Ideas driven by ‘deep human insight’ are the key to successful brands, says J&J global marketer | M&M Global

Ideas driven by ‘deep human insight’ are the key to successful brands, says J&J global marketer

With worldwide competition getting tougher, and consumers taking a more prominent role in the marketing journey, big brand owners are having to increasingly adopt global marketing strategies to stay on top.

M&M Global spoke to two of the most senior marketing figures in the FMCG industry to find out how this is affecting their media choices.

“If you work at a big global advertiser such as Unilever, the main challenge is how you capitalise on your global scale but still drive local relevancy at market level, while remaining true to that brand,” said Sarah Mansfield, VP global media Europe and Americas at Unilever.

Using Knorr as an example, Mansfield explained how this presents a perfect demonstration of a brand challenged by the cultural differences found in its many markets.

“A lot of recipes and food content are very localised, so how do you stay true to the brand? You need a strong global idea that you can flex at a local level,” she said.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J), famous for brands such as Calpol, Johnson’s Baby, and Savlon, is following a similar path, says its president of global marketing services and chair of this year’s M&M Global Awards, Vineet Mehra.

“It’s actually a really big move that we are making at the company right now through really globalising our brands. We’’ve got some of the world’s best brands and we’re really working to create global brand ideas that have purpose and resonate with consumers around the world,” he said.

Mehra added that the key to a successful brand is when the core ideas are driven by “deep human insight”.

“As long as a brand is grounded in purpose, culture and insight then these great ideas tend to travel – it’s when you don’t have a great idea where local relevancy becomes very difficult.”

Global-local balance

Unilever has a number of global billion pound brands that are truly global, such as Dove, Knorr, and Hellmans within its portfolio.

The company ensures international consistency through its strategy managers and category directors sitting at a global level. The people who then own the brands at a local level are responsible for bringing insights to interpret the brands for consumers in each market, achieving the necessary balance between global and local relevancy.

“Having those consistent frameworks that we apply at a global framework, but also with enough flexibility to adapt for market nuances, is key,” she said.

The changing way in which we now consume media, on a digital level in particular, has also had a huge impact on how these global companies are having to adapt their marketing strategies.

“We are thinking about how we can start looking at social community management on a global scale and how we can start to ensure that all of our owned assets look and feel the same around the world and connect it up,” said Mehra.

“Digital is one of those spaces which is extremely global – you can be sitting anywhere in the world looking at anything you want. We are spending a lot of time thinking about how to build that infrastructure so our brands look and feel the same way no matter where you are in the world.”

Development and implementation

Unilever’s YouTube channel ‘All Things Hair’ is a perfect example of using digital to take a global idea that was developed centrally and then implemented locally.

“You have the ability to invest time and money in a big concept that you couldn’t develop and make work in one market because the cost of doing that is prohibitive,” said Mansfield.

“You might have a handful of vloggers, like a Zoella, with big followings, but others in local markets can develop their own concepts with local vloggers. The popular hairstyles depend on the type of hair within a market, can differ dramatically.”

The desire of social media giants to consolidate their place in the market is also of interest to global consumer brands, argues Mansfield: “We’re seeing lots of new announcements on products by global players, we’re interested to see in what direction that goes and if we can take advantage of those opportunities.

“They are shuffling to find a positioning. There is only so much bandwidth a consumer can take, so those players are trying to consolidate their position in the market.”

It’s clear to see that even major companies such as Unilever and J&J are having to rethink their media strategies to keep up with the competition, so what will those entering this year’s M&M Global Awards have to show in order to stay on top of the competition?

“For me it’s all about really connecting really great innovation and approaches and connecting the media channel selection with where the consumer is going find that specific message most relevant,” says Mehra.

“Not all messages work well on all channels. The trick now is really connecting the channel and message seamlessly so that it lives in one place.”

This year’s awards promise to be the biggest and best yet, with a host of new categories and a gala ceremony to take place at Grosvenor House on London’s Park Lane on Thursday 3 September.

The final deadline for entries is this Friday (12 June). For any further details please contact our brand director Danielle Redwood at

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