Managers sometimes assume that what works in their home country will work just as well in another part of the world. They take the same product, the same advertising campaign, even the same brand names and packaging, and expect instant success. The result in most cases is failure. Why? Because the assumption that one approach works everywhere fails to consider the complex mosaic of differences that exists between countries and cultures.
Of course, marketing a standardized product with the same positioning and communications strategy around the globe—the purest form of aggregation—has considerable attraction because of its cost-effectiveness and simplicity. It is also extremely dangerous, however. Simply assuming that foreign customers will respond positively to an existing product can lead to costly failure. Consider the following classic examples of failure:
- Coca-Cola had to withdraw its 2-liter bottle in Spain after discovering that few Spaniards owned refrigerators with large enough compartments to accommodate it.
- General Foods squandered millions trying to introduce packaged cake mixes to Japanese consumers. The company failed to note that only 3% of Japanese homes were equipped with ovens.
- General Foods’ Tang initially failed in France because it was positioned as a substitute for orange juice at breakfast. The French drink little orange juice and almost none at breakfast.
With a few exceptions, the idea of an identical, fully standardized global value proposition is a myth, and few industries are truly global. How to adapt a value proposition in the most effective manner is therefore a key strategic issue.