Why do international brands beat local brands? Why is McDonalds cooler than Steers? Dominos over Debonair’s?

Why will Starbucks certainly kill a local coffee brand?

I saw 2 articles over the last week about local brands struggling against global entrants:

  • According to this article, The Platinum Group, owners of local clothing brands Aca Joe, Hilton Weiner and Jenni Button is in financial trouble, struggling amongst other factors against “the influx of global fashion retailers to the local market ” — including Zara and Cotton On.

  • And this article talking of the troubles at Edcon, owners of Edgars, Jet, Boardmans and CNA, saying “SA’s largest clothing retailer has been ill-placed to counteract a new scramble for customers by the world’s heavyweight brands” and again list Zara, Cotton On and – even more worryingly for Edcon, the imminent opening of South Africa’s first H&M store in Sandton’s Mandela square.

These are examples from the clothing industry, but no doubt it has wider relevance. Local brands struggle against global brands.

But this does not have to be the case. Global is not necessarily better than local.

Increasingly we live in an era where local beats global. Small over big. Local relevance over global status.

One can see this trend play out in certain categories:

  • Craft beer over mass-market beer.

  • Meat from the butcher over meat from the retailer.

  • Save the rhino over save the arctic ice-cap.

Increasingly going global is so 1980. The new fashion is going local.

So why do global brands still kick butt in so many cases?

The answer, I believe, is a laxness of many local companies to proactively manage their brand assets for local relevance. Too often local companies taste success and then sit back and milk the success, thinking it will go on forever. This is unbelievably shortsighted. Do they really think South African consumers won’t ever change their minds?

Here’s the thing: Whether it is the tannie from Pofadder or her counterpart living in New York, both are looking for something better tomorrow, and if you don’t offer it, someone else will, and then they will jump ship.

Brand management is an ongoing thing. It never stops. If you offer a customer something today that they like, it doesn’t mean they will still like it tomorrow.

How locally relavant is your business? How serious are you about the market closest to you?