Can content ever be country neutral? Meaning, can an idea or concept be equally relevant and meaningful in multiple markets at the same time?

I believe that the answer is yes. That doesn’t mean that the concept has to be interpreted in exactly the same way; “football” means different things in the UK and the US but it is still meaningful and relevant to its respective audience. The Eurovision Song Contest is another example of individual countries’ image of popular song can vary quite markedly.

However, the concept of Eurovision remains consistent across Europe; a popular song content not taken entirely seriously where international “favours” are exchanged during the course of an interminable voting procedure.

I recently participated in a training exercise within our agency including teams from 15 countries charged with launching a “St Valentines” mobile phone specifically for the female market. The challenge was to develop a central idea or concept which could drive local activities in five other EMEA markets. The idea was not that each market´s activities simply replicated each other, but that they each applied their twist to the central concept to make it meaningful and relevant to their market. In essence – like the Eurovision Song Contest – while the contest remains central, the songs themselves can be quite different (in fact, they should be – that’s the point of Eurovision!).

The secret, of course, is the central concept (or “strategic framework” as PR people sometimes call it). This concept is required to reflect the business proposition (the benefits or selling points of the product or service) but also be resilient enough to withstand localization (literally, turning and fine-tuning) by markets from Abu Dhabi to Aberdeen without losing meaning.

Our Valentine Phone contest generated some immensely powerful ideas; in many cases the teams didn’t realize quite how powerful there were. Here is a selection:

· “Women reveal the secrets of multi-tasking” – building on the phone multiple features (including a pocket mirror); this idea potentially could work in any market, there is an element of humour and women anywhere could relate to it (women think they can multi task more effectively than men (as centuries of child rearing would demonstrate)). This concept lends itself to all types of competitions, challenges, discussions, dialogue in any language or location imaginable

· Discover your secret “Femme Fatale”:  Another fun idea which could work multi-market, nice element of humour also; perfectly mapping to the phone positioning. Which woman has never dreamt of being a femme fatal in any country, any culture . . . just for a day?

· Lady Gaga flash mob: pure genius, really simple, relevant to the phone, inexpensive and fun. In reality this is a tactic rather than a strategic framework, but it has the beauty of simplicity and directness. You can just see this spontaneous choreography happening from the Gare du Nord to Red Square!

· Countless faces of love: this would generate conversations and dialogue in any market; solid idea worth developing; love whatever it looks like is really in the eye of the beholder. Another amazing strong concept that would easily stand the test of country localization.

These ideas can only really be developed and tested in a multi-country environment (teams paired up across borders for the above exercise), but when they are developed, such ideas are – literally – priceless.