How Product Adaptation Meets Local Needs
Addressing global and local demands by customizing products to meet specific needs.
Multinational companies often ship products to all corners of the world. The most successful global organizations, though, can customize their goods so that, for instance, a product sold in North America sees a different use than one sold in India.
One Size Doesn't Fit All
When globalization first began, the proposition was pretty straightforward: exchanging resources and goods with no intermediary alteration or modification. Materials traded at this early time were novel in their own right and seen as new and exciting simply because they were from foreign lands.
As globalization has since evolved—commerce now includes services, technology, information, and talent—one size no longer fits all. The world may be getting smaller but to compete, multinational companies like Chemours are reaching farther across borders than ever before.
While we offer fundamental building blocks that fit into different value chains around the world, we also address local demands by customizing our products to meet our customers’ specific needs and consumption habits.
Our Ti-Pure? titanium dioxide, commonly used in paint, is one example. “That building block is the same product we sell to paint manufacturers in Vietnam and Australia,” says Bryan Snell, Chemours’ President of Titanium Technologies. “But the way that building block is applied in, say, a formula for architectural coatings can be quite different based on local consumer preferences, local industry infrastructure, or the substrate of the house you’re painting, whether it’s wood, drywall, or concrete."
The Challenge From Local Brands
So why must we, a large, international company, customize our products to meet the demands of small—sometimes developing—markets? For starters, 73 percent of executives at large multinational companies say businesses in local economies are more effective competitors than other multinationals in emerging markets, according to the Boston Consulting Group. And, as Marty Huggins, editor of The Local Brand, told Entrepreneur, local brands are better tailored to meet local needs, rely more on word of mouth, and are perceived as higher quality than global brands.
It’s factors like these that pushed a ubiquitous American coffeehouse chain to enhance its menu in China, offering black tea with ruby grapefruit and honey, and green tea with aloe and prickly pear—a way to not only appeal to the Chinese culture’s love of the beverage, but also introduce unconventional flavors1 . (China traditionally produces plain tea leaves with little variety.) Plus, notes Forbes, as middle-class Chinese consumers become more health-minded, teas with added health benefits can have more appeal.
On the chemical industry front, we can tell a similar story about our Nafion? ion exchange membranes. Originally designed as a fuel cell membrane, Nafion? has found more recent applications in alternative energy storage. Nafion? membranes offer a cost-effective, high-performing, durable, long-lasting technology for storing alternative energy like wind and solar.
That’s appealing to developing economies like India, which has seen a rise in energy consumption and needs to provide large quantities of affordable power. In fact, to ensure a sustained 8% growth of the economy, India’s government planning commission estimates that it needs to increase its primary energy supply by three to four times2. The good news: by the year 2020, solar energy in that country could cost 10 percent less than electricity generated by burning coal, predicts accounting firm KPMG.
Locals on the Ground: A Valuable Resource.
One of our established company values is a commitment to being Customer Centered. This principle serves us well as we work to satisfy local needs with our global products. By leveraging representatives throughout the world, we form real-time partnerships, helping us bond with local customers.
“We tend to configure our sales force by the character of the market,” Snell explains. “The market shape in Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia is similar, so we’ll have local people on the ground selling to our customers there. Some are local representatives of multinational companies; others are members of very local, family-run businesses.”
Beyond the sales force, we also maintain a distributed technical support network. We aim to keep our ears open for what our customers tell us. And the only way we can do that is by hiring technically proficient people who live and work in those cultures.
Ultimately, tailoring our global products to meet local needs is just another way we put our customers first. “We spend our time trying to look at our own approach to the marketplace and to the segments we serve,” Snell concludes. “This helps our customers run a stable business.”
Discover more with C&EN about how global companies are tailoring their offerings to meet local market demands.
President, Titanium Technologies
We’ll have local people on the ground selling to our customers there. Some are local representatives of multinational companies; others are members of very local, family-run businesses.