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Glocalization and its link to your global business expansion

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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 global business expansion and why ultimately, it’s probably 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. 

One particular sociologist, Roland Roberston 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.

In simple terms, this type of adapting a product can be seen in bigger brands such as McDonald’s where they’re present in more than 1000 countries and have menus adapted for every single one. Whether that’s serving a neon-colored alternative to its famous apple pie in Hong Kong or the chicken pizza Mac in Finland, adapting your offering to the needs of your market is key to worldwide success. 

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 their 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 

Glocalization is a refined version of globalization. However, globalization nowadays has a negative connotation in that it cultivates cultural homogenization. Whilst it was never the intention of globalization to reduce cultural diversity, it unfortunately has. 

That’s why the strong difference between globalization and glocalization needs to be identified. 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. 

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. 

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 having 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. We can again look at McDonald’s and how well they know their local markets. 

Let’s take their launch in Indian 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. 

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

On the other hand, we can look at Starbucks and their major blunder in trying to enter the Australian market. Australia is known for its love of coffee and drinking at local artisan coffee shops. 

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. Starbucks is known for its overly sweet, syrupy coffees, whereas the Australian consumer prefers espresso or a flat white. This poor market entry meant Starbucks had to close 61 locations and lost $105 million in the process. 

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

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, 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. 

Summary 

As we’ve seen, glocalization is most definitely something companies need to take into account when working on entering new markets. It’s not enough to have a one size fits all approach, that most definitely won’t see a good return on investment. 

Whilst glocalization might take an increased amount of resources and budget, it’s outweighed by the increased personalization your new customers will receive. 

Even though great glocalization undoubtedly expands to creating tailored marketing campaigns for each market, there are certainly some simple ways to get started that fall within the localization category, such as website translation. 

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

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