Insights November 5, 2020

Glocalisation – what is it, and why should you be paying attention?

Living Word
By Living Word

You’ve likely come across the term ‘glocalisation’, and you may well be able to guess what it’s about – but what is it, really? And why should you care?

The term was coined by sociologist Roland Robertson in 1980, in an article in the Harvard Business Review, where he described it as the coexistence of universalising and particularising tendencies. To anyone who’s ever worked with transcreation and language services, this will make a lot of sense. In the face of globalisation, products travel the world and are introduced to new local audiences – at which point the communication about them needs to be localised.

Often times, glocalisation refers to a design process that’s about more than just language and linguistic messages; it’s a tweaked product, adapted to suit different tastes and people, yet where the international brand remains recognisable. The seasoning of food products may need to change, and the advertising campaigns with it, but the brand name remains. A car may sell on the same USPs, but certain adjustments are made to meet local regulations and standards.

Don’t forget trust, humility, and brand clarity

In many ways, however, the basic principles and considerations of branding and localisation are the same when it comes to wider glocalisation efforts. The local experts need flexibility and trust, yet the brand characteristics and tone of voice need to be very clearly and explicitly outlined in advance to avoid brand dilution or conflict. Shortcuts, meanwhile, are best treated with scepticism. Cultural appropriation is always a risk where an outsider adopts the traditions and expressions of a local culture, and a failure to understand religious sensitivities can backfire.

Your glocalisation project is likely to need product designers, lawyers, marketing experts and many other qualified professionals – but don’t underestimate the value an experienced linguist or transcreation agency brings to the table. Your products may be good enough to travel the world – but to succeed, they must do so respectfully, convincingly, and with humility.