Whether I was working in Taiwan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Sydney, San Francisco or London or another global market over the past couple of decades – I quickly learned that for a campaign to be successful overseas, as opposed to being developed in the US for an American market – you must create a highly tailored and culturally sensitive communications plan to succeed.

Especially in 2018 and beyond…

The purpose of this article is to share my insights and experience working on numerous global Advertising, Digital, Direct Marketing and PR campaigns over the past 25 years on many continents. And, I have always found the ‘roadmap’ for success MUST give a global brand a local touch. I truly believe that 2017 was a very important year for many global marketers who are now questioning their strategies into 2018 and future.

I personally believe that in 2017 we first experienced a downfall in global values, homogenized messages, a global crisis on values, and more demanding clients globally too. Immerging markets like: India and China have drastically different sets of core cultural values. That’s why you must be even more ‘in-touch’ with global markets to be successful in your future marketing efforts.

Picture: Cultural Sensitivity: Strategies for Coping in a Diverse World

The future looks much more disjointed, complex and blurred, which requires a more granular, nuanced and tribal approach to designing brands & crafting their communication. The simple solutions of yesterday are no longer enough.

This is especially important today, thanks to the Internet because once your brand is on the web, it is accessible from pretty much anywhere in the world today. This means you must be mindful of all the implications with your brand today.

I like to say ‘think of a brand today like a reputation – you only get one chance to make a first impression when someone initially experiences your company, product, brand or service. If you have a mediocre retail experience in 2018 – you’re going to be deader than a DODO with the Internet today too’

Having lived in many other countries, I have repeatedly seen and observed the major difference between local brands, International Brands and Global Brands. And, I personally make these unique distinctions between them:

1.   Local Brands focus on a single or unique market only

2.   Intentional Brands usually appear in several markets in a particular region e.g. Asia, Europe, etc.

3.   Global Brands have the same name and, in many instances, have a similar image or positioning throughout the world. E.g. Coca-Cola, P&G, Unilever, IBM, Apple, Mercedes-Benz, Red Bull, etc.

4.   The Rise of Authenticity & Exhaustion of traditional global values

5.   The Best global brands have integrity and consistency

It is critical to success to inject deeper understanding and relevancy. In fact, I have always done ‘pilot’ markets when rolling out campaigns over multiple worldwide markets to ‘crystalize’ results.

When businesses try to expand their brands or products globally, many of their business goals don’t necessarily need to change. However, you must ensure you deliver quality and can distribute your product/service efficiently. Additionally, your product or service must meet ‘cultural expectations’ – and doesn’t insult anyone or use ‘taboo’ colors or images.

Here are the major steps you must implement for success:

1.   Integrate everything from Day One

The key to success of any planning process is getting the buy-in of all parties involved. This is not only key for approval but more importantly implementation. If people don’t believe in the plan it will fail.

Key parties will include marketing, sales, production, customer services, logistics, channel, ad agency, digital, social media and PR teams and other people who will influence the brand experience. Get people involved from the start.

Local Market Role:

·     Identify which people have responsibilities for the different areas of brand experience in your market. Local authenticity and values must always lead. Cultural resonance is key today.

·     Sales, Channel, R&D, Marcom etc.

–     Identify who are the people that have the ability to put obstacles in your way

–     How/when do you plan to involve these various group in the planning process?

2.   Understand your Client (in each and every market)

·     Go beyond the numbers.

·     What are their customer’s values?

·     Identify desirable customers.

·     Register trademarks and domain names.

·     Understand packaging requirements.

·     Find local distributors and retailers.

Not only demographics but really understand them. What motivates their behavior, what influences their decisions, what drives their ambition, understanding what your brand means to them and what role it plays in their lives.

Bring a local touch to any communications plan.

Corporate Role:

·     Identify core target group for all pilot markets, i.e. SME Primarily chief decision makers + key influencers

While it is possible for any brand to identify its core values to target globally, this can only be done at a fairly generic level so as to be applicable to all markets. What is key for local markets is to provide depth and understanding to these customers through local insight.

These insights can be gleaned from many sources. They can be found by talking to sales people, distributors and agents. They can be found from primary research such as focus groups. They can be found through industry surveys and articles.

