Susie Walker is VP of awards and insight at Cannes Lions. Here, she explores the growing trend of Lions winners that took increasingly local approaches to winning creative campaigns.
Even before the pandemic froze life as we knew it, people across the world were embracing their lives in local communities and neighborhoods. This growing consumer trend, described as “localism,” disrupted retail, and changed how people consumed and engaged with brands.
Localism is a consumer preference for brands and businesses located geographically nearby that engage the specific needs and behaviors of local communities and tap into location-specific culture.
This growing trend, described as “localism,” disrupted retail, and changed how people consumed and engaged with brands.
What’s more, buying locally also correlates with buying ethically. The shift toward localism was also driven by a rise in conscious consumerism, as people sought to make ethical purchasing choices, desiring authentic, locally and sustainably made products that supported local businesses. According to market research company IRI’s 2018 European Shopper Insights Survey, 55% of respondents preferred to buy local brands to help support local and small producers.
Driven as much by the necessity of lockdowns as by ethics, the localism trend accelerated throughout 2020, as we were forced to stay in our local areas. In May 2020, research firm Kantar reported that COVID-19 had driven a surge in localism globally. It found that nearly two-thirds (65%) of consumers preferred to buy goods and services from their own country, while 42% overall said they now paid more attention to the origin of products.
At the Cannes Lions Awards, we’ve seen recent creative work that embraces the localism trend win Lions. This year’s awards continued that trend.
Driven as much by the necessity of lockdowns as by ethics, the localism trend accelerated throughout 2020, as people were forced to stay in their local areas.
For the Creative eCommerce Lions, the award that recognizes creative e-commerce, payment solutions, and innovation, a Grand Prix was awarded to “Tienda Cerca,” a hyperlocal e-commerce platform by Anheueser-Busch InBev that connected local neighborhood stores to customers in Bogota, Colombia, during the COVID-19 crisis.
And for Glass: The Lion for Change, the award that celebrates culture-shifting creativity, “I am,” by VMLY&R Brazil in São Paulo took the Grand Prix for transforming a local Starbucks into a registry office during Pride 2020 so that trans people could legally change their names, free of charge, creating a safe space where they would always feel welcome to visit.
The Grand Prix in the Outdoor Lions, celebrating creativity experienced outside the home, went to Renault’s “Village Electrique,” which turned the most remote town in France into the first 100%-electric-vehicle destination in the world, proving that going electric can happen outside urban areas.
Throughout 2021, even as many parts of the world began to open up, localism has not declined. Instead, we’re witnessing a renewed commitment to local communities. As city workers continue to work from home offices, they’re spending more time in their local areas.
And more people than ever care about sustainability and the provenance of the goods they consume. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, “nearly 95% of survey respondents said they believed their personal actions could help reduce unsustainable waste, tackle climate change, and protect wildlife and biodiversity,” in a recent BCG survey.
To win hearts and minds, global brands are rethinking their strategies by adapting to a more localized approach. They’re finding community connections and embracing local pride and thinking, all while adding a hyperlocal lens to creative work.
At Cannes Lions, we introduced a Culture and Context category across 10 Lions awards to recognize the rise of culturally specific creative work that embraces localism and demonstrates the importance of culture to engage audiences. In 2019, 65% of winning work in this category centered around local community, while 24% galvanized communities to celebrate their local area and feel a sense of pride and belonging.
Global brands are finding community connections, and embracing local pride and thinking, all while adding a hyperlocal lens to creative work.
Work like Nike’s “Air Max Graffiti Stores,” winner of the 2019 Media Lions Grand Prix, tapped into the local graffiti culture in Brazil, using geolocation, and increased local social engagement by 22% and local sales by 32%. The Brand Experience and Activation Bronze Lion–winning “Philly Forever” by Anheueser-Busch InBev connected with consumers in original ways specific to the city, yielding a 1.8% market share gain in Philadelphia, amounting to nearly 2 million more Bud Lights sold.
Global brand activations designed to play out across mediums, borders, time zones, and touchpoints no longer see the same impact. But underpinning all this creative work are geographical focus and the utilization of very specific cultural and social behaviors. “The Parisian Rendez-Vous,” created by Le Drugstore Parisien, increased in-store foot traffic by 50% by geolocating self-service scooters in front of the boutique, bringing people right to its door.
It will be interesting to see how this consumer trend develops and whether future Lions winners will lean into local culture by bringing distinct local personality to storytelling. Whether online or offline, bound by location, interest, or situation, loyalty and value are unlocked when brands engage in local communities and culture.