Embracing Cultural Needs in a Global Market
India, one of the world’s most highly populated countries, is known for its long history and diverse culture. As elegantly stated on Wiki Answers, “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition.”
During my research, I found many interesting insights about Indian culture and its connection with the brand and communications market – most of all, though, the topic of food caught my eye. Unlike the US, where food is mainly considered a necessity and part of everyday life, food in India is tied directly to, and deeply integrated with, religion.
Switching gears to the marketing world… an uninformed brand enthusiast would therefore assume that because of the level of market demand, Indians would accept new ideas with open arms. They would be gravely wrong. As stated in a UPenn article:
Many multinationals didn’t think success would require much effort when their brands finally entered [India] after 1991…Things have changed. As Indian consumers became more aware of trends and advancements in technology, they began to demand similar sophistication. More important, they wanted products built to their needs. That meant not just automobiles, household appliances and consumer electronics, but also mobile phones, foods and apparel.
Since 1997, McDonald’s has expanded to 169 stores across India, serving half a million family members daily. What I found interesting is that the McDonald’s brand identity has stayed the same; Quality, Service, Cleanliness, and Value (QSC&V) has been easily adapted in their national marketplace. Maintaining this core brand element, as expressed in Business Week, is just the beginning:
Given how many marketers worship at the altar of brand integrity, the attempt to protect a product by changing it as little as possible around the world is understandable. And for some geographic expansions, it may be exactly the right thing to do. In India and many other countries, however, transplanting a business from one cultural, economic, and political setting to another requires more.
So, what did McDonald’s do? They customized their menu to meet Indian religious needs – completely eliminating beef and pork from the menu . The Chicken Maharaja Mac, made purely of chicken, replaced America’s Big Mac. The McAloo Tikki burger is their highest selling menu item. The list goes on. Without this tailored menu, McDonald’s wouldn’t have lasted a day in the country (food restriction was in fact one of the many reasons McDonald’s waited all the way through1997 to introduce its first store in India).
McDonald’s got it right. According to OnlineMBAStudy.blogspot.com, Product Localization and Geographical Targeting are two strategies that can be implemented to further extend the franchise giant’s success in India.
In addition to adjusting flavors to Indian taste palette, McDonald’s also studied the population of prospective franchise cities, and now offers online ordering and delivery services. I would recommend that McDonald’s engage their loyal following through the use of social media. While they’ve already established a regularly updated McDonald’s Facebook page, this strategy would also entail a marketing campaign to engage the Indian peoples’ massive online presence. Seeing that brand success is mainly due to positive chatter online, McDonald’s India can gain even more visibility by hosting an online contest, allowing their audience to create a new menu item – by the Indian people, for the Indian people. This would do three important things for McDonald’s:
- Create new and exciting dialogue and buzz about its brand
- Establish and solidify brand identity between McDonald’s and its consumer base
- Start a movement and set a positive example for other food brands seeking to expand globally