Global Expansion & Cultural Context

by Becky O'Mara    February 14, 2013

Some brands like McDonald's have paved the way in the realm of brand global expansion. But can every brand make the leap seamlessly?

NPR featured an interesting story this week on a new book just released in December titled,”The China Twist: An entrepreneur’s cautious tales of franchising in China.”

The book walks through the journey of Wen-Szu Lin and his business partner Joseph Sze and their attempt to introduce Auntie Anne’s Pretzels to the Chinese market. After confronting issues such as price point and the fact that most Chinese consumers aren’t used to eating foods with their hands, they realized the root of their problem was much deeper.

“The cultural divide was huge. I think we made a faulty assumption in the very beginning that our Chinese heritage was in line with the cultural phenomenon that was happening here in China,” Lin says.

In his essay in The Brand Bible, Daniel Lin speaks to the challenge brands have in making the leap to emerging markets abroad. He states, “Achieving growth and success in these markets requires companies to be keenly attuned to the differences between cultures and to the complex nature of the markets they are entering.”

Employing techniques such as consumer research, cultural insight, product development can set a brand up for success and avoid the pitfalls of blind expansion (and in turn the loss of valuable brand equity).

For those who aren’t necessarily ready to expand to emerging markets, understanding cultural context is similarly important when expanding to an area unlike our own, whether its the move from a small town to a big city, or targeting a different generational audience. Whatever the case, a keen eye for cultural context can help successful expansions, and build equity into our brands.

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