When the first packaged goods and luxury brands went international they invested much of their marketing spend in being ‘Global’ with a capital G.
It was all about delivering exactly the same feel, look and experience no matter where the consumer was. In the minds of the brand owners, their customers only ever bought their products. They believed their customers weren’t open-minded and digitally promiscuous ‘shoppers’ who liked to explore and try new products and brands. Thick tomes called ‘brand bibles’ were created by global advertising agency networks (such as WPP or Omnicom) to keep it all together. Brand owners aimed to ‘manage’ the consumer to see things their way. Over time, it became so constrained the brands lost their key essence of individuality. Scott Galloway from L2 captured the beginning of the end with the phrase: “Rich people are the most boring people in the world. They smell, look and feel alike. They all fly British Airways, wear Hermès and party in St. Barths.”
The fastest growing brand in the world is Amazon. Yes, Amazon is a brand.
It may have been built on a base of invisible algorithms and codified logistics processes, but today it is a living global brand in the minds of billions of locals. It exists in hundreds of languages and facilitates billions of transactions. Amazon is not an American brand in the minds of Japanese or Indian shoppers — in their minds, it is their local brand.
So how did Amazon create this globally local phenomenon and how will they maintain this new global brand?
One of the best digital journeys you will take begins by opening 10 tabs in the internet browser of your choice. In each tab open a different Amazon domain: the US domain, the UK one, Japan, Germany, Australia, India and so on. Put them up on your big screen and journey through the world’s markets and products.
You’ll find that while the wireframes and screens may be almost identical in layout, and global launches such as Amazon Prime may be advertised on each, the rest of the sites’ offerings are tailored to each market. Browsing the Japanese Amazon site, for example, feels like shopping locally in Japan. Each site showcases the language, flavours, faces, clothing, colour fields and imagery of each country.
Now open, or try to open, the Nike site for each of the same countries.
Firstly, you’ll struggle unless you’re logging in from that country, and secondly, if you are successful the site will try and switch you back to the domain it wants you to see. If you could open the sites, what you see is a sea of sameness. There is little or no local flavour to even the largest national websites.
I’m not singling out Nike here either. The approach is true across hundreds of other global consumer and luxury brands, and it’s completely out of step with the way truly global digital brands are viewed by shoppers or how these globally local brands are positioning themselves.
If you truly want to grow a brand globally and exponentially, it may be worth throwing away the old brand bible. Instead, turn to the crowd and let your shoppers and employees in each country shape their brand, their way.