Glocalisation: Global Meets Local

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Brands can often grow into behemoths. They can become known across the world – from the hustle bustle of Times Square to the rural villages of so-called third world countries. On the whole, this is what major brands crave. Global recognition, markets that aspire to enjoy their products, and seemingly endless scope for profit are just a handful of benefits of a globalised market. But with globalisation comes challenges.

Sometimes a brand’s messages, products, or services simply don’t sync with another market. The answer is mixing a global approach with local tactics. Here some examples of this in action, and what 4 brands changed in order to arrive at the perfect “glocal” formula:

McDonald’s in Asia

McDonald's Glocalisation

When McDonald’s wanted to enter the Indian market it had a huge problem. Nearly half of Indians are vegetarian and cattle slaughter is a taboo subject because of the cow‘s traditional status as a sacred animal in Hinduism. One thing was therefore clear: McDonald’s couldn’t simply offer its American menu in India. Not only would a Big Mac not sell, but it would cause an uproar.

The solution was the Chicken Maharaja Mac – it looked the same as a Big Mac, and was branded similarly, but the beef was nowhere to be seen. McDonald’s adapted to a new market with a slight variation of its most popular product, and it worked. Customers still associated the fast-food outlets with the global brand, even though most of its well-known products were nowhere to be seen.

Vodafone in Africa

Vodafone Glocalisation

When Vodafone tackled the African market for the first time it noticed an opportunity. Not only were some regions in need of a reliable communications provider, but many citizens didn’t have access to bank accounts or a way of paying for goods or services that didn’t rely on physical cash. Soon, a new micropayments scheme was born.

The scheme was named M-Pesa: M for mobile, and Pesa being Swahali for money. It’s a service that allows users with a national ID card or passport to deposit, withdraw, and transfer money easily with a mobile device. Vodafone (known as Vodacom in Africa) chose to associate the new scheme directly with the Vodafone brand. This meant that users trusted and took notice of M-Pesa from the moment it launched. The power, authority and familiarity of the global brand was filtered down into this new brand: a glocal approach in action.

Starbucks in India

Starbucks Glocalisation

In January 2011, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Shulz signed a 50:50 joint venture agreement with Indian firm Tata’s Global Beverages branch. This allowed Starbucks to fulfil the requirements of the Indian authorities that prevented foreign companies from entering the Indian market without an interest from a current Indian company. But there was another non-regulatory hurdle to overcome – the coffee culture of India was very different to that of America, and Starbucks had to make big changes, both in the way it made its coffees and where its customers sat down to enjoy them.

Firstly, it realised that many Indians viewed the Starbucks brand as aspirational, so that remained and formed the global aspect of the strategy. The local element came from where the coffee was procured from and the interiors of its stores. Huge roasting plants owned by Tata supplied beans to the company to give Stabucks’ products some added authenticity in a new market. Designs of each store matched regional nuances across India with hand-carved wooden tables and leather-bound books. Starbucks adapted to the tastes of the Indian consumer, and was able to reap the benefits of expansion into a huge new market.


HSBC Glocal

The tagline for the above HSBC advert is “The more you value the world, the more you recognise how people value things differently”. This was the mantra of HSBC from its beginnings in the 1990s. It wanted to position itself in the market as a bank that served the global market, yet understood and adapted to the different needs of each of the world’s countries. It wanted to be The World’s Local Bank.

The advertising campaigns for HSBC’s glocal marketing strategy were critically lauded. They were simple, yet highly clever and resonated with all audiences, regardless of their age, nationality, race or location. Consider it from a different perspective for a moment – what would have been the result if HSBC delegated responsibility for its advertising campaigns to local markets? It’s likely that a lack of synergy would have resulted in a disjointed and muddied campaign with only a small percentage of the potential impact. Instead, it chose to adopt a strategy where a central brand authority allowed local implementation of a broader idea – a glocal viewpoint – and it was hugely successful.


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