Of universal insights and local execution

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Interesting post from Tom Fishburne on the ‘tension of glocalization’ – the eternal tug of war between ‘global consistency and local adaptation’. He cites the example of Apple’s Get a Mac ads, as an example of ‘one idea, one voice’ across US, UK and Japanese markets. According to him, an Apple director said that ‘local customization was a cop-out, a sign of failure’ and that ‘a consumer insight should be universal if you distill it far enough’. Sounds good. In fact, Apple insists on consistency almost obsessively across markets, across media. All the country websites, the re-seller ads and collateral look the same. There is tight control on what can be done and what can’t.

Get a Mac Santa Claus

Brands like Intel, Visa, Absolut, Smirnoff, Emirates, British Airways and Citi have used global campaings with varying success. While a ‘don’t leave home without an Amex’ was workable across markets, I am not too sure if Visa’s ‘Go’ campaign has the same resonance across markets. Maybe it’s a case of poor insight in the first place. Mentos’ freshmaker idea on the other hand has worked very well with local adaptations here. The Absolut insight of people wishing for an ‘absolute, idealistic world’ resonates globally. But the execution may be a bit too subtle even for the sophisticated audience in some markets.

Sometimes an execution relevant in one part of the world may not be so in across markets. Especially in India, which is many countries in one. I remember seeing a promo ad for Lays featuring Saif Ali Khan, during a Diwali season. It was about a bunch of friends coming together to celebrate Diwali by playing cards, a very common sight in the North of India. Except this ad was in Tamil. And in Tamil Nadu playing ‘taash’ during Diwali is as alien as ‘pongal’ in UP. The joy of celebration as an insight (if you can call it that), while is universal, the connect is missing due to the execution. And the diversity of languages and local nuances in India makes it all the more challenging for universal insights to be applied across regions.

Any examples of insights that have worked across markets for brands?

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