The last week has seen me travel to vastly different markets all within the space of seven days. First, Saudi Arabia, second, India, and third, Nigeria.
Whilst these three markets can all be considered ‘emerging’, there is nothing like a whistle stop tour to bring into focus the need for brands to localise if they are going to win.
The next 20 years will see the Middle East, Africa and the Sub-Continent go from strength to strength. Burgeoning populations, who are all stampeding towards middle class will become more and more brand aware. Whilst it is true to say that the brands at the top of the pyramid - like Louis Vuitton, Chanel and others will always play to different rules - they have powerful multi-cultural aspirational appeal - how will brands that serve the masses deliver consistent growth and survive?
I believe their is no better case study than that of MacDonald’s. The fast food retailer struggled for years to serve it’s brand of ‘cookie cutter’ fast food to all markets. They realised somewhat painfully, that whilst the Big Mac has universal appeal, other foods on their menu simply did not appeal to local markets. In this part of the world, we saw the introduction of the Mac Arabia, in Asia, MacDonald’s introduced rice and chicken to the menu. Now this may not seem overly innovative to the average man on the street, but it is. It clearly demonstrates a respect by the brand for local culture and taste.
Why is this relevant? As those of you follow me will have read in ‘Why Victoria’s Secret doesn’t look so sexy to Saudi women’, global brands will have a universal appeal however, if they are to maximise their growth potential, they have to adapt to local tastes.
In banking, we are not seeing this. Banks seem to resolutely refuse to deliver personal services and continue to believe that segmentation is the answer to their problems, it isn’t. Banking is no longer about a one size fits all ‘cookie cutter’ model. It is about personal service. Where the big, defining ideas remain constant and the smaller, community ideas are delivered in a way that means something to the communities which banks serve.
Banks have to think like retailers, they have to focus in transforming their branch environments into retail environments, doing away with expensive, under-utilised, boring spaces that nobody visits, making them places people want to visit.
We see some international banks in this market paying ‘lip service’ to Islamic Banking, offering token products and services to the local community - is this enough? No.
Service has to start with understanding need and then binding your services into the fabric of the local community. To show that you really understand.
I am often asked if localising globalisation has a negative impact on brand equity - the simple answer to this question is no. So long as brands understand who and what they represent - what their personality is, how they behave, what their service standards are etc, there are only benefits to be gained through localisation - especially for brands that serve the majority population.
9 Steps to localising Global brands
Understand your brand persona - write it down and be sure everyone understands it
Understand the markets you serve - large brands can get local
Never translate, transcreate - work with local talent to ensure your brand is represented accurately Read my article on ‘Branding in China’ to learn more
Get Executives out of their offices - feel the market pulse
Listen to local and regional habits and think ‘what could this mean for my product?’
Adapt and iterate - never be afraid to try something new
Be transparent - speak to your customers and get their point of view
Stay connected - never underestimate the power of the internet and social media
Become a local community initiator - represent your community and empower loyalty with tangible benefits