Glocalization is a term used to describe how global cultures are adjusted in local contexts to suit localized needs. It is a portmanteau of the terms “globalization” and “localization”.
Many people have feared that globalization would lead to the heterogenization of culture. In other words, a global Westernized culture would replace local and indigenous cultures.
In response, other scholars have used the term ‘glocalization’ to show how local cultures embrace some parts of global culture while also maintaining their own unique perspectives. When a third culture emerges from this process, we call it syncretism.
Roland Robertson famously explained glocalization as the process where local cultures in a globalized world have “both universalizing and particularizing tendencies.”
Glocalization isn’t just Marketing
While the term ‘glocalization’ has become a buzzword in marketing, it’s more about culture than marketing. There are plenty of examples of glocalization from cultural realms like language and music that have nothing to do with branding or even capitalism. We’ll present a range of these below.
Examples of Glocalization
1. Localized McDonalds Menus
This led to the rise of the term “McDonaldization” which, in a way, is the opposite of Glocalization. It’s a term that refers to the idea that everything becomes standardized and local cultures are diluted by a bland global culture.
But a counterpoint to the McDonaldization hypothesis is that McDonald’s has, in fact, created local menus to cater to local tastes. In Australia, McCafe serves premium coffee to cater to Australian coffee culture; in India, they have the McSpicy Paneer; and in Thailand, they have the Corn Pie.
2. Crop Farming in Japan
The portmanteau ‘globalization’ is adapted from the Japanese term “dochakuka” which means “localization of the global”.
Dochakuka was a Japanese farming practice that involved utilizing overseas farming techniques but adapting them for local conditions.
Japan has, in fact, been one of the most successful nations in embracing global ideas and adapting them for a local culture. It has helped Japan to modernize on its own terms.
Japanese examples of glocalism stretch also to food and drink products (such as Japanese whiskey), Japanese cartoon culture (Manga), and unique technologies, all of which willingly embrace global influences but maintain their unique indigenous identities.
3. Whirlpool Fridges
Whirlpool, the washing machine brand, is a master at glocalizing its products. When they entered the Indian market, they identified a unique consumer need: washing saris.
Saris are often up to 5 feet long and easily get tangled in washing machines. So, Whirlpool rolled out a special washing machine designed to prevent the tangling of saris during the wash.
Similarly, when they entered the Asian market, they specially designed the look of the washing machines to make them appealing to display in prominent places around the house.
While in American culture it is commonplace for people to hide their appliances away in laundries, appliances are often displayed as symbols of middle-class wealth in parts of Asia.
To accommodate this, Whirlpool released machines with floral designs that helped position the appliances as appealing centerpieces for consumers.
4. Starbucks in Australia
Starbucks’s failure to break into the Australian market was a sign of failure to learn the lesson of glocalization.
The brand rapidly rolled out an expensive expansion into the Australian market, only to retreat after several years of failure.
The problem they faced was their failure to understand the famous Australian coffee culture.
While consumers in the United States like large drip coffees and sugary options that are consumed on the way to work, Australian coffee culture has a strong tradition of boutique cafes where people meet up for “brunch”.
Australian consumers rejected the fast-food approach to coffee and stuck to their local, beloved, barista. Starbucks’s experiment in expanding into the Australian market failed.
5. Latin Hip Hop Culture
While glocalization is usually associated with branding and marketing, it’s actually about culture more than brands. And cultural artifacts like music and dance often “glocalize” around the world organically.
American Hip Hop culture is a great example.
Hip Hop has taken the world by storm, but it hasn’t stayed the same everywhere.
Local youths have embraced the sounds of rappers and hip-hop artists then altered them to match their local tastes.
In Latin America, for example, hip-hop artists like Calle 13 create songs about Latin culture that meld the hip hop sound with elements of local culture. Other popular latin hip hop artists include Vico C (Puerto Rico), Tego Calderón (Puerto Rico), Cancerbero (Venezuela), and Violadores del Verso (Spain)
6. Tim Hortons (Fast Food in Canada)
While multinational American fast-food chains have swept the world, some cultures have managed to create their own highly successful fast-food chains.
