glocal (managing marketing globally)




Global local mix.


This is about managing a global brand or communications and maximizing local/regional cultural purchase/brand triggers.


Yup. That’s glocal.






Mention global branding or managing global marketing communications and companies seem to get their panties in a wad.


That said.



Let’s begin with a big bang.


Ignore the whole idea of a global “big idea.”






Instead focus on the key small sharp insights (and what is most important to you – the brand – and what is most meaningful to potential customers) and put them in black non erasable magic marker in the center of the page <or the economic center of your potential business objectives>.



There is the key to global branding and marketing communications and whatever disparate business issue you may be struggling over.



Whew. Pretty simple.




I will write more and explain.



Some words I will use to keep in mind.



Transactional Branding – keeping the brand relevant wherever it may be to motivate transactions. Never lose sight of this. It doesn’t have any sexy words about brand building and such … but it works.



Controlled Autonomy – control the brand image/value and permit local executional flexibility.




Here we go.



Managing global brand communications certainly means having some innate sense of the complexities and uncertainties facing the organization growing beyond their traditional borders (by the way … managing internally within the organization is often more difficult than external implementation).



These days it takes successful intercultural technical communication and some good process and excellent organization of information in different related sections (so they are relatively easily accessible). That is actually easier than it sounded.  And, ultimately, there is someone that is the zookeeper for a lot of different animals making up a vast zoo mosaic of culture and communication (I will get to why I suggest it is kind of a zoo later on).



All that said it behooves you (especially in a global environment) to find a core idea & thinking and simplify it … well … so you can over-complicate something else (human nature).



And it helped if you simplify something in the middle or at the core/hub of everything you plan on thinking about or doing.




Regardless of how it is managed, you are (or should be) focused on, motivating consumers/purchasers around the world while evoking the same mental picture or image of the brand. Of course the main question global brand teams struggle with is whether ‘same’ means identical, quite similar or a bit similar. In other words, what should the degrees of freedom be in defining and communicating the global brand?



As far as I know … despite books and opinions and whatever … there is no one accepted ‘best practice’ so far.



Let’s say alternatives vary up and down a scale between literal (everything exactly the same with little flexibility) to figurative (logo, name and tagline as only common elements).



So possibly instead of best practices we should use common sense. Because if you do it is relatively easy to see that an organization well aligned on a brand culture (or essence or clearly defined positioning or whatever you want to call it) will have the ability to encourage more flexibility on a local/regional level (and I will get back to some efficiency on local/regional concept). <note: that is a good thing>



My belief is there must be some degrees of freedom to increase the brand’s transactions with added value across diverse markets and cultures.


Notice I focus on transactions and added value.



Everything comes down to brand value and sales.




small big great things

And all that revolves around having an idea (I hesitate to call it a global brand idea … let’s just call it a solid idea of what value your organization wants to consistently provide with its products & services) and not a global advertising idea (advertising is simply a means to an end  … an important means but simply a means).

Some people hold their brand definition as sacred and are quite literal in its articulation (lets call it centralized standardization).  Frankly I believe this is confining in its most important judgment … transactions (or transactions with value … so you are not a commodity or ‘low price provider’). Other hold the brand sacred but permit the simple use of marketing properties (logo, template look & feel, tagline/slogan, things like that) to help in the process. This direction allows those properties to often act as brand signals and permit some flexibility on how the idea can then be executed/ adapted for individual needs.






I do believe the key to global success is centralized focus with decentralized implementation (or articulation).



That’s a generalization but you get the idea.

This doesn’t mean extending high level of freedom all the time at a local regional level but certainly delegates some freedom in the interest of adding local value ON TOP of centralized brand value to increase transactions.



At JWT there were a slew of companies (brands) that fell into this type of thinking (DeBeers, Ford, Pepsi …. and Kodak was incredibly good at it even in the 90’s).  Heck. Even JWT itself does a great job globally. Some retail (with consumer and b2b) are excellent … Mailboxes.etc and Starbucks come to mind (one franchise and one not). IBM also gets the b2b global about as well as anyone does.



