Why brands need to think globally, but act locally

Since the mid-20th Century, globalisation has usually meant “Americanization.” It seemed that the entire planet’s definition of modernity was tied to the openings of McDonald’s and the acquisition of Gap t-shirts or the latest Apple product. However, the last decade has seen a perceptible shift to global issues seen through a regional or local lens – “thinking globally, acting locally,” – a process aided by the incredible consumer dialogue made possible by social media.

The parentage of the phrase is claimed by several people, but whomever the parent, it should be the guiding tenet for any global brand strategy to be successful today. It’s a phrase that I think about daily, working within the beauty retail industry.


Here’s five ways to incorporate it into your daily workflow:

1. Little things mean a lot

Using the local spelling of words (e.g. colour, centralise) and colloquial phrases communicates that this company respects how things are done locally.


2. Social media is a conversation.

Listen and answer! Nothing makes customers angrier than a company not responding when they took time to engage.


3. Context is key 

“Black Friday” has had mixed results in the UK because it was taken out of context. “Black Friday” in the US is the day after the Thanksgiving holiday – probably the most important holiday in the US. It used to mark the beginning of the Christmas season (so named as it was the day that retailers finally went into profit). Most Americans get paid every two weeks, so most will be paid at least once more after Black Friday in mid-December. Most Britons only get paid once a month and, as a result Black Friday spending often just dampens December sales. “Small Business Saturday” on the other hand has been an overwhelming success in the UK. In a country once known as “a nation of shopkeepers,” there is shared context in supporting the campaign.

4. Your work group needs to be diverse

Have as many different people as possible in the strategy discussion, especially for decisions on launching or discontinuing product. What’s hot in NYC may only be tepid in London and ignored in Lagos or Dubai. (Remember difference is not just race and gender, it is also age, place of origin, education and economic.)

5. Look beyond a country’s largest city

Just as New York is a world away from most of the cities in the US, London and Paris are a world away from most of the UK and France. So do you research into the country as a whole.

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