Glocal Marketing

I work on a global brand that requires local marketing. Glocal marketing. This portmanteau combines global and local marketing. Glocal brand requires global standards and key messaging but you have to be flexible to adapt and adjust to local cultural needs. It is a delicate dance that requires a keen sense of awareness for a marketing team.

My global experience is limited to the last 5 years out of a 30 year career. But I have learned a few lessons that I think are relevant to those working outside of their country borders as they apply to traditional meetings and managing marketing projects.

No, we aren't all the same. Communicating to a key target in France using print ads or email marketing is not the same as it is in Italy, Germany or Australia. You can’t cut and paste. Instead you need to have a well-thought out framework with clear boundaries that can be adapted. Collaborating with people from the culture and who understand the community is obviously necessary. But to keep some global standards in place requires some foundational message.

McDonald’s adapts to local tastes but it must remain committed to fast food and clean restaurants to be true to the global brand. Selling hamburgers isn't going to work in India but their brand adapts to the local taste needs. Starbucks serves green tea instead of coffee in many Asian markets and KFC serves duck sandwiches for lunch. Coke is coke everywhere but it has to be reinterpreted to fit each country's local sweetness/taste preferences. But these brands stay true to the essence. 

Photo Courtesy Coca-Cola
Keeping with a food example, I used to eat at a restaurant in Philadelphia, during college called The Frog. It had a French heritage but a Thai chef. The food respected both cultures and made sauces with classic French bases but with recognition of the Thai influence through the spices. Béchamel sauce meets lemongrass and coriander.

You are going too fast. I have learned that the American pace or rate of activity needs calibrating when working in other cultures. In Belgium, for example, if you walk into a conference room, you say hello to everyone, shake a hand, kiss a cheek and slowly and gently enter into business conversation. In the U.S., we jump in immediately often without acknowledging the humans in the room. Sensitivity to the pace is critical in other cultures and clashes will make your marketing fizzle. Time keeping is different in Europe. It often requires a calendar not a watch ticking by the second.

Change is bad, until it is good. We Americans tend to be incredibly optimistic and upbeat. No worries. No problem. We can do it.  In other cultures that innate positive attitude takes a circuitous path and usually starts with, “I don’t think so.”  New and novel ideas are usually seen in an initially negative light and evolve toward neutral and eventually to okay. Understanding this helps if you are trying to do something new and different. Expect a lot of head nodding at first and bring an extra helping of patience. 

Tradition and disruption at the same time. I am often surprised at how the business culture in some countries can hold two completely different ideas at the same time. Things can be very traditional and highly disruptive, all at the same moment. Not only do you need a translator if you don't speak the language, but a Sherpa to explain the contours and sensitivities of the landscape. Don't try to force an American way of doing something into another country. Rather, gain insight how that culture adapts new ideas by learning from others and then see how you can use those insights like seeds, planting them for a local team to harvest. 

Listening Around The World 
Glocal, global or local marketing all have the same core competency at heart. It is listening more than talking. Observing what people do not what they say. It takes patience and a balanced approach but requires discipline and diligence. This is hard work but also very rewarding. 

What have you learned working in a glocal marketing job? 

Shameless plug from a proud Dad 

If you are interested in food, cooking and laughter, you might enjoy my daughter Fanny's blog called Fanfare Foodie. After winning the Rachael Ray Cookbook Competition, she is now busy writing her cookbook and sharing hilarious video tips on food she loves to make. She expects to be on a book tour next year promoting family recipes and inspiration. Come along for the journey.

To keep up with all things Fanny, please sign up on her site. Thanks. Check it out here.

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