23 May 2024 23:36

Advertising & Marketing

Global strategy, local relevance

Multinational corporations have to make difficult decisions regarding the marketing strategy they adopt across all the markets in which they operate. Global strategies aim to maximize standardization and homogenization of marketing activities, but often global strategy has to be adapted to meet local conditions, driven by economic, political, social and cultural differences across markets.

Marketers need to consider both their product and communication strategies. Depending upon the extent of standardization or localization of each, their strategy could ultimately be “truly global”, with both a standard product and standard communication. Or, it might be “totally local”, with both a local product and communication. Perhaps it will be “glocal”. This blend of local and global is the way many multinational corporations have found they can best connect with consumers in an unfamiliar world.

How can brands strike the right balance between global strategy and local relevance? Let’s look at some examples of ways brands have successfully adapted their global approach to local markets in different ways.

Product-driven glocal strategy – one of the most well-known global brands is McDonald’s. But this international brand has succeeded around by localizing. It has adapted its offer by appealing to local tastes in food and beverages. So, while the branding, look and feel of a McDonald’s outlet is quite standardized across the world, they offer McSpaghetti in Philippines, the McAloo Tikki Burger in India and the McArabia wrap in the Middle East. Even in categories like technology and hospitality, product-driven localization has been used successfully. Mobile phones brands started offering features like flashlights and anti-dust keypads when they went into Asian and African markets, and most international hotel chains operating in the MENA region provide facilities in keeping with religious values of their local clientele.

Localization in communication – marketing communications is perhaps the element that has to be localized the most, to take into account social and cultural norms. Popular celebrities are often used to convey a brand message that is globally consistent; Lux and Coca-Cola have worked with Arab film and music stars such as Mona Zaki, Elissa and Nancy Ajram as brand ambassadors in the Middle East, to bring to life their global brand positioning. Similarly, international brands like Vimto, Quaker Oats and Tang have built up a strong association with Ramadan in Saudi Arabia, by consistently running Ramadan-specific communications and offers over the years.

Packaging-driven localization – many MNCs initially found it a challenge to make inroads into emerging markets because, while consumers had confidence in their quality, they simply couldn’t afford them. This changed when the likes of Unilever and P&G came up with sachets for their shampoos and detergents, which brought the products within reach of mid- to low-income consumers. In China, many brands have used Chinese translations of their brand names to invoke positive consumer sentiment. Cadbury (吉百利) leverages the characters for “auspiciousness” in its Chinese name, while Bud’s Ice Cream (八喜) combines the lucky number eight with one of the two characters that comprise “happiness”.

Localization in distribution – countries that are predominantly driven by the traditional trade have posed challenges for MNCs used to working in modern-trade environments. In India, for example distribution models have incorporated cycles, rickshaws and even boats to ensure last-mile connectivity with mom-and-pop stores (called Kirana) in rural communities. Similarly, Japan’s more than 50,000 “konbini” stores are an integral part of the distribution chain as they combine a convenience store with e-commerce options.

Underestimating the value of localization can be dangerous. In Japan, Facebook lost its leadership position to local social network Mixi, because it did not understand Japanese cultural nuances well enough. While in the US, having a large number of friends is seen as a sign of popularity, in Japan it is considered superficial. Mixi, in contrast to Facebook, does not have a “Like” button, does not mention number of friends and does not have a public wall, so is culturally more acceptable.

The need to strike the right balance of local and global attributes does not apply just to international brands entering this market; it applies to local Saudi or regional brands with global aspirations, such as Almarai, Etisalat, Zain and Rani. They are all expanding their footprint internationally, and need to be equally cognizant of social and cultural norms in the markets that they are entering.


Written by Gagan Bhalla, Managing Director,Kantar Insights, North Africa & Iran,Kantar AMRB

Source: WPPbaz

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