Planning Director - Creative Strategy
Keeping it real:
Local Vs. Global
Beyond the obvious benefits of our fresh produce categories, ask anyone in Australia about ‘local brands’, and the first thing usually mentioned is beer! Local ‘micro’ breweries are popping up everywhere and not just in hipster hot spots of Fitzroy, Surry Hills or Maylands. In recent years, there has been a national shift and growth in volume of 9-10% from mainstream brands to small, local, craft beer.
Why? When people tell you why they prefer local brews, the conversation immediately turns unnaturally serious; rational points like “taste, because it’s made locally it must be fresher”, and “better ingredients”. You may also get into a discussion about a “lower carbon footprint”, or “supporting the local economy” but rarely. Aussie shoppers notoriously shop on price before country, much to the chagrin of the multi-million dollar “Buy Australian” campaign.
However talking about “taste and quality ingredients” as the core motivation for preferring local beer brands seems a bit “also ran” in this category. Imported beers rightly boast purity, expertise, superior ingredients, taste. So why not just stick to established imports rather than opting for untested local?
Airbnb may provide the answer. A global brand that offers the most local of brand experiences, and in doing so the opportunity to 'belong' and have a genuinely authentic experience. Authenticity is the key to local brand strategy in 2018.
In a world of increasingly fragmented media choices where shared viewing is becoming rare; Friendships are shifting from actually seeing each other on the weekend to virtual likes and emojis. And our empty bookcases no longer celebrate our distinctive tastes in literature and music thanks to Kindle and Spotify. Loneliness and anonymity-creep begins to loom. In response, we seek to reclaim our hard-wired need to belong; to share experiences, bond over our unique tastes and local knowledge. Craft beer feeds our tribal appetite in spades. Authenticity, distinguishing flavours, rituals and rarity, rough edges and all. As one punter puts it, “I’d much rather sit in Young Henry’s surrounded by steel beer vats in Marrickville than sit at a pub in the city sipping a Crown.” Local brands help us feel more “real”.
So what does that mean for global brands?
Some global brands have “lived here” for so long, they just seem to be kind of local; Cadbury, Heinz, Kraft, Colgate, Disney and Panadol, just to name just a few. Built on campaigns and imagery made locally with thick Aussie accents “ooh it does get in Mrs Marsh” (Colgate), or part of our cultural ritual “Heinz soup in the thermos at the footy”, or "we watched the wonderful world of Disney every Sunday night”. These brand identities have become interwoven with our own Aussie childhoods and have meshed into our psyches.
But that was then, this is now. In a time of global media access we know and see newer brands emerge and their distant origins are clear; Apple, Samsung, Gap, lululemon etc. It would be futile and disingenuous to pretend to be anything other than what they are. Thankfully ads now run with international locations and voice-overs intact. It is in the local social and digital environments that clever brands go all intimate and hang out with the neighbours.
Brands that utilise geo-targeting to deliver relevant localized content to users are ahead of the curve. And it works. For some reason, I really want to order the tiger prawns when Deliveroo tells me it is “the most popular dish for people who live on my street!”
But social and word-of-mouth are the ultimate “localizers.” Social (media) allows brands to develop deeper intimate levels of engagement with their audience and provides brands with conversational opportunities to gain feedback on ideas and services. Done right, it provides a mutually beneficial experience.
lululemon, for example, does not connect with bloggers or influencers, but a selected group of people who are, first and foremost, fitness focused, such as personal trainers, yoga instructors and surf ambassadors. They’re not from “Australia”, but Brighton, Hobart, Bondi and Richmond, they’re locals! They are not paid to wear or sport the product, but instead “live it.” Forming a mutually beneficial, three-way partnership between themselves, the brand and their local fitness community, based on shared (tribal) values. It feels authentic and local, because it is.
- Use Geo-targeting to fine tune your local content
- Weave your brand stories into the micro and macro local lifestyle; create memories and rituals
- Don’t pay disengaged “cash for comments” influencers; find genuine brand users who are community connected, form a tribe
- Keep it real