Globalization, Culture and Product design

Culture, in its simplest form, can be defined as a set of norms, values, languages, beliefs and an overall description of the way people go about their daily lives within a particular community.

Globalization is a phenomenon that explains how geographical barriers no longer curtail business expansion. It refers to how businesses see the world as an evolved market, the kind of market that allows international business, foreign exchange and national income to prosper.

Globalization has led to an increased interest in cultures from across the world. Culture has a direct impact on the mass consumption behaviour. For a business to prosper in a market outside of its home country, it needs to overcome certain cultural and economic boundaries.  A lot of businesses modify their products before entering a foreign market in accordance to the predominant likings of that market.

There are two major ways a brand can go about changing their products to suit a particular market.
Changing the way a product is packaged or changing the product itself.

The different ways a product can be represented or modified to suit a local culture are explained below:


The very basic change begins with the modification of labels. The labels are something that majority of consumers check, especially with respect to foreign products. Adding instructions in the local language and adapting the weights and measures to the local measurement systems is very beneficial. Not only does it help the consumer understand your product but it also creates a perception that your brand cares about the locals.

Culture also has an impact on the packaging. For example, in India, the sachet culture has seen a huge positive response. Products that are sized for one time usage works very well with the masses of India due to the lack of storage spaces and monetary power to purchase the actual product. This allows bigger brands to compete at a variety of price points, reaching a much larger segment of the Indian market.
Another example of adaptation to local cultures with respect to packaging is China and the number 4. The Chinese believe the number 4 to be unlucky. This is why a lot of companies package their products in sets of 3 or 5 but avoid the number 4.

Product Features:
A lot of products within themselves need a few modifications in order to find a market share within a culture.
The biggest example would be that of food products. Food products see a lot of changes and cultural adaptations. McDonalds, for instance, is the biggest example of how local flavours have been integrated within an international brand and how these local flavours have found success with the masses. McDonalds retains its status as an international chain as the packaging is universal. However the contents vary from each country. The McDonalds in Japan serves a Teriyaki burger, Green Tea shake, Shrimp nuggets and a whole variety of different items that suit the local culture.

While physical attributes are important, the psychological attributes associated with the products are also important. The positioning, the USP and the benefits that a consumer will derive from the product may need to change depending on the need of the market.
While in temperate countries a cola or a juice may be promoted based on its unique and delicious tastes, the same sweet drink would do better in tropical countries as a thirst quencher.

An international brand wanting to enter a new market must conduct complete research on their target group to understand their needs, both functional and psychological, in order to survive. People by and large are very resistant to change. Overcoming this resistance by accepting their cultural norms helps ease the transitioning from their preferred local brands to your brand.

In developing countries, foreign products are seen as expensive but of a good quality. If you wish to compete with local brands, it will be important for you to enter the market at the same price point without compromising on the quality of your services.

The best way to determine how your product will perform in an international market, with or without local adaptations, is to run a pilot test. A success rate in that area is a sign that the steps you have taken are right. If not, do some market research as to why the product failed, take advice from local experts and re-launch the product on a larger scale.



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