Country and Global Marketing Tension

One of my colleagues once said that the “battle” between Global (central) team and Local (country) team is El Classico, which means it’s a classic thing that happened everywhere. The source of tension is always about “standardize” or “customize”. The Global always encourage to bring whatever done and succeed in-home or other countries, while country team most of the time think “it will not work in my country”. This happened across the Marketing mix which mostly about Product and Communication (positioning).

I quite fortunate been able to be in both “Light” and “Dark” side of the force :). I’ve been placed in India and Indonesia as country marketing and have chance also in global marketing department. As country team, we always try to convince central team to do necessary customization, especially in product. The reason is simple, most of Indian don’t like Indonesia food (and vice versa), so since we are producing food product, the framing is so clear, please make special product for India. Well, despite its so make sense, but last week course give me a whole new perspective about that request.

As a global or multinational company, it is always tempting to enter overseas market to chase sales growth and global brand reputation. However, there are more failure cases than success for those who decided to go abroad. Because the decision possessed a huge risk of “Foreign Liability” which means, there are so many barriers to success due to variety of Cultures, Administrations, Geographicals and Environments (CAGE). The more differences, the higher risk. This explains why similar country tends to have more business partnership each other, let say UK and US.

But like what uncle Ben said, with a lot of risk come a lot opportunity :), to offset the foreign liability, the global company have competitive edge against the locals, which is the resources aggregation. For example, the same cost of product development can be used for several countries thus reducing cost/product. The same thing can happen to other fix cost such as factory, IT system, brand value, packaging and, at some extend, advertising. So, if we keep customizing everything (as requested by country team), we will become as costly as the locals, on top of the foreign liability.

Are you saying that the country team should stop asking the customization? Well, of course, no, what I’m saying is, as local team we should think about that competitive edge prior to asking for any adaptation. But how about “Indians don’t like Indonesian food”? well it is true, but always try to look from whatever current product portfolio, if still can’t find the match, there is some other way such as look the failed/less performing product in home country. Just example, High selling Kopiko in India is the cappuccino type (with milk layer) which is the less performing variant in Indonesia (compare with the black one). In so many cases, a failed product in one country is the champion in others.

Hmm, is it mean global team, always right? well, nope. A good global marketer is the one who has strong knowledge and feeling about foreign market. This knowledge can be generated through many things, but the more effective way is by more frequent visits and feels their vibe. We can eat local food. It’s even better if try street food so that we can get common taste bud for the people at the bottom of the pyramid. It’s also good to keep follow their local news, their movie, and their favorite sport so that we can understand what kind of communication that resonate with them. It’s not that hard to learn about Indian cricket (even though it’s not easy also), and it’s also enjoyable to watch beautiful Alia Bhatt, Deepika and Anushka Sharma in their blockbuster Bollywood movie (there are a lot of better movies than just Koch Koch Hota hai :).

So, in the bottom-line, a small advice, if you are a country team please try to always prioritize what already exist. While for global team, get to know more of foreign market, so that you can decide which adaptation request that you should entertain, and which one should “subject to further discussion”.