Go Glocal: How to build communities most effectively

Simon Mainwaring / Community / 9 years ago

Last week the Brookings Institute kindly included me in the U.S./Islamic World Forum in Qatar. It was a fantastic collaborative and learning experience. The theme for our working group was ‘New Media in the Age of Globalization”.

Our group was comprised of State Dept. officials, religious leaders, private sector business leaders, Middle Eastern philanthropists and social media leaders. The concerns of the group were many and far reaching. They included how to use new media to promote cultural understanding within and between Muslim communities in the Middle East, and between the U.S. and Middle East itself. Many factors were considered including the propagation of literacy and education, the regionally specific rights of women and girls, the community and gender-based distribution of technology and the effective promotion of civil society.

For all these nuances one theme emerged that proved critical to the effective community building using new media. No matter the region, the specific cultural challenges, or whether you are a private sector company, government entity or non-profit institution, community building must be approached through a local lens.

I call this approach “glocal”. By that I mean any institution must take the local global, rather than the other way round.

Let me give you an example. Literacy is a huge issue in many Arab countries, yet the solution is not as simple as translating educational tools into English. Those tools themselves have to be arabized which means the structure of the narratives, logic of ideas and teaching syllabi must be made culturally relevant to the country, region and specific community where they will be used.

I couldn’t help but think that same principles applies to brands. For if brands listen only through the lens of their own community and culture their efforts will be misunderstood as self-serving even if they focus on listening.

The quality of listening and the ability to communicate glocally are two of the critical factors that determine which brands will build online communities most effectively. Such respect will be returned in kind by the community ensuring the longevity and well-being of both.

Do do you know of any good examples of brands both listening and going glocal?


The Conference in Qatar.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Avatar iconic88 says:

    First of all congratulations Simon on being included in the U.S./Islamic World Forum.

    You're right Simon, even “if brands listen only through the lens of their own community and culture their efforts will be misunderstood as self-serving even if they focus on listening”. There are several factors which will contribute to affecting this situation positively and negatively:

    – lack of diversity within a brand. If a brands workforce lacks diversity, they can only see the world through a limited scope of its lens. A diverse workforce (consisting of knowledge, skills, experience, ethnic, gender) enables brands to glocalize and win ground support from a diverse population. I think in terms of tuning forks Simon. The more tuning forks you have, the more in harmony you're likely to be with the conversations resonating from your audience.

    It's more than listening. It's being in harmony with your audience's message. This is my “what resonates with me” (WRWM) concept which is more powerful than “what's in it for me” WIIFM paradigm of thinking.

    It's more than a signal, it's a frequency. The ability to think, listen and see in terms of both. In the world of real time search, today's marketer has to see the trees with a view to nurturing a forest.

    – lack of connecting with people to fully understand the nuances within a culture. In some societies around the world, brands will find little success if they don't have the support of society leaders. All it takes is one or a few of these well respected people to say 'no' and the brand will unknowingly be investing in the black hole.

    – lack of research to understand the general facts of a population. Imagine if you didn't know that literacy is a huge issue in the Middle East as it is in many countries. This is why it's crucial to understand how a population learns. It's very simple, just ask someone from that audience you're addressing.

    – lack of empathy. Empathy opens peoples hearts to really listen to what another person has to say. There is no right or wrong, it's doing the right thing FOR the brand's audience even if it means sending your client to your competitor to purchase a good/service if the brand can't supply what they need. Brands are solutions providers, not solutions keepers.

    Empathy also means asking questions. When a brand is asking questions to understand people, it inherently shows its audience it's listening.

    These are several points that immediately came to mind Simon.

    If brands were to address all these points, they'd go a long way to improving the quality of their listening and developing plans to provide solutions for their audience. Moreover, they would save a lot of money, instill a sense of 'kaizen', increase the chances of a higher ROI and more importantly have local support in whatever they do.

    Keep in mind, that the model a brand builds in the Middle East can be taken global via new media tools and channels. A person in Qatar is likely to see the world the same way as a person in Australia and the USA. Youtube allows people to view content in their own 'language' (visually, culturally, linguistically). Public radio in countries like the UK, New Zealand and Australia has understood this for years (sorry don't know too much about the US market). This is why they host shows from various cultures around the world and have a thriving audience in some cases. People love to listen to their own mother-tongue.

    The most recent brand that I know of doing a stellar job at this are the Parrammatta Eels rugby league franchise here in Sydney (Australia). They only recently noticed that they had a potentially large support base of Indians who live in their catchment area. The question for them was this, 'how do we connect with these people?' to boost their fan base and increase their membership numbers.

    To connect with this audience, they have sent a representative to India to identify and attract a Bollywood star or someone of similar ilk to help promote their cause.

    Now imagine if, arguably, the biggest actor in the world (and one of the most influential people on this planet) got behind the Eels? You'll have not only potentially millions of people in India supporting the Eels, you'd potentially have millions of Indians outside of India supporting the Eels. Replace Eels with the LA Raiders, New York Yankees, Manchester United and you can the scale of this glocalization.

    Google “Shah Rukh Khan”.

    Some foundational questions still have to be asked by brands,
    – “Is this person's persona consistent with our brand?”,
    – “Do they 'fit'”?

    Thanks Simon.

    All the best.