Going glocal

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Going glocal

Many US-based companies fail in their overseas efforts. Even worse, they perpetuate the anti-Americanism that's already pervasive around the world. The tide must be turned to benefit the country and American businesses.

Sink roots, don't just spread branches. To succeed in any foreign country, an American-born business must understand and respect local culture, history, customs, habits, and diet, as well as grasp the nuances of local language. Hiring local managers can pay off tremendously.

For example, Procter & Gamble has become the most successful foreign marketer in China by making a personal investment in Chinese talent. In addition to hiring and developing local managers, P&G dispatches hundreds of researchers to live with Chinese families and observe how they approach everyday tasks, from changing the baby to brushing their teeth. The resulting knowledge plays into product names, positioning, and advertising. And wherever possible, P&G formulates products using local flavors, colors, and textures. Jasmine-flavored Crest toothpaste, for instance, capitalizes on the Chinese belief that tea is good for controlling bad breath.

Go "glocal." One of the highest priorities for successful global companies is to adopt a local face. When McDonald's restaurants in France came under attack as a symbol of American culinary and cultural imperialism, the chain's local managers began making fun of Americans and their food choices in a series of ads. One depicted a beefy American cowboy and said that while McDonald's was born in the United States, its food was made in France using French products. The president of McDonald's in Europe, a Frenchman who started behind the counter in a restaurant outside Paris, had no qualms about approving the ads. "We don't act local; we are local," stressed a McDonald's spokesman.

Share your customers' cares. To a greater degree than in the United States, global consumers accurately see multinational companies as the most powerful institutions on the planet, and capable of doing more than making money. U.S.-based companies that win foreign customers' respect and loyalty practice social responsibility and social activism.

Pfizer's Global Health Fellows program, for instance, matches its employees with nongovernmental organizations in developing countries to help fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. The NGOs acquire skills in analyzing, planning, and training, while Pfizer gains an on-the-ground understanding of treating infectious diseases.

Share your customers' dreams. People use global brands to create an identity they share with like-minded people, without regard to national affiliation. Dove's convention-defying Campaign for Real Beauty, for example, resonated with women not only in the United States, but also in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada.

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