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Managing Marketing: The Challenges Of Global Marketing Implementation

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Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by TrinityP3 Founder and Global CEO, Darren Woolley. Each podcast is a conversation with a thought-leader, professional or practitioner of marketing and communications on the issues, insights and opportunities in the marketing management category. Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals.

Kevin Freedman, Chief Executive at Freedman International, a global implementation agency that oversees and deploys marketing campaigns for global brands that need an agile approach to deliver a consistent impact across all their target markets. Kevin talks about the challenges and opportunities facing Global Marketers and shares the three evolutions of Global Marketing approaches.

You can listen to the podcast here:

Follow Managing Marketing on SoundcloudTuneInStitcher, Spotify and Apple Podcast.

Transcription:

Darren:

Welcome to Managing Marketing and today I have a visitor from overseas and I’m sitting down and having a chat with Kevin Freedman who is a chief executive at Freedman International. Now for those who don’t know, Freedman International is a global implementation agency that oversees and deploys marketing campaigns for global brands that need an agile approach to deliver a consistent impact across all their target markets. So, let’s find out more about what that actually means, and welcome, Kevin Freedman.

Kevin:

Thank you very much, Darren; it’s great to be here.

Darren:

My pleasure. Thanks for making time. You’re in Sydney on business I imagine?

Kevin:

A quick trip, 4 days. We have an APAC office working with our global brands that need deployment of campaigns around Asia—been open here now for a couple of years, 18 months actually, so meeting the team, the clients, trying to understand what’s going on in this marketplace a little better. And enjoying the Sydney culture.

Darren:

We met 10 years ago, and you were in London and been running the business for about 15 years at that stage. You were mainly focused on Europe but I’ve seen you expand and expand over that time. There’s clearly a need for the services that Freedman International provides. Why is that?

Kevin:

Well, if we think about what’s going on in the world today, globalisation is a big trend. It’s not going to stop. The impact of the Trump era is not going to stop globalisation. The world is getting smaller with digital channels, internet etc.

People, although they may come from different cultures are often very similar. The youth in Turkey are similar to the youth in China, Brazil, and in the US; same sort of aspirations. It’s humanity at its core.

And businesses today know that they have consumers and customers potentially in lots and lots of markets. With the growth of these internet-driven brands, they can also globalise the commercial side of their business much faster than in the olden days.

Darren:

I think that’s one of the things. Previously, the big consumer packaged-goods companies were the only ones that we talked about being global brands. And they had to set up infrastructure in every market. But with the rise and ability of ecommerce you can actually sell anywhere in the world that has internet access, can’t you?

Kevin:

Exactly right. So, you’ve got the pure software type brands, the Airbnb or Uber types or Slack, the software brands can go global very fast but then you’ve got the ecommerce-driven product companies like Fitbit or Away, which is a luggage group, who are able to build a brand, make it globally relevant and then get distribution for their products really fast now with all the different ecommerce and logistics players.

And each of these brands is tapping into a certain segment of consumers that are not just in one country. So what Freedman is doing is helping these brands to be globally consistent but locally relevant in all their markets in a smart way. And that trend is not going to go away any time soon.

Darren:

Now, you talk about globalisation and you mentioned Trump. One of the things we’ve seen from the UK: Brexit and Trump is a rise of nationalism. Even though it’s a global world, there is almost a backlash against the global world and trying to pull back, ‘I’m an individual, we’re unique and we need to protect that.’

Do you think that’s having an impact on marketing? Is it, as you said, people at the very core are human beings and they have the same needs, wants, and desires, no matter what culture they come from?

Kevin:

I think there’s a growing tension between the need of the commerce side and the political side of economies. The commerce side and business are looking to be globally relevant and successful. That’s not going to change because Trump says manufacturing; my country.

Darren:

Or I’ll hit you with a tariff.

Kevin:

On the political side of course we have got a lot of tension that’s come out of the great recession in 2008, 9, 10, this backlash, the inequality of wealth. There is a political cycle going on but I think globalisation is a big trend.

It’s a 50, 100 year trend. The political cycle is a 5 to 10 year trend—that’s my take on it. So, it’s cycles within a larger megatrend.

Darren:

Sure. One of the things from a marketer’s point of view is to be able to find that core position that appeals to their target audience. But there was a time when you would then do the big campaign and just roll it out. Everyone got the same material. We’ve seen that change a lot also haven’t we?

Kevin:

Undoubtedly. The globalisation of campaigns has gone through a few different cycles. Version 1 was, I’m in global and I know about everything, all the markets. I’m going to create a campaign and push it to each country. And that doesn’t work.

You can localise in terms of adapt a campaign and translate it—it doesn’t mean it’s going to be impactful or relevant across every market. That is globalisation V1—the old way, a bad way.

Darren:

It was a cookie cutter approach.

Kevin:

Yeah.

Darren:

Here’s the cookie. We’re going to cut it and drop it into each market and you’ll get the chocolate sprinkles, you’ll get the green sprinkles but we control what sprinkles you get.

Kevin:

That was V1. V2, which also didn’t work that wel,l was we’ll create a campaign; essentially a toolkit of campaign elements for you. We’ll create a TV commercial, your print ad, digital campaign, package it up as a kit and we’ll give that kit to you.

And your job is to take out the bits you want, adapt it locally and make it run. That was V2. That doesn’t work either.

Darren:

What’s the failure?

Kevin:

The failure is that the people at the global level don’t know enough about what the local needs are when it comes to a specific campaign element. What type of media are they going to run? What sort of channels are they going to use? How will we make this big campaign tagline really relevant with local insight and visual imagery and other elements that might be needed at a local level.

Global is not knowledgeable enough about what the local markets need. So that was V2.

Darren:

Yes, O.K.

Kevin:

It’s also super inefficient. When you think about it you spend a lot of money globally, create this great big campaign, and then send it into 50 markets that all work independently with agencies and teams recreating everything, not using most of it.

We used to do this for big brands like Shell. They’d work with JWT, spend a few million dollars to create a campaign, 100s of different elements, chuck it into a market and the markets wouldn’t use it.

Darren:

You raised JWT, which I think is now called Wunderman Thompson in its latest iteration. But JWT and their ilk were the agencies that actually grew globally based on version 1. The whole idea, from Madison Avenue to the world was that they would develop the campaign and then they need offices in each market to translate and implement the cookie cutter approach globally.

They even transformed themselves a bit to handle version 2, which was to come up with the idea and then take the toolkit or campaign kit and pull out the bits they needed. So what’s version 3?

Kevin:

Version 3 is a real mindset shift. In the older versions people in global think that they’re hierarchically in control of local. So, it’s I’m global; I’m superior to your local. This is a wrong mindset. Global and local are peers. It needs to be a collaborative model.

Global may have global brand insights and understand the big brands strategy but they don’t know enough about what the needs of the local market are. There needs to be very strong collaboration between global teams and local teams through the strategic development phase as well as the creative development phase.

It could be led by global but it’s got to be shared along the route with local teams so they can input, understand, and when it comes to creation of specific elements of that campaign, whether it’s TV commercials or social or digital content, the local teams know what they need locally.

The idea here is that when global comes up with a campaign reveal and a series of assets it already takes account of the needs of the local markets. And when it doesn’t, the local markets already know they’re going to have to create something locally to suit their needs. So, it’s a co-collaboration model.

Darren:

O.K.

Kevin:

It’s complex because you need a lot of communication so it’s not one-way traffic now, it’s two-way traffic through a campaign development and implementation.

Darren:

Now, Kevin, you said right up front of version 3 that it’s a mindset change so that’s obviously the first obstacle, where the organisation, global has to realise they’re not in control but they’re actually there to coordinate alignment as much as possible to deliver the needs of the local market.

The second thing is the technology has actually played a big role in enabling that. It doesn’t actually make it happen but it enables it. Things like digital asset management systems, collaboration tools to facilitate communication; I guess that’s a large part of what you’ve had to build as part of your offering, isn’t it?

Kevin:

Definitely, you need good technology to facilitate communication and workflows and sharing of assets. We at Freedman don’t build these tools.

Darren:

No, but you would use them?

Kevin:

You need to use tools but again I’m a believer in people over technology.

Darren:

It’s good to hear that.

Kevin:

It’s people who will make it work, not the tech. Often you make it work in spite of the tech. Everyone has sharing platforms, video conferencing tools, workflows, emails, Slack chat. In fact, there’s too much now.

Too often people hide behind the technology rather than getting face to face or camera to camera to actually thrash out the issues. So, it is down to good old school communication, understanding, being open and listening hard.

Local teams need to listen hard to what global is trying to achieve. Very often global is trying to push the brand in a multi-year cycle. Local teams are often looking to achieve shorter-term sales and revenue-driven goals, so global needs to understand that. And it’s the meshing of the two together.

Darren:

It’s so interesting you should say that. We likewise have seen so many organisations invest in the technology and it just doesn’t work because you have to change the mindset. It has to be a fundamental shift.

And sometimes it’s not global; it can even be regional.

Kevin:

Yes, very much so.

Darren:

What I mean by that; we had a global client but the problem was in Asia. I often think Asia is more complex than Europe. A lot of people from the European perspective look at Europe and all the different languages but at least you’ve got an EU and a reasonably consistent currency. But Asia, politically, economically, culturally, is incredibly complex.

Kevin:

I 100% agree. Europe is relatively homogenous. The income levels are coming closer together. Geographically it’s quite small. Look at Asia.

Darren:

A 3rd of the population lives in Asia.

Kevin:

It’s vast geographically. You’ve got 20, 30 different markets at different stages of development. Culturally—highly different; the sub-continent compared to South East Asia, go to ANZ, look at China, obviously, even within China—there are lots of differences.

The challenge for global marketers is to understand that no.1, APAC, whilst it’s a region in a headline it is not homogenous at all. It’s completely different from the States and from Europe.

And the big benefit of being able to work in a globally consistent way in your marketing is you can pull budgets together and do much bigger campaigns. But you need to do it in a way that allows for locally relevant adaptation. Otherwise, you’re not going to have effective campaigns, and that’s the balance.

Darren:

So, the story I was starting to tell was a European company, headquartered for APAC in Hong Kong and it had largely populated the head office with Europeans because they carried the brand with them into Asia.

But they were having trouble with the many different regional markets, Vietnam, Philippines, and they couldn’t work out why campaigns weren’t flowing through the region. They got us involved and we used our evaluating tool, which allows everyone to be able to provide feedback on everyone else.

And what we found was that the centre hub was scored really badly by all of the regional offices, and the centre hub was scoring all of the regional offices badly. But the regional offices themselves scored each other really well.

And when we started looking through the commentary they provided, it was so clear what was happening. The head office, largely European populated, had this feeling that coming from Europe, they understood complexity and cultural differences and they were pushing out in a very disciplined way the brand. But they weren’t listening to the regional offices who were saying, this isn’t what I need.

They said, well this is the brand material, just do this. So, the regional offices were all phoning each other and sharing ideas on how they could adapt it to make it work. They all had this ring of collaboration around this central hub.

It was amazing presenting the results back to the central hub because they were going ‘we don’t understand, this is how we work in Europe’. We needed to explain to them that first of all you have to understand each market. As you said, Europe is, subjectively, more homogenised.

Have the clients that are coming to you realised the need for this, which is why they come to Freedman International. Do they know this is the issue or challenge they face?

Kevin:

Generally, clients don’t know that is the issue. They want to build a strong global brand. They want to be efficient in the way they get their campaigns to market. They don’t necessarily have marketing teams and agencies in every country, so they come to Freedman because we can help them deploy these campaigns but they don’t realise the complexity of doing it well.

It takes a few iterations, a few campaigns; it might take one or two years for them to become much more subtle in how they build a campaign, work with the local teams, bring local insight into the global thinking, and allow local teams to have more freedom in creating or deploying the campaign in the right way for the market.

The best of our clients have both global and local teams who do parts of that campaign mix. And it’s getting the balance right. How much should be globally developed and deployed? How much should be locally developed and deployed?

And the 3rd element is, how much of the local stuff can be shared with other local markets who don’t need to reinvent the wheel but who can build off the best thinking that’s come off the ANZ market and take it into Europe or out of the Brazilian market and take it into the States?

It’s really about using the best around the world but trying to deploy it in a consistent way so that brand is protected.

Darren:

It’s also about thinking about your brand communication or advertising (as it used to be called) as an asset isn’t it? The traditional mindset, especially from an agency point of view, is that you produce the campaign and then everyone largely forgot about it.

Whereas now, in a digital enabled world, there is actually an opportunity to produce the assets of the campaign: the images, video, text, all of those elements. And then, not just use them for the campaign, but redeploy them in social media. That must be part of it.

Kevin:

Very much so. One of the big challenges for marketers today is the need to create lots and lots of content for lots and lots of channels. Omni channel marketing, which is basically consistent communication across lots of channels all the time.

That’s really tough because budgets have not gone up 10 times but the channels and the need for content has. So, you need to repurpose in lots of different ways great content. A lot of our clients are trying to do less better: fewer campaigns, better deployed, used in more ways, across more channels and more media.

Don’t create more and more new stuff. Create great stuff and use it and deploy it really well. That seems to be a trend we’re seeing.

Darren:

My business partner in the US, Michael Farmer, who wrote Madison Avenue Manslaughter. He started looking at agency scope of work last century, 1995, and it was around 200 pieces, deliverables for an average brand in a year. So, they would require their agency to produce 200 or 300. He now says it’s around 3 or 4,000 or it could even be higher. And yet he also tracks over the same time that agency fees have dropped by 60% in real terms so more with less, which actually doesn’t work.

Kevin:

Well, it can be made to work. We have a number of clients in the entertainment sphere, video game publishers. When they’re promoting their new games or game content they’re creating video footage and social media content and they’re producing 1,000s and 1,000s of different assets for different markets, different edits.

Darren:

Well, the product is the content.

Kevin:

The product is the content but it still needs to be adapted, edited and made right for different channels and markets. So, in the space of 1 to 2 weeks we’re going to create for clients, 5 to 6,000 different assets for deployment into their media plans.

In 3 or 4 days, you can take a series of videos from one kit and turn it into 1,000 videos and you can do that through very good automation systems now.

Darren:

Absolutely.

Kevin:

You can do it but you’ve got to know what you’re doing to do it well.

Darren:

You were saying about delivering materials into individual markets in the right format to work in that market but with the rise of the global media, the Facebooks, YouTubes, Instagram’s, there is a consistent global platform for materials.

Yet, the media that is still on a market by market basis and a lot of media still is market by market, there is no global standard, it is a market by market standard. Things like outdoor posters can vary from site to site. Transport advertising; bus, taxi, train whatever, it’s all different.

It must be incredible to build that knowledge of every single market. I’m thinking of the travel I do around APAC, Hong Kong to Beijing, Vietnam to Singapore; there must be so much variation.

Kevin:

So much variation. I think there are some very interesting brands now that are focusing in city-based strategies. We see scooter brands. Or Adidas has got its global cities strategy, where they’re picking 50 cities around the world and they’re building marketing plans city by city now.

So, you’re not marketing to France; you’re marketing to 4 cities in France and of course the media placement can be quite different. You go into India and you might be doing huge train wraps because that’s a big media that gets a lot of exposure.

Darren:

And almost unique to that country.

Kevin:

Unique to that country. You go into the UK and it might be digital screens in train stations. TV is still big; it’s not going away. But the digital channels are different. While Facebook and Instagram are quite big in Western markets, it’s not the same in the Asian, Latin or African markets.

Darren:

A lot of marketers, when confronted with that complexity are inclined to want to run away, stick their heads in the sand. Yet, in many ways, by embracing it you start to see the opportunities inside that complexity.

By understanding it and categorising it you can see ways of working with it to deliver efficiency and better effectiveness.

Kevin:

Yeah. But because it is so complex the knowledge and insight doesn’t sit in one team in one place. You need to use the network, whether it’s in your business because you’re global and you’ve got teams on the ground, whether you’re working with a specialist like Freedman who’ve got teams on the ground you need to integrate local insight and global strategy. That’s the only way.

And then you’ve got to be super agile. Agile is about being fast and responsive because the needs of the markets are changing so quickly today. I don’t know if you’ve done research on campaign cycle times. They’ve shrunk by a 10th.

Some of the best, pure internet companies, the Uber eat type companies; their time from campaign conception to campaign in market is measured in weeks or sometimes days. They’ve got to be that responsive. The whole creative process has to change.

Darren:

I know Michael Farmer has seen that in resource utilisation. Creative teams would do 2 or 3 campaigns in a year. Now they’re doing a lot more.

Kevin:

2 or 3 a quarter or month. A lot more. So, the whole creative process (or cycle) really does need to move up a few gears to be effective.

Darren:

Kevin, I want to go back to your 3 versions or iterations. There are still marketers out there at version 1, the global campaign, not many these days, and they have a long way to go to version 3. They’ve got to change the way they think but also often the way they’re structured.

There are still quite a few at version 2 who have an opportunity to move to version 3, which is being more collaborative. But from my perspective the thing that stops them is almost the belief, ‘if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ keeps them stuck in that version 2 model.

Yet, often when we look at version 2 it’s often broken. And it’s broken because there’s a global or master agency coming up with ideas and then they’re sending it out to each market and whether each market is managed by the agency in the network or a separate agency there is almost invariably this ‘not invented here’ so we’ll totally reinvent it, which is a huge amount of waste.

Kevin:

A huge amount of waste. It’s probably due to lack of courage or fear. The reason people don’t change or look to see into the dark corners is because they’re afraid of what they’re going to find. So, if I’m a global team comfortably creating these toolkits, I don’t really want to look at whether they’re used or affected by the markets because if they’re not then what does that say about me and what my team does?

So, I think a lot of it is lack of courage by marketers to really think about what is going to work for our business in the next 5 to 10 years. Most of these global toolkit models do not work; they’re a complete waste of time and money.

And you probably have some research on that; I don’t. But getting the business to move is a challenge. It needs the C-Suite, the CEO to say, ‘guys, we need to do something different now’.

Darren:

Yeah, it’s easy to fall into the trap of ‘it seems to be working and everyone’s happy’. From my perspective, having started the business in Australia and worked in Asia, there are very few head offices here. There are regional offices. Most of the head offices for these global brands are in Europe or the US.

Now working at that end as well you see the completely different perspective. Global goes, ‘we’ve done this great job, here it is, why aren’t you happy with it?’ The regional markets that are getting this material sent to them in the kit; even the marketer and the agency often work together to undermine the whole strategy because the marketer wants to make something new and unique that they can call their own.

And the agency wants to make something new and unique. They don’t want to run the global campaign. They want something new because that will look better for them and they engage the marketer to help undermine the whole process.

Kevin:

100%. One of the interesting trends I’m watching—you talked about western brands going into Asia—but the new trend is Asian brands growing up and going global and into the West. And I’m interested to see whether these brands take a more nuanced and smarter approach to how they globalise their marketing.

