FEATURE14 October 2013

Global thirst, local flavour

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Building strong local brands is a cornerstone of SAB Miller’s success in the global beer market – and insight plays a crucial role, says marketing director Nick Fell. By Jane Simms.


In May 1983, Ted Levitt, editor of the Harvard Business Review wrote one of the first articles to popularise the notion of globalisation. He argued that as markets were globalising – and, by extension, homogenising – then the companies that globalised their brands accordingly would steal a march over their more local competitors.

So influential was his thinking that, over the past 30 years, many organisations have tried to build monolithic global brands to take advantage of the “inevitable” trend. Companies including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Unilever, Levi-Strauss, Vodafone and Heineken have pursued the global brand route – at various points crushing local cultural and taste differences to fit the theory. City analysts piled onto the bandwagon too.

But while a handful of companies have made a success of the strategy, many others have had to adapt their approach as it became clear that the growing demand by consumers for international brands was neither as inevitable nor as inexorable as Levitt ...