The 80’s bought about the idea of the ‘global brand’ – having a single identity and brand positioning replicated across the world like an emanating echo of meaning. However, the reality has been a little different; particularly within FMCG, as line extensions to brands have driven sales – and at such a pace.
This pace of change has been most apparent for consumer goods and, within that, grocery more so than corporate or luxury.
Therefore, seeing global signs and signals for banks or cars kind of works, essentially due to consumer drivers being based on reassurance or status associated to the host country.
But this global shift seems to work less well when consumers desire new-ness or convenience at an everyday needs level.
So like all great ideas they move on, hence the term ‘Glocal’ (acting local in a global framework) – a marketing concept that has been bandied about for years but that brand owners are only just starting to act upon rather than just pay lip service to.
So what does it really mean? Being truly ‘Glocal’ is identifying global attributes and meaning associated to a brand but allowing for local variations that reflect the meaning which is relevant to individual cultures. The benefit of ‘Glocalism’ is it’s more likely to connect on an emotional level. Even if a brand demonstrates it is relevant to local consumers through a functional line extension, they are trying to resonate more and that creates an emotional connection.
Although many brands are still adopting the carbon copy brand strategy of the 80’s, the days of the brand that preached to local markets from afar seems to be numbered. So it is no surprise that brands which identify a local meaning and tap into a relevant desire appear to be on the increase…
Mars’ Galaxy/ Dove chocolate always had a different name in the UK versus the US and continental countries but all were positioning around female indulgence, as reflected in its ‘chocolate signature’ brand icon that has been adopted worldwide. But how is the brand adapting to local needs?
- In the US the brand was elevated within grocery through the use of unusual flavours and formats to create a platform to extend further and drive credibility
- A more recent strategy in the US has been to move the Dove brand away from grocery confectionery and into the home kitchen environment with their ‘Chocolate Discovery’ concept which centres around a sponsored Mars Chocolatier
Other interesting examples are Philadelphia and Ponds. Philly cream cheese became far more indulgent with its launch of a chocolate variety. In the UK and the continent the indulgence came from the sub brand brand being Cadbury or Milka, and all the associations of confectionery. The global brand mark is retained as a consistent global icon. However, the strategy to tap into local markets appears to have been one based on line extensions:
- Convenient cooking sauces fit with a local convenience need state for the UK and also Australia. The strategy fits well with Philadelphia’s heritage reflected in the global brand identity without too many shocks for local markets!
However, look at how Philly US has pushed that into an overt brand positioning for its local market using its sub brand ‘indulgence’ which introduces chocolate dipping sauces to make even the most ordinary snacks into something special. The global brand identity is still featured but does this stretch the brand too far leaving a question mark around credibility in the minds of the local consumers? This brand launch certainly seems less appropriate for some of the EU markets even if it is working on a local level for the US.
Ponds is another brand that has looked at global opportunities in a very local way. The classic Ponds brand and its characteristic jar still exists to its hardcore fans in the UK. However, it has positioned itself as an indulgent cosmetic brand for the South American market.
This premium positioning has also filtered into India and Asia Pacific with their ranges tapping into a very local need for skin whitening products.
It does feel like brands are starting to understand the need for global attributes but realise that concentrating solely on the global is likely to alienate. Understanding what meaning is associated to the brand can help a global brand transition into local markets.
Identifying local requirements at a visual brand level and looking at line extensions that resonate with local markets is key. A shift has occurred and brands that are still trying to retro fit global values and beliefs into very specific local markets do so at their peril.