Why does efficiency win over marketing effectiveness?

by Nigel Hollis | May 04, 2016

Chapter 10 of my first book, The Global Brand, is titled ‘Balancing brand strength and business efficiency’ and explores the inherent tension between the two qualities. My proposition was that adopting a global, one-size-fits-all approach can undermine local effectiveness in favor of efficiency.

I was reminded of the tension between global efficiency and local effectiveness when I reviewed the findings of the Warc 100 analysis. Given that Always #LikeAGirl is featured as the second case in the ranking of the world's best marketing campaigns based on performance in effectiveness and strategy competitions, you might miss the fact that the vast majority of the cases are local and often very specific in nature.


#LikeAGirl is one of only three cases labeled as ’global’ and the other two are from Coca-Cola, which tops the brand rankings. However, review the full list of cases and actually most of the cases are similar to the overall winner, Penny the Pirate, which was developed for Luxottica’s OPSM chain of opticians in Australia, a local brand facing competition from a global competitor in the form of Specsavers. One country, one brand, one task.

That said, there are a number of other cases that I would classify as ’global’ or ’regional’ campaigns, even if they are not classified that way in the report. For instance, surely Volvo Truck’s live test series had an impact outside of Sweden? Even with my reclassification, however, it leaves the vast majority of the cases included in the Warc 100 as local engagements.

So why do global brands not feature more often? I believe it is because three factors are at work.

First, if you set out to create a global campaign, then you need to find a universal human truth that addresses the marketing task and fits the brand. That is a huge ask because universal human truths are few and far between,  and the task will differ depending on brand status and context.

Second, many companies have moved decision-making and budget to the center in an effort to make marketing more efficient (not to mention cut the overall budget). This often results in a lack of understanding of local context and needs, and a lack of engagement from local teams.

Third, processes in big companies often favor standardization over designing campaigns to achieve a specific objective. For instance, the media budget and channels are defined before the marketing task is properly defined – what consumer behavior are you trying to encourage – so end result is likely to look very similar to previous campaigns.

Brands operating in country or with locally-focused marketing seem to have more freedom to work from a specific marketing task and then architect and engaging program that achieves that task. So what do you think? Is my assessment correct? If so, how might global companies better seek marketing effectiveness? Please share your thoughts.


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  1. Nigel Hollis, May 18, 2016

    Hi Adam,

    Thanks for the additional perspective. I take the point about trying to achieve as much as possible within a set budget but have you ever looked to see what the opportunity cost is of going with a one-size-fits-all campaign? Just wondering how much upside potential might be lost, particularly in big markets like the ones you mention. No doubt an academic exercise but could offer yet another perspective!

    Cheers, Nigel

  2. Adam Coleman, May 04, 2016


    In my current role at Microsoft I'm focused on driving a greater focus on Marketing ROI. I'd argue through that lens that the balance Global companies have to consider is the delta in impact in the goal you're trying to achieve compared to the relative difference to invest in localizing a Global idea. I've been through this a great deal when doing campaign development here given the size of our reach as a company. Ultimately, if you have a Global campaign that simply does not fit into a key geo (Japan or China can be examples of this occasionally), then there is a yes/no decision whether to use it, or do something locally. However, in most situations you are looking at an idea that is marginally less or more relevant in one country than another (if it's truly a broad Human Truth).

    Hence, I'd think more to the fact that client reality dictates a need to work within a budget, and in most cases this leads to wanting more geos than less but creates this less than perfect messaging in some places. One of our teams here at Microsoft just recently got a key internal Marketing Award for helping some of our 50+ subsidiaries be able to repurpose our Global Advertising in some of their locally driven work. Though maybe not absolutely perfect, this is a cost efficient way of trying to drive more reach with a similar brand message.

    Just another perspective - as budget v geo choice v impact creates a triangle of tensions that are always difficult to balance.



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