There are many today who are very good at the “controlled autonomy” philosophy.


Maintaining some alignment (which creates a cohesive brand personality in the end) to a global brand approach and permitting some local adaption/interpretation ultimately allows more flexibility in communicating it across markets and cultures (and is the best strategy for long term global brands).

The tricky part for the zookeeper is that everyone internally likes consistency. For example … “so you did this here and we should do this there.”

Well. No. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work that way.

And while there will certainly be some clustering there will almost always be some ad hoc ‘exceptions’ and the zookeeper has to be strong in exception management (but note … by permitting some exceptions some additional ‘groupings’ can arise over time which lead to ‘not an exception but something more standardized.”)


Whatever you end up doing (and how you manage it); of course, in the end it all comes down to the brand description (positioning) in that it has to be something that all markets find valuable (because it incorporates their company, consumer and competitive aspects).  The positioning should be mostly bland, more functional and straightforward (although some companies have some awesome brand personality descriptions which permit some creativity) but then it becomes the executional challenge to communicate this in some dramatic fashion to capture interest and intrigue.

Maybe it’s best to think of this global strategy/brand/communications thing as a three tier communications discussion:



–          Brand at the core. Solid. Unchanging. Concise. A strategic idea. Use this as the lens for the brand’s view of the world and as a platform for advertising and other communications and organizational tactics.



–          Features. Can be flexible. Particularly in regional/local articulation because certain features may relate (be relevant) more than others. This part can be very important in b2b or technical type products/services which are fighting to not be a commodity. As we all know, the best marketing ideas are relevant, distinctive and surprising … and it helps if they leverage from a relevant product feature.



–          Benefits. Solidly flexible. Huh? Company/brand benefit is what it is. Cannot change. It’s kind of what people would call “the value of your brand.” If you give that one up … well  … you quickly enter into commodity land … or becoming so fragmented you will mean nothing to everyone after awhile. Flexible means locally/regionally some things just may be more important (or relevant than others) so highlight them.








Here is where centralize versus decentralize often get into the mosh pit.



The single biggest hurdle that global advertising ideas stumble against is relevance. And this is for a very simple but complicated reason. The most universal, yet sharp and distinct, insight should be reflected in the positioning. And because it so distinct (when done well) it can become a struggle for marketing ideas to find additional aspects that are universally appealing and distinctive in whatever iteration explored and yet remain within the desired brand’s emotional space.

So, yes, leveraging from this insight becomes a task. And tasks can vary considerably by market/country/region.  The company brand is always undergoing development or erosion in consumers’ minds so the brand idea always has an opportunity to reshape consumer values and gain as a result.

This is where I am very very consistent.

Stagnant and unmoving means you have lost control in some sense. This doesn’t mean I advocate wildly flailing about with messaging but rather that while keeping the brand consistent it behooves you to move along (if not slightly ahead) of the market you are communicating with.


If you have the distinct brand core insight and you have the organization amenable to flexibility the most obvious concern that arises is “lack of control = inefficiencies.”

Okay. About local and regional and the perception of inefficiency.

Think of this one as having to have some patience.

If you are just beginning down the decentralization path (permitting flexibility regionally/locally) it can look like a frickin’ zoo for awhile. And it helps to have a great multi task zookeeper with a solid filter (although he/she won’t get them all correct you are hoping for at least an 80/20 win ratio). Patience is important because you are seeking patterns or ‘clustering.’  And sometimes conventional wisdom gets thrown a curve ball.

Especially in b2b markets I may add.

Conventional wisdom says start looking for geographical boundaries for clustering.

Ah. Not so fast my friends.

The zookeeper should just simply be looking for patterns.

