Advertising Interviews

Suzanne Powers

Global Chief Strategy Officer | 27 May 2015

In India there is this thing of National Identity. At the same time there is this ‘Arm Chair Globalist’ which constitutes 67 per cent of the total. Arm chair globalisters are the ones who have not really travelled much but are interested to know what is happening around the world. And when you go back to the trust on the local brands, it is one of the highest. It is almost 75 per cent. Therefore, there is a huge trust on local brands as well. Globally, more than half of the people prefer global brands but in India it is less than half.

In a global study that revealed a worldwide survey of public sentiment – titled ‘The Truth About Global Brands’, McCann Worldgroup revealed that people in India are the most proud of their national identity (94 per cent), compared to an average of 85 per cent globally.

Indians see ‘globality’ as creating more jobs internationally for them personally and for future generations. In a candid interview with exchange4media’s Ankur Singh, Suzanne Powers, Global Chief Strategy Officer at McCann Worldgroup, shares the company’s global view of brands, and the evolution of creative strategies in wake of its recent study.

Q. What are your key takeaways from this entire exercise?

The report talks about brands. And it comes from our global proprietary unit, that we call Truth Central. Truth Central is dedicated to the most unearthing the most macro-level truth that can help all of our brands whether it is local or global or anything in between. This is the largest study that we have ever done. The quantitative part of the study is 30,000 people in 29 markets. The qualitative side is ethnographic in nature. We spend time with ‘Globalists’, which is one term that has been coming up with the study, which are people from different cultures, or perhaps are married to different people from different parts of the world are true globalists, they have hunger for really understanding the world in a different way.

One of the biggest insights that we have is the old world or old form of globalisation is quite challenged now. Globalisation used to be socio-economic, even when it comes to marketing, globalistation used to be an export model. So, we have coined a new term that is ‘globality’ which really just describes the new state better than globalisation. Globality is the embracing of global ideas but also the uprising of the local nuance, the local culture, the culture of accepting and giving back the local culture.

The other thing that is very helpful for the marketers is as we call it, “how you help your brand earn its way to the culture”, that is the balance of global and local. There are five universal truths that every human needs whether they desire connection, they desire love, they desire discovery, they desire a perfect feeling of being a part of something. Those five values, those five truths are expressed incredibly differently depending on the local cultures. What we are trying to do is give the marketers a little bit of a playbook.

This study is much more about the usability, and the action that we take together by using the data.

Q. Since you began working on the study last year, the social media landscape has completely changed, how do you then factor in that kind of change while working with clients now?

The quantitative updates might take a little while, but the qualitative will keep adding to. In fact, this year in January we did another set of interviews, so we will keep adding the qualitative values. One of the key feature is also monitoring the social media landscape, so from the time that we started till today, the shifts like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp have been factored in.

We are looking at more qualitative change than quantitative for now. We have put another study to go back to the field as the culture has started telling us that we need to update on privacy, which has changed dramatically.

Q. And where do you see India in this entire picture? Any key highlights?

Indian, as we have found in the study, have two sides—one side is very open and excited about the things that they might gather from global, the other side incredibly staunch about the local culture. So we are balancing the no.1 benefit which is access and understanding another culture so that the absolute need to be respectful of any upright local culture. Obviously, India is very influential on other parts of the world. The cultural influence of India on China, for example, is very dramatic. In the field of entertainment also the influence is very dramatic. So, the influence is out as well as influence is in.

In India there is this thing of National Identity. At the same time there is this ‘Arm Chair Globalist’ which constitutes 67 per cent of the total. Arm chair globalisters are the ones who have not really travelled much but are interested to know what is happening around the world.

And when you go back to the trust on the local brands, it is one of the highest. It is almost 75 per cent. Therefore, there is a huge trust on local brands as well. Globally, more than half of the people prefer global brands but in India it is less than half.

It is a very different pattern that we are noticing. We often split the market by developed and developing, that is quite static. Influence comes from very surprising places. And they are very different than what we expected before the study.

Q. Which are the challenging segments that you feel in terms of India where global adaptation is very less for about 60 per cent?

Food and Beverages are two categories that are very hard to go global. We see a lot of brands like Mc Donald’s, KFC doing a lot of local stuff in the kind of food they are bringing in. Food is almost like the gateway to experience local culture. Technology is quite global. In fact the kind of place that you are living in is also a very important thing.

The strength of global brands not only comes from equity, but also the R & D that they have, the leverage to provide local solution.

Q. How do you localise your understanding of global brands in terms of your local clients?

Part of it is my personal fascination for different cultures. The other thing that, from a strategy stand point, if we can help a brand in playing meaningful roles in people’s life, we have done something special. Being meaningful can be about being incredibly useful, incredibly helpful, to be entertaining so that we create something inside them. That helps to find the truth to create that meaning.

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