3 Keys to Bringing a Global Campaign to a Local Market

Unilever CMO says today's goal is 'mass customization'

CANNES, France—How does a global marketer like Unilever put the focus on the individual consumer? At scale, of course.

"We have gone from mass marketing to mass customization," said Keith Weed, the chief marketing and communications officer of the CPG giant, at a Cannes Lions talk with the lofty title "The Future of Marketing."

"The CMO role has gone from the idea of a chief macro officer to a chief micro officer," Weed offered. The job of a mass marketer, he pointed out, now means "understanding individuals in each and every place around the world."

Weed used Unilever campaigns encompassing what he termed the "three i's"—individuals, influencers and impacts—to illustrate how the seemingly disparate ideas of global and local can coexist in a singular marketing push. Essentially, his was the not-so-new notion that global campaigns can be tailored to local markets and, thanks to technology, even people.

Not as well known: Weed's three i's, which play a major part in achieving this. Here are his insights on those tools:

1. Respect the power of the individual.

Axe's digital agency in Brazil, CUBOCC, São Paulo, last year coopted the most famous love story in the world, Romeo and Juliet, for the short film/programmatic campaign "Romeo Reboot." It generated 100,000 iterations of the video, which means nearly everyone who saw it got a different version. That kind of customization is key. 

2. Don't just focus on reality stars.

While we tend to think of celebrities and their Instagram accounts when we consider the idea of influencers today, social listening found that so-called "power users" at this year's Cannes Lions—among them, Cindy Gallop, Scott Cullather and Amber Case—were generating buzz right alongside more widely known personalities like Ryan Seacrest, David Copperfield and Rob Delaney, who also turned out for this year's festival.

3. Make a world of difference.

To illustrate impact, Weed pointed to campaigns with eco-friendly messages by Unilever and Ben & Jerry's. Unilever brands that focused on sustainability delivered nearly half the company's growth last year, he said, and its top five brands are sustainability-focused ones. "People are engaging with [these brands] and they're engaging with them at scale," Weed said, adding, "there is growing evidence that this is the kind of impact consumers want to see."

The upshot of all this? "Marketers used to pride ourselves on being ahead of consumers, but over the last few years, with all that's going on in technology, consumers are ahead of marketers," said Weed. The job of marketers? To catch up—and that, he believes, is the future of marketing.