International marketing

Glocalization and its link to your global business expansion

Glocalization and its link to your global business expansion
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Elizabeth Pokorny
Written by
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed
Elizabeth Pokorny
Reviewed by
Updated on
June 19, 2023

Localization, globalization, internationalization…they’re all terms we’re used to hearing, and quite frankly they are so often used interchangeably that the meaning around each word can be somewhat lost. 

But, what if we threw the term glocalization into the mix? Then we’re really confusing things. Well, actually, not entirely, in fact, glocalization isn’t just another chance to add a new term to your marketing jargon dictionary. 

The origins actually encompass the terms we already have a good grasp of and, you could say, it’s the ‘grandfather’ of all of the above. 

Not sure what we’re on about? Well, let’s take a closer look at what glocalization is, how it plays into your international business expansion and globalization vs glocalization. You might find that glocalization is exactly what you’ve been trying to sum up all along!

What is glocalization?

The word glocalization was first introduced in the late ’80s in a series of articles written by Japanese economists, merging the terms globalization and localization to explain global marketing strategies. 

Sociologist Roland Robertson then popularized the term in English-speaking parts of the world and here we are today, talking about glocalization. 

To put it simply, the word is centered around explaining the combination of both global and local considerations when writing a global marketing strategy. Makes sense right? 

You can’t have a ‘one size fits all’ global marketing strategy without considering the variables of each market – that wouldn’t be true to the term localization. 

Glocalization in fact encourages you to think about adapting your offering at every part of the business cycle rather than sticking with globalization which one might say is more of a “go big or go home” attitude. 

So, you might be asking yourself, isn’t that just localization? Well, no. Think of glocalization as the umbrella term for aspects such as localization, internationalization, globalization, transcreation, and so on. 

It in fact encompasses all of those terms. Essentially, if you’re translating the content of your website, updating imagery to meet cultural differences, and adapting your product so it works with the new environment you’re selling in, then voila, you’re thinking from a glocalization point of view. 

Why is glocalization important?

The concept of glocalization may seem daunting and a big investment in terms of time, resources, and costs, but ultimately the ROI far outweighs the initial expenditure. 

Practicing glocalization gives you access to a larger, more culturally varied and diverse target market, opening up the number of customers you can unlimitedly target. 

Glocalized marketing campaigns are targeted towards local consumers, with a particular emphasis on showing how your product/ service fits within their culture, economy and preferences.

How McDonald’s owes its success to glocalization

There are many examples of glocalization, the most relatable being that of McDonald’s. They are present in more than 1000 countries and have menus adapted for every single one! Glocalization is one of the biggest reasons that McDonald’s is now the largest fast-food chain in the world.

There are many instances of them adapting their dishes based on the market’s needs. Examples include: serving a neon-colored alternative to its famous apple pie in Hong Kong, the vegetarian pizza McPuff and Aloo Tikki (potato patty) burger in India, where the audience is primarily vegetarian, and a Breakfast platter in Hawaii with “Spam” – a meat dish very popular with Hawaiians. 

These types of actions help position companies to have relevance in local markets, sharing the same inherent values, perceptions, and nuances. And it shows that the brand understands the needs and wants of its new customers. 

Challenges of glocalization 

Naturally, there will always be challenges associated with the subject of glocalization and brands trying to adopt this approach may well come across many pitfalls. 

Increased budgets 

The first one being cost. Regional-local-specific marketing can be costly. Localizing marketing campaigns to make them friendlier to local consumers is key to encouraging them to accept products and services that come from a different country. In fact, a good glocalization strategy would mean it was hard for local customers to even notice. 

And, it’s not just the additional costs associated with tailored marketing efforts, significant research will have to be done to understand what would be the most impactful strategy. 

Often, true glocalization is more easily handled by large financially strong brands that have the budget and resources for a more local approach. Of course, this doesn’t always need to be the case as there are numerous other steps of a localization strategy that brands with smaller budgets can achieve. 

Conflicting demands 

Entering new markets can mean increased revenue for companies if it’s done well. It’s also an incredibly exciting time for a brand to launch overseas as it means you’ve already been pretty successful in your home country. 

With this excitement though, can come a conflicting list of priorities. It can be easy to neglect your home markets whilst trying to break into new ones. 

Then there’s managing global competitiveness against local competitiveness and where to best place your efforts. Glocalization requires a careful blend of global standardization and local needs. 

Globalization vs glocalization 

Both globalization and glocalization are popular business terms but they have different purposes. Before you go about applying either of them to your business, it’s important that you understand their intent and impact.

Consider the example of McDonald’s that we previously mentioned. While they’ve made efforts to localize their menu and brand image, they’ve still retained the same brand value, appearance and perception across the world. This undoubtedly played a big role in making them a global fast-food giant. 

Why is glocalization a better international marketing strategy?

