One global culture: friend or foe?

global culture

Much has been said and written about globalisation. Undeniably, the world is getting more global; economies compete on a single market, people have never been more mobile and therefore top brands aim at increasing their reach and present themselves as a strong and consistent unit across markets. With globalisation, advertisers can choose to localise or standardise their campaigns and use the same advertisement all around the world. But to what extend is this a good idea?

Imagine a future with one global culture: we eat the same food, we listen to the same music and we speak the same language. In this homogeneous global culture all cultural differences are disregarded. What is considered offensive in Middle Eastern cultures does not exist anymore and typical Western advertising is no longer the norm for global brands. One global culture is a utopia of identical life styles worldwide and people benefit through mutual understanding and a lack of complexity in international relations.

Most of all, homogeneity promotes an ever-increasing world economy, simply because everyone can be targeted through the exact same advertisements and marketing campaigns. This does not only optimise budgets by avoiding local overheads, it also appeals to virtually everyone and one global culture would increase profits from marketing campaigns. It could be the perfect world. Or would it?

Having one global culture and being able to advertise in one and the same way may sound like a dream for many marketers, but in reality we would be missing out on one of the most interesting aspects of marketing: diversity. At Creative Culture, we believe in “glocalisation” (obviously), the phenomenon by which a brand rolls out a single campaign across markets taking into consideration the various cultural sensitivities of the local markets, which is so much more interesting than having one global culture where everyone is more or less the same. Don’t you agree?

For example, some may argue that McDonald’s is the epitome of American culture; however, it has proven to be one of the leading glocal brands in the world. From advertising to localised menus, they have successfully introduced the concept of ‘doing the same a little differently’. Have you ever heard of the KiwiBurger, the McShawarma and the Mega Teriyaki Burger? They are the New Zealander, Israeli and Japanese versions of their top-rated burgers. In India, beef has been taken off the menu altogether due to religious views whereas kosher and halal meals are offered in other parts of the world. These alterations make it a whole new experience to walk into a McDonald’s when you are in a foreign country: it is a local taste with a global touch.

Another good example of successful glocalisation is when Disney opened a theme park in Europe, then called Euro Disney (Disneyland Paris). The theme park struggled to make a profit in the first few years and appeared to be a huge mistake by the American owned company.[1] Disney’s mistake was to force the US concept of the theme park to Europeans, and especially the French, who were everything but receptive. When changing the name Euro Disney to Disneyland Paris, the Walt Disney Company started to implement glocalisation practices. According to the study by Jonathan Matusitz, the main changes were “(1) cutting the price; (2) turning shows and settings into French style; (3) change the food menus and eating habits; and (4) change of employee customs and labour policies.” These changes turned out to be a smart move by Disney: the theme park is now immensely successful with 12 million visitors each year.

Globalisation brings people closer together, but it does not bridge cultural differences. What works in Europe does not necessarily work in Asia or the Middle East. It is important to regard this while creating global campaigns and to change what can harm the brand’s reputation. In a world consumed by globalisation, this is the only way to be a truly successful international brand. In other words, think globally, act locally and glocalise that advertisement!

By Malou Tulleken


[1] J Matusitz, ‘Disneyland Paris: a case analysis demonstrating how glocalization works’, Journal of Strategic Marketing, vol. 18, no. 3, June 2010, pp. 223-237, retrieved 13 March 2012, Seneca College Libraries

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