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Global Advertising

Note to speaker: The following speech entitled "The Joys and Pains of Going Global" was provided by Ogilvy & Mather. It was presented at the Roper/ASW Conference on February 6th, 2003. The presentation talks about the subject informally, so you will want to use your own words and examples where possible, or better, adapt the presentation style to your own global story.

When I hear marketers cheerfully announce that they're fulfilling a dream and "going global for the first time", I get a deep chill. Do they really know what stuff these global dreams are made of? Here is some of the fun.

First, let's imagine that you're the global marketing leader on IBM and are gearing up to launch a huge new global campaign about the future of the web and technology - - called e-business. Just as you're getting serious about it, you get a call from your colleagues in Europe.

"There's absolutely no way that e-business will work here, so we're doing something different. The business Internet is just a US phenomenon. And also, the Red 'e' you're thinking of using looks just like an Ecstasy tablet, and all the senior executives in Europe are worried about promoting drug use to teenagers."

Hold that thought.

Next, let's imagine you are the global brand manager on Dove beauty bar. You have a runaway success in many markets - - the launch of Dove Shampoo. You have been testing and learning in each of your rollout markets, and a winning formula is emerging: Use real-woman testimonial advertising with plenty of hair & beauty shots.

You propose this for Malaysia, but the local marketing manager becomes enraged. In his market, he says, it is insulting for women to show off their hair in public. He insists that they do a new local Malaysian campaign to launch Dove Shampoo.

Finally, a new CEO blows into town in your company (or at your client). He was a big success in his home country and is full of ideas on how to improve things - fast - - in his new assignment. And he's also made it pretty clear that people who stand in his way and defend the old- local way of doing things - - will be seen as 'not on the new team.' You have your first big meeting in two weeks to set the tone of your relationship.

Welcome to Global Brand Management.

Having been involved in global marketing for over twenty years, I am battle-scarred and humbled enough to tell you there are no easy answers.

But I have experienced enough successes and failures to give you some useful strategies for managing in this time of uncertainty. And here goes.

1. Start with a common marketing currency
2. Use 'intelligent adaptation'
3. Activate the human factor. It accounts for > 50%

Let's begin with the fundamentals. On every global assignment, you must start with a common marketing currency.

What this means is you cannot escape doing the basic research homework to get at the marketing and brand fundamentals.

You can't assume your way to success; you need the local market insights. And it is important that you use a common methodology, because the results must be comparative.

Without this, you will always be arguing over whether "it's different around here".

Back in 1994, IBM made a bold decision to hire Ogilvy as its sole global communications agency. And we made a pretty bold move to resign Microsoft and Compaq in order to take them on.

At the beginning, we had heaps of data, and not much insight. We started with some crude market-by-market comparisons of important business metrics - - market development, market share, sales penetration, competitive development, distribution channels, etc. to give us a broad basis for comparison.

But quantitative data alone wasn't going to do the job. So one of the very first things we did was a Global Brand Audit. Over a ten-week period, we did deep qualitative research among IBM's employees, customers and prospects in 18 countries.

The purpose of the research was to establish the fundamental truths about the IBM brand. And to see if these truths varied globally.

We deliberately used a common methodology - - and a core team of researchers with international experience. We found that there were five core truths about IBM, and that they were remarkably consistent around the world.

1. IBM is trustworthy
2. IBM stands behind its customers
3. IBM has patents in the lab, but not in the market
4. IBM is arrogant and bureaucratic
5. IBM just makes 'big hardware'

Our first major effort was "Solutions for a small planet" - - and here is some of the early work.

Let's fast forward a few years from 1994 to 1997 when we actually faced the e-business challenge from Europe I mentioned at the outset. Europe said 'it can't work here'. Here's what we did.

First, we did a thorough study of actual business Internet adoption rates in Europe, and compared them to the US. We found that, while rates varied widely in Europe from North to South, they were surprisingly close to the US, and projected to close the gap in the next two years. The bottom-line conclusion was that e-business could be relevant.

As for the Red 'e' and Ecstasy, we took about a week to do some homework - -talking to IBM execs, using our network offices to get the real scoop, and double-checking our trademark protection. The Ecstasy issue sounded both ridiculous and terrifying. It turned out to be a red herring.

We then presented the quantitative and qualitative findings face to face to the senior IBM executives in Europe. We highlighted both the local data and the equivalent data for the US. They collectively bought into the relevance of e-business, we went ahead with the launch, and it became a big success in Europe.

Here's a recap of the global results of e-business.

  • Share price: $40 > $80
  • Brand Equity: + X Billion. Now # 3
  • Lead generation: 30% lift in efficiencies
  • Leadership ratings: a leader again
  • Global success: all major markets
Let's return to our Dove Shampoo launch in Malaysia. What would you do?

Here's an example of the 'winning formula" that had worked in many countries, including several in Asia. Was the local management's insistence just "not invented here syndrome", or something legit.

Well the truth is, while Malaysia has a large Chinese community, the majority are Muslim. And among Muslim women it is culturally and religiously inappropriate to show their hair. Once we established this, we worked with the local team to adapt the advertising to have the "real women" only talk about their hair and the benefits of Dove - - and never actually show it.