One quintessential example is Tim Hortons in Canada. The Tim Hortons franchise imported fast-food culture and methodologies from the United States (including the standardization and efficiency) while making it uniquely Canadian.
Tim Hortons trades on nationalistic marketing, emphasizing the all-Canadian double-double coffee and heavily sponsoring Canadian hockey.
7. Hamburgers around the World
While the hamburger is seen as an all-American meal, it has spread around the world. But some countries have made creative twists on the hamburger to suit local tastes.
In Australia, the Aussie Hamburger is served with pineapple and sliced beetroot. Similarly, in Canada, you’re very likely to have your burger served with Canadian bacon by default.
8. Food Chains in India
India has a great deal of vegetarians thanks to the preponderance of Hindus and Buddhists. As a result, most food chains have had to change their menus to meet local requirements.
KFC, Starbucks, and Taco Bell all rolled-out stores in the Indian market with meat-free options to cater to local religious requirements.
Examples include the Konkani Twist and Chatpata Paratha Wrap which provide vegetarian offerings in Starbucks stores. Similarly, for Hindus who eat meat but not beef, McDonald’s India introduced products like the Chicken Maharaja Mac,
Whiskey has gone through a range of alterations as it spread around the world. It is generally believed to originate in Ireland and Scotland in the 15th Century.
It was very popular in the United States in the 18th Century, even becoming a form of currency for a time, before it took its own form known as bourbon.
Bourbon is a type of whiskey, but technically must be:
- Brewed in the USA
- Distilled from at least 51% corn
- Aged in new oak-charred barrels
Similarly, Japan, a culture that is famously protective of their traditions, have embraced whiskey from as early as 1870. Their type is similar to that of scotch whiskey but has its own flavors and is favored by many connoisseurs worldwide.
10. Americanization of Beer
Beer is as old as time. It originated in Germany before spreading around Europe and the Orient.
As beer spread, different cultures came to brew it differently. Each culture adapted it to their own tastes and styles.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, where the climate is cool, dark non-carbonated beers became commonplace. But in the United States, a culture that appreciated carbonated and hop-forward IPAs emerged.
Thus, we got beers like the North-East IPA and the West Coast IPA that are quintessentially American flavors.
11. New York Pizza
When pizza spread to New York with the cultural diffusion of Italian culture (thanks to the Italian diaspora in the 19th Century), tastes in pizza also evolved.
While in Europe pizza remained thin crust, Americans of Italian descent in New York and Chicago embraced the deep pan pizza that has become famous worldwide.
Netflix, a television and movie streaming service, operates in the vast majority of countries around the world. But if you turn on Netflix in the United States, you will get a very different range of shows offered to you than if you turned it on in India.
Part of the reason for this is that Netflix needs to negotiate its contracts for showing programs in each country.
But it also helps to personalize the offerings for local audiences. In fact, if you log into your Netflix dashboard, you will even see national personalizations explicitly mentioned, such as: “Trending in Scotland Today.”
They also make an effort to buy and offer local films and television shows so consumers have programs that are most relatable to the local consumers.
13. Christmas Traditions
Christianity is an early example of globalization. The rapid spread of Christianity around the world is an example of the growing ‘global village’.
But Christmas traditions are surprisingly variable. In Catalonia (part of Spain), for example, a character named Caga Tio (literally: Uncle poop), is left on the dinner table and fed each night. Then, on Christmas night, he is hit with sticks until he poops out presents.
Meanwhile, in Austria, there is a Christmas character named Krampus who snatches children who misbehave. This horned and hairy beast roams the streets on Krampusnacht, December 5th, to terrorize children.
14. Coca Cola’s Localized Campaigns
While Coca-Cola hasn’t rolled out local product lines, they have been very successful in creating emotive marketing campaigns for local populations.
Their famous 1955 Pearl of the Orient advertisement was a 21-minute ad showcasing Philippino traditions and culture. Similarly, in Mexico, where Coca-Cola is enormously popular, even the bottles take on a local (glass) shape that differs from the bottles in other nations.
15. Apple in Japan
In the early 2010s, Apple rolled out an enormously successful campaign in Western nations wherein it mocked PCs for their less ‘trendy’ appeal.
But in Japan, a culture well-known for being polite and inoffensive, this campaign was believed to be too confrontational.
