Global brands should create local content

Like globe-trotting speed daters, top brands are aggressively courting consumers around the world.

Like globe-trotting speed daters, top brands are aggressively courting consumers around the world.

The proliferation of mobile and social media tools has empowered companies to interact with more customers around the world in targeted, two-way engagement. Yet as with any marketing campaign, the relationship could prove fleeting if the brand can't make a real connection.

Instead of trying to woo customers in a new market with colorful slogans or one-off advertorials, brands should consider laying the roots for a longer-term engagement by creating a regular stream of content that the people who live there want to read and share with their social circles.

Content marketing pioneers Coca-Cola and General Electric have already launched foreign-language content microsites, with local writers tackling issues relevant to them providing a blueprint of how global brands can become part of the local conversation.

Content marketing is a proven strategy to build an audience for the long-term success of a brand. So if you're serious about engaging customers overseas, why not connect to local audiences with relevant, high-quality content?

Become part of the local conversation
The argument for launching custom-content bureaus overseas can be compelling, especially in fast-growing emerging economies where both the business opportunities and technology trends create fertile ground for marketing. Many globally recognized brands already target these increasingly tech-savvy consumers with ads, so it makes sense to consider more effective marketing tools.

Content platforms build an audience through constant engagement, creating a more lasting brand relationship than ads or advertorials. Rather than driving brand recognition by interrupting people's lives, marketing to connected consumers should be about creating entertaining or useful content that can seamlessly become part of their everyday social conversations.

In fact, content marketing may hold even greater potential in developing markets, where mobile usage and social media are poised to outstrip the growth rate of their economies. Some recent studies indicate that consumers in developing economies are more open to brand engagement than in the US — especially when it comes to social sharing.

While a little less than half of US consumers surveyed by market research firm Ipsos said they use social networking to keep tabs on brands, the level of engagement climbs to more than four-fifth of consumers in Brazil.

This fact alone makes GE look prescient for launching a Portuguese-language version of its flagship GE Reports two years ago and piloting the online thought- leadership magazine Txchnologist.

The quality of content also matters, according to another recent Ipsos study on what motivates consumers to follow a brand online. Creating content that people want to share was viewed as the most effective strategy for building relationships with consumers by nearly half of respondents in Brazil — about double the percentage in the US.

Making the local connection
Despite the strong arguments for launching a content marketing strategy in overseas markets, there are some significant logistical and cultural hurdles that must be overcome. You can't just cut and paste content from your US site and expect to attract a local audience — though that hasn't stopped some companies from trying.

The key to content marketing is to build on the core brand message with storytelling that resonates with the target audience. For that to work overseas, the content should be sourced locally, in terms of writing, language and subject matter.

Once a connection with the local audience is established, social distribution through a set of increasingly global tools can amplify the message. Tumblr's rapid expansion overseas — with Brazil now trailing only the US in traffic with more than 13 million monthly unique visitors — illustrates the potential growth of content-sharing communities. It's also becoming easier to target select audiences. LinkedIn, an emerging content powerhouse in its own right, has aggressively diversified not only its global membership of business professionals – with 20 million users in India alone – but also connects people in languages as distinct as Tagalog and Danish. Those users represent a potential boon for global marketers.

One of the more popular stories on the new German edition of Coke's digital magazine Journey is a profile of a teacher who has developed a children's course on happiness, a nice complement to the brand's “live positively” message.

The Moroccan version of Journey, another Coke microsite that already has more than 100,000 Twitter followers, features a video on local street artists Toufa Rhythm that has been viewed about 16,000 times on YouTube.

Global brands are creating local content that people want to share with their friends, family, and colleagues. Whether engaging audiences in Morocco, Germany, or Brazil, creating relevant, high-quality content can lead to a more lasting relationship.

Alexander Jutkowitz is managing partner at Group SJR and vice chairman and chief global strategist at Hill+Knowlton Strategies.

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