But, getting out and talking to your customers best find these insights. Ask them what is important to them when accessing brands. What are their needs and what are their purchase and brand motivations.

You know your local customer better than anybody else and in order to build a successful communication plan a thorough understanding of your customers is fundamental to success.

And, if you are a Global or Transnational Company you must always be aware of managing the ‘dark side’ of being successful globally. Especially in 2018, many customers can view you as arrogant, bureaucratic and not ‘giving back’ locally.

It is always easier to make a sale to someone you really understand than a complete stranger.

3.   Build the brand architecture

Once you fully understand your customer you need to fully understand your brand. Companies need to develop and validate a competitive global brand positioning accompanied by a set of brand values and an identifiable personality, which you have created.

What is key to building the brand architecture for your local market is an understanding of how that positioning and those values translate to your local customer.

By understanding the relevance and meaning locally you are able to clearly articulate what your brand will stand for in a manner that is most relevant to your customer. It will define the  ‘brand experience’ as your customer will experience it. Having this clarity of understanding by the whole team will ensure consistency in everything you do.

To summarize, you have to define what your brand stands for and to ensure that everyone in your business understands their personal responsibilities towards that and that they follow it through in execution. You will need to:

·     Make global brand strategy relevant to the desirable customer in the local market.

·     Specify what the global brand values mean to the desirable customers

·     Define the brand ‘experience’ which delivers specified values to the customer.

4.   Dissect the competition

Now that you understand your customer and your brand, you need to dissect the competition.

Don’t just measure your competitor’s performance in relation to yourself, using brand share or volume sales. You need to understand them, how consumers think and feel about them.

Understand the competition from the customer’s perspective, coupled with an understanding of the customer’s relationship with you, enables you to develop a truly competitive edge.

Spend time analyzing competitive activity. Gather information from all sources. Try to identify trends in their behavior. If you really understand them you can start to predict them.

·     Understand that a competitor’s performance is more than just market shares

·     Why them and why not us?

·     Understand your customer’s perceptions on these brands both in isolation and relative to your brand

5: Frame the business environment

There are many factors with in our operating framework, aside from competition, that do, or could have in the future, an impact on your business or the way you market it.

You need to understand trends as they relate to technology, media and legislation that may have an impact on your customers or how you can market your products. These can provide opportunities for you to communicate your brand in new and different ways that can enhance your brand values.

Identify factors impacting the lives/business of your customer so you can leverage or enhance brand communication and local relevance.

Local Market Role:

·     What are the key market trends that will impact the lives/business of your customers in the next 12-18months

·     Technology

·     Products

·     Service providers

·     Media, etc.

6: Develop key branding objectives and strategies

One of the true measures of the success of the planning process, and of the plan itself, is if it is seen by the business as the company’s business plan and not just a communication plan.

To achieve this it is imperative to have one clear, simply stated overriding objective. For maximum impact this objective should be business focused. It should also be compatible with the values of the brand.

Once the core objective has been determined, you need to develop a number of core strategies to achieve that objective. Those strategies should cover all areas of the brand experience.

The strategies should leverage branding framework provided by corporate so as to ensure that there is consistency of what you are trying to achieve for the brand at the same they are helping to deliver on the local market business objective.

The most effective business strategies are those that contribute to building the brand reputation over the long haul while achieving business goals for the immediate future.

·     What do you want to achieve for your brand and how can you achieve this through all areas of your business?

Identify what are the key overriding objectives:

  • Actionable and focused?
  • Business focused but brand compatible?
  • Measurable?

All of the above!

Develop core strategies

  • Covers entire marketing mix: Product, Placement (Channel), Price,
  • Communication

Corporate Role:

Providing clear branding framework (positioning, values, personality) that will support the establishment of a strong and competitive brand reputation locally.

Ensure that brand positioning remains a competitive advantage to support in the achievement of local brand objectives

In developing any plan it is not only critical to know your brand but also your competition. Having identified who your customers are and what we want to stand for in their minds we must understand what competitors stand out in their minds.

Again not in terms of numbers and statistics but in terms of what those competing brands perception are and how is that different from you.

7: What do you want to communicate?

You need to have a strong understanding of your customer, your brand and your competitor. Now you need to identify what message you want to communicate your customers to change their current perception of your brand to the desired perception.

