INSIDE BUSINESS: Tread carefully in the global village

"THINK global, act local" has become the marketing director's mantra heard in boardrooms around the world. Yet much cross-border marketing activity has been premature and too sophisticated, and has overlooked the importance of detailed research into local differences in consumer attitudes, according to a report by Ogilvy & Mather, the advertising agency.

The growth of transnational media, from satellite television to the Internet, has persuaded many companies to establish global strategies. But it has also fostered a false sense of security, persuading some to believe in communities, or groups of consumers, that do not exist.

Transnational media are inevitably indiscriminate, the agency warns. The "footprint" of the satellite that covers Asia carrying Rupert Murdoch's Star TV spans more than 3 billion people in 43 countries.

But local differences in attitude and perception are critical. "People at different stages in the evolution of their understanding and attitudes to advertising and brands will interpret marketing messages in distinctly different ways," says Sheila Byfield, director of O&M Media. "It's not a question of avoiding transnational media, but of more carefully appreciating just who will receive your message, and ensuring the creative execution caters for this."

The growth of themed transnational channels, such as Eurosport and MTV, confirms that irrespective of location, people sharing a particular interest or way of life can have more in common with each other than their neighbours. This is underlined by the growth of the Internet, she says: " 'Virtual communities' are being created, composed of people with like interests, probably more so than can be found in their own home town." The Internet is a global medium, linking users around the world simultaneously. But it also offers opportunities to tap into many smaller collections of consumers, grouped together by common interest irrespective of location, culture or language. Current estimates predict 750 million regular Internet users by 2000.

But Ms Byfield warns that despite huge opportunities to reach "tribes of consumers" on the Internet, there are also many chances to get it wrong. "Internet users are more critical of messages they receive, and expectations of standards of creativity and innovation are high because the Internet is a relatively 'new' medium," she says.

The notion of tribes of consumers must also be acknowledged when evaluating the effectiveness of campaigns, says Linda Caller, international planning director at O&M. "It may be that a brand suddenly stops growing: it has only succeeded in penetrating a hitherto unforeseen island in that society." She says it will become less important to know that a company has a particular percentage share of a national market, more important to know it has achieved maximum growth among its core target group.

Research must be more finely honed. Where experience of consumer choice is limited, as in newer markets such as Eastern Europe or parts of Asia, conventional research into product preferences cannot be taken for granted. Findings can be distorted. Choice and brand loyalty may not yet have real meaning in markets where the imported alternative costs a month's wages. "Without greater understanding there is a danger of premature extrapolation, of seeking conceptual sophistication before the necessary groundwork has been laid," the report warns.

Misunderstanding local variations in consumer attitudes results in marketing activity that can damage by being out of step with a brand's core values, it concludes. This can only be overcome by identifying the core values of a brand, described by Ms Byfield as the brand's "DNA". She adds: "This, and only this, is what will travel."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Lou Reed distorted the truth about his upbringing, and since his death in 2013, biographers and memoirists have added to the myths
musicThe truth about Lou Reed's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
tvGame of Thrones season 5 episode 1 review
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the Apple Watch for you? Well, it depends if you want it for the fitness tech, or for the style
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Fabian Delph celebrates his goal
footballChristian Benteke and Fabian Delph turn semi-final after Liverpool goal
Life and Style
Model wears: top £29.50, leggings £25, jacket £29.50, bag £25, all
Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace