Consumer March 2015

How the changing world affects brands

This article was co-written by Nadia Tuma of McCann Truth Central.

Globalisation is nothing new; it has been a topic of conversation for as long as there has been trade and cultural exchange between countries. However, the word itself has become fraught with baggage, largely associated with a unidirectional process that happens to you, not with you.

While people are very optimistic about discovering new cultures in the context of a more global world, they are, by contrast, concerned about individual countries losing their specific cultures.

No one can deny that navigating today’s global marketing landscape has become increasingly unpredictable. As people, brands and ideas mix in new ways, the roles of marketers and marketing continue to evolve.

To better understand this ever-growing complexity McCann Truth Central, the thought leadership group of global communication agency McCann Worldgroup, undertook a comprehensive study to find out “The Truth About Global Brands”.

The study, the think-tank’s largest piece of research to date, includes interviews with 30,000 people across 29 countries. It sought to uncover people’s attitudes, behaviours and beliefs in the context of a more globally connected world.

The scope of the study is especially important in the face of radical technological changes, dramatic demographic movements and the shifting sands of economic power.

These macro forces set the stage for the greater global exchange of food, music, brands and other forms of culture to flow more seamlessly from one part of the world to another.

While these changes present tremendously positive opportunities for regional and global brands, they can also lead to serious consequences if not carefully navigated.

As the world becomes increasingly connected, every local action has a global reaction.

The study aims to provide the intelligence and point of view to empower brands as they navigate these complicated dynamics, as well as the tools to contribute to local cultures in a relevant and authentic way.

Results show that, if anything, globalisation is creating a sense of distinct national pride and identity in virtually every market: exposure to the world makes people aware of their own particular and precious heritage.

McCann Truth Central feels that this era requires a new term: “globality”.

The notion that individual cultures matter more than ever, coupled with the need for brands to have deep knowledge of the markets in which they operate, led us to name this the era of “Deep Globality”.

In Japan, which has been relatively insular in recent history, but is now opening up, we see this playing out in an interesting tension.

On the one hand, over half of Japanese people surveyed said that the biggest benefit of globalisation is access to cultures that are different from their own.

Moreover, some 62% say that it is more important to let the outside world influence their beliefs, rather than for them to influence the world with their own beliefs.

On the other hand, 52% of Japanese people (compared to 19% globally) are what we call in our consumer segmentation, “Staunch Localists”. These people probably prefer consuming local brands rather than global ones, and are less likely to identify as global citizens.

It is not that they necessarily feel negatively towards globalisation; it is just that they choose not to participate in it. In this sense, the country is definitely going through something of an identity crisis concerning not just its society, but also its place in the world.

Broadly, we found a great deal of admiration for global brands in Japan. Especially since the financial crisis, there has been an on-going decrease in confidence in governments and major institutions worldwide.

Meanwhile, brands have worked their way into the cultural landscape in a much deeper way, with the majority of free content accessed online on a daily basis being paid for by advertising.

Globally, 71% of the people surveyed say that, if it were not for global brands, events like the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the World Cup would not be possible. It is no wonder, then, that 85% of those surveyed also believe that global brands have the power to make the world better.

Japan is a major outlier in the region, with attitudes that, in most cases, are more closely aligned with those of Europe and North America than with those of its neighbours.

This trend is especially true when it comes to the population’s attitudes to globality: they are relatively less positive about it than people in most countries throughout the region.

One nugget of the research that was particularly interesting is that Japanese people are more likely to agree (70%) with the idea that truth can be flexible depending on the situation, rather than with the statement “it is important to put the truth before other factors in all situations”.

Given that Japanese society and public behaviour follow a highly codified system of etiquette, and that the Japanese people are admired for their organisation and efficiency, this is really interesting nuance.