Localism, Communities and Fandom:
Why brands should act localLy when thinking globally
An In-Depth Research Report Powered by
THE (GLOBAL) STRUGGLE IS REAL
For too long, global marketers have been on the frontlines of a near insurmountable challenge. How do you appeal to as many people around the world, while developing messaging that still feels locally relevant? How do you coordinate multi-market campaigns without standardizing your messaging? Marketers battling an ever-evolving media landscape are struggling to maintain efficiency while creating content that transcends both physical and cultural boundaries to connect with diverse audiences.
OF MARKETERS struggle to adapt messaging to local markets
feel they aren’t able
to jump on market intelligence fast enough
However, the real solution to global resonance may lie on the opposite end of the spectrum; universally, audiences crave authenticity and candor in storytelling.
As one of the biggest international content producers and distributors, NBCU + Sky understands the power of harnessing compelling narratives to catch the attention of global audiences. We’ve seen first-hand how the widespread availability of programming from around the world has galvanized generations of global citizens to seek out representations of other cultures and communities. Through consuming international content, whether it be an episode of a popular TV show or a piece of citizen journalism captured on a phone, we can satisfy our innate curiosity for foreign narratives and find commonalities and connection through universal human experiences. Ultimately, that’s what entertainment is all about; it’s a chance to get a glimpse of lives outside of our own and to bridge cultural divides through empathy and understanding.
While seemingly counterintuitive for many marketers, the most successful methods for connecting with global audiences is by centering your campaign around localized, human-first approaches.
In this piece of research, we’ve gathered insights from the best storytellers and content creators worldwide and augmented them with analysis of some of the most popular cross-border programs and franchises to illustrate the key components of a successful multi-market campaign. Paired with a commissioned survey across 14 countries from Asia, Europe, Latin America, UK and the US, we sought to gain a better understanding of how people around the world respond to cultural representations in short/long form television and film.
Through our content development, we’ve learned that the most impactful way to engage global audiences is through three local-first strategies:
We’ve looked at the arsenal of content between NBCU+Sky and discovered that truly successful programming highlights what makes a city or community unique by depicting characters with authenticity and intentionality.
Let’s Dive Deeper
For many marketers, the only available approach is to promote their brand through non-descript messaging that could ostensibly appeal to anyone, anywhere. However, this approach produces campaigns that never fully resonate with most audiences. 7 in 10 global marketers admit that their biggest challenge is adapting messaging into local markets and 90% feel they aren’t able to respond to market intelligence fast enough—by the time they’re able to localize content in accordance with the newest trends, they’re already too late. The end product resulting in campaigns that feel soulless and devoid of local insight; thus the global conundrum continues. However, the real solution to global resonance may lie on the opposite end of the spectrum; universally, audiences crave authenticity and candor in storytelling.
For many marketers, the obvious approach is to promote their brand through all-inclusive, indistinct content that could ostensibly appeal to anyone anywhere.
We’ve discovered that truly impactful programming highlights our seemingly different cultures through commonly shared universal truths, all told with authenticity. Brands have an opportunity to learn from our own award-winning global content playbook and apply these trade secrets to their own campaign strategies and tactics.
Telling local stories for global audiences
How to move beyond community representation and encourage connection
How to earn fan love to activate their influence
WHAT WE LOOKED AT
Global CMO Council Survey, 2018
Telling local stories for global audiences
We believe that too often advertisers overlook this effective tactic and instead, should adjust their approach to incorporate a localized framework through which to reach their target audiences. According to our research, 83% of viewers worldwide are interested in learning about other cultures and countries and 72% feel that it’s more important than ever to do so. What’s more, this shift in attitudes isn’t out of obligation; two thirds of survey participants said they enjoy learning about communities outside of their own.
Leaning into references and slang unique to a location, known only to locals, doesn’t deter global audiences like marketers have once been led to believe.
Instead, we’ve seen throughout a portfolio of local-first content, audiences light up when global brands salute communities and spotlight their local culture.
Lessons for Telling Local Stories to Global Audiences:
Understanding how to illustrate a local insight for global audiences means choosing a pathway and crafting a message through a lens that will make global audiences covet that experience. This is how we craft universal truths.”
What Our Experts Think
Street corner politics that reflect the state of society
It doesn’t take a widely released feature film, a five part mini-series, or a massive investigation to conjure local pride. We’ve seen brands execute campaigns centered around local pride with agility to inspire a sense of belonging with their target audiences.
Celebrating Local Pride in Short Form
and global marketers can bank on the emotional responses fostered through hometown pride by centering their strategies around local cultures.
Viewers are excited to see their city represented on screen—an establishing shot of a nearby intersection or a scene in a familiar restaurant—
It may seem untenable, but specificity doesn’t alienate global audiences. In fact, the very same elements that create an immersive narrative are what compel viewers to tune-in day after day. NBCU + Sky have long understood how infusing stories with local flavor drives global attention and through this model, we built our legacy as leaders in international entertainment.
feel that it’s more important than ever to do so
OF PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD LOVE LEARNING ABOUT OTHER CULTURES AND COUNTRIES
Learn to speak like a local
Representing individual towns or neighborhoods on a global stage offers people a passport into the culture of that community in a way that closes the divide whether physically or mentally.
