Adapting global brands to local tastes
Guest post from Prasad Narasimhan, our Managing Partner for Asia, based in Bangalore, India.
One of the biggest challenges for global brands is how to maintain consistency whilst adapting to local tastes. Many international brands trying to win in India have struggled to get this balance right.
A good example of this challenge is healthy eating. Many global brands find themselves struggling with health propositions that just don't fit with the Indian mindset. Health is good for us, but apparently not always healthy for business.
For example, Nestlé’s Maggi has been the flag-bearer for great taste, targeting small kids & their moms. 20 years down, Maggi tried to get healthy with the introduction of ‘whole wheat’ noodles. But after 5 years and many millions spent, the tastier, and unhealthier basic noodle still rules, with over 90% of Maggi’s volumes. Kids rejected the new taste of health; period. Luckily for Maggi, competitors like Foodles (“the more nourishing noodle” from GSK) have walked in with eyes wide closed – their ‘healthier’ claims failing miserably with consumers.
So, what can we learn from these examples.
Taste is king
The experience in India is mirrored in other markets we work in – health is
important, but food must first satisfy our taste buds. For example, Pepsi’s Tropicana & Coke’s Minute Maid together have a lower share of the 100% juices market than a local player Dabur, with its Real brand. Real boasts several flavours that delight the Indian palate, as against Tropicana whose flavours are more unfamiliar.
Tap into local culture
In cultures, like India, where there is a strong food heritage, taste
preferences are hard-coded in peoples’ psyche. Brands that recognize and tap into this "memory structure" will likely be chosen quickly, easily and
confidently – almost on autopilot. Taste familiarity creates mental availability, which in turn makes
the brands recalled & relevant at key consumer touch points.
For example, Quaker recently launched its famous oats in India. Several brands jumped into the fray in its wake, but the ones that consumers are buying are those that have launched different versions of masala oats – little sachets of spicy Indian-tasting goodness. Even Quaker has had to launch 2 spicy variants to stay relevant.
Global core, local extension
Global brands can maintain a consistent core, but tap into local tastes with core range extension. For example, the mighty McDonalds only started doing
serious business when they brought in Indian favourites like McAloo Tikki &
Shahi Chicken McCurry.
Global brands can maintain a consistent core, but tap into local tastes with core range extension. For example, the mighty McDonalds only started doing serious business when they brought in Indian favourites like McAloo Tikki & Shahi Chicken McCurry.
In conclusion, local preferences transcend generations. Local cultures absorb new influences, but they at best supplement existing preferences. So, as companies
rush to launch international brands, they need to realize that going against these established structures is pushing water uphill. Better to understand and adapt to local tastes.