Think Global Act Local.

 How Irish companies can apply this rule in developing export markets


Think Global Act Local – What does it mean?

This international marketing principle urges companies to have a consistent strategy when selling internationally (a global strategy) while adapting their tactical approach to the local market they are targeting (a local approach). It is a best practice approach used by nearly every successful international brand and can touch on almost every area of sales and marketing including product features, packaging, pricing, message, the types of sales channels that are used, etc.  When properly implemented it ensures that companies achieve economies of scale in the sales and marketing of their brands internationally while at the same time remaining relevant to the local market audience.



This telecom company famously had a slogan which said

the future is  bright, the future is Orange”

When it came to promotion in Northern Ireland, the   strapline proved to be politically controversial.

McDonaldsLogoRedBackground_large-300x162 McDonalds  are the masters of local adaption and while every outlet follows strict branding and franchise policies, the company is quick to adapt to local taste preferences. Examples of this from around the world include:

  • McRice Burger (South East Asia)
  • Black & White Burgers (China)
  • McLaks Burger (Norway)

Red Bull Can

The global energy drink brand Red Bull adapted their product packaging when entering the Chinese market for the first time. The company chose gold and red as their   packaging colours as Red is a symbol of good luck and Gold a symbol for wealth and happiness.


Irish-mist C&C Brand ‘Irish Mist’ is sold successfully in many international markets but has only achieved modest sales in Germany. The literal translation for the term   “mist” in German is dung, fertilizer or muck.
volkswagen_51 The Volkwagen Jetta is a brand which has existed since 1979 with over 10 million sales to-date. However, the letter ‘J’ doesn’t exist in the Italian alphabet which means that ‘Jetta” is likely to be pronounced as “letta” which literally translated is “misfortune.”

So What Does This Mean For My Company?

Even if you are not a global brand, it is important to always consider the “think global, act local” approach for your export markets. You could argue in fact that this approach is even more relevant for small companies. With limited resources it becomes even more important that your investments are carefully considered and you avoid expensive marketing mistakes.

The following are five practical suggestions therefore for any Irish company looking to develop their brand internationally:


1. Visit the Market – Do not attempt to sell into a market that you have not visited. There are for example massive differences to doing business in countries like USA, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Japan.  Experience the culture first hand and do not base your assumptions on what your experience is of your domestic market. We look at the importance of market research here.


2. Customer Research – While your product may have standard features regardless of where it is sold, success is always based on a broader range of factors. Focus on how your target customer’s buy similar products today, the distribution channels used, local pricing strategy, terms of doing business, etc. You may find they are completely different to what you expect.


3. Competitor Research – Know your competition: Develop an objective picture of their promotional strategy and in particular the messages and types of promotions used. Is the basis for competition price, service or product feature? Develop a clear idea of how you need to adapt your promotional approach to compete locally.


4. Local translations – Always invest in local translation services with native speakers, ideally based in the market you are targeting. If possible, always get a local contact who is involved in your industry to proof read translations. Be careful when using tools such as ‘Google Translation Toolbar’ as this can often only provide a literal rather than a true native translation.


5. Develop Brand Guidelines – Once you understand the local market and decide on how you need to adapt, it is important to formalise this approach. If you are using distributors or local partners it is even more important that the “rules” on how your branding is to be used are clearly defined. Logos, straplines, packaging, your core message, etc needs to be carefully controlled to avoid  a disjointed approach in the marketplace.  Best practice is to put all of these brand guidelines in writing.


Summary Point – Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

International marketing and export development are significant challenges for companies of any size.  Just like your domestic market however, the focus should be on developing a close understanding of your customers in each international market. If you do this, the probability is that you will respect local cultures, develop a relevant promotional strategy and ultimately make the right decisions on what elements of your strategy need to be adapted.

IMS Marketing in partnership with Enterprise Ireland are now supporting Irish companies Enter The Eurozone – a unique programme designed to provide ambitious Irish exporters with the theoretical framework and strategic business mentoring to plan and enter a new mainland European market for their products and services.

To discuss this blog further you can contact us on 091 739 450 or email [email protected]