Give them a passport
The experiences and issues that effect a neighborhood or community will always find significance with outsiders when the depictions are rooted in human truths. By grounding strategies and messaging in authenticity, these tactics often offer a mirror to the viewers own circumstances creating emotional connections globally.
Build a bridge to connectioN
One Platform Marketing,
NBCUniversal + Sky
At CNBC International we have to be cognizant of all our constituents and how they will be absorbing our stories no matter where they are located. But we've also learned how to create universal relevance for each story we tell, translating it into a version that will have relevancy for whoever might be consuming it in any context.”
Olympic profiles are all about taking international stories and creating local interest. We want to create emotional connections with athletes right from day one. The best way to do that is to tell a good story centered around our shared compassion. This way the viewers will be right there along with you regardless of demographics or regions.”
& President, Olympics Production
The following three case studies illustrate how NBCU + Sky programming that invested in location-specific narratives have formed emotional connections on a global scale.
DO THE RIGHT THING
When the world depends on one village’s resource
Lifting the veil of mystery
Nothing Beats a Londoner
Beats by Dre, Straight Outta Somewhere
We’ve seen the exhilarating power that is generated when local dialect or locals-only references is celebrated in programming built for broad audiences. Marketers can learn from our playbooks on how we’ve been able to successfully represent individual communities for a global audience
1 Source: Proprietary NBCU + Sky study “Global Connections in Culture”, executed with GlobalWebIndex. March 2021.
From our research we found that what binds communities together can transcend boundaries
The best way to relay the values of a community is to open a door rather than a window. Inviting audiences into the essence of what makes that community distinct deepens our collective compassion and resolves any unjustified partiality
How to move beyond community representation and encourage connection:
There's this really interesting mentality behind what bonds communities together and its this concept of 'tribes'. The tribal mentality has long been a foundation of consumer behavioral studies, but many fail to understand its full power. What I stand for and what I'm passionate about is the identity of my tribe and my identity markers can relate to people all over the world. There's an incredible power in connecting with communities right now. If we fear it, we'll never be able to leverage it. If you lean into it, you can use it for good.”
Opening up a new conversation
It doesn’t take a widely released feature film, a five part mini series, or a massive investigation to conjure local pride. Even short form advertisements can inspire a similar sense of belonging.
Celebrating Communities in Short Form
While the narrative may be set in a specific location, audiences worldwide find connection through depictions of shared values and universal experiences.
No matter how a character may look or what language they speak, their humanity is enough to captivate viewers and promote a sense of unity.
agree that there are things everyone can relate to regardless of culture or country
of respondents agree that global experiences can feel personal
OPEN A DOOR
Showing the gritty realities, warts and all, of a communities dynamic deepens the bond that people share. More importantly, it allows viewers to feel like they now have stake in that community through a level of shared understanding and empathy.
Realism over idealism
The sense of unshakable community bond is the driving force behind gaming and whats attracted new gamers since its inception. This notion of a shared experience thats not only widely accessible, but also so dynamic and customizable is at the heart of this world. I've sat back and watched the level of interaction between gamers across the world in these online forums and it really feels like an infinite universe”
President, Spectator Gaming
The following three case studies demonstrate the global impact created by shining a light on the challenges and values of a community.
Will & Grace
A warning to the world
A Warning From Italy
Welcoming the world into the heart of a community
Friday Night Lights
Guinness Sapeurs (2014)
Under Armour Rule Yourself (2016)
Communities are defined by the shared values or challenges that unite them through a common identity and global marketers can benefit from investing in community representation to highlight their communal ethos.
For marketers, the lessons here are simple. The best way to relay the values of a community is to open a door rather than a window—invite audiences and consumers into their world rather than make them watch from the wings, and show them the good, the bad, and the ugly that it has to offer.
Source: Proprietary NBCU + Sky study “Global Connections in Culture”, executed with GlobalWebIndex. March 2021.
Successfully celebrating the ethos of a community doesn’t require a seven-season TV series or investigative report. We’ve seen how brands have been able to capture the spirit of a community or the challenges of a group identity in short form advertising
FANDOM IS THE GATEWAY TO BEHAVIORAL CHANGE
In order to earn fan love, you need to love them back
Creating a universal love of the game
Leveraging Fandom in Short Form
global marketers can earn the love of an international audience bound together by a shared passion.
Through mobilizing fans to rally around a single brand, marketers can generate a drastic behavioral change that will ultimately extend beyond their initial target demographic. As the home to some of the most beloved films, shows and characters, we’ve learned that the best way to draw in this powerful community is to let their passion guide you. Listening directly to the guardians and protectors of these microcultures and letting their fandom inform your insights is a skillful tact to engage fans across generations and continents.
Passion and dedication is central to any fandom. Honor the passion that fans have in a way that validates their investment and speaks to them earnestly. For too long, fans have felt like their pride has been pushed to the fringes, a cultural oddity. Now fan communities are being seen as a highly valuable and essential touchstone of success. Their opinions and voices carry equal if not more weight than industry engines alone. To make inroads with these crucial voices, offer fan communities spaces to relish in their love and connect with other devotees and show them that you value their fandom just as much as they do.
