It's a protracted political struggle that is the focus of more debate today than it has been in many years. Trump and Brexit form the face of the nationalist argument and Angela Merkel, and even Xi Jinping, make up an unlikely pair of faces who, in one way or another, represent globalisation.
This battle isn’t just politics, it impacts all of us. It impacts our decision making process. It impacts what we can buy. It impacts the price we pay. Most importantly, it impacts what we want to buy – just think of the importance Trump has put on his three favourite little words “Made in America”.
And just as in politics, where we see the globalisation trend shifting in some places to nationalism, the same is true of marketing. So after a long trend typified by the CPG brands towards centralised budgets and global platforms, many brands are now starting to give power back to their local markets.
I would argue that for many, it is a bit of an overdue correction to a strong centralisalisation agenda that was driven by the need for cost efficiencies and also the rise of social media, which created previously unforeseen connection and content sharing between markets. Bringing things together and mandating a greater level of consistency probably helped many avoid unnecessary risk or brand damage.
But just as the pendulum swung hard at centralisation, do we now risk moving to far towards a distributed model? What is right is hard to know, but I believe we can take some lessons from politics.
Let me explain.
Trump, with the help of Cambridge Analytica’s data mining of Facebook, won the US the election, despite most established pollsters putting his chances at almost nil. Without getting into the detail of how they did it, suffice to say the focus was on identifying and targeting voters, who were either likely to share content that favoured him or to be swayed by said content. In short, they identified prospects and targeted them with personalised messages. Sound familiar?
So, with focus now being on personalising brand content and delivering it at scale, brands face a similar challenge. The direction appears to be giving power back to markets so they can ensure that content and messaging is relevant to their audience. This is especially important in a region such as South East Asia, with so many different markets, cultures and languages. After all, no brand wants to be accused of global “white washing” in the way that Hollywood films have been (e.g. Ghost in the Shell).
But I worry that putting all the power back in local market hands risks decentralising budgets to such an extreme that, outside of infrastructure transformation, it will be difficult to achieve anything of substance. Also, at a time when experience marketing and digital marketing are forecast to increase even further into the hundreds of billions in spend. The challenge is that developing compelling digital experiences is often complex and can be expensive.
There are so many examples to consider, such as Coke’s happiness machine, Heineken’s Departure Roulette, or my favourite: Lockhead’s Field Trip to Mars. In each case, the brand develop what I think is an admirable proposition and experience, but outside of a film they could distribute, the experience didn't scale. They might have won awards, and achieved something amazing, but not enough people really got to feel what the brand is capable of, and this brings us to why the experience market is growing in the first place.
As Maya Angelou said: “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
How then to manage the need for robust experiential marketing that is often best produced at a global level, with the need to communicate in a way that feels relevant on a local and a personal level?
So then back to Trump and the data. There are three points marketers should consider:
- Do you have the ambition to create a scalable communication platforms or will you only communicate at a tactical level?
- Are you set-up to evaluate consumer data at a level that informs the messaging and targeting, or are you still focused on vanity metrics such as likes and fans?
- As experience moves further towards automation, voice interactions, bots, and AI, are you set up to test, learn and modify experience at a local level to prove value and at a global level?
These are all transformational issues and no brand today has the perfect set up to deliver on all of them at scale, but by looking at the data that you can access about what your customers really want and respond to, it is possible to structure your communications for long term success.
Justin Peyton is chief strategy officer for Asia Pacific at DigitasLBi.