Have you seen the movie “AIR?” It’s the story of how Nike — a once bottom-of-the-barrel shoe brand signed a yet-to-be-famous Michael Jordan and created one of their most successful brands around him. At the time — this was unheard of — an incredibly ambitious gamble to say the least.

This is how it went: shoe brands would take a pool of money and throw some of it at a handful of athletes — paying them a flat amount to wear their shoes while they were in the spotlight. At that point in time, Nike was a runner’s shoe, trailing behind Converse and Adidas in basketball. They had little to no chance of signing Michael Jordan — he wanted nothing to do with them. But — against all odds — they persevered. By understanding what mattered to Michael, his family and ultimately Nike’s target audience, they made a personal connection that ending up making them billions.

Working for 2 decades at the helm of Nike’s marketing division, Davide Grasso’s LinkedIn shows he has worked with more than just one of the world’s most influential brands — with three years as CEO and President of Converse, and today, the CEO of the legendary Italian marque, Maserati.

A brand may be global, but customers are always local.

According to CEO Magazine, a critical lesson Grasso learned at Nike is one he still applies at Maserati. Even with huge brands that have been successful for decades, he said, “the brand is global — but the habits are local.”” Buying habits, he means. Sometimes these distinctions are intuitive. Soccer gear is obviously a quicker sell in Europe than in America. Basketball shoes are popular everywhere.

At Maserati, however, the vagaries of localized tastes have acquired finer lines. For example, while most every car buyer pays attention to a car’s interior furnishings, Grasso said, Europeans tend to focus on the cockpit while Chinese buyers care more about the back seat. “So when we talked about the fact that we design the car from the inside out,” he said, “in China we have more depth of information and more storytelling focusing on that.” Bottom line: Every brand needs to remember that their revenues depend on the guy up the street.

Although you may not be selling big brands like Nike or Maserati, serving your customer’s needs is applicable in every retail environment — from ecommerce to warehouses to boutique stores. “You have to listen to the customer, and you have to provide value to their lives every time they interact with your product or services.” Grasso also emphasizes the important distinction between gaining insight and merely observing what customers do. “Long-term growth is ensured by the visceral knowledge of your customer, which comes from a deep insight.” If you truly know your brand — its purpose and north star inside out — you can play with what works to sell it best in different markets making it more hyperlocal, and more hyper-relevant.

Long story short: At Arthur Elliott, we call this the ability to “Own your Corner of the World.” We know how to ensure you spend your marketing money speaking to the audience in a way that works for you, without wasting dollars on the masses. Want to learn more? Contact the guy who will always talk brand transformation with you (and about whatever new Nike sneakers he’s coveting at the moment). You can find him at andy@arthurelliott.com.

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