In today’s increasingly global marketplace, smart brands are using glocalization to grow their customer base in foreign markets. It makes sense considering studies have shown 56.2% of consumers said the ability to find information in their own language is more important than price. 

Successful market penetration requires more than translating your business materials into your target market’s language. It takes a deep understanding of local culture to win over international audiences. 

Here’s everything you need to know about glocalization and the companies that are doing it best:

What is glocalization? 

Glocalization is when global products or services are adapted to fit the customs, laws or preferences of a local market. The word fuses the concepts of “globalization” and “localization.”

Roland Robertson coined the term in the Harvard Business Review in 1980 when he stated that glocalization was “the simultaneity—the co-presence—of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies.” 

Although global products are standardized to meet the needs of mass audiences, a “glocalized” product often performs better because localization makes it better suited to the specific environment and needs of a local market. 

Check out our interactive worksheet to adapt your content strategy to local markets:

Adapt your content strategy to local markets with this free interactive worksheet

How do companies glocalize? 

It takes thorough market research to understand the cultural nuances and social norms of a company’s target market, especially if they’re selling in different markets around the world. 

For example, Walmart had difficulty when they first opened stores in Germany because of their use of greeters at the door. German customers found this overly helpful form of customer service offputting. Walmart had to change this signature practice to suit its German customers’ needs or risk losing their business altogether.

See also: US vs. German marketing content: Why localization is key

Glocalization is about making sure the local customers are happy, even if a company has to regularly update its strategy. 

How does glocalization affect local markets? 

Glocalization can have a negative effect on smaller economies that have grown from grass roots businesses. 

Larger companies have a higher budget for glocalization and can offer lower prices, quickly owning the majority of the market. It can be difficult for local and small businesses to compete. If local businesses can’t keep up, corporations raise their prices because they no longer have any competition.  

However, large companies entering local markets means new jobs are created where there may have been a desperate need. 

Successful examples of glocalization 

McDonald’s glocalizes its products around the world

(Photo from Mcdonald’s Arabia)

With over 69 million customers worldwide, McDonald’s has mastered customizing its branding, food options, and dietary requirements to each of its target markets. 

McDonald’s restaurants in Israel sell kosher Big Macs without cheese. Their Indian restaurants include mostly chicken, lamb, and vegetarian offerings to cater to Hindus who don’t eat beef. Some McDonald’s products in India include Chicken Maharaja Mac (a grilled chicken double patty with habanero sauce) and the Veg Maharaja Mac (a corn patty with cheese cocktail sauce). 

The fast food giant’s restaurants in Arab countries offer the McArabia Chicken—a pita sandwich with two grilled chicken or beef patties, tomato, onion, lettuce and garlic sauce. 

McDonald’s recognizes how food is a part of people’s culture and glocalizes their brand and products accordingly. This has resulted in countries around the world appreciating their products and feeling comfortable with their brand. 

Whirlpool fashions products for foreign markets 

Whirlpool—a corporation that markets and manufactures home appliances—has done a fantastic job of glocalizing its products for foreign markets. 

They specifically thought about the needs of their Indian customers when they included specially designed agitators in washing machines to help Indian women wash saris. Whirlpool recognized a common problem for their Indian customers: five-foot long saris would often get tangled in washing machines. They teamed up with a local partner that produced a redesigned washing machine customized to local culture and preferences. This smart move not only led to increased sales, but fostered loyalty between the brand and its Indian customers. 

The manufacturing giant also glocalized its products for the Asian market. They discovered that many Asian consumers put their refrigerator in their living room as a sign of status. To make their refrigerators appropriate for living room decor, they offered them in bright colors such as red and blue. 

These adaptations may seem small, but they make a big difference to customers in other countries who could have been apprehensive of buying from a foreign company. Whirlpool built trust with its Asian and Indian audiences by tailoring its products to fit their needs.

Coca-Cola’s wins over Filipino audiences 

In 1955, Coca Cola released a glocalized advertisement called “Pearl of the Orient.” This 21-minute film shows Filipino traditions, habits and culture. It portrays traditional dances and festivals alongside locals laughing and sipping bottles of Coke. 

During the advertisement, Coke is referred to as “pure,” “wholesome” and “part of the family.” Coca Cola hoped to make Filipinos feel more comfortable with their global product by localizing it to their culture. This use of glocalization had big payoffs for Coke in the Philippines. 

Starbucks glocalizes food and drinks for Indian customers 

(Photo from TravelingwiththeJones

The Starbucks stores in India are fully equipped with glocalized products. 

There’s no beef or pork on Starbucks’ menu in India. They mainly serve vegetarian options to suit the tastes of their Indian customers—most of whom don’t eat beef or pork for religious reasons. Some offerings include the Chatpata Paratha Wrap, which is filled with paneer, vegetables and spices. 

Starbucks respects their customers’ dietary preferences even further by having separate ovens and counters for vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. 

MTV learns why they’ve got to glocalize 

MTV started in 1981 and went on to become a wildly successful music channel. But when the program was launched in the UK, it didn’t experience the same level of popularity. MTV realized the music enjoyed by Americans didn’t perform as well overseas. Once they glocalized to UK music and lifestyle culture, they had better ratings. 

They also implemented glocalization in other countries like India, China, South Korea and Japan. To adapt to the local culture of each country, they used the local language and hired local employees. This helped foreign consumers see MTV as a part of the community and encouraged them to watch its programming. 

Should your business use glocalization?

If your business is selling products or services in foreign markets, glocalization should be high on your list of priorities.

It’s possible consumers in other countries don’t understand your products. You’ll need to perform market research and adapt your products to your local audience’s preferences to help locals see your brand as trustworthy. 

You should also consider working with a translation agency that understands your target market’s culture. Local audiences are more likely to buy your product if its relevant to their culture and solves their problems. 

By understanding the local culture’s values, perceptions, and nuances, your business will foster loyalty with potential customers and gain brand recognition worldwide. 

Need help glocalizing your products? Reach out to us today, and discover how our team of expert translators can make your ads stand out in over 20 languages.