We are experiencing three over-arching colliding forces: increased globalization, increased localization, and increased personalization… happening simultaneously.  Even though the world feels closer, brand leaders cannot ignore the increased importance of relevant local differences and the compelling desires for personalized experiences.  How can organizations build strong brands in this more global, more local, and more personal world?

Globalization represents coherence, reliability, and certainty.  Globalization addresses collective, shared truths such as hunger, family, status, performance, and acceptance.  Yet, as the world becomes more global, people become more protective of local differences.  Brands need to behave respectfully relative to geographic, country-specific, community-oriented, neighborhood-focused variances.  Customers resist standardization and fear homogenization.  Personalization respects each of us as individuals: personalization addresses our individual needs and our individual differences.  It enhances our aspirations for respect, status, and positive self-image.

Brand success will be determined by how well organizations manage at the intersection of these three forces of globalization, localization, and personalization.  Enduring profitable growth in today’s world requires a new marketing approach… The Collaborative Three-Box Model – an organizational mindset responding to the current challenges.

Marketing has evolved from 1) Global Standardization: the One-Box Model that focuses on global brand standardization of product, strategy, and marketing worldwide; to 2) The “Think Globally, Act Locally” Approach: the Two-Box Model enforcing a common, central strategy where regions have responsibility for global execution of the common strategy… and now to the most effective approach, 3) The Collaborative Three-Box Model.

The once popular, standardized approach to global marketing recommended that a global brand should be the same everywhere.  Marlboro and Coca-Cola were used as iconic examples as the way forward.  British Airways adopted this standardized marketing approach with the launch in 1989 of their global slogan, The World’s Favourite Airline.  According to this model, global brands are squeezed into a standardized, single brand box.  With the One-Box Model, local markets merely executed directions from central headquarters.  This resulted in globally centralized and locally indifferent organizational cultures.  In a fragmented, segmented, and fractionalized world, homogenization of marketing thinking is a formula for brand sickness.

For most brands, the limitations of the One-Box Model led to the development of the Two-Box Model: “Think Globally. Act Locally.”  Marketers recognized a need to respect local differences and to execute global brand strategies in locally relevant ways.  Regrettably, this approach often became just another means for the center to keep control.  We will do all the important strategic thinking at the global center.  You merely execute what we say in local ways.

It was a hand-off model, merely transferring central brains to regional brawn.  As a result, there was no accountability.  When the results were poor, the center complained of poor brand strategy execution, while the regions complained that poor strategy, and lack of resources to implement it, were the reasons for failure.  No one took responsibility.

Global brands and the organizations that own them need to adopt a new, collaborative approach. The Collaborative Three-Box Model is a shared responsibility model, focusing on making brands and organizations bigger, better, and stronger.  It is a strategic and organizational approach and mindset that:

  • Clarifies the role of the global teams and those of the regional/local teams
  • Generates a collaborative brand-business culture
  • Stimulates a return on global learning
  • Creates brand frameworks to guide actions
  • Encourages regional and local creativity within the brand frameworks
  • Builds internal pride and accountability in all brand functions worldwide

It provides structure and processes and also allocates responsibilities, so the central global and regional teams know what each has to do and is accountable for.  Each box has a series of procedures with corresponding, essential tools that must be followed.

Here is a brief précis of this new model:

Box #1: Create The Brand’s Common Global Ambition, Its Vision Of Perfection

A brand’s global ambition crosses geography.  Global brand leadership has the ultimate responsibility for this step with the input of the regions.  The responsibilities are shared 80% global and 20% local/regional.

Box #2: Define The Global Plan To Win

The Plan to Win is built by defining the priorities for each of the 8 P’s: Brand Ambition (Purpose, Promise), Action Priorities (People, Product, Place, Price, Promotion), Measurable Milestones (Performance).  The responsibilities for developing the Plan to Win are shared 50/50 between global and local/regional teams.  This cross-functional team requires complete collaboration and trust.

Box #2 sorts out the priorities and provides direction for successful collaboration.  This team also defines the brand framework.  This brand framework specifies the non-negotiable boundaries that guide all action on behalf of the brand.

Box #3: Bring The Brand To Life

This must be the responsibility of the local/regional teams.  It is the local responsibility to create regional/local plans because all results are local.  The regional/local teams must creatively implement the ‘Plan to Win’ in creative, locally relevant ways.  It is important to note that all local/regional creativity must be within the brand framework and in sync with its brand ambition from Box #1.  We call this approach Freedom Within the Framework.

In Box #3, responsibility is 80% regional/local and 20% global.

The new Collaborative Three-Box Model means that marketers must abandon the idea of  “Think Globally. Act Locally.”  Local marketers must “think locally” not just “act locally.”  Local marketing is not just about implementing the ideas from the remote, central big thinkers.

Using cross-functional, cross-geographic teams, The Collaborative Three-Box Model reorganizes relationships between global and regional teams.  It optimizes and restructures their roles and responsibilities.  By properly assigning accountability, this new model celebrates the fact that regional teams know the local customer best.

Regional/local needs must be catered to while keeping the integrity of the brand intact.  Reading lists may be different by country, but the Amazon brand retains its brand essence even when delivering regional and personal relevance.  There is no question that in a world where there are three colliding forces of increasing globalization, localization, and personalization, organizations must build global brands that are both locally relevant and respect personally differentiation if they want to experience high-quality revenue growth.

The Collaborative Three-Box Model is more than a mere process.  And it is more than marketing communications.  It is the best way to run a global business.  It is a business culture.  How you run your brand is how you run your business.  When there is a conflict between culture and strategy, culture always wins.

The Three-Box Model is how we will work together better, worldwide.  It is the best approach for managing the tensions that arise from global and local decision rights, clarifying the role of the center, relative to the role of the regions.  It is the best approach for managing at the intersection of globalization, localization, and personalization.