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The power of local intimacy.

I've long believed that empathy is an essential building block in any successful brand strategy.

Empathy is how we bond with one another; it is also how brands bond with customers.  We gravitate toward brands that get us; that share our sense of humor; that share our values; that make us feel good about ourselves.  Define the basis of your brand's empathy with its customers and you'll get to the essential truth of your brand.

SABMiller has reached the same conclusion, and has done so on a global scale.  Rather than follow the siren song of global efficiencies – i.e., one message worldwide – the brewer realized that local marketing can be more effective in creating a tight bond with the emotions, values and culture of its customers, which, particularly in the case of beer, can vary widely from market to market.  SABMiller calls this "local intimacy."

This doesn't mean a marketer must sacrifice global efficiencies.  To be sure, a blue collar worker in Krakow likely shares many of the same values as his or her peer in Kalamazoo.  Hard-earned rewards for a hard day's work can be a universal appeal.  Many creative assets can be shared to enable local markets to invest less on production and more on media. However, in a "glocal" model, markets should use these assets flexibly to cast their message within the local zeitgeist (sports, humor, pop culture).

This flexibility can help make your brand feel like a good friend sitting on the next bar stool versus a passing stranger who tries to strike up a conversation.