Major advertisers adopt more global outlook

04 May 2010

NEW YORK: Many major advertisers are set to adopt a more global outlook both in their communications and with regard to their overall strategy.

Forrester, the research firm, interviewed senior executives from 13 corporations including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Kimberly-Clark, Levi-Strauss, Mercedes-Benz and Pernod Ricard to establish their current views on marketing.

It found that the downturn and the rise of digital media were thought to have caused a convergence between previously distinct disciplines. At the same time, respondents reported fragmentation in consumer behaviour.

As a result of the combination of both trends, around 75% of companies said they expected to undertake substantial reforms relating to their marketing functions by the end of 2011.

Vodafone, the telecoms giant, recently began to consult staff on proposals to reshape its global marketing operations, while Coca-Cola is taking a similar approach in Europe.

According to Forrester, options open to brand owners looking to transform their "maladaptive" structures include being "totally global", "totally local" or falling "somewhere in between".

Identifying the appropriate model will require in-depth analysis of a firm's existing processes, and the habits of their customers.

Worldwide strategies appear to be the most likely to gain ground.

"This will be the year in which marketers get their house in order by forging internal consensus around a global strategy," Steven Noble, an analyst at Forrester, predicted.

While brands with an international reach enjoy a range of advantages, Noble suggested most have failed to leverage effectively the benefits this can provide.

"Global marketing is one big mess, and the CMOs who win will be those who … create a global marketing team that uses data and customer insight to learn, adapt, and grow in real time, anywhere in the world," he said.

More specifically, Noble cited the case of Unilever's "Dirt Is Good" campaign as an example of "when global and local pressures collide".

Unilever employed this platform to support four different brands – Persil, Skip, Via and Omo – with a variety of positionings in a number of different markets.

Omo itself is a high-end brand in Brazil, a mid-tier offering in Australia, France and South Africa and is no longer available in the UK and New Zealand, where Persil has taken on the premium role.

"Compare this to 'Marketing MBA Fantasy Land', where the perfect tagline falls out of the brand architecture, which aligns with the product offer and the product's corresponding position in the market," said Noble.

Elsewhere, Kraft is one organisation that has often adopted a localised portfolio, with the popularity of its Vegemite brand in Australia acting as one indicator of its success.

In contrast, Levi's jeans have a common appeal everywhere they are sold, meaning the company has essentially constructed a "global brand with global buyers," Noble said.

In keeping with Forrester's analysis, Powerade, the sports drink owned by Coca-Cola, is planning to run its first ever global ad campaign linked to the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

"[This] allows us to strengthen the brand and co-ordinate its messaging better, offering us more efficiency and effectiveness," Mary Merrill, Coca-Cola's global category director of sports for still beverages, said.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has also developed several multi-market initiatives to promote its beer brands during the World Cup, alongside taking a more nuanced approach in certain countries.

Data sourced from Forrester/Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff