One size fits all doesn’t always work where global reputations are concerned, says Prova’s St John White.
I’ve spent most of my career in marketing and PR, polishing the reputations of some great brands. And, whilst most of the basic principles have remained the same, the PR industry’s approach to international reputation management has, in my view, taken a turn for the worse.
Back in the eighties, I worked with some great names such as Lucas, TI, Bosch and Lockheed. These leviathans of the automotive industry tended to operate their PR on a local level, with regional markets being given the autonomy and budget to manage their own campaigns. Over the next few years, globalisation took hold and recession forced retrenchment and painful cost cutting.
By the end of the last recession, what are we left with? A small but powerful group of businesses that seem disconnected from their local markets. Once approachable brands now seem to have become remote, monolith like and strangely anonymous.
This trend has been reflected in a creeping practice where global brands appoint large, multinational agencies that purport to do everything in every region, be it Europe, Asia or the Americas. Sponsorship in Spain? No problem! Media relations in Mexico? Sure thing! Crisis comms in Kuala Lumpa? Easy! We now commonly hear of agencies covering the mega region of EMEA or Asia Pacific with a mighty swoop of their strategic hand.
In my experience this approach has created a dreadful swathe of characterless agencies that ultimately fail to connect to the client or indeed the end customer. What we’ve now got is a hierarchy of global brands that plug into their correspondingly anodyne agency roster. The result? Campaigns that are so broad that they become meaningless to engineers and manufacturing directors based in OEMs, parts suppliers and logistics suppliers alike.
Granted, big brands need global campaigns, but these don’t need to be delivered by magnolia coloured network agencies. Independent consultants like GlobalCom operate much more flexible, vibrant cross border partnerships that offer local campaigns within an international framework.
We all understand that it’s easier to just plug-in a global off-the-peg solution. But a bespoke suit fits better and certainly gets you noticed doesn’t it?!