To cater to local tastes, Apple instead rolled out a parallel campaign that focused on the contrast between PCs as being for work, while Apples are for the weekend.
This localization was believed to be less confrontational and more palatable to a local audience.
16. MTV’s Global Domination
When the music television channel MTV expanded beyond its US market, it realized that music tastes differed throughout the world.
As a result, MTV decided to change its programming for each nation it expanded into. Its first target was the UK. For their UK market, they played predominantly English rock and pop bands rather than US-based bands. This was particularly important in the early 1990s when rap and hip hop hadn’t yet spread to a UK market.
With the historically large number of Mexican residents of the United States, Mexican food was destined to make its way into US culture.
But many savvy Mexican entrepreneurs learned that adapting Mexican food to the more mild American taste buds offered a great business opportunity.
Thus, Tex-Mex was born. Tex-Mex is a westernized version of Mexican food. The term means “Texican Mexican” and often involves less spicy, more cheesy Mexican dishes that involve westernized ingredients (you won’t find cactus on Tex-Mex!). Dishes like Nachos are even hard to find in ‘authentic’ Mexican restaurants.
Definitions of Glocalization
Definitions of glocalization from scholars of globalization include:
|“Glocalization refers to a blend of local and global (glocal) perspectives.”||Patel (2017, p. 66)|
|“The way in which global capitalism incorporates the local.”||Roudometof (2015, p. 12)|
|Glocalization “means the simultaneity – the co-presence – of both universalizing and particularizing tendencies.”||Robertson (2000)|
Pros of Glocalization
Glocalization is seen as an answer to the complaint that globalization leads to the homogenization of culture.
While cultural critics argue that local and indigenous cultures will be diluted as a result of a single global culture overtaking the world, other scholars of glocalization point to the creative ways that locals adapt the global to the local.
- Best of Both Worlds – Locals demand a product that has the efficiencies and benefits of the global supply chain but the comforts of their local customs and values.
This opens the door for savvy brands to find market advantage throughout the world.
- Choice for Locals – But it also recognizes the agency of local and indigenous cultures (an in particular youths) to straddle both global and local identities.
For youths in particular, glocalization offers them a chance to reap the benefits of the global while also embracing their traditions.
- Jobs for the Developing World – Finally, for societies in the developing world, it allows influx of investment and jobs from multinational corporations.
Cons of Glocalization
Critics of glocalization argue that ‘blending’ of the global and local is tantamount to the dilution of indigenous cultures.
- Money Sent Offshore – Allowing a multinational brand into your town could send money offshore that could be better spent on local restaurants where authentic foods are served.
- Loss of Traditions – Many older generations worry that their traditional values might be undermind by the trappings of the global culture. Their children may lose interest in the traditions that served their families for hundreds of years.
- Dilution of Cultural Uniqueness – Travellers may also find disappointment in glocalization. If the world becomes ‘too familiar’ with brands you recognize from home, the uniqueness of the world is slowly undermined.
Thus, while glocalization is seen by some as a middle ground between homogenization and heterogenization, others see it as the slow undermining of indigenous cultures, values, and uniqueness.
Glocalization is a concept that highlights how local cultures embrace, resist, and adapt to globalized cultures. For marketers, it is an important concept because it reminds them of the importance of “listening to the consumer” and adapting their products to local tastes.
For sociologists, it serves an entirely different purpose. It is a way for us to examine the delicate balance between promoting the benefits of globalization and minding the severe consequences of cultural imperialism and how this might harm indigenous traditions.
Grigorescu, A., & Zaif, A. (2017). The concept of glocalization and its incorporation in global brands’ marketing strategies. International Journal of Business and Management Invention, 6(1), 70-74.
Patel, F. (2017). Deconstructing internationalization: Advocating glocalization in international higher education. Journal of International and Global Studies, 8(2), 4. Doi: https://digitalcommons.lindenwood.edu/jigs/vol8/iss2/4
Robertson, R. (2000). Social theory, cultural relativity and the problem of globality. In A.D. King (Ed.), Culture, globalization and the world system (pp. 69–90). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Roudometof, V. (2016). Glocalization: A critical introduction. London: Routledge.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.