This message must be communicated at all points of brand experience in order to deliver an overall cohesive message. The way you chose to communicate the message at various points may differ depending on the medium but the overall customer take out must always be consistent.

It is important to review all areas of brand experience to ensure that the message is always supported in a real and meaningful manner.

·     Determine what is the right message to communicate to your customers at every point of brand contact in order to achieve your brand objectives.

·     How will you ensure that consumer brand perception is consistent?

Local Market Role:

·     What is the current perception of the brand in the local market?

·     Are these meaningful to your customers?

·     How will this message impact on your customer’s perception of the brand?

·     Is this message going to be competitive and ‘ownable’ for the brand in your market?

·     What tangible support are you able to put behind that message?

·     Can you support that message at all points of the brand experience?

8: How and where do you want to communicate and build brand experiences

Having now determined what is the most compelling message you want to communicate to your customers, it is time to work on how to execute those messages both creatively and through media.

You now need to work with your advertising agency to develop a concise agency brief that will contain criteria by which you will evaluate the creative communication and the media plan.

Picture: Red Bull, x games, Nate Adams

Using a media neutral planning process your agency should start with the consumer and the desired message and determine what is the best way to communicate with your customers.

This may be either creatively or media driven. The desired outcome is the most effective and provocative communication that will present the brand with a cohesive image through all levels. This will include Brand, Product and Tactical/Channel communication.

You company has to provide clear Visual Identity (VI) a guideline that includes specific guidelines for the development of advertising. All communication materials must adhere to these guidelines.

My definition of VI is: Visual identity is the visual aspect of branding that businesses create in order to evoke the certain feelings and experiences with the brand. It includes anything visual that your brand produces such as: logo design, fonts, photos, and any other visuals that you use to communicate your brand.

·     Determine how best to communicate your desired message to your customers creatively.

·     Evaluate mix of medium will allow your brand to most effectively communicate with your desired customer.

·     Establish the relative importance of medium Vs. execution to best reach your customers

Local Market Role:

•      How can you most effectively communicate the message and experience to customers and clients

–     That’s your advertising agencies challenge.

•      What are the media objectives and strategies that will deliver on the overall brand business goals?

–     What mediums are best to reach your customers and for what purpose in the communication mix? How does this tie back to your overall objective?

–     How can you use media to create a competitive advantage beyond cost?

–     What innovative uses of media can leverage your spend to greater advantage?

–     How does your plan deliver against the agreed strategies with the maximum impact and efficiency?

–     Is your media plan supportive of and cohesive with all other planned marketing activities?

–     How will you measure the performance of your media plan against the agreed media objectives?

When the agency presents work it should be evaluated against the agreed criteria in the brief and also against the overall global brand objectives.

Now comes the most important part of any communication plan and that is the implementation. Once all is approved by you and corporate the program can begin.

The last point is that you are operating in a changing world and while you have completed the process for now it does not remain ‘set in stone’. The core objectives should not change but there may be market developments that require changes in strategy and execution. There must be flexibility within any plan to accommodate those changes. In other words planning is a continual process.

Always remember, the only constants we have in life are meaning and change. Change is the inner order, the ever-evolving nature of things.

Finally, always remember ‘daily sales requires daily marketing’ so always plan for changes to make your business plan a reality!

Will you do me a favor? When you have some massive new business with your social media marketing efforts in 2018, can you please share your success story with me at or simply drop me at line at:

If you need additional help in using social media marketing for new business, please email me to set up a time to discuss or request my guide and best tips for success!

To your social media marketing and New Business and Agency growth in 2018!



Geoff is passionate about the art of influence, new business and presentation. His techniques can help you communicate and lead more effectively. As a global marketer, coach and workshop leader, Geoff makes mastering these advanced skills an enjoyable and achievable process. His sound business acumen and results driven approach have made him a trusted business advisor to many of the world’s leading organizations and their senior executives.

Geoff works with business leaders to ignite their courage and confidence so they can step up and step out in the way they engage people and communicate their leadership style. He is in high demand with CEO’s, CMO’s, directors, corporate executives and senior managers for his expert counsel and guidance in creating strategies for face-to-face communications and integrated global campaigns that are engaging and delivered with confidence and passion to key stakeholders.

Email me today and let me show you a better way and prepare for the future: or visit:

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