Think globally, act locally: the integration of local markets into world capitalism. Is it possible for the universal and the particular to co-exist?

Popularized in the 1990’s by sociologists and economists alike, the idea of “glocalisation” has been around for longer than you think. From the Japanese word dochakuka, it originally referred to a way of adapting farming techniques to local conditions. Dochakuka evolved into a marketing strategy when Japanese businessmen adopted it in the 1980s. The English portmanteau means global localization.

Despite the fact the glocalization of business suggests an emphasis on local conditions, in reality, glocalized goods typically have very little local relevance. Such top-down innovation overlooks the true inventiveness and specialized understanding possessed by local individuals. While there may be an initial surge in sales for newly adapted products, with time locals lose interest in these goods due to poor adaptation decisions overall as well as a dissatisfaction with their cheapened foreign sources. There is a niche in the market for businesses willing to approach this from ground level. Like method acting. Only from there will businesses understand local market needs and consumer attitudes.

There are a couple of glocalisation success stories:


Coke successfully launched their ‘Share a Coke’ campaign in 2011 from Australia. The campaign has since made its way around the world, reaching more than 70 countries, to date. Coca-Cola teams from Great Britain, to Turkey to China – and, most recently, the United States – have put their own creative spin on the concept, while preserving the simple invitation to “Share a Coke with (insert name).”

Starbucks is trying out their non-branded, locally designed franchises in stores, in order to capture the feel of a local coffee shop and not threaten store-owners. Nokia responded to local customer needs with the introduction of dust-resistant keypad, anti-slip grip and an inbuilt flash light for Indian rural consumers (specifically targeting truck drivers). Glocalisation was successfully applied to the Disneyland theme park in Hong Kong.

Glocalisation is likely to continue as a common business practice, but serious integration between brand, consumer and community is needed in order to make significant headway. Reverse innovation could be a step in the right direction. In this way, rather than using a top-down approach to develop and sell products, businesses are able to start at the base and design for their consumers with a more specialized understanding of surrounding conditions. No more degrading or modifying, simply starting from scratch.