Fans aren’t bought, they’re earned
At Universal Pictures, we have a unique opportunity to be able to hear directly from our film's fans to understand what they're most passionate about. We don't take this access lightly. Listen to your audiences, let them guide you. We take our greatest insight and feedback from our fans and make sure we're letting them know their voices are heard.”
SVP, Global Creative Strategy, Universal Pictures
The following three case studies illustrate the power of fandom and how their influence can extend across countries and cultures.
Bringing real world politics into another galaxy
When Fans Become Family
The Fast and the Furious
Bud Light /
Game of Thrones
Samsung, Rihanna Anti-diary
Nothing compares to the power of a fanbase, and by tapping into a community of devoted followers,
Moved to a different country
Attending a fandom event
LEARNED A NEW LANGUAGE
DISCUSSED ONLINE OR IN PERSON
The passion that drives fandom can inspire behavioral changes ranging from casual to the fanatical by authentically aligning with a particular community’s unique culture. The spectrum of fandom is fluid, and can move fans across engagement levels over time, or exist in multiple communities at varying degrees. Marketers who understand this deep-rooted dedication can harness pre-existing loyalty to propel a movement forward because each level of fandom is made up of people who actively choose to engage and participate in a given community.
The most successful fan communities know that their devotion can be stronger than family. Offering exclusive benefits, incentives and premiums ensures that your fans feel like they are part of your family and their voices are a valuable component of the end product.
Treat them like family
Especially in the realm of gaming, right now we're seeing a cross over between every category and industry in a way that is amassing unthinkable audiences. From music and fashion, Gaming is at the frontlines of this generation's cultural zeitgeist. Brands have an opportunity to create a unique moment for an entire population of engaged and interested gamers to be talking about and sharing.”
For marketers looking to harness the power of fandom, the key strategies revolve around speaking their language through integrating easter eggs and inside jokes, celebrating their passion by giving them a space to express their enthusiasm, and treating them like family by offering exclusives and rewards for their consistent devotion. Because fans don’t want lip service, they want proof that the cultural entities they love are as appreciative of the audience as the audience is of them.
Nothing resonates more with fans than when they can see elements of their beloved culture honored and celebrated in mainstream media. Lean into “easter eggs”, coded language and other dogma of their fandom that celebrates their passion.
Geek out with them
Which of the following have you done because of your fandom?
Understanding the power of fans and respecting their culture is one of the most critical and valued skills for any marketer. Capturing their passion and earn their trust has proven to be the turning point for brand success. Here we’ve seen how brands have effectively immersed their brand within fan culture to connect with global audiences.
To help brands navigate the increasingly contentious global landscape, we’re launching a new full service cultural consultancy called Co-Lab with NBCUniversal + Sky to act as a strategic partner and help brands learn from the driving tenets behind primetime entertainment culture.
As global content creators and marketers, at NBCU + Sky we’re not unsympathetic to the notion that some of these tactics and strategies may seem illogical to global marketers. We’re conscious of the multi-faceted responsibilities that brands and partners face as they juggle the need for global efficiency and local relevancy across markets.
For those who want to learn directly from the best storytellers on how to write compelling global marketing strategies centered around local cultures, we’re launching a new full service cultural consultancy called Co-Lab.
Reach out to Co-Lab for more information
As the biggest global content producer, we can help our partners craft strategies and campaigns that contribute to culture, rather than simply borrowing from it. This will ultimately help brands break through the global conundrum and get a break ahead of their competitors who are all jockeying for the same positions, in the same cluttered spaces. Much like this report’s analysis of how local insights can be used to create global connections with international audiences, Co-Lab can unlock our expertise and cultural understanding to help craft your next story.
If effective storytelling is rooted in authenticity and the universality of emotions, what does this mean for advertisers?
It’s time to step away from impersonal visuals and generic characters to focus directly on spotlighting local cultures and speaking directly to fans because we’ve now learned that storytelling with authenticity creates the most connection with global audiences.
NBCU + Sky is home to some of the most award-winning films and programs that have not only resonated with audiences around the world, but also sparked cultural conversations. Because we have direct access to the best global creators and storytellers who are conversant in how to craft stories that global audiences love, we want to empower brands to think more like an entertainment company rather than a traditional advertiser. Co-Lab gives brands and agencies unprecedented access into the collective power of both our international studios, insights across our global audience reach and unlocks our exclusive access to talent from showrunners, writers, strategists, and programmers, all in service to develop customized campaign solutions though immersive collaboration.
If effective storytelling is rooted in authenticity and the universality of emotions, what does this mean for advertisers?
If effective storytelling is rooted in authenticity and the universality of emotions, what does this mean for advertisers? It’s time to step away from impersonal visuals and generic characters and focus directly on spotlighting local cultures and speaking directly to fans because at the end of the day, the human experience is what binds us all together.
Co-Lab allows the world’s biggest brands and agencies to leverage the power of our content, reach our global viewership, and access our slate of cultural experts including showrunners, writers, strategists, and programmers to develop customized campaign solutions through collaboration.