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Think national - act local

According to Research International, which recently completed a study of brands in over 40 countries, the traditional concept of the global brand is meaningless. For all the talk about benefits or threats - depending on your views of branding - few global brands make the grade. Some brands do have a genuine global presence, but what they don't have is global consumers. In fact the closer you look for global brands the more elusive they become.

With a bit of thought most of us can trot out a long list of global brands that include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonalds, Nike, Microsoft, Dell, Levi, Sony, Nokia, 3M, Mars, Heinz, Carlsberg, Bacardi, Schweppes, Reebok, Adidas, Canon, L'Oreal, Calvin Klein, Kodak, BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Toyota and many others. But are they really global? All is not what it seems.

Consumers are becoming gradually hostile to homogeneity. People want their individual needs and desires recognised and met. And global brands - sometimes when all else fails and sales drop off - are responding. Under the umbrella of the global brand local managements meet local preferences with local products. The Coca-Cola you drink in country X is not the same as you drink in country Y. McDonalds not only looks different in China and France, the menu is different too. The penny has dropped. Global brands that adapt themselves and market to local people do better than brands that attempt to ignore the differences.

Although consistency of quality and service are paramount, brands need local relevance. Consumers respond better to advertising and marketing that reflects their needs, tastes and aspirations. The closer the match, the better the response.

The same applies at national level. We are citizens of the UK, but there are big differences between consumers - and their houses - in Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland, Cornwall and London and the Home Counties. A one-size-fits-all approach to branding may appeal to the tidy minded but it goes against the grain.

Research with home improvers confirms this. Consumers want the quality, credibility, backing, and guarantees a national brand offers. But they want it combined with the service, relationships, reputation and accessibility of a local firm. At its most basic, if it all goes pear shaped they can get hold of a local man who cannot easily walk away from it.

Successful brands recognise the need to combine a national brand with a local face. For example, Network Veka members benefit from the recognition, guarantee of quality and backing of a reputable national brand with the excellent service, high local awareness and deep knowledge of homeowners in their area. The result speaks for itself - over 300 million and 86,000 installations so far.

Think national; act local may be the future. But it only works if everyone understands and adheres to the core values of the brand.

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