Going beyond glocalization to strategic regionalism

The debate has been raging for decades in international marketing – standardization or localization? Should companies use a standard global approach for all their branding and advertising, saving costs and presenting a unified image to the world? Or should companies adapt to local cultures and use messaging that resonates with that culture?

Many companies have tried to find a happy medium by using a technique called glocalization, which is creating a global marketing/advertising strategy that includes adaptations at the local level.

However, Wilken and Sinclair (2011) propose that companies take this adaptation to the next level – strategic regionalism. They note that other researchers have identified a valid approach called “country clustering”, which groups together countries that have similar responses to certain types of messages (emotional or rational). For example, Coca Cola has found that Argentinean and French people are more similar in their responses than Argentinean and Brazilian people. In this case, the country cluster would be Argentina and France, rather than the more traditional regional groupings of Latin America or Europe.

Strategic regionalism identifies and utilizes the underlying reasons for country clusters, mainly:

  • Geocultural similarities: for example, masculine/feminine orientations
  • Geolinguistic similarities: for example, latin-based languages
  • Movement of people and the formation of diasporic communities: for example, the European exodus to Latin America during World War II
  • Sharing of cultural affinities as new cultural aspects evolve: for example, the embracing of new technologies

Strategic regionalism extends the concept of glocalization by identifying demographic strata that can be grouped together based on cultural similarities, rather than simply national boundaries. For example, Colgate-Palmolive was extremely successful in bringing strong Mexican oral care brands into the southwest USA by appealing to the Hispanic market in that region. However, Colgate-Palmolive adapted the brand names and messages when targeting the rest of the US market.

Essentially, if marketers are considering localization, or glocalization, it could prove very useful to consider a strategic regionalism approach as well.

References:

Wilken, R. and Sinclair, J. (2011). “Global marketing communications and strategic regionalism.” Globalizations. 8 (1), pp. 1-15.

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