Inside Quaker’s ‘iterative’ approach to make its advertising work globally and locally

Major marketers are spending more time on brand building efforts this year as the digital landscape continues to shift and the focus on performance marketing has proved difficult in parts of that environment. Consumer packaged goods brand Quaker is among those marketers. 

Over the last 18 months, Quaker’s global team has been working on “elevating the positioning and the storytelling” of the brand, explained Ciara Dilley, vp of marketing for Quaker, in the hopes of cultivating “passion for the brand” from new consumers. As a result, PepsiCo-owned Quaker is rolling out its first global brand positioning this year with ads debuting in Canada and Latin America first before expanding to other markets around the globe including the US. 

“We believe that some of the best advertising in the world is done when brands find the incredibly powerful global creative idea that can work in many markets,” said Dilley. “[It’s the] idea that … a local resident in China or in Canada or in England, [feels like], ‘I get the brand. The brand gets me. They’re talking to me.’” 

Quaker’s first spot with global brand positioning, “You’ve Got This,” debuted earlier this month in Canada and LATAM with placements in cinema, on TV, on social media and digitally. It tells the universal story of a father and son bonding over oatmeal over the years until ultimately the father passes and the son keeps the tradition going with his own child. The spot was directed by BAFTA winner Charlotte Wells. 

To accommodate the global needs of the campaign, Quaker created numerous iterations for both regions to reflect the way that consumers in those various local markets use the product. The language, product and packaging was adapted for the local market to reflect how consumers there use it. Aside from the spot, Quaker also made various video and static campaign assets for TV, cinema, digital, social, print, out-of-home and radio in English, Spanish and French (covering the languages of the regions). 

With this global effort expressed locally, Quaker’s brand teams across the globe worked together on the creative idea and then the local teams informed the media spending strategy using local budgets. Canada and LATAM represent lead markets for the idea before it rolls out to other markets and regions. Dilley said typically the brand will test new iterations in a market for a season before rolling it out elsewhere.  

It’s unclear how much Quaker is spending on the current campaign or how the brand divides the ad budget — Dilley declined to share specifics. Quaker spent 51% of its ad budget on cable and broadcast TV ads, 47% on digital and 1.3% on print throughout 2023, according to MediaRadar figures, which also found that the brand spent 78% of its ad budget on TV and 22% on digital throughout January 2024. 

“We are absolutely going back to our foundations and looking at our brand positioning and making sure we are expressing them in a way that is relevant for today’s consumers,” said Dilley. “Particularly in today’s busy world with so many digital channels and so much messaging that we want to be functionally relevant, we [marketers] can bombard consumers with lots of elements of messages, but sometimes we forget that the most important is that foundational empathy and love and respect for your brand.” 

Spending more time on brand building as well as the test and learn global and local approach makes sense to brand consultants.

“World-class brands show up with the same spirit wherever they are, but that doesn’t mean they show up with the same content,” said Carolyn Griffin, strategy director at Siegel+Gale. “The key is having an idea that cuts through globally but still has enough flexibility to resonate with the audience and market.”

Quaker’s recognition of global differences is a common theme for marketers now. “In my view, we aren’t necessarily seeing a rise of more ‘global’ platforms, but we’re seeing more global understanding and nuance in the platforms coming out now,” said Griffin in an email. “Quaker is showing that nuance by testing locally first so they can measure, manage and adapt to fuel a more powerful and consistent global brand.”

Getting the nuance of a message that’s meant to resonate globally right is a more difficult task for marketers, explained Allen Adamson, founder of brand consultancy Metaforce. Testing the message across a few markets before broadening out is an iterative approach that allows the company to nail the details of the message.

“It’s harder because you need to connect to culture,” he said. “Tailoring it, telling that story in a way that resonates with the target and getting it exactly right means the company has to be sensitive to different cultures and geographies and how they interpret that.”

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