The main issue with globalization nowadays is that it cultivates cultural homogenization. With the boom in globalization over the last century, customers now have a plethora of options when it comes to buying any product. A one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work anymore.

The key pitfalls of globalization over glocalization:

  1. It can lead to gaps in your communication about the product, for example:
  2. Customers may not relate to your brand as they don’t understand it efficiently.
  3. Customers might find your product different from the local competitors that they are already adapted to, making them less likely to trust you.
  4. While globalization may be less expensive to apply, glocalization helps you enter new markets faster and can significantly improve your sales.
  5. Glocalization enables you to create effective marketing and advertising campaigns, and build a positive brand image.

Whilst it was never the intention of globalization to reduce cultural diversity, it unfortunately has. That’s why companies looking to expand need to identify and consider the strong difference between globalization and glocalization. Whilst a brand will always have a ‘global template’ there always needs to be local respect in every part of that market entry. Knowing the nuances of the nuances will ultimately get you there. 

Recommended reading: The impact of globalization in the US (Forbes)

How to glocalize your brand

So, how do you go about glocalizing your brand? Let’s take a look at some of the first steps. 

Take a local approach 

I’m not sure we’ve said it enough in this article… so let’s say it one more time for good luck – being true to your local markets is key to your success. 

But, understanding local markets is not usually something you can do from afar and certainly not something you can guess your way through or by following stereotypes. 

Having someone “on the ground” whether that’s a local partner, a regional researcher, or an internal team member working from that country ensures you’ll understand the culture and particulars of the market you want to reach. 

Representing a global company in a local way means ultimately tailoring your products and services to their needs and wants. 

Understand the local market 

This goes hand-in-hand with the point above, but really understanding your new market will avoid any big errors such as cultural or religious. 

Many big brands know only too well how to adapt their offerings. Let’s look at two of the biggest brands in the food industry – McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Glocalisation done right – McDonald’s launch in India

Let’s take their launch in India as an example. Here the consumption of beef is low and more than half the population is vegetarian – perhaps a tough sell for a brand know ultimately for its beef burger. However, in understanding their new market, the beef burger was replaced with chicken, fish and paneer. 

McDonald’s also had to compete with low-priced local street food and consumers price-sensitivity. Hence, they launched a Happy Price menu with burgers starting at just Rs 20, which helped solidify their stance as a “value for money” fast-food restaurant. 

This is true glocalization. The branding remains on a global level, but the product is adapted to the local tastes of the market and together makes for a successful market entry. 

Starbucks glocalization failure in Australia 

On the other hand, we can look at Starbucks and its major blunder in trying to enter the Australian market.

Australia is well-known for its love of coffee and espresso, which can be attributed to large-scale immigration from European countries like Greece and Italy in the 20th century. Over time, Austrialians developed a penchant for drinking at local artisan coffee shops and distinctive coffee drinks like the Australian macchiato.

However, Starbucks launched at scale without properly taking the time to understand what the Australian consumer was looking for in their everyday cup of coffee. There are three main reasons why they failed to capture the Australian market:

  1. Starbucks is known for its overly sweet, syrupy coffees, whereas the Australian consumer prefers espresso or a flat white.
  2. Starbucks coffee was priced higher than local coffee shops and competitors. 
  3. Starbucks stuck to positioning itself as the perfect quick caffeine fix. This didn’t bode well with the Australian culture of socializing while getting coffee.

Overall, this poor market entry meant Starbucks had to close 61 locations (over 65% of their total stores in Australia) and lost $105 million in the process. Most of their remaining stores are in areas that are popular with tourists. 

If big brands make such mistakes, you can quickly see how easy it is for smaller companies and local businesses to make rash decisions without respecting the local culture. 

Use transcreation 

So, what’s one of your best allies in glocalization? Transcreation! Transcreation fuses translation with creation to coin a term that represents not just simple word-for-word translations, but rather copy that’s translated expertly for your target audience that’s relevant, coherent, and adapts to things like local idioms. 

Brands need transcreation to achieve a fully glocalized product or service. Good transcreation:

  • Raises brand awareness
  • Attracts new business
  • Shows existing customers you’re expanding
  • Demonstrates cultural sensitivity 

Transcreation makes a huge difference in attracting customers in foreign markets and aligning your brand message and values with those of your new customers. The best example of this is Netflix’s localization strategy, which produces original content for foreign audiences incorporating local cultures. Shows like Dark (German), Indian Matchmaking (Indian), Squid Game (Korean) have had huge success not only in their local market, but on a global scale as well!

Summary 

As we’ve seen, glocalization is definitely something companies need to take into account when working on entering new markets.

Whilst glocalization might take an increased amount of resources and budget, it’s outweighed by the increased personalization your new customers will receive.  It helps you cater to different cultures and is pivotal to your global business.

While glocalization may seem daunting, you can also easily get started using a website translation and localization tool like Weglot.

Try Weglot’s 10-day free trial and start your localization journey. 

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