Regardless of the punch they pack in their launch markets, most brand campaigns have their impact diluted once they roll out globally. We’ve seen it happen time and time again.
Why? Because there isn’t a singular vision for other territories to buy into.
Communicating the campaign idea to your regional counterparts and specialist partners means juggling a broad network of stakeholders, many of whom have their own agenda. After the brand toolkit travels to different regions, there’s that familiar tirade of feedback detailing all the things that fail in situ – practically, culturally or creatively.
It’s challenging to know what ‘consistency’ even looks like in a world where always-on 360 brand campaigns are fast becoming table stakes. The goalposts constantly shift. Content grows exponentially, so it’s a struggle to stay consistent across every new iteration.
With all this in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that brand consistency is so rare on a global scale. It’s a tough brief.
The dangers of tramlined thinking
Part of the problem is that most global campaigns still have their roots firmly in traditional marketing. The whole structure is based on which touchpoint is released first: usually static materials, packaging and key visuals.
Once these are produced by one agency, other agencies come on board to tackle other touchpoints. Retail specialists. PR and content agencies. Animation houses. TVC agencies, which in turn manage directors, videographers and photographers.
It’s a lot to expect of the marketer in the centre to join the dots between all of these. Each of those individual agencies is allowed a certain amount of creative interpretation within their discipline – and soon, the campaign starts to drift.
The territory in which a global campaign is launched also has a big influence on its look and feel. This is usually the region with the deepest pockets – often the US or UK. When all the initial focus is on that key market, there may not be enough consideration of how aspects such as photography, typography or illustration will be adapted elsewhere.
And when the campaign lands in a region that doesn’t have the funds or design capabilities to easily flex it to their needs, that’s when brand consistency suffers.
A photoshoot art directed with a primarily white audience in mind, for instance, is unlikely to work in predominantly non-white markets, such as Asia or Africa. Local partners need guidelines for capturing new assets, while staying faithful to the essence of the campaign.
Does that killer tagline work as well in translation as it does in English? Do local markets have the flexibility to adapt campaign messaging for audiences in China, Japan or Russia? It’s very rare for any of this to be considered upfront.
Really understanding those regional needs, and having them on the table from the outset, is one of the biggest challenges of globalising a campaign.
So, what’s the solution?
Someone must steer the entire campaign from the centre, with a holistic global vision.
That pivotal role may come from within a brand’s internal marketing team. But a trusted partner agency can bring new depth and breadth of experience to the table.
You need three things: the strategic oversight to position the campaign on a global stage; the creative intelligence to determine its overall look and feel, including what must stay consistent and what can flex; and, crucially, an understanding of the nuances of rollout across different touchpoints and territories.
You must see the campaign as a global ecosystem, ditching the old-world mindset of static ‘hero’ materials that define everything else in turn. To succeed, you need a truly digital-first perspective, approaching every touchpoint as part of a greater whole.
Global brands put an enormous amount of work into their real-world consumer experience. But most still struggle to achieve the same impact in the digital realm.
It starts with putting the right idea at the heart of it all: a simple yet compelling brand story that can be retold in countless ways across different touchpoints without losing its edge.
Too many campaigns have fizzled out in the digital realm because they try too hard to tap into the zeitgeist. A catchy new TikTok dance may sound like a winner when an excitable exec pitches it, but if there’s no relevant connection to the brand it’s just puff.
The story must be authentic, and totally platform-agnostic. Any great global content plan considers every relevant platform as a potential strategic execution of the idea.
How to join the dots in your global brand strategy
No region wants to work as part of a global entity. Their natural instinct is to take control of their own market and develop a local twist on any brand campaign.
Without a clear, compelling vision to believe in, regional stakeholders understandably get frustrated. The easier you make it to adapt the campaign sensitively and appropriately for their market, the higher the chance they’ll roll it out with you.
Getting every stakeholder singing from the same hymn sheet means having conversations about the nuances of global rollout early – not at the end of the supply chain. It means asking the right questions and listening to the answers.
It then requires front-loading design resource to create a fully comprehensive brand toolkit that goes far beyond print guidelines, ensuring the only things left open to interpretation are what you choose to be.
Global consistency means considering every single touchpoint in the ecosystem. Wherever the content will live – from packaging to OOH, social media to e-commerce – everything must be captured in that brand toolkit.
Key visuals are important, but you also need consistency across bumpers, end-cards, title cards, lower thirds, graphic elements, moving elements, and however else the brand is expressed. Only then do you have a robust enough playbook for a consistent global rollout.
This simply doesn’t happen as much as it should – and we believe it’s the future of how brand campaigns should be run.
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Paul Woodvine, Managing Creative Director