Three Levels of Culturalisation: How It Helps Companies Adapt to Individual Markets

One of the ways companies can adapt their products/ services to global markets is through culturalisation. This is done by understanding markets and audiences as a whole and collecting insights into the culture. 

We often use insights to suggest recommendations to companies on how they can adjust to the needs and wants in a specific market. This includes their products, business propositions and marketing strategies that best communicate with their local customers.

Three Levels of Culturalisation

Culturalisation can be applied to any company in any industry.  At Beyo Global, we divide it into three levels:


The Fundamental

These are the cultural elements that companies cannot afford to get wrong. They include understanding geopolitics, religion and laws. Getting these wrong can cause great offence which can result in products being banned in a country and company’s reputation being damaged, not only within the country that was offended but worldwide. 

Example Recently, Michael Kors, owned by Versace, faced backlash after a t-shirt they started selling in China featured Hong-Kong and Macau as countries, rather than Chinese owned territories. This mistake costs the company its reputation in China, as well as the support of its Chinese brand ambassador Yang Mi.

Example Another product that caused offence when going global was video game FallOut3. When it was released in India, the company faced a huge backlash as the game featured a mutated two-headed cow. India has a high Hindu population where cows are considered sacred animals. Showing the sacred animal in a mutated way was hugely offensive and the game was banned. 

The Basic

These are the elements which are the bare minimum that companies need to change. These could include the formatting of names, currency, providing the right payment methods, and translation.  When it comes to translation it’s important for companies not to group together countries that speak the same language, such as Mexico and Spain that both speak Spanish.  Even though two countries may use the same language, this doesn't mean everything will translate the same. Dialects, slang, and the meaning of words and phrases will differ between countries meaning translation should always be done separately for each country, and sometimes even between regions. 

Providing the right methods of payment is an example of a basic change needed when it comes to culturalisation. Cash is the preferred payment method in Mexico as there is a low credit and debit card ownership. Therefore a cash payment option should be offered. It doesn’t necessarily have to be hard-cash, it could include gift cards or voucher payments which enable them to pay in person at convenient stores or at the till.

This option of payment, however, wouldn’t be popular in Russia where card payments are preferred. 

The Detail

These are the small details that make a company stand out and bring brands or products to another level. Adding details isn't necessary for a company to survive in a market however, they help in making a company competitive and improve the rate of success through growth, conversion and retention. 

Example When IKEA expanded into India, the company wanted to make changes to offer specific products that Indian customers want. For example, Indian women are, on average shorter than European women and therefore IKEA showcased lower height cabinets in their showrooms. IKEA also cut their prices to make their products affordable to lower-income families, sometimes selling the same product found in Europe for a lower price. Having these specific details increased its customer base and added another level to their competitiveness. 


Gathering insights 

To use the three levels of culturalisation, insights have to be gathered so that a market’s whole story is understood. Once these insights have been gathered, the fundamental, basic and detailed changes can be made to products, marking, and propositions to fit specific markets.

Gathering insights is important and complex. It depends on many aspects such as the nature of the company, the customer groups, the product/service, and the country they wish to grow in. It, therefore, needs to be done correctly in order for companies to get the most out of it and that is why expertise and experience are needed.

How insights can be used

To deliver a product/service that connects with a market, each department in a company needs to work together to make everything cohesive. All aspects of a company need to be adapted for global growth, not just the product itself, to make their customer experience the best it can be.

For example, the decisions could be related to:

Products: It includes the physical product itself as well as digital products such as software, websites and apps. It’s important that all these products are adapted to a market’s insights so that they are as user-friendly, as relevant and as desirable as possible.  

This may include changes to features, either adding or removing them based on the relevance to locals. Other adaptions that will increase the relevance to the market may include changes in products appearance such as size and colour. For example, appliances such as dishwashers have been reduced in size for markets like Japan where space is often limited.   

Compact Japanese dishwasher

Compact Japanese dishwasher

Marketing It includes both physical and digital marketing. Where a company directs its marketing is very important. Different countries and audiences prefer different marketing platforms. For example, a feature in one country may be in high demand and therefore should be highlighted in the marketing. However, the same feature in another country may not be desired and therefore it wouldn’t be viable to promote this significantly.

Strategy/Propositions: Propositions and strategies are short- or long- term plans that help a company reach its goals and objectives. This can be within one specific country and as a brand as a whole. For example, offering different subscription models in different counties based on their financial setting and the views of their audience on money.

In a nutshell

Companies who understand and act upon insights are more likely to succeed in global markets. This is because it will deliver an overall brand that is relevant and desirable to a specific market. Developing products, marketing, and propositions using the three levels of culturalisation increases the opportunities for growth, conversion and retention within global markets. 

Stay tuned to read detailed articles about how local insights are important to inform different aspects of:

  • Product design

  • Marketing strategy

  • Business proposition