Marketing leaders reveal what local brands can do to go global

Brand leaders came together for McCann's second annual "The Truth About Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets" study.

Don’t confuse the internet or social media with going global, Microsoft’s GM of global advertising has warned.

Deana Singleton was speaking about how local brands can go global at McCann Worldgroup’s "The Truth About Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets" event in New York City on Thursday.

"There’s all these great companies out there that’ll go and get you a third party influencer and you can pick the countries they’re in," she explained. "But that whole idea of creating content means you lose control. You don’t get to precure it. Yes, you can say you don’t want to run something, but it’s tricky, and the minute it’s out there, you can’t take it back."

Singleton joined the stage with Cheryl Guerin, EVP of marketing and communications at Mastercard, Stephen Cassell, Cigna’s VP of global branding, Tim Mahoney, global CMO of Chevrolet, and Suzanne Powers, global chief strategy officer at McCann.

The marketing leaders stressed local brands to take a long, hard look at their values and instill trust in their consumers.

"We have an identity and a set of values that travel globally, then we figure out how to adapt that locally," said Guerin of Mastercard’s marketing strategy. "[Local brands] would need to really understand who they are, and if their values can travel, then they need to build trust."

Mahoney added: "The basics of steering your brand are the same whether your global or local: making sure that you’re relevant; making sure that you’re understood; making sure that you’re consistent -- all the things that you should do. The basics are pretty much the same, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy."

New research by McCann Worldgroup’s Truth Central unit revealed that consumers want brands to serve their local culture and be a force for change in the world as distrust in global institutions rises.

The study, which surveyed around 24,000 people in 29 countries, found 72 percent of people believe that global institutions like the World Bank and the UN don’t understand the needs of their country -- and are generally more pessimistic and more distrustful of their own citizens.

Meanwhile, attitudes towards brands have not suffered from the same negativity affecting people’s overall views, and represent a counterbalance to political and institutional distrust.

McCann’s inaugural 2015 study showed that 82 percent of consumers on a global basis believed that global brands can play a powerful role for good in the world, which remained essentially the same (81 percent) in the 2018 study. They also maintain that global brands that contribute to their local culture and society are viewed with the same favorability.

At the same time, the conditions affecting brands have changed. A majority of consumers around the world (56 percent) say they now trust local brands over global brands -- up sharply from 43 percent in 2015. This presents brands with both a strategic challenge and a great opportunity to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.

"The key takeaway about people’s attitudes on a global basis is that consumers still believe in the power of brands and companies to act in a positive way—and they in fact trust global brands and corporations more than institutions, political bodies or other organizations," said Suzanne Powers, global chief strategy officer of McCann Worldgroup.