Kathryn Best, architect and author of the book Design Management (2006), explains that not every product that is ‘makable’ can, at the same time, be ‘marketable’. The success of a product is directly proportional to the ability of it to satisfy the clients’ needs while creating a profit. ‘Understanding the audience and the market’, claims the author in the book, ‘is key to knowing both how design can creatively produce a viable business solution, and how marketing can respond to a design innovation to produce a viable business proposition’.

Understanding the audience includes also analysing the environment, and therefore the location, in which the business is set. The location of a business can influence many aspects of its performance, including the total sales and how costly it is to run. As explained by Hammer in the article ‘Why Is Business Location Important?’ , taking into account the accessibility, the competitors already present in the chosen area, the operating expenses and the taxes is of vital importance in order to succeed with your own business. Moreover, when it comes to international businesses, a cultural sensitivity to local tastes or customs and an understanding of the local condition, while still respecting the brand conditions and guidelines, is a key factor. 

actglobalthinklocalMarket analysts have started to identify a new generation of consumers which they called ‘universal users’. These global consumers, even though with different backgrounds and nationalities, have in common similar educations, same access to technology and to popular culture (Cooper and Press, 1995). Therefore smart brands nowadays, thanks to globalisation, can find their success in the capability of creating a global appealing, although certain products, like food for example, are still rooted to traditions. In a word in which geographical boundaries have been demolished through the use of the Internet, it is still important to preserve those which are the cultural boundaries. ‘As social, economic and political interdependencies make the world ever more global, our hearts still cling to our small tribal ancestries, and yearn for the comfort of our local surrounds – a language we speak and understand, people that look and sound like we do, familiar foods. Predictability. Ten years ago, we might have seen global and local as the two ends of a dichotomous spectrum, but today we are appreciating that we can be both, we can be “glocal”’ (Vorhauser-Smith, 2012).

Design management can play a key role in terms of expressing the brand essence while still adapting it to the local needs and expectations. What the expanding global market needs is a generation of new competencies able to combine leadership and interpersonal capabilities in a global context. Design managers could therefore be seen as ‘brand guardians’, as Best points out, since they ‘often play a key role in helping to translate global brands into locally and cultural relevant products and services’.  

mc-donalds-a-glocal-company-1-728The strategy used by McDonald’s, the sixth biggest multinational company of the world, as well as by many other globally active industries, is based on uniformity: its iconic symbols and products are, in fact, recognisable all over the world. Nevertheless, the company still needs to adapt its image and products depending on the area in which is based.

If in the U.S. the McDonald’s advertising campaigns normally target children, in Japan the campaigns vary depending on the demographics and, if targeting an audience of only adults, the commercials can become sexual even if promoting burgers. Moreover, McDonald offers to each country both the standard products of their menu and the country’s typical food, as well as

seasonal and limited-edition items related to its culture. The success of the company is given by the flexibility in adapting the brand to cultural differences and respecting country’s policies and traditions by still demonstrating a strong and effective identity.

In conclusion, as referenced by Cooper and Press, according to Ford’s vice president of design ‘Some regional characteristics will become stronger again. The variety of products needed to meet the aspirations of smaller groups of customers will create the need to find ways to combine or retain a high level of economy of scale but create a level of flexibility to respond to different segments’.



  • Best, K. (2006). Design management. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Academia. pp. 34-35, 166-167
  • Cooper & Press (1995) The Design Agenda. Chichester: Wiley & Sons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s