How localisation is changing marketing

McDonald’s is a household name, and the Golden Arches is one of the most recognisable logos in the world. In fact, more people recognise the iconic Yellow “M” than the cross. This just goes to show how well McDonald’s has done branding itself and staying relevant with people across the globe.

So how does a brand that serves 68 million customers a day around the world (more than the population of Great Britain) still manage to remain relevant in the countries that it operates in? Localisation.

In all countries that McDonald’s operates, it serves the iconic Big Mac, French Fries and Coke. However, local teams are given full liberty to adjust and customise their menus to meet the local customer’s demand. Especially when it comes to marketing promotions and communications, the “one size fits all” approach (that many companies still deploy today) is non-existent. Local teams are given free hand to create their own marketing calendars and deploy their own media strategies to best reach their local customers.

A good example of this would be the Prosperity Burger. The Prosperity Burger was created in Malaysia and is an extremely successful year-on-year recurring promotion linked to Chinese New Year. Since its creation more than 20 years ago, it has been picked up successfully by other markets such as Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong.

So you would think, “Hey, if we centralise the shoot of the commercial, get one director to film the TV spot for all four markets, record local voice-overs, and activate it in all the countries, we could drive efficiencies in the marketing budget right?”

This might be true to a certain extent. However, the way that each of these countries celebrates Chinese New Year, and the values each country’s customers embrace are different. Leaving each market to develop its own commercial spots based on relevant local insights ultimately leads to communications that are genuine and touch the hearts of their local consumers, resulting in better performance of the campaign.

Therefore, we can see how a “one size fits all” approach is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and localized, customized messaging that’s relevant to customers is the way forward.

The example above was on a country to country scale. But taking the same concept further, embracing a micro mind-set, and getting down to granularity even within your local market is changing the way marketers have to think about communications.

Using Malaysia as an example and focusing on the Malay language, even though Bahasa Malaysia is the National language that everyone understands, the slangs used across the different states vary. Speaking Malay in Selangor, you would use the word “Manis” to describe something sweet. But in Kelantan, the locals would actually pronounce and spell it differently as “Manih” in what is known as Kelantanese.

So as a McDonald’s marketer in Malaysia working to promote the Oreo McFlurry, you could create a blanket advertisement with the headline “Sedap dan Manis” (Delicious and Sweet) and plaster it on billboards across the country. That would be the easy way of doing things; it would reduce production costs; and cut down on complexities. However, applying the micro mind-set, and getting down to granularity, the billboard in Kelantan would read “Sedat dan Manih” which would show that McDonald’s embraces Kelantanese, and have much greater impact and resonate tenfold with a local there.

With the dawn of digital advertising, Marketers can take the localisation and micro mind-set a step further. Using the same promotion for Oreo McFlurry and merging it with real-time data such as location (which today can be as granular as 500 metres) and weather, you could have a Google banner ad that reads “Sweating? It’s 36°C in Kuala Lumpur. How about a delicious Oreo McFlurry to cool down”. The localisation possibilities are endless.

There’s a certain magic to localisation that can’t be explained. People react and respond very differently to advertising that’s tailor-made for their country, for their state, for their city, for THEM. Localisation shows that a brand cares about its customers and genuinely pays attention to their unique needs.

Advertising has and always been about stirring up emotions and making your customers feel good about your brand, ultimately leading to a sale. And that is how McDonald’s, a global brand, touches the hearts of 68 million people daily, through the localisation of marketing.

The writer is Eugene Lee, marketing director of McDonald’s Malaysia.

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