In the past two decades, as our world has become a true global village, more brands have been able to expand their footprint in more regions. While as a consumer I find it wonderful to have a multitude of options to choose from, I sometimes think that international brands do little to try and engage me as a woman living in South Africa. Unfortunately, companies can be so focused on expansion that they often neglect to try and find out who their potential customers are and how their products can address their pain points.

This, of course, is where having local brand teams on the ground can prove invaluable. An astute and knowledgeable local team can mean the difference between a brand finding a new home to grow and flourish, and a brand having to leave a region earlier than planned, with nothing to show for it except debt and disappointment.

A specific example of the global/local debate that always comes to mind for me was when H+K was involved in the launch of a new nappy range by a well-known childcare brand. One of this brand’s key messages, which they communicate with all of their products, is the importance of baby and toddler development through play. This launch campaign was no different, and focused on how moms could connect with their little ones in the mornings before the day’s demands kicked in.

However, our H+K team and the brand’s local team were sceptical that this campaign, which had worked well for the brand in countries like the US and the UK, would resonate with their SA target audience. These moms were usually single, less affluent, and the sole breadwinners of their families. Our audience insight also showed that most of these moms had more than one child, made use of public transport, and often had to travel long distances to work.

Bearing these factors in mind, it was abundantly clear that early mornings were a very busy time for the brand’s SA target audience and these moms would be hard pressed to fit in quality bonding moments with their young children during this time. The brand’s global campaign messaging would therefore not resonate with these moms, and likely fall flat.

Our insights showed that evenings would be a better time for these moms and their babies and toddlers to connect. Although these moms were still busy then, they were less rushed, and so would be able to spend more time focusing on their little ones. To ensure moms could really make the most of this time, we partnered with an educational psychologist to suggest games mom could play with her little ones while bathing them or preparing dinner. We also focused on how to make toys from simple items around the house.

Through articles and radio interviews in local vernacular languages, we were still able to communicate the brand’s key message of the importance of play for child development, articulating it as, “Even if you have limited time and money, you can still play with your baby and help her grow and develop”. H+K was able to secure over 10 million impressions for the campaign, which at the time was half of the yearly target for the brand as a whole.

Examples like this campaign highlight the importance of local insights for international brands. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to a global brand campaign. In the case of this brand, we were fortunate that the company’s global team trusted us enough to conceptualise and run with a campaign that proved very effective. It’s key that companies give sufficient power to their local people on the ground so that they are able to implement what makes sense in their markets, especially when we consider the amount of content clutter that our target audiences are bombarded with on a daily basis. Consumers will only tune into what is relevant to them; everything else is just radio static.

In conclusion, then, I would say that there are three key elements that can go a long way in helping a global brand resonate locally. Firstly, being aware that local insights are key to a brand’s success in that market; secondly, having an astute local team who knows your target audiences intimately; and finally, being open to changes suggested by your local team. Although we may be part of a global village, we are far from uniform.