Matthew Miller
Sep 21, 2016

The world is not flat: McCann's Diamond

Setting the stage at Spikes, McCann's CEO outlines the global-local challenge facing creative leaders.

Harris Diamond
Harris Diamond

SPIKES ASIA - The idea of global or even regional approaches to marketing resulting in efficiencies turns out to be the opposite of the truth, and marketers and their agency partners now have to work harder to delve deeper into local sensibilities, McCann's Harris Diamond told Spikes Asia attendees in the festival's opening session this morning.

The industry is well aware of a strong rise in nationalist movements with "anti-global, anti-foreign, and anti-immigrant overtones," he said. People want to see their distinct culture, language and heritage reflected in the products, good and services they buy. In fact, Diamond said that more than half the people surveyed in McCann's global Truth About Global Brands research said their greatest fear in a globalised world is the loss of local culture.

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In that light, the idea of global, top-down marketing needs to be refined. "We all believed that globalisation would allow for more marketing efficiencies, in fact that was promised to a certain extent. But the opposite now seems closer to reality," Diamond said. "Today we have a global distribution model that is overvaluing efficiency at the expense of local relevance. It’s based on the false assumption that a global insight can be packaged so that it works in numerous countries with minor adaptation and translation. This is the fault line that politicians are following, and it’s unfortunately not addressing the world as it really is."

Yet global marketing is not dead, Diamond stressed. While the industry may have overestimated the impact of the internet in erasing distinctiveness, and underestimated the effectiveness of homogenous campaigns, social media is connecting people across borders, he said. So while messages must address "staunch localists", there are also young people and digital-native "armchair globalists" who see themselves as citizens of the world. Balancing the needs of these two groups is the challenge.

Global platforms must provide an overarching framework for brand messages, but more work must be done to reflect culture on a local level. Diamond acknowledged the potential irony of the CEO of a network that serves global brands criticising over-emphasis on globalisation, but his clear message was that adaptation as it's currently practiced is not enough. "We just owe it to our global and regional brands to maximise their effectiveness by marketing them with truly relevant local character, and not just adaptation," he said.

In some sense, Diamond observed, he is recommending a return to old values and processes, which started with understanding local culture, and pushing for the budget necessary to make sure brands remained connected to each market.

Diamond was joined by Prasoon Joshi, McCann's Asia-Pacific chairman, who pointed out that exposure to global culture is playing a part in creating stronger emphasis on the importance of local culture. Referencing fellow Indians living abroad, who seem "more Indian" than he himself, Joshi said that when one encounters the wider world and its overwhelming media voice, a touch of fear, partly economic and partly emotional, is a natural response.

Joshi cited Patanjali, an India-based FMCG that is less than 10 years old and is making a huge impact by focusing on ayurveda-based products and conveying an explicitly anti-foreign message ("Be Indian, buy Indian"). Expected to reach US$1 billion in revenue by 2017, the brand has the attention of MNCs.

He went on to cite L'Oreal, Line, and Nespresso as examples of how to fit locally appealing content into global frameworks.

"Global brands can do it, if they are genuinely connecting with local culture, and not just doing a lip service," he said.

Prasoon Joshi


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