Global marketers need a local creative experience strategy


Forrester analyst Jay Pattisall started an important industry conversation when he unveiled a report at Cannes demonstrating that the pursuit of customer experience (CX) as the primary marketing strategy has actually inhibited growth for many brands. Pattisall challenged brand marketers to redirect investments in technology to creativity to achieve stronger business outcomes. “Creative experience is the new CX,” he said. “It brings tech, data and creativity together and then aligns message, channel and audience.”

He’s right. Yet something’s missing from the creative experience conversation. It’s the personal relevance that can only be fulfilled by people who are part of a consumer’s local culture. No creative experience (CX) strategy is complete without a local creative experience (LCX) strategy.

Local relevance is the biggest challenge facing global marketers today. For all the drive toward effectiveness on a campaign level, and efficiency on a corporate level, marketing organizations are failing to answer the personal relevance imperative around the world. Just ask Coach and Versace, whose t-shirts tripped a live wire over sovereignty in China this summer.

Think about the overwhelm of marketing messaging that consumers confront, and how we’re all quicker than ever to reject a message (and the messenger) when it doesn’t really fit us. Then consider how the digital chain depends on relevance, with the rising expectation that we’ll be able to compare, evaluate, and purchase whatever is being advertised – in an instant, without picking up another device.

That means advertising has to check many more “why should I care” boxes than it used to. Fitting us has many more components to it, and all of them matter supremely. Who we are, where we’re from, what we do, what we like, what we value…the list goes on. That’s cultural, personal, and dynamic; and the triggers aren’t standing still.

Increasingly, for brands to meet financial hurdles, their advertising has to work around the world. It has to galvanize the right consumers on a global basis. It can’t return the numbers finance needs if it doesn’t resonate everywhere.

Yet four in five CMOs say their organizations are terrible at it. They know they need to do it; they’re trying to do it; and they’re failing at it.

So, what’s the problem?

We need a new structure, not a new strategy. If it’s going to work, global advertising can only be created from the ground up. Relevance comes from familiarity – advertising created from the market, not adjusted to the market.

Familiarity is a matter of fluency. You can’t fake it. A native can spot a transplant, which is what the world’s biggest marketers keep failing in the name of bringing the right things to a market. The more advertising takes the form of social communication, where people expect informality and interaction, the more creators have to be the market, not just interpret it.

The blindness to local nuance can be public like Coach and Versace, or private with myriad images that are off, like showing Japanese chopsticks in a Korean ad. That’s why it’s imperative for marketers to prioritize the local approach. The effectiveness of a country-by-country approach beats the perceived efficiencies of a pan-regional campaign every time.

Relevance takes trust. If you have the resources but don’t let them run free with solutions, you’re strangling your own marketing. Many of the CMOs we interviewed say they’re reluctant, sometimes even unable, to let local-market specialists run freely with the ideas they generate.

Not surprisingly, the idea of doing localized marketing in dozens (if not hundreds) of places at once daunts many CMOs. Instead of clinging to the obstacle, though, marketers can start one market at a time. Set aside the grand orchestration of locations worldwide, and pilot a program in one market where native teams can court local customers completely in their own language.

Start in a market where you have a long way to go, so the difference will be obvious. If you’re a category leader, go where you’re bottom of rung. If you’re a challenger brand, go where you see the biggest upside. Give it at least six months, ideally a year. Test, adapt, win, and only then look to expand.

Because marketing needs to prove the value of localization in hard, economic terms. Sales organizations know that local matters, and they can prove it. Same for operations. But marketing has only logic at this point, and that won’t sell the Board.

The more precisely you target, the more personally relevant the message needs to be. That’s why Forrester is talking about creative experience as the new CX. And it’s why local creative experience (LCX) will reorient the marketing structure in the next five years.

John Harris is CEO of Worldwide Partners

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Worldwide Partners Inc.

Worldwide Partners Inc. (WPI) is a global network of independent agencies that includes 60 agency partners in 40 countries on five continents. 

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