Luca Lindner, president of McCann Worldgroup, and Suzanne Powers, global head of strategy, have been travelling the world to share the findings from McCann Truth Central, the agency’s intelligence unit.
While the insights spell the “end of globalisation” and “rising nationalism”, it’s the nuances and ramifications on a local level that are making the agency rethink certain paradigms.
“We’ve gone deep and invested heavily in the study in terms of money and time,” said Lindner. “I think many studies done by agencies and companies are light on research and heavy on presentation. But that is not true here.”
According to McCann, the “Truth about Global Brands” study involved online quantitative surveys in 29 markets with over 30,000 people.
In addition, qualitative research was supplemented in the form of focus groups, in-house ethnographies, paired in-depth interviews with cross cultural couples and interviews with experts inside and outside of the country.
“This allowed us to explore people’s attitudes and beliefs towards globalness and the ever-evolving media and cultural landscape,” said Powers. “At the intersection of the two, we wanted to find the most powerful and resonant ways for brands to not only navigate, but succeed.”
Lindner highlighted that “globalisation” has misled global brands into being overly-efficient by “taking one thing and rolling it out everywhere” at the expense of “efficacy”.
“We put this study together for business reasons because we’ve seen a lot of clients that are extremely centralised,” said Lindner. “They look for efficiencies and to productise their communications but this formulaic approach has all kinds of problems now.”
For example, from looking at the top 10 books, movies, TV programs and music charts in ten markets, Western media was found in all the lists.
“However, when you look at India, Bollywood is the real big thing that penetrates the culture not what you find in the charts. It’s the same thing in all the other markets and there’s strong local representation,” said Lindner. “It runs counter-intuitive to the so-called global perspective.”
New world vs. old world
The details of these phenomena lie in the more detailed segmentations and underscore a trend of “rising nationalism” that the study predicts will only get stronger in 2015.
“We looked at how open and not open people are to local brands and also international brands,” Powers added. “It ranged from people who were staunch localists to extreme globalists but it’s all intertwining and highly-dependent on the sector. For example food and beverage is very local but technology is very global and people demand different things from these.”
These insights come at a time when 57 per cent of people fear losing their local culture while 85 per cent of people believe that global brands have the power to make the world better—a trend that coincides with a greater distrust in governments—according to the study.
“Brands that are truly responsible can balance out the fear people have,” said Lindner. “It’s no longer about centralised or decentralised, which is an old world model. Now it’s about ‘earning your place in culture’ and doing it respectfully.”
On a practical level, McCann has developed a tactile tool called the ‘globality framework’ which is designed to help global brands “earn their way into culture” and “inspire creative that travels”. The model starts with the five human truths: connection, love, discovery, purpose and success.
“The question to ask is if your brand is expressing something universal. If you’re a ‘discovery’ brand, how will you do that in a local market?” asked Powers. “For example with MasterCard, a ‘priceless’ experience in France is very different to a ‘priceless’ experience in Singapore.”
For Lindner and Powers, the future marketer is someone who is deeply curious. “You need to have a massive amount of curiosity to question things,” said Lindner. “With technology changing every ten minutes, you’re going to be dead in say two weeks, if you’re not curious.”
Powers on the other hand, believes it’s the “many different ways of solving problems” that makes curiosity crucial. “These days you can make a simple piece of technology to solve a client problem,” Powers added. “We’re obsessed with helping our clients’ brands and I think we have a good toolbox to solve things.”
While Lindner isn’t concerned about creative agencies becoming tech companies and vice-versa, he’s more concerned about “Hollywood entering the creative and marketing space”.
“Technology companies don’t have the same creativity as agencies. And they don’t need it – they’re about innovation,” said Lindner. “And with consulting firms like McKinsey, I’m not worried about them either because they’re like these squared boxes. But Hollywood and the entertainment industry is something else.”
In response to the findings from the ‘Truth about Global Brands’ study, Lindner and Powers are working towards rolling out a new division within McCann Worldgroup called “Deep Globality”.
“They’ll almost be like a SWAT team that goes ‘deep’ at times—pun intended—and will consist of creative, account, tech and strategic specialists with five to ten years experience with global clients,” said Powers. “We’ll need diversity but it won’t be a full time role. We’ve already had a lot of talent in the agency asking about how they can join this team. The young people are really excited.”
The pair is considering announcing the “Deep Globality” team and initiative at this year’s Cannes Lions festival.
Summarising the overall sentiment of the Truth study and the ‘globality’ project, Lindner said: “Today if a brand does not have an equal-to-equal conversation with people, they will be dead within two weeks—maybe four weeks.”
Powers added, “That idea is nothing new. But our answer to that challenge might be.”