Please upgrade your browser.

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. By continuing to browse this website, you agree to our use of cookies. For more information, please refer to our privacy policy.

Think Global, Act Local: Crafting Advertising That Resonates Globally  

June 2024

This is a self-funded case study using our ad testing solution.

Recent decades have seen the barriers to reaching consumers across all corners of the globe rapidly dissolve, from San Francisco to Santiago to Shanghai to Sydney. In a world where digital interconnectivity has made geographic boundaries largely redundant, it’s never been easier for brands to spread their roots far and wide.

While some have argued that the ease in which brands can now reach consumers across the world has led to culture being homogenized, research instead suggests that the concept of the “global consumer” is largely a myth. The reality being that diversity does — and always has — reigned supreme, with every culture tightly holding onto its own unique blend of values, norms, needs, and dreams.

These are, of course, all influenced by Hofstede’s five dimensions, shaping how different cultures see and interact with the world — from short- vs. long-term goal prioritization to individualist vs. collectivist attitudes. It’s therefore imperative that marketers have an intricate understanding of how best to navigate the complexities of this landscape. And while a “one-size-fits-all” approach to global campaign creation is sometimes possible, more often than not a tailored strategy is necessary to leverage these dimensions and build deep resonance with local audiences.

Globalization vs. Glocalization

Globalization has given most of the world’s population unfettered access to media and a much wider range of goods and services to choose from. However, while a monumental leap for reaching the masses, the fundamental challenge for marketers has remained unchanged: finding meaningful ways to connect with audiences in order to leave a lasting mark on them.

This has heralded the dawn of glocalization: the art of blending universal human insights together with local nuances to create relevance on a global scale. By crafting campaigns that speak to shared human experiences — while embracing and respecting cultural differences — brands can establish a consistent global identity while not coming across as cold and insensitive.

So, on the face of it, “glocalized” campaigns might sound like the most prudent approach. However, as always there are a multitude of other factors to consider — with none perhaps as important as budget. And, given many cultures share similar needs and values, it is very much possible to develop global campaigns that require little or no local adaptations. How to strike the right balance is of course the million dollar question.

Find insights that transcend borders

Apple iPhone’s “Swoop” was first conceived and aired in Australia, showcasing the product’s robustness by featuring the quintessentially Australian experience of being divebombed by a magpie. Despite these inherent ties to Australian culture, the ad proved equally effective when tested among Americans. While Australians appreciated the ad’s relatability, it was the novelty of the chaotic scenes and storyline that did most of the heavy lifting — and ultimately meant the theme seamlessly carried across cultures. Furthermore, the single-minded proposition of the phone’s durability was front-of-mind across both geographies, helping distinguish the brand from competitors (in both markets) in a meaningful way.

Click to watch Apple ad

No matter the language, storytelling still reigns supreme

Apple’s “Swoop” highlights one way brands can minimize the risks posed when deploying a campaign globally: show rather than tell, keeping elements such as spoken dialogue to a minimum. Coca-Cola are masters at this, consistently rolling out campaigns that feature little or no local adaptations. By visually representing the product’s fun and refreshing attributes in an unmistakable way, Coca-Cola’s creative style is universally understood and enjoyed. Few creatives better demonstrate this than the brand’s recent “Masterpiece” execution, with it tying into the globally-relevant theme of culture and art — enabling it to excel across almost any market it’s aired.

Click to watch the Coca-Cola ad

The impact of localized voiceovers

There are times, of course, when brands will need to work a little harder to ensure they resonate with local audiences and come across as credible and relatable. Here, the most subtle of adjustments can have a profound impact. Something as simple as using a local accent is enough to not trigger audiences to consciously think about the content’s origins (and risk them thinking less of the brand as a result).

Although Airbnb’s 2024 “Get More Space” has been adapted to feature a local voiceover across all the markets it’s been deployed in, we decided to test both the Australian and U.S. dubbed versions among just Australians (in a mutually exclusive, A/B test format) with goal of evaluating what impact the change in accent had on the ad’s performance. The differences were stark.

While the Australian-voiced narration was well-liked by Australians overall, the U.S voiced version was found less attention-grabbing and generated less emotional appeal. What’s more, despite the ad still clearly and consistently conveying the key message of ‘spaciousness’, the ad’s perceived relevance to the needs of Australians was considerably higher with the localized narration, crafting a clearer point of difference for Airbnb in the market as a result.

Click to watch the Airbnb ad

Global brand ambassadors must be carefully chosen

While the use of celebrities in advertising offers a mechanism for grabbing attention, building trust, and earning credibility, how seamlessly an ambassador translates across markets can vary greatly.

American beer brand Michelob Ultra’s 2024 Super Bowl commercial featured one of the most famous faces on the planet — Argentinian football legend, Lionel Messi. But for all the monetary investment it no doubt took to land the world’s greatest soccer player, Americans were far more interested in the bit-part roles of NFL legend Dan Marino and fictional character, Ted Lasso. The ad’s effectiveness suffered as a result, coming in as the brand’s least distinctive Super Bowl spot of the past three years.

Marketers can minimize the risks associated with celebrity misfires by ensuring that, at minimum, the brand ambassador embodies the values and personality of the brand. For instance, George Clooney’s suave demeanor is a natural fit with the classy and sophisticated positioning Nespresso aims to cultivate for itself. And regardless of people’s familiarity with Clooney, he still successfully seeds this impression in people’s minds.

Click to watch the Michelob ad

Don’t change simply for the sake of it

When an advertiser taps into an insight that speaks to a universal human truth, it broadens the campaign’s relevance. Insights founded in a truth are rare, so abandoning them when launching into a new market poses unnecessary risks.

U.K. optician Specsavers’ expansion into the Canadian market serves as a prime example, forsaking the brand’s longstanding — and incredibly effective — “Should’ve Gone To…” platform for a quirky 70’s romance narrative: “That’s Specsaver’s Love”. While an argument could be made that the subjectiveness of humor across cultures warranted going in a different direction (despite acknowledging similarities between the two markets), the new theme failed to land with Canadians.

With the wider “Should’ve Gone To…” platform seeing the brand featured during the peak resolving moment of every campaign execution, Specsavers missed an easy opportunity to enter a new market using a formula with a proven track record. It’s a reminder of the old adage that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. A universal insight is so powerful because it allows brands to adopt a singular, consistent brand identity worldwide, offering the best bang for buck when rolling out a new campaign globally.

Click to watch the Specsavers UK ad or Specsavers Canada ad

Get in touch to speak to one of our consultants about our ad testing & tracking solution. Expert-led, evidence-based insights — which don’t break the bank.

Thank you for subscribing!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form. Please try again.

Sign up to our effectiveness newsletter