There’s room for global products tailored to locals, and local products tapping into global fervour, in a world that is both big and small, writes Will Higham
Trend shifts used to be zero sum. One behaviour replaced – or reduced – another. So mobiles all but ended calls from fixed-line home phones. But consumers are more and more able to act on two opposing impulses at once. Many trends now appear in addition to, not instead of, another. Thus rising vinyl sales (heritage-led) are not cannibalising music streaming (convenience-led).
So it is with localism and globalism. Lately we have seen a growth in nationalism: Brexit, Donald Trump’s isolationism, anti-immigration parties across Europe. Meanwhile, the growing popularity of artisanry and social interaction has driven a demand for local sourcing.
But, counter-intuitively, this is not at the expense of globalism. As social media and web access grow, consumers everywhere enjoy more non-native experiences and products. According to a recent survey, 30 per cent of all British households bought Mexican food last year, 27 per cent Moroccan and 25 per cent Japanese. The ‘globalised leisure’ trend I described in this column in May sees consumers embracing non-native festivals and customs, from Black Friday to the Day of the Dead.
Consumers interact across markets too. They share global memes such as Gangnam Style or Grumpy Cat, experiences of events like the Ice Bucket Challenge, and views on universal narratives such as Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. This communication – chatting on forums, buying on eBay, playing multiplayer video games – is leading to a language that transcends barriers: visual signifiers such as emojis and gifs; acronyms such as LOL; standard descriptors such as ‘movie’.
For those selling products and services globally, it’s a delicate balance. Tomorrow’s consumer will have both global and local experiences. But it’s also an opportunity. Local, global or ‘glocal’ approaches won’t be automatically better or worse – each will have its own benefits. Local memes can help personalise a product or service, global ones can build a feeling of universal communality around it. Or you’ll consider balancing the two by using local variants of global experiences. You choose. The world’s your oyster.
Will Higham is a popular speaker and founder of strategic consultancy Next Big Thing
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