So do they try and repeat what the Americans did, which is basically, ‘we know and you shall follow what we say’ or are they going to go straight to v3 and say ‘o.k., we know what we do in China but we know just because it works in China it won’t work in the States. We’re going to listen much more carefully to the local markets’.

Are they going to leapfrog, which they have done in other areas?

Darren:

What’s your feeling from what you’ve observed so far?

Kevin:

My feeling is they are much more open. They’re less arrogant than the western marketers.

Darren:

There’s less imperialism. In the West, we have an imperialistic view of we know what’s best for you.

Kevin:

Yes. I think also  because they’ve grown up in the Asian region where those countries are so different they’ve already started to think about how do we build a brand in markets that are really very different anyway. I think they could be in a really good position to create globalisation v4.

Darren:

I can speak specifically from a Chinese perspective, from what I’ve seen is almost like discovering the concept of brand. In China, brand wasn’t a consideration. Brand is very much a creation of the West. China has been for 5,000 years a country that transacts with the world but they’ve discovered and understand the value of brand. But they’ve also seen all of the mistakes.

And this is one of the things you have to admire about the Chinese culture; innovation comes from observing everyone else’s mistakes. One of the things that blows me away, WeChat—why didn’t anyone in Silicon Valley come up with the idea of putting a payment gateway into a social media platform and yet we’ve got Alipay, WeChat pay and the like, still waiting for Facebook pay?

Kevin:

You’re right.

Darren:

But you could argue they’re copying the Chinese.

Kevin:

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Chinese brands move out of China. I was at the Shanghai International Advertising Festival this year (in March). The Chinese don’t understand a lot about brand building.

Most of their marketing is sales activation driven but the Chinese market has slowed down a lot and become super competitive.

Darren:

6% this year.

Kevin:

Wow, so Chinese businesses are going to have to start building brands because if you’ve got a strong brand you’re going to get preference and higher margin.

Darren:

The growth previously has been driven by domestic demand. Now they’ve got to look for that growth outside of China, which is what’s driving the whole idea of marketing to other countries.

Kevin:

Exactly right and also the new policy which is China-made in 2025. That is the new government policy. They’re going to build their brand champions and go out to the world. I’m sure they’ll be successful.

Darren:

It also explains the growth of your business. You started in London.

Kevin:

29 years ago.

Darren:

Fantastic, so 30 years ago next year. We’re 20 years next year so we’re just babies.

Kevin:

We had a couple of years where we worked on UK-based marketing.

Darren:

Almost to prove the concept wasn’t it in the early days?

Kevin:

It probably was but in year 3, 4, 5 we started to work with European marketers and that was the relatively early days of the European single market. So, how can you build a marketing campaign to work across 10 or 15 markets in the EU?

And by the end of the 90s, globalisation was starting to become more relevant, more possible because of internet, digital. Those platforms were starting to be built and we found that by the mid 2000s, 2005, the clients we worked with didn’t want to just work with just a European level; they wanted to work at a global level.

And that was when I had to start thinking about how do we get into the US and Asia and have a global offering.

Darren:

A very similar journey for myself so thank you for sharing it. We’ve run out of time but this has been a fascinating conversation. Thanks for making time to pop in and have a chat, Kevin.

Kevin:

It’s been my pleasure, Darren and congratulations for the success you’ve had with your podcast and everything else.

Darren:

And likewise to you for building such an amazing business and platform. So, where’s the next office going to be open for Freedman International?

Ideal for marketers, advertisers, media and commercial communications professionals, Managing Marketing is a podcast hosted by Darren Woolley and special guests. Find all the episodes here

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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. A Problem Solver, Negotiator, Founder & Global CEO of TrinityP3 - Marketing Management Consultants, founding member of the Marketing FIRST Forum and Author. He is also a Past-Chair of the Australian Marketing Institute, Ex-Medical Scientist and Ex-Creative Director. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren@trinityp3.com

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