How to be an agile brand in the face of deglobalisation?


In WGSN’s latest white paper, Future-proofing Your Brand, we explore the idea that in order to stay relevant, businesses need to solve big problems and at the same time be empathetic to consumers.

How do they do this? By developing agility, and being adaptable to change, while anticipating future shifts and remaining balanced.

Simple, right? Over a series of blogs, I’m going to look at some of the key shifts at a macro and consumer level that present challenges to brands and which will require agility in order to stay relevant.

Agility in times of uncertainty could be the theme for businesses in 2017. The backlash against globalisation coming from the US, UK and parts of Europe has led businesses to question how to approach an already challenging global market.

Global or Local: Is there a future in ‘glocal’?

In WGSN’s Vision for 2019, we asked the question: How do companies drive growth and dialogues at a time of deglobalisation, trade renegotiations and border restrictions, as figurative (and possibly literal) walls are being built?

Rather than promoting divisiveness, these economic and political policies present the opportunity in building future cooperatives for businesses and brands at a global and local level, redefining “glocalism”. The need to create a community in and around a brand or business will become ever-more important in effectively engaging consumers for the long-term.

Taobao describe themselves as “social commerce” as opposed to simply an e-commerce platform and have been driving this notion of community through their Wendajia (ask others) Q7A column. This is intended to create a community of customers who ask and answer questions related to products sold on the platform. Although similar to online reviews or crowdsourcing in principle, Taobao use Big Data and an algorithm that identifies and contacts users in the community who are best placed to provide feedback.

Li Ning Sina Weibo

Global Generalisations: What Does the term Millennial mean in Asia?

Building communities is all the more successful when consumers are understood at both a global and local level. Despite this, the classifying of consumer groups is often based on the Western version of generational demographics, which leads to the question: is the archetypical version of a Millennial, with their (alleged) toast and avocado obsession, as relevant for China or Japan as it is in the US? In many instances, this is not the case, while young Chinese Post-95 consumers are embracing the freedom of the gig economy, their Japanese counterparts look for job security in the face of sluggish economic growth.

Aware of the difference in lifestyles between countries like China and the US, Baidu have developed their voice control technology to reflect different languages and smaller living.

“Essentially, the assumption is that you have spacious homes; you have several rooms. In China, that’s not the case at all… A home in Japan, a home in India, or a home in Brazil, is a lot closer to a home in China than a home in North America.” says Qi Lu, Baidu’s Chief Operating Officer.

Globalisation and Consumer Convergence

Understanding the patterns between regions also presents opportunity for glocalism, as global brand communities can be built. Communication, internet access and increased travel have resulted in consumers’ having a better idea of what’s going in other markets and a convergence in priorities and attitudes.

A series of political scandals have left young Korean consumers with a sense of distrust, which has resulted in traditional values of collectivism and obedience shifting to become more similar to their forthright western counterparts. G Pictures is a media start-up founded by Bumgeun Gook founded media start up G Pictures, that includes YouTube channels such as Jellyple that address sensitive topics including sex, menstruation and gender equality.

So, calls for deglobalisation do not necessarily herald the end of the ‘glocal’ approach. Instead, key to staying relevant in the future is an understanding of consumers at a local level – their differences and similarities – in order to define where a brand’s community is – whether global, local or both.

Mindset is WGSN’s custom advisory business. We work with you to identify your next growth opportunity by leveraging the combined expertise of our trend team, our unrivalled insight on future trends and our data warehouse. Get the insights on how to future-proof your brand on our complimentary white paper here.


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