Get the balance right when thinking globally

It is human nature for brands to seek to expand in order to grow. Going back centuries, the single mine-owner, seamstress and merchant each expanded into second and third premises – and before long, overseas.

Secret Marketer

My business is currently wrestling with the globalisation dilemma. As a globally recognised brand that operates in more than 100 countries, we like to see ourselves as world players – someone somewhere is buying our brand 24 hours a day. The reality is very different, and in effect we are a conglomerate of half-a-dozen or so different regions, loosely aligned to one brand identity but with each country operating a slightly different model of delivery. I suspect this is common for many global brands.

However, we have decided the time is right to revisit this model, believing it must be more efficient to do something only once and repeat it elsewhere, to drive greater consistency with one standard operating model and to offer customers an identical service delivery wherever they encounter the brand in the world.

This makes sense in theory but there are two fundamental problems. First, few of our customers actually want to buy an identical service in different territories, and hence don’t expect it. And second, I wouldn’t start here, by which I mean our business has been developing over many decades.

When we compare the way in which the UK business operates versus continental Europe and North America, we all do it differently: from what the marketing team does in each of those regions, right through to how our end customers make purchases.

Ultimately, if we are truly consumer-led, it should not matter how we are organised but if at heart we are all governed by an operational ‘strip out cost’ mentality, we will end up with a one-size-fits-all model that has little real bearing on what is important to the customer.

I guess the art is in keeping the bean counters happy while seeking to deliver an individual service to the customer.