Five ways to connect with customers in new locales

21 June 2021 | By: Heather Eng, Senior Editorial lead

Even if brands are well-known and beloved in their home countries, that equity and affinity may not translate when they expand globally.

The most established brands often need time to find their footing in new locales. They must grow brand awareness and reach customers on an emotional level – all while learning and adapting to cultural differences, and building their business networks.

At Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Tamir Bar-Haim, Director, International Expansion, Amazon Ads, hosted a conversation on this topic between Priyanka Khaneja Gandhi, Associate Director and Head, Integrated Marketing Communication and e-commerce Marketing, Colgate-Palmolive, India; and Pablo Sanchez Liste, Chief Communication, Public Affairs, Sustainability, Digital and Marketing Officer, L’Oréal Mexico. Both India and Mexico are seeing widespread digital acceleration, which is shaping how the companies are connecting with customers.

Pablo Sanchez Liste, Chief Communication and Marketing Officer at L’Oréal, Mexico, and Priyanka Khaneja Gandhi, Head of Integrated Marketing Communications and E-commerce Marketing, Colgate-Palmolive, India

Pablo Sanchez Liste, Chief Communication and Marketing Officer at L’Oréal, Mexico, and Priyanka Khaneja Gandhi, Head of Integrated Marketing Communications and E-commerce Marketing, Colgate-Palmolive, India

In India, the internet is more accessible than ever before. An estimated 602.7 million Indians are now online – 45% of India’s population.1

“Digital has become a medium of scale and reach, and more people are spending time on digital,” says Gandhi. “And it's not just for communication. There are more use cases every day. An entrepreneur in Bombay can now start a business from home and connect with his or her audiences within the city, across the country, or even across the world using digital advertising.”

In Mexico, COVID-19 has accelerated digital trends over the last year. “We have experienced acceleration that was forecast for three or five years, just in a few months in Mexico,” says Sanchez Liste. Mexico’s digital retail sales were estimated to grow 81% year-over-year from 2019 to 2020.2

Here’s how Gandhi and Sanchez Liste are connecting with new customers effectively and authentically in their increasingly digital locales.

Using insights to understand customers

Gandhi and Sanchez Liste both take a consumer-first approach to their strategies – which means understanding customers on a deeper level. At Colgate-Palmolive, Gandhi and her team conduct thousands of face-to-face interviews every month and use online insights to help them understand relevant aspects of consumer behaviour.

At L’Oréal, Sanchez Liste cites how he and his team have put the consumer and insights department at the centre of their work streams.

“If we want to adapt our global strategies to the local business, this is paramount,” he says. “We invest in studies in order to obtain insights, catch trends and adapt quickly to the new behaviours. It's very important to catch these behaviours before they become a trend – this is what we do to connect with our customers in Mexico.”

Transcreating, not translating

The next step is ensuring that a campaign speaks in colloquial language. “Translating” is the process of changing text from one language to another. “Transcreating” is looking at the content holistically and adapting it so the storytelling and references speak authentically to people in a specific location.

This is why Colgate-Palmolive opts to transcreate, rather than translate. “India is a country with different states, languages and cultures,” says Gandhi. “Our campaigns are hyper-localised. On average, we transcreate every campaign into 13 languages, and we adapt the message to very specific cultural and local ways of speaking for each region.”

For example, Colgate-Palmolive will feature different celebrities when they’re deploying a campaign across the country. “Bollywood stars have high appeal in the north and west of India, while for the south and east, we will use local celebrities,” says Gandhi. “We use our knowledge of habits and practices to inform our campaigns. For example, we used the local insight of mouth rinsing to build relevance for mouthwash. We used the colloquial use of the word ‘Kulla’ in communication, and the phrase ‘aa karo, germs ko na karo’ for Vedshakti Mouth Spray. In the south, we use the analogies of eating homemade food or using clean water to wash fruits and vegetables to reflect on being proactive about oral health for one of our brands.”

Connecting on a deeper level through values

In a similar vein, Sanchez Liste is focused on how his customers in Mexico are expecting more from today’s brands – and how L’Oréal needs to communicate with them accordingly.

“In Mexico, we have a young population for whom causes like sustainability and gender equality are very important,” he says. “Also, consumers want to know about our ingredients and our production processes. Mexican consumers want committed brands, brands with a purpose, brands who help them to have a better life and create a better world.”

Meeting customers where they are

Both Sanchez Liste and Gandhi believe that taking a consumer-first approach includes meeting their customers where they are.

“Brands need to be where audiences are,” says Sanchez Liste. “We have to find the best places to reach them and understand what is relevant for them to gain their attention.”

Mexico, for example, has a young population, with an average age of 29, that likes gaming.

“There are 70 million people who are gamers here in Mexico,” says Sanchez Liste. “Gaming is a very big opportunity to connect with new audiences.” To reach them, L’Oreal’s cosmetic division recently worked with Twitch to develop a strategy that complemented their media awareness strategy.

L’Oréal Mexico ran a Twitch campaign to connect with young gamers

L’Oréal Mexico ran a Twitch campaign to connect with young gamers.

Approaching customers with empathy

To reach customers and connect on a deeper level, empathy is key – especially during a global pandemic. Both Colgate-Palmolive and L’Oréal have focused on the health and safety of their employees and customers.

In India, Colgate-Palmolive launched a national teledentistry service where people could consult a dentist free of charge via video, audio call or text. Within a span of three months, they also developed a complete hand-cleansing portfolio, including a hand sanitiser. In addition, Colgate-Palmolive adapted and amplified their messaging to help people stay optimistic.

“Dentists for me”, the free, teledentistry site Colgate-Palmolive launched in India to provide oral care to people during COVID-19

“Dentists for me”, the free teledentistry site Colgate-Palmolive launched in India to provide oral care to people during COVID-19.

L’Oreal used their production capabilities to produce and donate products. They also launched initiatives to help train women, who have been disproportionally affected, employment-wise, to enter the workforce.

“Empathy is everything,” says Sanchez Liste. “It's the fundamental pillar of any human connection. We need to know and understand our consumers in order to be close to them because we are living a very tough time.”

Interested in working with Amazon Ads as you connect with customers in new locales? Reach out to your account executive or contact us.


1 Internet users, India, eMarketer 2021.
2 Online Sales Mexico Association