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By Thomas Baekdal - July 2012

How To Be Local In a Global World

It's not local vs global. It's about creating local relevance vs personal relevance - via your product, your influence, and people's connections.

Many brands run into the problem of trying to make their local communication fit into a global world. So, here is how you should do that.

Everything we do, from a marketing and communication perspective, is about aligning what we do as a brand with what is relevant for our customers. There are three elements to this: Product, connection and influence.

Product is about how relevant the product is to the needs of the individual customers - and not just the needs in practical terms, but also the needs in emotional terms.

Influence is all about you, and how you appear towards your customers. Are you the kind of person that people admire? We don't admire people who don't have a purpose, or people who cannot explain why they do what they do (the meaning behind their actions).

Connection is the egocentric element of everything we do. There is a reason why the iPhone is the best selling mobile device. It extends our identity. It may be that the Windows Phone or the Androids are better phones technically, but they don't have the same level of connection.

So, how does local fit into this? Well, local is not an element, and that is because it is not a deciding factor. Instead, it's just a tool (of many) that we can use to make our communication more relevant to the individual.

For instance, if you are a small shop in a local city and you are selling running shoes, you can use the local 'tool' to find great places around the city to do interval training, and in turn use that to get people to become more excited about the product itself.

You can use local to create a tighter connection with your customers, by making sure you are a part of your local community. This will also help you increase your level of influence.

If people say, "Hey, I know you. You are the coach for our junior football team!" that's a great local element that will help your influence and your connections.

When you are limited to a small area, local is a great tool to have.

The problem starts when you expand beyond your local community. Remember, local is just a tool that you use to create relevance. Once you start to expand into other cities, or worse, other countries, posting things you do in one place is not going to be relevant in any other place.

'Local' starts to work against you, because it's no longer relevant to the majority of your audience.

For many years, people have said "think global, act local", and it's a very catchy phrase. The problem of course is that it doesn't work. You are trying to find ways to keep using local, when you should instead accept that local is no longer the best tool for the job.

Before: Local - After: Personal

You need to redefine what local means to you. Local, as a geographic location, is great when you are small. It is a common element that all your customers have an interest in. But once you go global, you just have to replace local with another thing that all your customers have in common.

It could be the purpose of your product (always a good one!), or it could be a movement, an idea, a concept, or some other thing all your fans are interested in (and, of course, you yourself as a brand).

Instead of focusing on where you do something, focus on what you do and why you do it. Stop thinking of local as a geographic point, instead start thinking about 'local' as a shared element for something you all have in common.

It's not local vs global. It's about creating local relevance vs personal relevance - via your product, your influence, and people's connections.


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Thomas Baekdal

Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter

"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made ​​himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé


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