How can agencies, platforms best execute content strategies while working with global clients?

Not only do international brands have a different business landscape but also different execution strategy and timelines. Content marketing experts share challenges that they face and how important it is to get well acquainted with global processes, identifying key stakeholders, decision makers, approval sequences, and timelines, to streamline work and manage expectations across the board

Akanksha Nagar
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It is a dream for many to work with international clients as it seems glamorous for all the right reasons, but it certainly comes with its fair share of pros and cons.

Every country has its own policies, laws, culture, languages, currency, time zones, and businesses operating there also work in different landscapes, so certainly there are some challenges of timelines, understanding the script and local nuances.

Shirley D’Costa

Shirley D’Costa - Chief Business Officer at Kulfi Collective, said that while it might not be challenging in itself, there's definitely a difference in mandate, opportunity and input that it brings on to the table.

“With local/ home grown brands, we have the opportunity to be a part of and contribute to building content strategy from scratch with the brand team, so that’s definitely a massive plus over receiving a set-in place content strategy/ template to execute,” she said.

Neel Gogia

Agreeing that there’s a difference in how global brands communicate with their audience in comparison to local brands, Neel Gogia, Co-founder Iplix Media, said, “The task gets a little challenging because sometimes global brands lack the insights and deeper understanding of the local audience. Thus, communicating what type of content will work and won’t in a specific market gets a little challenging. This is where effective communication comes into the picture. Sharing deeper audience insights and relevant examples helps us put across our thoughts in a better way. Also, it allows them to gain a deeper understanding. Ultimately, results convince them for the long term.”

Working with international or global clients can be an interesting experience for content marketing agencies. Largely because, unlike any other local brand, in the case of an international client there is a completely new learning curve when it comes to their target audiences, their psychographic habits, their web consumption habits and so on.

Apart from being interesting, this can be equally challenging.

Deep Mehta

Sharing why there could be challenges, Deep Mehta, Co-Founder, Digichefs, said, “You can’t run just on your subconscious understanding of your audience, you need to dig deep. Similarly, you need to understand the geography and the target market well. The time difference allows you limited flexibility to go back and forth with the clients, so you need to collate your questions, and/or suggestions before you initiate each communication. Running well in advance is a must! Internal brands which have grown quite well, have standard guidelines for all their jobs.”

He added that while these global brands could be reasonable, there will be limited room for experimentation. Also, they expect robust internal processes and support and this can keep one on their toes all the time!

He further added that clarity in terms of their company goals and objectives is a must before any action plan is laid out and committed.

For instance, Digichefs while working with a Dutch phone manufacturer selling in UAE, used models, imagery based on the geography of UAE, which were different from those in India. Likewise, when it ran campaigns for a CRM software based in the USA, it observed that product outcome-based content worked well, instead of product description-based content, in this case.

Karthik Nagarajan

However, Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker India and Head – Branded Content, GroupM, believes that there is nothing hard/easy simply because something is a global or a local brand.

He said that the uniqueness of global brands is the consistency in global comms and the challenge is of customising it to an Indian setting. He further quoted how the agency has worked with global clients like Jacob’s Creek and Absolut, and claimed these are great examples of how cultural customization can be done.

Jyoti Mansukhani

Jyoti Mansukhani and Saloni Dahake, Business Heads - Global Creator Network, shared that the real challenge lies in how to get consumers’ attention and make it worthwhile - whether it’s a local health insurance brand or a global MNC.

Saloni Dahake

OML’s Global Creator Network plays the role of cultural leaders where it combines its demographic knowledge and cultural insight to build a marketing strategy for its partners. The process, backed by robust data and analytics, has supported home-grown and global brands with objectives that vary from launch and awareness to engagement and growth in markets where English is not the dominant language, such as Russia and Thailand.

Shahir Muneer

Giving insights on the influencer industry, Shahir Muneer - Founder and Director, Divo, said, “Some of the challenges we faced typically were trying to explain the regional vernacular landscape to the international brands.”

Recounting from past experience, related to an influencer that was representing a global brand, Muneer added, that he had seen instances where Indian influencers working for local brands get used to working on tight timelines and a delay in fulfilling the commitment is not taken very seriously. They, however, need to run in a more planned and punctual manner and meet timelines on the dot for global brands, he said.

Overall, he stated that most of these brands already had a good amount of digital advertising data, and knew which demographics they wanted to target and the agency was able to be in sync and provide solutions to them.

How can these challenges be resolved?

The challenge is when global brands slap a one stop shop strategy for all markets to apply, said Mansukhani and Dahake of Global Creator Network.

One can’t market a car in France the same way one does in Germany, because a consumer’s relationship with automobiles in both countries are on the polar opposite ends of the spectrum.

They suggested agencies recognize the difference in consumption pattern and invest in teams that spend time on landscape analysis, cultural nuances and pivot at the speed of consumer mindset.

The agency should plan with a ‘think local and act global’ mindset.

It is important for content marketing agencies and platforms to understand the global brands, the context around which the strategy has been put into place, and what role it has to play in local markets.

D’Costa said that bringing into perspective local nuances, and ensuring the strategy holds good while making it relevant to audience, here is critical.

To execute the same, she suggested, “Patience, understanding and expectation management is key. It’s important to take the time to immerse and understand the brand, brand ethos, and global plans. Getting well acquainted with global processes, identifying key stakeholders, decision makers, approval sequences and general timelines definitely helps streamline work and manage expectations across the board.”

Nagarajan echoed a similar view by saying, “It is important to understand and internalize the core of the global comms platform. Understand the spirit of it and then look at it deeply through the cultural lens and realities of the local market. This is the data-led perspective which will tell us which sub-cultures need to be activated for the same. In some cases, delivering the global messaging and aesthetics actually make more sense than customization. These typically are true in aspirational brands like Nike, Apple or Coke.”

Gogia believes that if one uses content to influence, inform, or connect with audiences in different countries and languages, a global content strategy is key.

“It is very crucial to understand the core principle as well as communication principle of any brand because whatever strategy we create in a brief should be related to the brand and we should not compromise on the execution part. However, we can modify it for our local audience, but eventually whatever their core principles are and the kind of influencers they should be working with, should not get affected,” he said.

Planning for and managing a global client is a challenging task. International brands generally take three to four months to gauge the market and understand the audience.

For example, Iplix starts off with pilot projects to ascertain what works and what doesn't. Post ascertaining, it comes up with the strategy that delivers the maximum impact.

Content marketing