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Industry Interviews

Local vs. global marketing with lululemon

Marie-Josée Legault
Feb, 2016
6 mins

The ability to create and deploy globally relevant positioning, brand content and stories across all channels is more important than ever. And, many brands in the outdoor industry have taken the position that it’s impossible to adapt messaging and content to meet the needs and idosyncrasies of local markets. Some marketers say that locally conceived advertising sacrifices consistency of global messaging and does not benefit from economies of scale.

Origin was recently mandated with a fascinating challenge by Lululemon to create a truly (and first ever for this market) localized campaign.  We worked with Tina Sarazin, Content and Localization Manager, Brand + Community who has made content creation and brand localization a focus of her career. With a background in international relations and language, she specializes in providing unified communications and language strategy, including marketing and branding solutions to grow international markets.  

We asked her thoughts on the local vs global dilemma faced by so many global brands in the outdoors.

Origin: How do you define localized marketing? And, tell us about your philosophy?

Tina: As we know, effective marketing creates a meaningful emotional connection between whatever it is you’re putting out into the world and its recipient. Creating that connection can prove to be difficult for brands who go into a new market, especially a multilingual/multicultural one, with a singular view of who they are. Enter localized marketing. Localized marketing is about bringing authenticity to a global brand experience by adding local flavour to a global point of view and considering that same point of view from different angles. This creates a bespoke version of your brand without sacrificing a brand’s core identity, rather tailoring it to the audience you are trying to win over.

Origin: How is this applied at Lululemon?

Tina: We’re constantly learning from and in conversation with our communities and our teams in-market. This creative collaboration with our local teams and partners is what guides how our brand shows up in-market. Our decentralized approach allows us to create tailored brand experiences that not only express who we are as a brand, but also celebrates the unique quirks and qualities of our vibrant communities in a real way.

Origin: What kind of tools have you developed to make this work?

Tina: Our global brand guidelines are a foundational onboarding tool for us. The goal is to make these brand guidelines available in multiple languages and adapt them to our international markets by adding local, cultural and language-specific differentiators to our global point of view. It’s not about changing the global brand identity; it’s about adding to it.

Tools are not enough however. We believe in the power of strong partnership and that’s why comprehensive partner onboarding is key. We enroll the agency in who our global guest is and collaborate with them on nailing down the unique qualities of the local consumer. Together we come up with a layered profile that stays true to our global brand, while intentionally considering our local consumer.

Origin: What do you say to the pro-global marketing strategists who tout cost savings and efficiency, a stronger competitive advantage and heightened consumer awareness as the advantages to a one-message-for-all marketing strategy?

Tina: While I understand why it could seem more efficient to go in with a traditional, one-message-for-all approach, the truth is it’s often more costly to retrofit an unsuccessful attempt at localization than to do it right the first time.

I would also consider that the idea heightened awareness can be misleading. While your new local audience may know of you, they only know what they have been exposed to and what they’ve been able to cobble together on their own. This means that the brand does not control the message anymore. Your brand’s perception and awareness is therefore entirely left up to one’s own conclusions.  

Successful localized marketing is not about changing your overall message. It’s about figuring out which part of it will best resonate with your local consumer and communicating it in the most authentic way.

A common mistake I see companies make when entering a new market, is leading with translation execution. It usually goes, get a translation vendor, translate the words on the page, slap’em on the same creative assets turn on this translated experience for your new-market guests. The result: a diluted, sometimes disjointed, version of your global brand experience, in a different language.

While translation is one of the many tools that can be used to tailor one’s brand to a new audience, it will never yield the emotional response needed for effective marketing. There is little thought given to the intention behind the message, the goal of how the message is received and who is receiving it and therefore, limited return on investment.

Origin: What is your advice to those marketers embarking on a localization strategy?

Tina: I would recommend starting with company’s positioning statement and really asking some tough questions around what you are uniquely qualified to bring to the table. The truth is, what sets you apart in North America may not be exactly the same as what sets you apart in Asia. You may have to play up a component of your unique point of view in some areas of the world, while you may want to add to it in others – and the choice may be different in each market.

I also would strongly recommend finding like-minded partners to help you make your brand sing locally. Seek out creative agencies able to bridge the gap between your global branding and your local audience. Look for partners who have experience in this zone, beyond providing creative in different languages. Make sure you involve them early and foster ongoing collaboration between global and local. And, finally, avoid letting yourself get seduced by the allure of what I like to call the myth of the mediocre. If your brand voice is remotely tied to your brand’s value proposition, you will likely not reach desired ROI without taking the time to lay out a true localization strategy.



Tips for Improving Your Localized Marketing

Involve the agency (or local stakeholders) early in the process.

This allows the local team to get ownership over the project, to understand the big picture objectives and it will help the feedback be intentional and limit the back and forth between global-local.

Choosing a partner that shares your brand’s values and has a connection to your target audience is essential. Strong partnership, which includes strong brand onboarding, from the start is crucial to success when it comes to localized marketing.

Implement a detailed brand onboarding process

Bring your agency up to speed on the overall brand strategy before developing a new brand campaign. This means investing time in reviewing the brand vision, mission and positioning statement with the local counterparts and aligning the strategy within the whole organisation.

Make it clear what's mandatory vs adaptable elements.

Providing guidance on which elements of the brand campaign process are standard and which are adaptable is key. Be clear on which of the core key selling points and positioning remain unaltered across markets. However, based on local market research, if alternative approaches are supported you should consider adaptation or supplementary key selling points to address market needs.

Choose the right terminology.

Make sure the global marketing team and the local offices speak the same language. It is important that all stakeholders understand the brand terminology and brand communications are aligned between parties.

Share the metrics with your partners.

Your success is their success. Have a plan in place to provide timely, relevant data to your local partner that will enable them to react, adjust and improve as the campaign or content creation evolves.



Utilize the right tools

Finally create the tools that will enable global collaboration and minimise strategic leakage; guidelines, toolkits, content management systems. Such an approach will help maximise resources, as it avoids the duplication of locally developed assets.


Origin Outside offers unique creative services and innovative digital marketing strategies to tourism and outdoor sports-based businesses. For more information, please contact us online.

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