Marketing Unbound
Global Brands Talk Local Marketing

How do global companies achieve consistent brand storytelling while remaining relevant to consumers in individual regions? “It’s something that every brand has to strive for,” says Tricia Weener, Head of Marketing for HSBC’s global and commercial banking markets in Asia-Pacific.

“Global teams haven’t always necessarily focused on the things that are going to help improve that omni-channel experience,” she adds, remarking that in the past, there has been a focus on comms rather than brand consistency. Weener is joined by Nicole McMillan, VP of Marketing at Wrigley, and Todd Handcock, Global Head of Marketing at Wiliams Tea Lag, at The Economist’s Marketing Unbound summit in Hong Kong.

Each panellist offers a slightly different perspective on the challenges that global brands face when it comes to marketing at a local level. “When you’re working in a region, you have an amazing opportunity to understand the consumer variants,” says Weener. “It’s easy to forget that your global colleagues don’t have that insight.”


For McMillan, the first and most important step in striking the balance between global and local marketing is understanding the core consumer truths which transcend region. “The way people archetypally find meaning in their lives, the things that are important to them, are kind of the same,” she says. “The way they’re packaged culturally and locally are the key points.”

She points to Snickers’ “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign as a success in this right; the unifying thought behind it speaks to everyone, but the execution has varied from region to region. “If we’ve got great deep insights, then actually our local and global teams are really inspired to co-create that whole journey,” she says. McMillan admits to having met with comedians from all around the world to learn how humour, one of the most impactful ways to build an emotional connection with an audience, varies in different regions and cultures.

Handcock agrees that content cannot be carbon-copied across continents, but he does see value in asset reuse. He cites the example of a large beverage brand client, who saw a $10M saving for every 1% of videography reused globally. This only works, however, if frameworks are put in place to determine how and when content should be leveraged and culturally adapted to extend marketing dollars. “It’s about adapting to a local market, instead of recreating each market,” he says.

It might sound obvious, but including people and perspectives from the region you are trying to activate is crucial when it comes to creative, if only to ensure that there is an appropriate, pithy translation of your content in the target language — something which is even more important when it comes to mobile.

Ultimately, Weener advocates allowing sufficient flexibility and creative freedom in each region, as long as there is a strong and unswerving brand foundation: “I think you can’t necessarily have that one size fits all, but those fundamental insights on which you build your propositions have to be global.”

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