How to succeed (or fail) with a global marketing campaign

Is there a way to win over global markets using just one marketing strategy and campaign? Dave Took, head of creative development at Kantar Millward Brown, reveals the four fundamental rules of global ad transfer.

The topic of using globally produced advertising to support brands in-market can be a point of tension for all marketing teams within global brands. This is unsurprising when you consider that only 20% of strong ads that run in one country are strong when run in others.dave-took-kantar-millward-brown

As global research partners Millward Brown experiences this conundrum from both sides: working with global teams looking to create globally consistent copy; and with the local Australian teams keen to ensure local success.

These experiences provide a unique understanding of how to balance these competing demands and produce superior advertising. The best examples achieve this balance by focusing on four fundamental rules of global ad transfer. These rules allow for the utilisation of a globally consistent platform, creating production efficiency with enough local flexibility to resonate in each market.

Rule #1 – Start with a *universal* Insight

An enduring and truly global insight must be based on a fundamental human truth: not a short-term fad or trend. This allows advertising to have a common foundation for years to come that can work in multiple markets.

Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty

Importantly, this insight does not need a brand. One of the more successful global campaigns of our time is Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ which was based on this universal insight: few women considered themselves beautiful or believed that they were responsible for influencing their own definition of beauty.

That insight has been the start of many creative executions over the years, with different local challenges, but it has proven to be very enduring yet flexible.

The Aussie born ‘Share A Coke’ campaign has similar worldwide scale with multiple successful executions from a simpler, yet nonetheless powerful, insight. Universally the appeal of personalisation drove people in the millions to find their name on a can of Coke.


The Share A Coke with… campaign sold more than 250 million named bottles and cans in a nation of just under 23 million people

Rule #2 – Define the Brand Purpose

The best campaigns don’t go straight from insight to execution. They identify the brand’s purpose, which is found at the intersection of an insight, the brand’s functional strengths and its emotional strengths. A brand purpose that is based on a universal insight is much harder for other brands to copy than product attributes.

For example, Aldi’s global and Australian success is based, in part, on a universal understanding that, post-GFC, people are more conscious of how they spend their disposable income and assign value to goods. Based on this insight, Aldi introduced a compelling brand purpose into the market that, until recently, was considered an unbreakable duopoly.dave-took-global-marketing-campaigns-graph

In the competitive nappies category, Huggies believes in the power of hugging and holding your baby and its brand exists to support this contact — the very name Huggies is a combination of Hugs and Babies. Their latest ‘No Baby Unhugged‘ campaign reflects this purpose through showing new mothers holding their babies as well as supporting in hospital hugging programs for newborns.

Rule #3 – Develop a Creative Platform

When brands operate in multiple countries across countless touch-points, it makes sense for all communications to be based on a common creative platform.

This provides local creative teams a framework within which they can work, ensuring consistency whenever the brand talks to people. This can then be used again and again for numerous executions with confidence they will support the overall brand purpose.

Red Bull is continuously developing new ways of executing against ‘gives you wings’: from its unique creative approach and V8 Supercars Team, to the Felix Baumgartner Stratos space jump and global Flugtag events.

Similarly, Mastercard developed the ‘Priceless’ platform over nearly 20 years and on a global scale, remaining relevant while maintaining the core premise of invaluable experiences.

Gillette’s ‘The best a man can get’ or L’Oreal’s ‘Because you’re worth it’ are similar platforms that have had multiple iterations over the years.

Rule #4 – Create an executional idea and execute in market

Once you have your creative platform it’s time to execute in market. The choice of using another market’s copy or developing a uniquely Australian take will depend heavily on:

  • brand status in each market
  • differences in local receptivity to advertising
  • cultural differences

The hugely successful global Snickers’ campaign ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ recognises these executional rules and adapted content for Australia.

Its presentation of hungry people as old and weak ladies in the US is translated into a uniquely Australian cranky old trail biker rider brought to life by Alf Stewart.


Cultural and brand status differences can even play a role across the Tasman for brands in Australia and New Zealand. Maggi’s position as Aussie category leader in noodles makes it harder to establish credibility in recipes here, while for Kiwis it’s the brand’s heartland.

The magic ingredient in all of this is, of course, the consumer. No set of rules can produce successful advertising by itself if the consumer is not at the centre of the planning process. Get the most out of all available consumer research and insight; they are windows into your consumer’s world, a source of competitive advantage and the key to global and local success.


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