Well, here's what we actually developed for Malaysia. It is true to the strategy. True to the spirit. But it perhaps one of the only hair products commercial you'll ever see that never shows any hair.

A smart decision. Dove Shampoo was a runaway success in Malaysia, as it had been in other markets. A local winner and a global winner.

This is a good example of Principle # 2 - "Intelligent adaptation".

  • There is no one answer to finding the right strategy for your global brand.
  • It's a continuum, and you need to find the Smart Zone that fits your situation.

At one extreme is 'mindless global consistency' where the client, or the agency, decides that it's simpler or cheaper or easier to control if all markets just do what they're told and run the 'centrally developed work'. This is a losing strategy.

At the other end of the spectrum is another loser - - Parochial Self-interest, or 'Not Invented Here Syndrome'.

At either of these extremes, the facts don't seem to matter, and the customer doesn't seem to matter. It's about emotion and self-interest.

But good global marketers equip themselves with the comparative facts and the openness of mind to sort out the real differences from the myths and B.S.

On IBM, the best approach is about one third of the way along the continuum. It makes sense to have lots of central origination, but there is flexibility invested in our regional and local markets.

Dove is in a similar zone, while many other Unilever brands are highly decentralized, far towards the right.

"Intelligent adaptation" is skill of finding what is core, what travels well, and what needs to be adapted.

Religion, regulatory, and major competitive issues are good examples of big structural differences that do need to be addressed.

Ogilvy & Mather in Canada often asked: If it works in the US, will it work here?

Patriotism is alive and well in both countries, but it is expressed in a completely different way. In the US, it is OK to be loud and proud. There is a high regard for explicit symbols of patriotism that just doesn't exist in Canada.

The keys to 'intelligent adaptation' are:

  • Getting local input early
  • Actively challenging the Not Invented Here syndrome.
  • (You are open, but can't be hoodwinked)
  • Listening to the customer. Test. Compare.

Here are some other examples of how to 'intelligently adapt' communications.

First, an adaptation of a famous campaign for American Express called "Do You Know Me." It uses a European born celebrity to add local relevance to a global campaign.

And here's how we intelligently adapted a global spot on Supply Chain Management for IBM for use in Japan. The topic was good and the original US execution pulled it off well - - using a rhyming wordplay to show how a company needs to think of its supply system all the way up the chain.

Not, what do you do for Japan? The topic is highly relevant, but the execution simply cannot work in Japanese.

The Ogilvy & IBM team in Tokyo took the proven approach and intelligently adapted it - - less word play, and a fun new twist at the end. The customer who is looking for an out-of-stock item is eventually found to be the source of the supply problem in the first place.

Win. Win.

Sometimes the answer is to do an extremely faithful adaptation - - or heaven forbid - - even a dub.

Is it OK to dub? Almost never. Except when it can be done so skillfully that the commercial is famous even its own local market, as this one was:

Here are some other examples of how to dial up the local relevance.

To show how 'e-business' was becoming a movement, we featured not only American companies, but also a wide range of international 'celebrity' companies like Vespa motor scooters, Yamaha pianos, French fashion houses, and events like Wimbledon and French Open tennis.

So, once you have established the common marketing currency, sorted out the big differences from the myths, and done your intelligent adaptation, your job is probably 50% done.

The other half is all about the human factor.

In the "old days" we'd chose people to do global jobs for a variety of reasons:

  • Maybe they were willing to put up with red-eye flights
  • Or had a high tolerance for exotic foods
  • Or could speak a second language
  • Maybe they'd fit neatly into a Coach seat during redeye flights
  • Or maybe you couldn't give them a raise or promotion, so you added 'global' to their title

These are all pretty lame ways of choosing the right people for global assignments.

Global leadership is now becoming a disciplined profession, and the best ones seem to exemplify:

  • Cross-border thinking - - wired to think of the whole pie, not the slice
  • Intellectual openness & cultural appreciation (No Hamburger-eating Yanks)
  • Explicit sense of fairness - - because distance = suspicion
  • Accountability - - no global floating - 'I thought he was in France'

The best ones also have superb capacity, because it's they face a huge volume of problems coming in from all quarters.

To me, it's like that midway game "Whack a Mole" - - they give you a hammer and you have to whack the little gophers when they pop their heads up.

The human factor is so important because face-to-face is still by far the best way to do global business. In my experience, every single successful global marketing initiative had a huge jolt of face-to-face contact.

Accept no substitutes.

E-mail is great for distributing neutral information. And as we all know, it is world's best medium for rapidly escalating violence.

Video-conference calls are cheaper than getting on an airplane, but about 10% as effective.

Because of time zone differences, when Asia calls Europe, I guarantee you that someone is already pissed off.

For whatever reason, people come to a common view when they eat together, drink together, laugh together, smell each other. And over time, come to trust each other.

So, there you have some ideas on how to make global brands in these uncertain times.

The three core strategies are simple, but essential:

1. Common marketing currency
2. Intelligent adaptation
3. The human factor

At the end of it all, global brand management can be fun.



Ogilvy & Mather

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