As brands continue to aspire to global reach, there is a growing recognition that not all desires are universal, that the same message does not necessarily translate seamlessly across cultures and that a global brand message doesn’t always resonate with a consumer who is demanding an increasingly authentic and personalised offer. We are seeing more of our brand leaders, such as P&G, undertaking ambitious global brand consolidation programmes to maximise global recognition and targeting. But we believe that the new challenge – or opportunity – for consumer brands is finding new innovation routes to meet cultural need and desires on both a global and more local scale. Is culture, rather than consolidation, the new driving force for brand commerce?

More brand start-ups in local territories are boldly challenging the global brands to underline the increasing importance of cultural influence and inspiration. The FT recently featured a story about Rwandan entrepreneur, Albert Rudatsimburwa. Rudatsimburwa became so fed up with local bars stocking expensive imported spirits that he decided to make his own. Just nine months after start of production,“Isamaza” lines bar shelves across the capital, Kigali. Each of the five flavours is named after a distinctive type of cattle, easily the most prized possession in Rwandan culture, with bottles ‘dressed’ in traditional Rwandan straw bangles. Mr Rudatsimburwa was quoted as saying that he wants to help redress the dearth of local production and boost an appreciation of the country’s culture and image. (Source:

A delightful and anecdotal story but it has a pertinent message for our established brands. Brands need to engage in consumer culture, recognise the shifts in consumer behaviour and respond by making their brands relevant and authentic within consumers’ changing landscapes.

This approach informed our work with the global redesign for Cadbury Dairy Milk. We created a different design/character for each chocolate variant in each country: to reflect the history of the brand in this geographical context or the relevance of the place and its specific cultural nuances. The creation of these successful individual brands, with their market-specific variations, has also succeeded in creating one seamless and global voice for the brand. Each country still ‘owns’ Cadbury but the parent brand also has a stronger position and presence.

Essentially, brands need to find ways to embed themselves into the local environment by understanding, adapting and appreciating the character, history and culture of individual locations and weaving aspects of it into how the brand is shaped, experienced and understood. Pernod Ricard’s Our/Vodka shows truly inspired and creative thinking -– a vodka brand based on one recipe but produced differently based on the local ingredients sourced where it is made in eleven different cities across the globe. This allows each location’s distiller to give the vodka an individual, locally and culturally inspired twist with, for example, Berlin run by fashion people and New York by skate and bike aficionados. A brand movement gaining traction and sales success as new distilleries continue to be set up with London currently being established.

Brands need to find new ways to execute a true scaling of innovation – meeting specific needs and agendas with the creation of ever more tailored and local brand initiatives that can also grow and impact on a global level.

From the development of the Nike Sole for amputees to the creation of its ‘Fuelbox’ vending machine, Nike is a great example of a brand giant perfectly executing this scaling of innovation. Rather than purely looking at geography, Nike is adopting and integrating with cultural behaviour, finding new ways to connect the dots, not just between products but between the brand, its global community and their changing lifestyles. However, Diageo’s provocative, ‘Made of black’ campaign for Guinness focused on a specific culture by linking the colour of its product to the vibrant spirit of young Africans. This single-minded approach clearly shows Diageo’s understanding of, and commitment to, instigating a new brand world underlined by authentic meaning and positive cultural relevance.

Cadbury, Nike and Diageo are three future-focused brands engaging and innovating with a new cultural mindset. Our Pearlfisher Futures Programme operates on the belief that cultural change on a macro social level now has a critical and ever-growing influence on all consumer brands. Today’s brands need to be inspired by this change, finding the best ways to reflect, master and express it, by designing a more personal and panoptic brand world to build commercially effective futures.