing resources, you will need to prioritise the markets you address first.

“Before taking your existing brand, positioning and simply translating this to a global audience, look at your competitors who are also operating at a global or regional level,” she says. “How do they position their brand, what benefits or features do they emphasise? What makes you unique or different from them? Going global with a too similar product in a market which is covered by incumbents is often hard to crack. Getting your first reference customers will be key to validating if you should be investing in this market at all.”

Sophie McGill, APAC executive director of mobile talent platform, Megastar Millionaire agrees, and stresses a good glocal strategy should include both hyperlocal and social as well local consumer insights.

“If possible, work with a local partner to help implement the campaign and maximise effectiveness within different markets,” she says. “Work with different talent - much of today's brand messaging is delivered through established audiences and trusted talent. By understanding your audience, their behaviours, their existing habits and communities, you will have much greater insight into taking your brand via a trusted source and it resonating with a much broader global audience.”

Will ‘Aussie made’ get you by?

For Exportia Australia’s managing director, Christelle Damiens, while simplicity is the key to a brand’s story being relevant in a global market, and the message, a focus on ‘Aussie owned and made’ may not always cut it.

“Generally speaking, remove the ‘Australian made & owned,’” she says. “It’s great for your domestic market, but overseas it doesn’t provide the same gravitas or assist you in the same way.

“Start-ups often imagine the big picture and imagine their product would appeal to the vast majority of the world population,” she adds. “The reality is that it won’t all happen at once. Products will rarely be attractive for an American client and a Chinese client at the same time and with the same message and positioning. For a start-up in the B2B space for example, they will target Europe, or the US, or China – but not all at once.”

But Roland Tam, co-founder of online self-storage solutions company Spacer, disagrees. He  believes Australia as a country itself enjoys a strong global brand and the local brands that have "made good" globally typically are those who have levered

off their "Australian-ness.”

“They’re portraying themselves as representative of the positive things that our country personifies,” he argues. “Some really strong examples of this are Blackmores, wine labels Yellow Tail and Penfolds Grange as well as athletic brand Skins.”

CEO of gaming app company, Animoca Brands, Robby Yung, believes there is no simple answer to how to adapt the ‘Australian-ness’ of your brand, as it largely depends upon what your target demographic is and what types of problems your product is meant to solve.

“For consumer brands, Jurlique and Aesop have found places in a global skincare industry dominated by European and American brands by fitting in, whereas Billabong and Quicksilver thrive by extolling their Aussie lifestyle heritage as part of their brand,” he explained. “Ultimately, the key is to know your customer, and then you can adapt your product offering appropriately.”

Azadeh Williams

Azadeh Williams is a former business and finance news editor at Thomson Reuters, Azadeh Williams has written over 3,000 articles in her 15-year international career on business, technology, marketing and innovation for the likes of The Times, CMO Magazine and Fast Business. She has also lectured in business journalism and media law at Macleay College. 

Image: IQRemix, Flickr Creative Commons License