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Act Globally Think Locally: Kellogg’s Can Do it Again

by on July 17, 2010

The title of this post was inspired by the title of this year’s Northwestern University Kellogg Indian Business Conference. The conference placed its focus on how to promote popular [western] products in India. My favorite finding during my reading was the topic of Kellogg’s cereal. For those who do not know, Kellogg’s cereal launched Kellogg’s India back in the mid 90s and was met with dismal sales and low reception from Indian consumers. What they tried to do was bring in the concept of a western breakfast and make it Indian. Problem was cold cereal is not a universally accepted way of eating in the morning.

If anything this experience from a beloved western brand was a good thing…for everyone else on what not to do when you promote products outside of your know audience. Never try to push your cultural ways on others! The lesson here screams for two things, 1. Understanding and 2. Adaptation.

It is very important to understand your market. Just because you have no current competition in another country does not mean there is an untapped consumer base.  The second lesson, adaptation, there is a way to enter a foreign market and promote your trusted brand and product, however you must understand that it might not be consumed in the same way. There is nothing wrong with that fact, all it means is it will take a little more work, and research on your part to understand how to successfully integrate your product.

Other popular American brands have successfully been able to adapt to the cultural differences outside of America and Successfully thrive in India. Taking a very western company like McDonald’s and bringing it to India required, learning, cultural understanding and above all respect. Not getting rid of the golden arches, the tag line or Ronald McDonald, McDonald’s did make adjustments in their food menu taking into account the vegetarian culture. Instead of the Big Mac being the featured item like it  is in America, the McAloo Tikki, a patty made out of potatoes, peas and spices is the featured dish.
What McDonalds proves is that it is possible to have an American brand crossover into another country and thrive.

So Can Kellogg try again?

The answer, yes. In our sideways world (that I am making up), Kellogg’s would recall all of their products from India and start again. After one year of targeted research and strategic marketing the company would be able to rebrand and re-launch Kellogg’s India.

Kellogg’s can utilizing social media platforms. This strategy should incorporate conversations on popular Indian networking sites like Okrut and Bharastudent and perhaps most effectively using popular bloggers like Gaurav Mishra, Daksha and Vandana Ahuja (to name a few), extensive research on what kinds of snacks are popular to the target audience should also be conducted.
Kellogg can then take a popular snack like Chaat/Ragda Pattice and brand there own line of the food. (i.e. Kellogg’s Chatt). Since Kellogg is largely a company specializing in breakfast, taking into account that in India breakfast should be hot not cold, the company can introduce oatmeal with a special Indian base ingredient included like yogurt or coconut chutney.
Mistakes like the one Kellogg made should be avoided as much as possible when trying to launch an American brand in another country, especially today when there are so many ways to segment audiences and utilize popular bloggers and social media platforms to promote a brand correctly.

Taking this lesson into account will surely help the next big company contemplating entering India.

Linda

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2 Comments
  1. amim10 permalink

    Hi Linda, I thought your post was a great example of the universal pitfalls of not understanding your market (whether foreign or domestic) and how easy, yet dangerous, it can be to homogenize your customers. International marketing is definitely not like domestic U.S. marketing, where it may be a different target market but largely the same culture. It can be difficult to shift gears once something has been successfully implemented but it’s absolutely vital when you’re taking something to another country!

  2. I liked the main point that you made in this post about needing to have a culturally relevant way of launching your products in a new market that accounts for cultural differences and offers something customized to a local market. Kellogg’s trying to promote cold cereal as a way of having breakfast in India and falling short was a good example of this, and your choice to contrast it with McDonald’s successful launch using local menu items made the point clear. Social media seemed like a bit of an add-on to this post, though. Certainly the success of either Kelloggs or McDonalds in the Indian market has much more to do with the products that they choose to introduce than how they might use or not use social media. If social media is indeed a core part of success, then you need to offer more context around how McDonald’s is using social media in India and whether you feel like it is working or not so you can continue your format of using McDonald’s as an example of what Kellogg’s could and should do. (4)

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