B2b decision makers in Chile, Iceland, Estonia and Spain start seeking the same benefit patterns (okay. I just used those countries to make a point).  Sometimes it may look counter intuitive (and trust me  … explaining it in a senior management meeting is a nutsy conversation) but a pattern is a pattern is a pattern. And patterns create efficiencies. And efficiencies permit some consolidation of messaging and value propositions.

The zookeeper must understand the balance between global direction and local execution and how to make things (happen with executives, team members and agencies in multiple locations around the world.


Whatever role you play and regardless of how you define your attitude on global branding (global marketing, global whatever) it all comes down to successfully demonstrating the brand positioning and differentiating the products. Anything else kind of is moot. Or maybe better said a means to an end.


There has to be an understanding of cross-cultural business practices and cultural awareness. And managing global marketing takes an incredible sense of teamwork, diversity, and collaboration (within implementation team and senior management).

Okay. That was big picture stuff.

Ah, but.

Often the tricky part is actually in the details (not the big picture stuff that people seem to get their panties in a wad over).

Some nuances appear (but you can manage if you use some common sense).


The best (and clearest) example I could find of a ‘detail like thing’ comes from a blog called where the writer talks about communication, in the marketing and advertising sense, and how best to succeed  when trying to make it work across cultures, language and time zones.

Here is an example of attention to nuances:

–          The obvious language and cultural problems should be apparent to all but the most isolated recluse or hermit – which is no protection against daily faux-pas and minor slip-ups as we all recognize. Intriguingly, what is less apparent is how often technology, media and organizational structure are the true root of the problem.

Can or should Adwords be translated or is there a better way?

Search marketing is big and commands big spend in companies large and small with the demand for search analysts reaching the levels that html programmers achieved in the 90s. While the US market clearly leads the global field in terms of the adoption and sophistication of search marketing techniques, international brands are hungry to generate similar improvements in lead-generation and conversion across all their major markets, particularly the growing or more resilient ones.

While multilingual search engine optimization requires thought, structure and time, paid search does offer the promise of more instant gratification in terms of click-throughs and potential conversions.

If you know anything about Adwords you will be aware that they are made up of a list of trigger keywords, three fixed length lines of copy and two URLs. All of which have a specific role to play. Every component needs to be localized to suit the target local market, including the destination landing page.

Starting to have doubts about my “Simple, easy 4-step process?” If not, you should be. Have a look at the following sentence – lots of words all of them familiar but what does it mean?


Prices houses and cottages, Cottages and houses – Reviews and Prices, Forecasts cottage market

Here it is in its original and hopefully more recognizable form:


Цены на дома и коттеджи

Коттеджи и дома – обзоры и цены
Прогнозы коттеджного рынка



Prices houses and cottages
Cottages and houses – Reviews and Prices
Forecasts cottage market


What is interesting here is that the Russian search phrase used was “дом в финляндии” or “House in Finland” and we also tried “Property and Finland” (недвижимость в финляндии) but guess what is the most common search term for Russians looking for a house in Finland?

коттеджи в финляндии (Cottages in Finland)


Yes, ‘Cottages’, not house or property or even dacha, but ‘cottages in Finland’. Notice that whoever created this Adword knew that and made sure that house and cottage where not only in the Ad but also trigger keywords.

From this you can see how important it is to do proper local keyword research as part of your ‘Adword Translation’ process or you are going to both miss out on relevant searches and score a low Google quality rating. Which will either force your bid price higher or drop you down the sponsor list.

There are many more examples of nuances (which can have a big impact especially now in the b2b world where a lot of “pre-shopping” occurs online). But I would like to keep this writeup to some sane length.


That’s my 2 cents on managing global communications and brand and planning and implementation.

I owe a huge debt to J Walter Thompson who taught me more about positioning and creating a global brand idea (and the strategic underpinnings) in the early ‘90’s way before it became cool to be smart about these types of things.


Things have evolved since then.

But they were really really smart then. And they had been managing global businesses far longer than many of the current “experts” even at that time.

Good thinking is good thinking whenever it takes place.

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Written by Bruce